Peter Chen '17

I spent a lot of time contemplating my major. I originally was a math and physics major, even working in a lab the summer after my first year. However, I found myself thinking about and reading about other topics, such as religion and philosophy. I chose to major in Religious Studies namely for two reasons: my own intellectual interests and the faculty in the department. I am interested in the questions that the department asks and the approach that we take in pursuing the answers to those problems. Religion, more so than philosophy, embodies ways that people have actually tried to live, not just ways of thinking that represent a good way to live. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary nature of the department allows me to explore religion through history, philosophy, literature, or art and attempt to understand what people think and why they think what they do.
The faculty in the department have research interests that span many disciplines, areas, and focuses. Because Religious Studies is such a small department here, there is a lot of focused and individualized attention. Students tend to develop close relationships with the professors in the department, which to me, was one of the most valuable experiences of my undergraduate career.
Many people find religious studies fairly late in their college career, and my advice would be to take a class that sounds even just a little bit interesting. You never know what you don’t know, and especially with religious studies, most people have never been exposed to both the approach and the subject matter. One of the biggest misconceptions of religious studies is that it is theology, but the fact is they are actually two different approaches. People nowadays hold many assumptions about religion, and religious studies is just as much about critically analyzing religion as it is about deconstructing our own assumptions of religion and religious practitioners.