Adding a Second Major: An REL Tale

by Taylor Lech, a Religious Studies and Political Science double major

roofline of Presidents Hall

At the end of last semester, I was a Political Science student who needed 17 more credits to graduate and had already taken the courses necessary to finish my degree. Finally, I had room in my schedule to take my education down a different path that sparked my interest, and I craved direction. I went to Dr. Edith Szanto’s office in Presidents Hall, ready to fight my case to add a Religious Studies minor onto my degree; I did the math and knew it could work with some convincing. To my surprise, I was greeted with open arms and was offered the opportunity to become a REL double major, they had already done the math for me. I left Presidents Hall that day with an unexpected addition to my diploma, a new side of the College of Arts and Sciences to discover, and a very trendy Religious Studies tote bag.

When registering for my classes, I was blown away at the variety of interesting classes available. I ended up with a course load full of classes that either expanded upon my current interests or were things I was excited to learn more about. On top of taking “Religion in the News” online, I ended up selecting the following in-person classes for this semester:

  • Senior Capstone Seminar
  • Theories of Myth
  • Digital Humanities in Religious Studies

The “Senior Capstone Seminar,” taught by Dr. Theodore Trost is a smaller class dedicated to evaluating the history and the presence of decoloniality and its relation to the study of religion. The size of the class meant that I got to know my classmates on a personal level very quickly – in fact, I have multiple classes a week with many of the same students. Knowing my classmates past surface-level conversation makes discussing the at times difficult topics that seminar classes entail much easier. Dr. Trost also makes the class particularly interesting by selecting a wide range of media for us to discuss, including movies, narratives, and Bob Marley songs.

I was especially excited to take “Theories of Myth” with Dr. Vaia Touna. I was an avid Percy Jackson reader growing up, so mythology has always had a special place in my heart, and I was elated to get the opportunity to study it in college. The class size is a bit larger than the other classes I take (though it is still a smaller seminar than many classes in my other major were), but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s due to the class being highly sought after.

Finally, “Digital Humanities in Religious Studies” with Dr. Richard Newton is one of my favorite classes. It combines my passion for creating digital media with religious studies, a combination that has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Dr. Newton’s hands on teaching style has helped me learn more than I ever thought possible when it comes to digital tools such as Adobe Express, Adobe Audition, and WordPress.

All of the work I’ve done for this class is posted on my blog, but the pieces I’m the most proud of can be seen below. The infographic is an extension of a paper I did for a class called “War and Religion in the West.” Putting the information from my essay into a visual format will make it easier for the audience of my final project to digest. The podcast was made using Adobe Audition and is a quick overview of the organizational skills that I use to manage the busy parts of my life, now including being a double major!

If I have not yet made my point clear, if you are considering becoming a Religious Studies student, I highly recommend that you do so. Dr. Szanto and Dr. Newton make advising incredibly easy, and it is obvious that they deeply care about student goals and well-being when it comes to course registration. The Religious Studies community is simultaneously tight-knit and welcoming to newcomers. Classes have amazing student-teacher ratios and provide a safe space to explore subjects and perspectives you may have never heard before. And of course, we have our very own pet squirrels.