Alumni Stories: Jennifer Darling '02

When I entered Dartmouth, I thought I was going to be an Engineering Physics major and go on to live the life of, well, Dilbert.  But being in an academic environment like Dartmouth changed my perspective.  I realized that if I only pursued the academic areas in which I was already skilled, I would become too linear a thinker and ultimately, too one dimensional a person.  I began complementing my math and science studies with a variety of other courses (Art History, History, Psychology, Economics) until I discovered Religion 11 (Religion and Morality with Professor Green) my sophomore winter.

The first book we read was Fear and Trembling and it changed me as a person.  In addition to triggering an existential crisis, I finally felt that I had found an academic course of study that gave me what I was craving -- something that was intellectually stimulating, that expanded my perspective as a human being, and that exposed to classmates I didn't meet in my normal social circle, but who had a profound impact on how I thought about the world.  This was the kind of book I wanted to read to in college.  This is the challenge I wanted.

Now that I'm 15 years out of Dartmouth, it's a decision I've never regretted.  These days, I'm a director at a Big 4 accounting firm and I find that my religion degree is actually quite useful.  Not only am I able to solve problems with greater speed/efficiency than my accounting major peers because I have learned to think non-linearly and to look at things from a more global perspective, but being well-rounded and having taken the time to devote myself to something academically that not everyone has studied allows me to relate to my clients on a different level and to be more holistic in my approach to client service.  Anyone can memorize facts, processes and protocols; anyone can manage a project -- but the ability to think critically and insightfully is a real difference maker in any career.

Like many alums, my social circle still consists heavily of Dartmouth graduates.  But the classes we still talk about on occasion (including with non-Religion majors) -- they are Professor Green's, Professor Heschel's, Professor Penner's classes.  That coursework changed the way we thought about and approached the world.  The Laffer Curve?  Somehow, that isn't as a memorable part of the college experience.  What you remember 10 - 20 years after the fact is the true experience worth having.  In my experience, that is Religion courses (for those of us lucky enough to have had the foresight to take them).

The bottom line is that Dartmouth students are highly intelligent and hard working.  There is time learn whatever "trade" you to pursue in graduate school.  But college?  That is your last shot to immerse yourself in topics that challenge you, that change you, that define you -- while you are young enough to reap some real benefit from it.  It is important to study things you have not already been exposed to.  It is important to not rest on your laurels and seek a well rounded education that tests your limits.  Pursuing that, quite literally, is worth the price of admission.