My Road to Religion

emilymartin

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Think about what you’re planning to study in college, or what career you’d like to have when you’re older. What about that decision is appealing to you? From where — or whom — did that inspiration originate?

When I started college, I thought it’d be cool to take a religion class, to see how what I learned in class compared or complemented what I’d learned from a lifetime of Sunday School and church camp. Plus, my dad is a Disciples of Christ minister, which is the Christian denomination Transy is historically affiliated with, so that connection was how I heard about Transylvania in the first place. But I never saw it being a major feature of my academic experience.

But then, during my first year here, I was asked to serve as a student representative on the search committee tasked with hiring our first-ever Associate Dean for Religious Life. I got to meet with other students from different religious backgrounds, our two religion professors, our Interim Associate Dean for Religious Life, and a member of the Board of Trustees (both impressive alumni!).

I got to read every application and cover letter for the 100+ candidates. We were included in every meeting, narrowing them down to the several we did phone interviews with, and the five finalists we interviewed on campus.

By the end of that process, I knew I wanted to take classes with those two professors I’d worked with — Dr. Barnsley and Dr. Jones because I had gotten to know them a little bit, and wanted to learn more from them. And after I took my first class with each of them, I was hooked.

Plus, the person we ended up hiring for the Associate Dean position, Rev. Dr. Wilson Dickinson, quickly became one of my favorite staff members at Transylvania. He even wrote me recommendation letters for my graduate school applications!

I ended up declaring a religion minor at the end of my junior year — even with a major and another minor, I still had plenty of space in my schedule! I took classes on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and a fascinating May term class with Wilson on Sustainability and Theology.

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One of my favorite days of my May term “Sustainability and Theology” class was our field trip to the Sisters of Loretto convent (about an hour away). It was a fun, relaxing day learning about how their community understands the connections between religion and the environment.

I look the Senior Seminar class in religion, too, and I used that opportunity to build off of the WRC senior seminar project I had completed the previous semester. That second research course was a great opportunity to expand an existing project and approach the same subject from a different perspective.

The religion classes I’ve taken have expanded my worldview and made me a better person. That’s not just because I think religion was an important subject for me to study, but because I was surrounded by people who were interested in the same subject, but for a variety of reasons.

I’m not saying everyone should have to take a religion class before they graduate — although at Transy, you totally should because the professors are fantastic and you’ll love it.

What I am saying is that you should be open to letting your life plan change as you change in college. Changing your mind is okay. When you feel inspiration — no matter where it’s coming from — you should follow it.

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