“Religious studies? Your major was religious studies?” Telling someone what my college major was always elicits this response. Of course, the immediate follow-up question is, “why religious studies?” Religion is a dynamic subject, and I enjoy learning the particulars of the different faiths. It is a sensitive topic to broach with most people. Therefore, I welcome inquires about my liberal arts education because they give me an opportunity to discuss religion and my choice of it for my major.

My decision to join the esteemed individuals in Manly Hall was based on two reasons. First, religious studies offers a global look at ideologies. It is the perfect arena for students to learn about the beliefs and cultures of different societies and it gives others the opportunity to gain knowledge from your experiences, thereby helping to shatter the walls that exist between groups. In a pluralistic society, this understanding is valuable for someone who desires to live an apologetic life: it strengthens faith as well as the ability to relate to others. Second, a liberal arts background establishes a strong academic foundation that prepares the student for graduate work or research. The intriguing courses foster an environment where a keen student can develop her research and writing skills. My passionate interest in theology combined with my commitment to attend divinity school prompted my selecting religious studies as a major.

Whether one chooses to stay in the field of religious studies or venture into new territory, an undergraduate degree qualifies one for a number of positions. Since my graduation from the department a few years ago, I took time away from the academy to focus on ministry work in West Alabama. I am the founder and coordinator of a ministry that does social outreach in this area and that provides fellowship activities for adults. I also work with a social justice ministry that helps oppressed communities through direct services and grass roots policy changes. My religious studies background aids in my work with non-profit organizations and social services because I am conversant with different views. I use my knowledge to develop contemporary, creative approaches to problems and concerns that affect socially and economically distressed neighborhoods. This important community organization work restores power to once disenfranchised communities. When power is returned to the people, the people then produce leaders.

I assure all religious studies majors and minors that there are many avenues they can take as graduates. I chose to remain in the field of theology and to be a voice for African-Americans by speaking out against social injustices.

My plans now are to enter divinity school this fall where I will begin the next phase in my ministry.

Tonya Daniel

Graduation: Summer 2002
Degree: Religious Studies