Alumni Stories: L. Leann Kanda '98

I began taking religion courses at Dartmouth as a contrast to my studies as a Biology major. As I approached my senior year, I discovered that I’d taken so many of the religion courses just out of interest that I was only missing the senior seminars to take the major, so in the end I double-majored in Biology and Religion. Not only were the topics so different, but I discovered that scholars across the disciplines had very different ways of seeing the world. It was eye-opening to find out that not everyone processed the same evidence in the same way I did. It impacted my personal development profoundly, and continues to benefit me professionally. I am now a biology professor, and the lessons I’ve learned from my religion courses have found their way into my classrooms, especially in my course Evolution of Evolution, which includes how scientific and religious thought have interacted over time. A larger cultural awareness of religious history has also woven into my other biology courses (for example, a direct parallel can be made between the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the processes governing density-dependent population growth. I, for one, find that a very interesting bit of human psychology). As a scientist I’m always striving to understand better the world around me. My background in the study of religion has been invaluable in making sense of the cultural world. One of the most lasting impacts of my experiences in the religion department was the discovery of the commonality of human experience and the expressions of community across the “varieties of religious experience” (to steal from James, which yes still sits in my library).

L. Leann Kanda '98