Alumni Stories

Alumni Stories: Tim Snowber '84

When I arrived at Dartmouth in September 1980 I had spent my childhood attending Mass and catechism classes at our local Catholic church.  I was intending to major in History, but an upper classman suggested I take a Religion class as the program had a great reputation.  Freshman Fall I took the Intro survey class (Religion 1) and it turned me on my head.  It lead me to ask questions of things I had never really looked at.  I suddenly became conscious of the water I had been swimming in all my life.  The initial questions lead to other questions- and I was hooked.  I majored in Religion because I felt it was the way to make my studies at Dartmouth most personally relevant- and I was right.

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 decis

Alumni Stories: Brian Otley '89

I can't tell you how many times in my adult life I have received odd looks from people when I tell them I majored in Religion at Dartmouth. People just don't expect it and seem to have trouble understanding it beyond the typical "did you want to be a minister/pastor/priest?" Despite those awkward moments I wouldn't change my decision on my major for anything. I have found that my Dartmouth education and my Religion major have served me well in my life, both professionally and personally. Since leaving Dartmouth my professional path has been leadership roles with technology companies and companies trying to evolve or disrupt their industry sector in some way. My major gave me insights into peoples and patterns and cultures and history and communication and writing and just thinking differently and being tolerant of different thought. I had easy access to challenging professors and a wide range of courses that were mostly stimulating and thought-provoking. Much of my work these days deals with leading large teams of people through change cycles they don't always like.

Alumni Stories: Lee Cooper '09

I recall thinking, as an undergrad, that Religion was interesting and unique because it was a prism through which I could explore the liberal arts broadly. It provided a coherent excuse to take courses related to Philosophy, Anthropology, History, and Sociology, all under one roof. I now have an MBA and a JD, and I work in biotechnology with MDs and PhDs---all a far cry from Mahayana Buddhism or Spinoza--but I still find myself thinking about Turner's "Betwixt and Between," among many other great readings. the reading, writing, and learning I did as a Religion major remains more core to who I am than an graduate degrees or job titles I have since earned.

Alumni Stories: Jane Lonnquist '88

Growing up, faith (and doubt) were important parts of my evolving identity. Studying religion helped me figure out
my own belief system (agnostic, unaffiliated, and humble, like so many who have studied world religions closely).
Majoring in religion was originally a way to "round-out" my intended pre-med studies. Instead, I left the pre-med
track and used my religion as the perfect lens through which to view liberal arts content that intrigued me:
philosophy, science, feminism, ethics, and language. Having Professors Oden and Henricks for Religion 101 played
a big role in my decision as well. It turns out my husband took that same class -- we never knew each other at
Dartmouth but pinned down that commonality after discussing the final, moving lecture of that powerful course.

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.

Alumni Stories: John Helmiere '05

It was 9/11/2001, and I had just flown into Manchester for my freshman DOC trip. The pilot on my flight from Tampa to Manchester had told us we could look out our windows and see smoke rising because a plane had just accidentally flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. Over the next four years as a Religion major, while the misuse and misunderstanding of religion catalyze war and fuel empire-building, my studies enabled me to gain a critical grasp of religion as an immensely complex and phenomenally influential force in the world. My Dartmouth education helped free me from certain assumptions about my own religious tradition, which resulted in a personal experience of interior spiritual revolution. I am now an ordained minister (affiliated with the United Methodist Church) and founded a church-cum-social-change incubator that practices mystical Christian spirituality and is dedicated to subversive political activism in solidarity with the oppressed and disinherited in our neighborhood.

Alumni Stories: William O. Brant '91

When I enrolled at Dartmouth, I was one of many people who thought of religion as just "something you do" rather than as a field of study. After my first course in comparative religion, I was pretty hooked and spent the rest of my Dartmouth career studying under Professors Fred Berthold and Hans Penner, including a great trip to Edinburgh. I went on to get my Masters in Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. I eventually went on to medical school and my current career as a professor of surgery and have come to the conclusion that, of any field I could have studied to prepare me for my job, religion was one of the best. My classmates in medical school consisted of many biochemistry majors, but the ability to really think about people in terms of how they approach their lives and pathology turns out to be far more important than much of the science that we all studied. This is best derived from a truly liberal arts background. I live in a religiously conservative community, and my patients often comment on how much they appreciate me knowing what makes them "tick" from a religious perspective.

Alumni Stories: Steve Ripp '97

As a double major in comparative religion and government, I studied the two great shapers of societies around the world. History, philosophy, literature, and art history all weaved throughout my religion classes, inspiring and enriching me. Thanks to my studies, upon graduation I felt I could engage meaningfully with individuals from anywhere in the world. Studies have shown that successful leadership starts with empathy, a quality in dwindling supply in an increasingly polarized world. By exploring competing answers to life's deepest questions, a religion major broadens one's capacity for empathy to a level unlikely to be matched by other pursuits. And as an added bonus, the foreign study program in Edinburgh, Scotland is terrific and should not be missed!

Alumni Stories: Jennifer D. Molinar '98

I graduated from Dartmouth with a double major in Religion and Government, concentrations in Philosophy of Religion and Political Theory, respectively. The Government major I undertook in order to appease my parents, who felt strongly that I needed to 'be able to find a job after graduation'. The Religion major started after I took a randomly selected 'Religions of India' class with Professor Hans Penner. I could not have been more amazed when, as we dove into the course, a window was opened and suddenly I started to understand what a liberal arts education might mean for me. My math, science, government and other courses were all outstanding, each important tools in their own way. But here, in the study of Buddhism and Hinduism, worlds away from my own, I realized that religion was itself a critically important tool for understanding the human experience. While science might explain the how?, and government or history the what? or the when?, studying religion gave me an opportunity to better tackle the why? component of so many of life's great questions.

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