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Religious Studies

In Our Words

In Our Words showcases undergraduate students who are enrolled in academic programs offered by the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton. We have been reaching out to our students through interviews and are proud to share the personal testimonies of what brought them here and learn about where they're going.

Read Our Stories

Below we hear from Libby Baird, a fourth-year undergraduate student in the Department of Religious Studies:

What first brought you to UD and to the Religious Studies program?

When I toured UD – my mom can even vouch for this – I cried on the tour. I saw the community here, and I saw how much religion meant to them, and I knew they had a good religious studies program, and that really brought me here. And that it was only 15 minutes away from my family was also a bright side, because I am also really close with them, so I wanted to stay close. I saw an amazing community here that I wanted to be a part of.

What more specifically brought you to religious studies?

My youth minister in high school would always talk about UD’s program. He went to UD, and he loved their program. He would always talk about it to me, and that was really what directed me toward UD from the beginning. Once we toured and they told us all about the Religious Studies programs, all the clubs, all the support – I knew that was where I was going to go for my Religious Studies major.

So it was pretty clear [you’d go to UD]?

Yes, very clear!

Nice, nice! What would you say you find particularly interesting and engaging about the program?

That it’s a small program. I know all of the names of those in my major, I’m friends with them all – it’s like our small community we have within the UD community. I know them all, we’re all friends, I know all of my professors, I know the majority of the religious studies faculty – it’s like a little tiny community we have in this community. It’s somewhere I can go to talk about my faith, my community, and my thoughts about religion and feel safe when I do that too.

Wow, that’s incredible! I’m really glad to hear that. What would you say about the classes – are there certain ones you have enjoyed?

Oh gosh that’s hard! Let’s see – what am I taking right now? I’m taking Religion and Film class right now that I love – it’s being taught by Sr. Angela Ann. She’s great, she’s hysterical! We’re learning so much about how religion is portrayed in film, and I love movies! I love movies. It’s really interesting to see how even in non-religious films we see religious aspects in these and how very subtle undertones of metaphors of religion are in them and it’s really cool to now spot them out – it’s kind of like investigating, it’s fun!

Absolutely! What else about your classes - how have they enriched you generally?

I’m in my capstone class right now with Dr. Johnston. We came up with a research project for me for my research class, and I’m interviewing students of different generations on Vatican II and on their thoughts on different practices in the faith. I’m so excited about it! I really want to know more about what my generation thinks, what my parent’s generation and grandparent’s generation thinks about it. And it’s really involving me more into people. For the last four years it’s been more of about my faith and my faith experience, and now it’s engrossing me to look outside of myself, and I’m really excited about it.

Yay! That research sounds fantastic!

I’m so excited about it, it’s going to be great!

I’d love to more about this shift. What was this phase where you more looking at yourself, and you mentioned now you’re doing this research with others. Can you share more about what this shift has looked like?

Through high school, my faith was extremely strong – the strongest it’s even been. Coming to college is such a change – it went through a bit of a rocky period and I was trying to discover my faith of who I am in college. Once I finally nailed that down and learned more about myself and what my faith is now, that helped me to finally look outside of myself.

Excellent, I am so glad to hear that! I was a campus minister here for the last couple years, and I know a bit about some of that rockiness. Yay! I am so glad for you [that you moved through it]! Let’s see, looking at the next question here: What do UD religious studies and theology majors and minors do together as colleagues?

We have events every once and a while…we do meals together, discussions…right now it’s kind of difficult with COVID, that we’re just doing Zoom stuff and trying to get together on that level. Dr. Henning has been great – she’s been sending out all these different opportunities for us to hear people talk and for us to talk with each other. Also, the classes! Our capstone class is just seven of us, all seniors, and we’re having a blast in that class together.

Good! That sounds so fun! What would you say are some of your plans for the future – what’s next?

Grad school is hopefully next, with a work study so less on tuition hopefully – that’d be great. So, what I’m looking into right now is a work study program where they’re going to be placing me in a church as an assistant youth minister or director of youth ministry, and then I’ll be studying on the side with them. That’s the ideal program right now that I’m looking into right now that I’m super excited about. Then youth ministry, then hopefully professor – that’s the end goal!

You seem to really have a vision.

Yeah! It’s taken a long time to get here! I discovered this about – I don’t know – a little bit ago. It’s been all over the place. I think about a month ago I wanted to be a lawyer, before that it was something else, I don’t even know what – senior year!

What advice might you give to others considering a religious studies major? You would tell them don’t worry, the vision will come?

Yeah, absolutely, it will come. Taking more diverse classes would really help too. I took a class with Dr. Henning last semester about disabilities in the Bible, and that was an amazing class and really opened my perspective to different job careers that I could go into. So taking diverse classes would be great advice to them because it’s helped me to widen my options a lot.

Excellent, I think that’s incredible advice! Thank you so much, Libby! Any closing thoughts?

I’m just happy to be here at UD, and I’m glad we could stay for the rest of the semester. We did it, we did it!

UN and Migration Storyboards

Below Zaria Brinnay Glover, a second year international studies major, Nicholas Koch, a fourth year mechanical engineering major and Nicolette Bettuzzi, a third year communications management major discuss their UN & Migration Storyboard project for Neomi De Anda’s REL 358 Liberation Theologies class:

Good afternoon everybody! My name is Anthony and I have the privilege today of interviewing all of you about amazing work that you did in a theology class taught by Dr. Neomi De Anda back in the Fall (2020). Before we get into the specifics of what that project was and what your experience was like working on it, I would just like to get to know all of you a little bit, so if we could just go around and if you could just tell me your name, your hometown, your academic year, and what you're majoring and/or minoring in, that would be great, and then we can get into the specifics of this amazing project that you worked on.

Hi, I'm Nicki. I’m from Chicago originally and I am a Communications student here at UD, a Junior. I am concentrating in Communications Management; I just chose my major this year.

Hi, I’m Nicholas, I’m from the Cleveland area and I'm a Senior and a Mechanical Engineering student.

Hi, I'm Zaria, I’m from Chicago too, and I’m a Sophomore right now, I’m 20, and I'm an International Studies major.

Thanks all of you for sharing. So, we have a diversity of majors, and that's awesome, because it's always great to have people from different academic disciplines coming together to work on one thing. It just makes the whole experience a lot more fruitful, and that's what we're going to talk about now. You guys worked on this amazing project, the storyboard project back in the Fall, in a class taught by Dr. Neomi De Anda, who’s on her sabbatical right now researching writing, and getting some much needed and well-deserved rest, I’m sure. The first question that I'd like to ask you all is very simply, what was the storyboard project all about? What did it entail, what were the project goals, how did you interpret it?

Zaria: Okay, so I can go first; the storyboard was a more interactive and non-traditional method of showcasing information to an audience, which didn't resemble a regular presentation with slides. I feel like the main objective of the storyboard project was to keep an audience engaged, while informing them on the Catholic Church's stance on modern sociological and political issues.

Awesome! So, there’s this very innovative dimension to the way that Dr. De Anda presented this project to you. That's really cool.

Nicolette: Yeah, so Dr. De Anda separated the class into a few groups, I think like six or seven, and she assigned them each a topic; I believe they were all centered around migration, as it was a liberation theology course. So, it's not exactly your ‘regular’ theology that, for example, I had grown up learning in high school. Liberation theology has more to do with these ideas of the common good, which UD is very much about. And these themes of the common good - you guys remember the rest of them – and solidarity, are course themes that we had talked about the entire semester, and our task was to connect them to this project.

If I may interject, those are all elements of the Marianist charism. You see definitely how the Marianist aspects of UD’s academic and spiritual philosophy seeped in there.

Nicolette: Yes, absolutely. I believe Dr. De Anda might be a member of the Marianists.

I believe that Dr. De Anda, if I'm not mistaken, is a lay Marianist. So, within the Catholic Church, you can be part of various orders, the Marianist order, the Jesuit order, the Dominican order, etc. Dr. De Anda is a lay Marianist, so she hasn't taken vows like a monk or nun would take vows, but she participates spiritually and materially in the apostolate, in the work of the Marianists, in her capacity as a professor and as a laywoman. So yes, she is a member of the lay Marianists.

Nicolette: Yeah, I think she showed us an article or pamphlet where she was pictured at the border wall with Mexico, and that was really cool - and it all kind of ties into the migration situation that this project was a part of.

Awesome, thank you!

Nicholas: You know, in our exploration of the social topic or the social problem in the world today that we chose, we had to address possible next steps or solutions that could be done, steps that could be taken to help address that problem. So, one of the themes that we explored in our storyboard was the course theme of subsidiarity, where those most affected by the decision get a say in the decision. Our storyboard took place in the Maldives, and as we developed our plot, we made sure to include that the people that we had in the story had a say in some of the solutions that we posed to the government.

Awesome! That is such a creative approach to this project, to this task, that Dr. De Anda posed to you all. So, bouncing off of that, my next question is twofold. How did you guys come to a consensus about the way you wanted to format the project, for you? And then adjacent to that, how has this project impacted each of your majors, and how has it or how does it continue to have an ongoing, lasting influence on your continued education at UD? What from this project do you continue to take with you even now and going forward in your time here at UD?

Zaria: I feel like the process of putting the storyboard together, formatting it, was inclusive of our individual schedules; it was sort of down to the wire, maybe it was finals’ week or it was the week before finals’ week, but we had a lot of stuff going on. So, for example, I wrote the majority of the script on Friday and Saturday, because I had other deadlines to meet by Sunday at midnight. So, the remaining last bit of the script and the vision for the storyboard and all the creative expression is attributed to Nikki and Nicholas. I thought Canva was cool, we all liked, that was where we put together the storyboard, but when I saw it at first, I was like, ‘Yeah no, I don't have the patience for this.’ I just left it to them, and they didn't seem to have a problem with it, so we talked it out, and I think that's what worked best, because we all sort of used our strengths.

Awesome, and you know there's nothing wrong with that; you brought your own gift to the table, just like Nikki and Nicholas. It's awesome the way that things kind of lined up like that.

Nicholas: I can sort of add to that. You know, there was a really in-depth research part of this whole project, and we all participated in that, bringing our own sources - I think we had to have a minimum of 20 sources to use - so we all did our part to find those sources, and then agree upon a theme and what social issue that we wanted to discuss in our presentation.

Nicolette: So, I think, minding that we were kind of in the thick of the pandemic, as far as that whole semester being online, because I think Dr. De Anda usually does this project, where it's a script that you write and act out in class, that’s what I was getting from her explanation of that. And so, since ours was supposed to be centered around a comic book (for example, Zaria brought up Canva), I think it worked out really well, and it made it kind of look very professional, to the extent that you could have a project done with a million other deadlines that you have to do. It looks really cool, and like Nicholas was saying, there was a lot of research that went into it, and I definitely attribute a lot of that to Nicholas and Zaria because they brought a lot of good information which made it go really smooth, and I think really made the project mindful that this wasn't a story of ours that we were telling, but we were trying to come at it from a perspective of someone else, and express ideas that we don't experience, but that we know are issues, and trying to raise attention to them.

That’s terrific. I'm just thrilled by getting to hear about what your experience was like working on the project, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Zaria, as you were saying, with it being right down to the wire in terms of deadlines. You guys did a remarkable job - you should feel very proud! You did incredible work, and I was blown away as soon as I saw your project; and now that I’ve have had the opportunity to hear from you guys what the process was like of actually conceiving a project and bringing it to completion, I'm even more amazed, even more astounded.

Zaria: I just wanted to add my response to the question about my ongoing education at UD; this process made me hate group work a little less! We were the smallest group out of our class, and this assignment seemed daunting at first, because we were only a group of three, and there were so many components involved, and we were confused by the instructions. These were sort of adversities that were overcome when we all used our strengths and remained positive. The project was influenced by my major, International Studies, obviously, because it was about the UN, so I had a little bit more knowledge about the disparities between the global North and global South and other international policies. So that sort of made it a little bit easier to write the script, which is why I made it an effort to be the one to contribute to the script, because I felt like I had, like, that background knowledge. But yeah, this group project made me hate group work a little less, because it made me see that even when you feel like you have odds against you and it's a small group and the project seems really hard, you can get it done.

Very well put Zaria, thank you.

Nicholas: Yeah, I totally agree with that, because, at the same time, I was working in multiple group projects. And you know with COVID and everything, it was challenging at the end of last semester, but you know this group project really worked out well. And everyone did their part, which was great, and like Zaria said, you know, everyone used their strengths, and we got the project done.

Nicolette: Yeah, on that point, I really liked this group, it was really great, I think both of you are insanely smart and hard workers, so I bet you guys are going to go and do amazing things. This class tied into another class, an Anthropology and Human Rights class that I was taking, where we talked about migration a lot. And then I went on to do a breakout in January in El Salvador where they focused a lot on people migrating from Central America to the US. Definitely this project gives you a different foresight to it, one that comes from a more religious standpoint, but not in the way I would have thought before going through the class. And it's really nice to be able to connect those themes to real life now and see them in the world. I think the work itself went really well.

All of your reflections made this interview even better! It really sounds like this was a memorable experience for all three of you, and that's what college is all about. Memorable experiences that stay with you and teach you something, you know, for the rest of your life. So, I guess there, we will close up. Thank you all again for being here, for being so generous with your time, and I hope to speak to you all again soon. Thank you to all three of you again, I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Take care! Thank you!

Read the Book
Below we hear from Morgan Cox, a fourth-year student, studying religious studies with a minor in human rights:

Good morning, Morgan. Nice to see you. Welcome. Thanks for participating in this little interview. My name is Anthony, and I was hoping that you could share with us, and with some prospective students who may be watching, some of the awesome experiences that you've had taking classes and doing amazing work in the Department of Religious Studies. But before we do any of that, my first question to you is, why do you want the religious studies minor? What attracted you to a minor in religious studies, what about it excites you, how does it connect to your major? How did this interest - which I share with you - develop?

Yeah, so religious studies is actually my major, and human rights is my minor.

Oh, okay!

Yeah! So when I came to UD, I came in as an education major, and I was focused on early childhood. But then I realized that it wasn't for me. So I tried secondary Catholic religious education. I got to go into the field experience, to go to Chaminade-Julienne High School and sit in on a couple classes, and I realized that the education aspect was not necessarily matching me, but more so religion. I’ve always been fascinated by religion. It always inspired me to dig deeper, ask more questions. I think it helped a lot, because I converted to Catholicism my freshman year, when I got to school here.


Thank you. And so that passion was just always in me, and then after I converted, the fire was just always right there. So, my sophomore year, I gave it another semester to see if I would still like to be in education. But my heart was still pushing for religion, and so I met with Dr. Thompson, who was the chairperson at the time. I made the switch over from education to religious studies, and then I picked up my human rights minor, so yeah!

Awesome! What a terrific story. I can definitely relate; when I started my undergrad, I went to Molloy College in Long Island, New York, and I went in thinking that I was going to be a middle and high school social studies teacher. That was the major I signed up for. But then eventually, I just felt called to study theology, and here I am now getting my Master's in Theology. I can definitely relate! That's awesome. Oh, thank you for sharing.

So I understand that one of the classes that you took in the Religious Studies Department was the Marianist Universities Border Educational Experience. In that program you shared a class with students from St. Mary's in San Antonio. So what was that class like, what were the course objectives, and did you enjoy it? What was it all about?

Yeah, so originally that was not the class that I had signed up for that semester, but my friend Vivian was in that class. She said, ‘We need more people in this class, there are only two of us.’ I said, ‘Wait, that sounds so cool.’ So I switched from another class into that one. It was super great. Dr. De Anda, she's amazing. And then getting to experience that with students from St. Mary's was awesome. We follow each other on social media. I actually went to a conference last January, before COVID and everything, in DC, and I met one of them there. I walked up there and said, ‘Aren’t you in my class?!’ And she was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ And that was super cool. And then another student is actually on campus right now at UD. He is staying with the brothers. It was super cool because we got coffee earlier this semester, and it was just really nice to get to see him not in the screen, but in a face-to-face interaction, and it was so good. The class honestly, not even saying this because it’s an interview, that was probably one of my favorite classes that semester. I still keep up with Dr. De Anda. It was amazing, yeah.

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So this is a class that has an experiential component to it? It’s not all lecture and textbook, there's a very practical part of it?


Oh, that's awesome. You sound like you really enjoyed it. I'm happy about that!

So here's another question. Could you tell us what it was like working on the virtual exhibit Mary and Borders? This is something I’m especially curious about, because my first major task as a graduate assistant for Dr. De Anda was to edit the webpages on Mary and Borders – just like minor stuff, typos, grammatical stuff, if there were missing pictures, whatnot, missing or malfunctioning links. So I got to spend a good amount of time looking through all the webpages, all the different mini-projects on the exhibit; what an amazing job, you guys did a wonderful job! I was raving about all of you who worked on the project to Dr. De Anda every time we spoke, great job!

So what was it like, and then what did that project, working on Mary and Borders, what did it entail?

Yeah, so, I talk about Vivian a lot, but she was just such a big part of the classroom. I teamed up with Vivian; we finished the project when we got sent home [because of the pandemic], so at that point, Vivian was at home in Chicago, and I was still - I'm not from Dayton, but I stay in Dayton - I was here, and then our focus was to take pictures of artwork, different murals, statues, whatever we could find that fit the theme of the project. And so, Vivian took pictures of Chicago. And then our focus was really different perspectives, and then highlighting different cultures, different pieces, whatever it may be.

So I know that I took a couple photos of a some murals in downtown Dayton, and kind of explained them, and then I came back onto campus and I took a picture of the Chapel. I think that was something that I highlighted. How can you not highlight the Chapel at UD?


Right?! And the Peace Pole that sits to left of the Chapel, in between the Chapel and St. Mary's. I took a picture of the Father Chaminade statue in central campus, and then I think I highlighted Serenity Pines.

And then, I was going to try to get into the residence halls and get a picture of one of the chapels in Marycrest - that's where I spent a lot of time freshman year – but I couldn't get in there. So it was really just focusing on the different artworks and different things that are around different cities, and then explaining those. So there was a lot of focus on perspective, religion and culture.

Awesome. Yeah, I remember looking at the project with the photographs that you and Vivian worked on, it was amazing. The pictures were amazing, obviously, and the larger theme that surrounded them, they just worked so well together. You guys did a great job with that.

So having had these experiences working on Mary and Borders and with the Marianist Universities Border Educational Experience, how would you say that those two classes, that those two experiences within the Religious Studies Department, how have they, and how do they continue to have, an impact on you as you continue your major, and then beyond to your career path, your dreams about your future career? What kind of impact has it had on you?

Yeah. So really, just, like, the educational aspect - UD is super big on educating the whole person. Coming in to college, I think I was very, I don't want to say close-minded, but there were just some things I didn't know, hadn’t been educated on. And so I think UD specifically, the Religious Studies Department, the professors - to name a couple, definitely Dr. De Anda, Adam Sheridan, Kelly Johnson, Dr. Johnston - they have just poured so much into me that has allowed me to see things in different perspectives, [allowed me to see in] different lights that maybe I wouldn't have, [they were] so patient. And then going back to Dr. De Anda’s class, it just - the readings, getting to see outside of what I'm used to, another culture. It was amazing. It just allowed me to open up my mind, expand that; and then teaming up with students from another school, which is amazing because we got to see them virtually, of course, but everyone always had something to say, different experiences, different things to contribute.

Yeah, I think it really goes back to the education of the whole person, and then just wanting to have that desire to learn. We were supposed to go to the border at the end of the semester, but with COVID and everything, obviously that didn't happen. So we were all super bummed out about that, but it didn't take away from anything at all; it was just such a good time to be with everyone, everyone wanted to be in the class discussion, it was always fruitful. Everyone always brought their best, especially Dr. De Anda. Yeah, it was amazing.

That's awesome, that’s awesome. It definitely sounds like these are going to be two really memorable experiences for you, especially going forward after you graduate. And it's so important to have that. And that is something so unique about UD, is that you will get experiences, learning here and being formed here, and they're not just going to be experiences that you're going to use to get the ‘A’ and then move on and graduate and forget about it. The experience itself, over and above grades and all that, you do carry that with you as much as you do your degree, in the end. And I think your experience just speaks to that completely. Terrific! I couldn't have put it any better than the way that you put it.

So, well, thank you. Morgan. Thanks for your time. Thanks for being so generous with your time. And before we close up, do you have anything else you want to add, anything you want to say?

I would just say that if you're thinking of Dayton, I feel like it's an easy decision. Everyone cares about you here, the professors. People who had my back in Religious Studies, before I was a Religious Studies major, so honestly, yeah – UD? I can't imagine myself going to any other school.

Well, that's a great testimony right there. That's awesome. And that is a good way to close up, on that happy note. So thank you again, Morgan, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day. Thank you for participating.

Oh, of course. Thank you.

Take a look at what Connor Curts, a fourth-year undergraduate student in the Department of Religious Studies, has to share about his experience:

What first brought you to the Department of Religious Studies?

I came to UD as a business student, but I had always had a love for theology and for the Church in general. I knew that I might potentially want to work in something related to that someday. After I got here, after my first year, I talked to my parents about switching [majors] and made the switch because I knew that you should study something that you want to, that you enjoy. Theology, and religion in general, interests me, and that was caused me to make the switch.

You were in business classes and realized you wanted to study theology instead? How did that switch come about?

I dropped business altogether and made the switch. The switch came from being called to study religion. I had the desire to start out with but didn’t immediately follow it. While I was here, I felt that God was calling me to make that switch. I felt my vocation may be in that direction, and that studying religious studies would help me to pursue my vocation. I didn’t really feel any fulfillment or enjoyment in studying business, and I already knew that I did enjoy learning about religion and theology.

What would you say you find particularly interesting and engaging about the program?

That there is such a wide array of options, if you’re interested in more of the deeper theology like me, you can take the course Theology of Mary. There’s also courses that are relevant to issues today. My second semester freshman year, one of the 228 classes on Pope Francis and the contemporary world. Being able to tackle the modern issues from the modern religious perspective, I find fascinating because you can connect it to so many different things.

What courses are you taking and how did they enrich you?

Theology of Mary was one of my favorite courses because there was both a theological and spiritual component. Being Catholic myself, getting to learn why we believe what we believe and also seeing the devotional side of it gives a lot of opportunity for growth. I really enjoyed History of Early Christianity with Dr. Henning because you got to see how the early Church came to be. Even though it [the class] stops in the 400s, you can kind of see how the Church developed over time into what it became and what Christianity is now. Again, [I like] having the opportunity in several classes to look at the modern phenomenon. I feel that a lot of the religious studies classes may also connect with other classes you may take here, so I’ve been able to take what I learn in my classes and apply it, like in my Christian Philosophy class.

What do religious studies and theology majors and minors at the University of Dayton do together as colleagues?

You get to know the people that are in the major pretty well, as you’ll probably have multiple classes with several of them. You’ll get, in general, the bond of close relationship. Also, everyone has their own perspective. Right now, in my senior capstone seminar, there’s seven students, and all seven bring a very different perspective to the table in looking at Vatican II and its implementation: how we were raised in a post-Vatican II Church and how we see things. That has affected how we worship, how we pray, how we live our lives in general. I’d say the biggest way we work together is by taking our different perspectives and being able to grow from that and contribute more to the overall community at UD.

What’s next? What are your plans for the future?

Right off the bat, I’m going to look for high school religion teaching jobs or youth ministry jobs at a parish. I’m very passionate about catechetics and apologetics, so like sharing the faith and sharing the knowledge that I’ve been given to make an impact on others. Potentially down the road, I don’t know when, I plan to go to graduate school to further study the catechetics of theology. I would love to work higher up in parish ministry or even for the Church in a bigger way like for a diocesan office.

Is there anything else you might want to share?

I encourage people who are passionate about religion to take the leap of faith, if you will.

Read about the experiences of Reiley Harrington, a fourth-year undergraduate student minoring in religious studies:

What first brought you to UD and to the Religious Studies program?

I am a senior Psychology major and a Religious Studies minor. And I'm from Indianapolis and chose UD because I became Catholic senior year of high school – so, obviously, Catholic faith is very important to me. And with that, I came to UD, applied for the Chaminade Scholars Program, and then once I was accepted into that I was taking religious studies classes through that. I really enjoyed them and knew that I wanted to do ministry someday after graduation, so I figured I should learn as much about the faith as possible. And then I kind of just dove into Religious Studies classes and the minor from there.

Awesome. Wow, thank you so much! Now that you're here and in the religious studies minor, what do you find particularly interesting [and] engaging about the program?

I think the coolest part of it was probably my classes I took with Chaminade Scholars because those were ones that I was with my cohort with and we were able to have open dialogue. And we all have different majors, so we weren't all Religious Studies majors…we had engineers and Psychology majors, Education majors… everyone got to add different parts of their major to the topics in class, and it just presented great dialogue or conversation. And it's just really cool to learn from my classmates.

But I also took a Christian ethics and healthcare class last year – I think it was with Dr. Romer – and it was just really cool because I'm not a healthcare major, but a lot of people were. And I just felt very inspired by their desire to bring the faith into their practices of medicine. And just kind of learning about morality behind everything to do with healthcare and how they're trying to bring hope into the healthcare system today. This was really cool and obviously a class I would have never taken if I didn't have the minor. So, I was really grateful for that.

Yeah. Wow, that's awesome. That's a class that I would want to take too!

Yeah, it was really awesome. I recommend it to all my friends, and I've had a couple take it and they say the same thing.

Wow, how did you take it in the first place?

I think I actually heard it from someone else. And I thought that it sounded really great and really cool and I jumped right in. I loved it.

Solid. So, one of your favorite things about the minor is the content, the classes.

Yeah, for sure. And the people that take the classes as well. I think it's really cool because a lot of them are from different backgrounds. They're not all Religious Studies majors. So, it's nice to see different faces from those that are in all my Psychology classes or people that aren't just the Chaminade Scholars – people from UD that I would have never met if I wasn't in those classes. So, it's really cool.

Awesome! …what courses are you taking and how did they enrich you?

Yeah, so definitely the Christian Ethics in Healthcare class was a great one. But I also took Disability in the Bible with Dr. Henning last year. And that one was really great just because I got to learn a lot about like the history of disability…but also with religion and the ways that it's started out and the way it changed. Because I have a huge passion for people with special needs and with disabilities, [I loved] learning the lens of our faith and the ways that ancient medicine treated disability and how its transformed to today. And [I enjoyed learning] the language behind the able bodied versus people who are disabled and learning how to transform my language in terms of talking about that population. [I am] realizing still words that I say that I probably shouldn't because of what I learned in that class. It's really transformed the way I think about that population. I'm signed up next semester for the Christian marriage and human sexuality class, which I think is great since I'm getting married and it’ll be preparing me for that sacrament! And one of my close friends, my old roommate also signed up for it! And we had no idea that we both signed up for the same class. She's an engineer, and I'm a Psychology major, and of course we never thought we would be in the same class in college. And now we get to be together in that class. So, I'm really excited.

Wow. Oh my gosh…. You sound like this is just awesome!

Yeah. Oh, it's just great. Yeah, I've had positive experiences in every single class I've taken. It's been really wonderful.

Nice! Look at that. And what do you say, so moving away from classes a little bit – what do you do religious studies and theology majors and minors do together as colleagues?

Um, I am probably not the one to ask about this, honestly. I have never been able to attend any of the events that they were hosting, but I know Dr. Henning hosted something at her house last year for majors and minors to come to where people could just gather and hang out.

And I've seen a couple of different emails for those different things happening or dialogues, and I know that there are opportunities out there for them to do. I just haven't been able to be a part of them.

Yeah, no, totally makes sense. And then what would you say this is one of the last questions. What would you say are your plans for the future?

So, I'm getting married next summer, which will be great! My fiancé and I are planning on being full-time missionaries with an organization called FOCUS, which sends out Catholic missionaries to college campuses to spread the gospel to students and be there as their mentor and support. I will be hosting Bible studies and events for students, trying to make disciples of Jesus, and getting to show an example of my marriage and hopefully future family someday! I'm really excited to keep spreading the faith post grad.

That's amazing Reiley, Wow! I’m so excited for you!

Thank you!

Awesome. I think you're going to make an excellent missionary. Thank you for taking the time today.

An interview with Matthew Spangler, a third-year undergraduate student studying biochemistry with a minor In psychology:

Hello Matthew, good to see you! Good afternoon and welcome. Thank you for being here, for taking time out of your day to speak to us about some of the great work that you've done in the Department of Religious Studies. But before we get into the specifics of what your experience was like, would you mind briefly sharing with us your background, what you're studying here at UD and what your dreams and goals are for your education?

Yeah, so I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I came to UD, I'm now a third year, and I'm a biochemistry major. I chose biochemistry because I was always really interested in chemistry.  I've always, also, been interested in living organisms on a cellular level, and that really is the heart of biochemistry, so that's why I chose that major. And then also another reason why I chose the major is [because] I've always been interested in medicine. I've always been interested in doing volunteer work and shadowing doctors. I've done that through high school, and now through college. So, my aspirations after I graduate from UD in 2022 is definitely try and go on to medical school and pursue a career as a doctor.

Terrific. That's awesome. Wow, you are very smart, because biochemistry – phew, that’s over my head, I can tell you that right now, so kudos to you, that's amazing! You sound very, very passionate about what you're studying. So, the first question I have for you, you kind of answered already! I was going to ask you why you chose to become a biochemistry major. So in lieu of that, since you already answered that, I'll ask you this. What is it like studying biochem here at UD, as opposed to other institutions that you were contemplating going to or other institutions that you applied to? What makes UD’s biochem program special for you?

For me personally, what makes the chemistry department special are all my professors. All my professors in general across all the departments here at UD are why I really came here. They're all super nice, very accommodating; they meet me for office hours. I know a lot of my professors very well, I know Dr. De Anda very well, who I worked on this project with. And it's always just a great time to get to know them, for them to answer your questions and really be there and help you through all the steps. And because biochemistry is very challenging and at times it can become a lot, but they really are there to support you and they really just want you to learn the content, because you're going to need it afterwards.

That’s beautiful, and that's great to hear, especially considering the fact that, you know, we have the Marianist charism here at UD, and forming a personal relationship between the professor and the student is such an integral part of what it means to be part of a Marianist university. So that's wonderful. Thank you, Matthew.Here's my next question for you. In general, what was your experience like working on the Mary and Borders project, and within the exhibit what specifically did you contribute and what component of it did you work on?

One of my favorite things about this project, especially since I'm a biochemistry major, was really being able to step out of my comfort zone and look into these issues specifically. My project was about the Zero Tolerance Policy that is going on at the border and dealing with the crisis across the Mexican-American border. But I really liked working with my specific group. I feel like we really worked well together. We were all very passionate about the topic, and we really were able to dive into the topic and understand everything that's going on, and able to articulate that to the public. Something that helps make you well rounded, in many [different] facets, is being able to interpret the information and then tell other people about what you've learned. But one of the main things that really sticks out for me from that project is just learning about how the United States of America treated these immigrants from Mexico trying to seek asylum, how they separated their families, and how it was basically a violation of their due process of law when they were trying to appeal to the courts for asylum. Those are the two pieces that really stuck with me and that I really try to dig into and research more about.

How wonderful. I think it's great that you guys, in a theology class - because I do get the impression often that some people may look at a program like theology or a major like theology and think, ‘Oh, it's [just] studying texts that were written 5000 years ago and have no meaning or relevance today,’ it's dusty bookshelves, that kind of thing. But you guys engage a topic that is quite literally on the news every day; it is a super relevant, super on-the-ground issue, and the fact you guys discussed that, and in such a dynamic way, is wonderful. That's great to hear. Thank you for sharing that.
Here's my [last] question for you. How do you think taking courses in the Religious Studies Department, like the course where you worked on Mary and Borders, how has that enhanced or touched on your biochem major and then more generally on other aspects of your life? How has it affected and how has it brought about any changes of thinking or certain patterns of thinking?

Well really for me, what I think I can take away from that class and apply to my life and my biochemistry major and everything is the way the class really made me be open minded, and look at information objectively and interpret it. We did take other passages of theology and apply it to what's currently happening. So, it had both that theology aspect, which was also really nice, as you mentioned. So, it really is being able to apply information, being open minded, being well-rounded like I had mentioned before, being able to submerge yourself in different topics, just not your major.

And I really think that one of the big things was the help from Dr. DeAnda, and she was an amazing help. I had her for Intro to Religion (REL 103) also, which is why I took her upper-level class, because I loved her so much. She was a great professor.

Yes, she is indeed.

And one of the things I'm really going to take away and that carry over, for the rest of my life, specifically from both classes, is the principle of solidarity, which is also very much incorporated into the Marianist works. How you need to carry yourself, how you need to act, how you need to approach situations in order to accomplish something. You should never approach a situation with vile intentions, you should approach a situation with solidarity, striving to have an outcome that's peaceful but effective.

Always, always seeking that good of the other, making that a primary motive of all of our social interactions. That's so true. That was wonderful.

You made some really excellent, excellent observations about your experience. Thank you for sharing all of them. And my hope is that what you share will perhaps help to inform some of our prospective students who are thinking about coming to UD not only about the kinds of things we learn here, but also the approach we take in terms of wanting our students to be well-rounded and to be responsible citizens, and to constantly nourish their spiritual life along with their intellectual life and moral life. Really [it’s] an integral formation of the whole person, which is central to the Marianist charism, as you said, especially that ideal of solidarity. So again, thank you so much, Matthew, I really do appreciate you being so generous with your time. Thank you so much.

Thank you for having me.

Read an interview with Corinne Woodruff, a first-year graduate student studying pastoral ministry:

Good morning Corinne, welcome. Let us start off with you sharing a little bit about yourself.  So, tell us about your life and what it's like being here at UD?

All right, thank you for having me. My name is Corinne Woodruff. I am currently in my first year of my master's program in Pastoral Ministry at the University of Dayton, where I graduated in 2019 with a degree in Religious Studies as well as English, and I'm really enjoying being back at the university, back in education, and back studying Theology, Religious Studies, and Ministry, and I'm very excited to share with you some of my experiences this morning.

That's terrific. Thank you so much Corinne. Dr. De Anda shared with me that you've worked on the Mary of the Americas project. So, for those who may not be familiar with what that is, could you briefly describe it for us and tell us what it was all like, what it was about?

This was a collaborative project between Dr. Neomi De Anda’s Latina/Latino Religious Experience class and a graduate-level computer engineering class. As a class, we looked and researched into a lot of different devotions to Mary, and these different devotions were based off of various places and names throughout North, South, and Central America. And then we had all that information compiled, and then the app developers put it into an app. So you can scan these QR codes and learn about various Mary's from around the world, whether it's Nuestra Señora de la Paz from El Salvador, Our Lady of the Fjords from Canada, or the ever-classic Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a theological study into various Marian devotions and apparitions, combined with the digital platform. Now people around the world who have access to the app and QR codes can scan and then learn about those particular devotions.

That's really awesome. What a creative idea! I wish I could have been part of that, I'm jealous. Okay, so going a little bit deeper. What was your personal favorite part of working on the MaryAPParitions project? And is there something in particular from the projects that you really took away and that has kind of stood with you since then, something that's had an ongoing impact on you?

Yeah, I would have to say that one of my favorite parts or one of the most lasting parts for me was actually doing the research. At the beginning of the semester, we were each assigned two or three apparitions from various countries. We had to go and look to see if we could find various apparitions or devotions in those places.  I was originally assigned El Salvador and then St. Kitts and Nevis, which actually did not have any [apparitions] on record, which was kind of surprising. But through my research, I spent a good amount of time at the Marian Library on campus here at UD, which as we've discussed in some of our classes, is one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of Marian documents and artifacts in the entire world. So working alongside the librarians, I was able to really see the breadth and the depth of how much Mary means for so many people, and I was able to kind of go to their archives and work with the librarians, in order to dig a little deeper. And it showed me how research isn't boring, or just something that you have to do, but rather can be a very devotional practice, when we combine theology and research as well. As a practicing Catholic, it really heightened my understanding of Mary, as someone who's always loved her myself, and being able to see how people throughout the Americas are devoted to her for various reasons and in different ways. The project has heightened my own understanding, like I mentioned, in my own relationship with Mary. And just thinking about all of the ways that Mary has touched so many lives, and that she's continuing to touch lives today, I think that would be one of my bigger take-always, or something that's really stuck with me since I worked on that project.

That's terrific! You made such a good point there about research really being a devotional thing, that's a really great point. It reminds me very much of something that my advisor at Molloy [College], Dr. Katherine Schmidt, who graduated from here [at UD] said. She told me this really charming anecdote about St. Thomas Aquinas, and how whenever he was getting ready to sit down and write the Summa or any other of his masterpieces, the first thing he did was go to his private chapel, and he would literally press his forehead up against the tabernacle, and he would pray to God to transfer the graces to him so that he could fittingly articulate God's truth, the divine truth. So that’s an amazing, amazing point that you make. That's great! So, in closing, just one last question.

How did taking courses with experiential components, like MaryAPParitions, how have such courses prepared you or formed you for your life beyond a bachelor's degree, you know, going forward and continuing your education with your master’s and then even beyond that?

Yeah, I would say I really enjoyed the multiple classes I have taken at the university that have had experiential learning components. And for me, every single time, it was a beautiful exercise in connecting what I was learning in the academic sphere with some real-world application. For this one, it showed me that getting a degree in Religious Studies didn't have to mean one particular thing; it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, you're getting a degree in Religious Studies, you're going to be a high school religion teacher.’ It’s so much broader than that. And it really showed that an education in Religious Studies makes career opportunities very adaptable; you can take the skills and the knowledge that you learn here and say, ‘Wow, there are so many different directions that I could go with this after my undergrad, because I was able to exercise various muscles or think about what I was learning in the classroom in different ways during my time in undergrad.’  This aspect really made me appreciate my educational experience at UD and my degree in Religious Studies a lot more, because it meant more than just sitting in classes and discussing, which is its own beautiful thing.

But when you take that element and bring it out into the world, whether it's working with a non-profit for an entire semester or helping to develop an app, you see that education is not just rooted in the classroom. And while it is rooted there, it expands, and goes beyond. And there are so many different ways to think about what we can do with our knowledge. This helped me understand that my education, while inherently connected to me, was also bigger than myself. Like I mentioned in my intro, I also double majored in English and I have three minors as well. I further appreciated my UD education as a result of my experience in multiple majors and minors. So, I loved interdisciplinary learning from the get-go. Experiential learning has an interdisciplinary aspect, where you might be in a Religious Studies class, but you're also learning all of these other skills and things to use along the way. I'm very, very appreciative for my experiences of experiential learning.

That's awesome! I mean, you are a perfect example of just how well our program here at UD has fulfilled its goals and its mission, forming the whole person, spiritually, intellectually, in every way imaginable. So thank you for sharing your experiences. I hope they'll be valuable to any of our viewers who may be considering coming here to UD to study, or to further their studies. So, thank you so much Corinne, thank you again for sharing.

Thank you for having me, and letting me talk about my experiences, which has brought me so much joy!

Enjoy this interview with Isabel Zavala, a third-year undergraduate student studying human rights and Spanish with minors in international business and Latinx studies:

Good morning, Isabel, welcome! I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to share with the UD community and with some prospective students a little bit of the amazing work that you've done in the department, in various Religious Studies courses, and to share with us what your experience was like in working in Religious Studies classes, how it has influenced your major and things like that. But before we do any of that, I’d just like to give you the opportunity to share with us anything you'd like about your major, your background, anything at all you'd like to share with us about your personal history.

Well, thank you. Good morning. My name is Isabel Zavala I'm a junior here at the University of Dayton studying Human Rights and Spanish with minors in Latin American Studies and International Business. With these degrees, I hope to go on to law school and become a human rights lawyer, with a focus on children and indigenous rights; that’s my ultimate goal and plan, along with using what I learn at UD to achieve that and give me different perspectives, and to help shape how I want to study and practice that law. I've learned a lot, through various classes. I feel like I’m more well-rounded because of it. I just have different perspectives to look on to the world now.

That's terrific. Awesome! Yours is such a unique major; not every university has such a program, so it's a real blessing that we do at UD. That's wonderful. You are a great spokesperson for it! You sound very passionate about it. Thank you, Isabel,!

I have just a couple questions here for you relating to your major and your experiences in the Religious Studies Department. Maybe you could talk a little bit about why you personally have chosen to study Human Rights in conjunction with Latinx and Latin American Studies. What about that personally inspires you?

I have known I wanted to go into something human rights related since I was very, very young, and that desire came through Latin America, where my family is originally from, specifically from Mexico. My mom grew up there and came to the United States when she was about twelve. We'd go back and visit often, and there would be little kids just selling things on the street. I was, I'd say ten, and there were eight-year-old kids and they were trying to sell some gum.

I said, ‘Mom, we have to help them, look, they look so sad.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, okay.’ So, we bought some, and then there was a man following the boy. I asked my mom, I said, ‘Why is this man following this little boy, shouldn’t we say something?’ Because I was always taught ‘stranger danger.’ And she said, ‘No, that's probably his father, making sure that he sells in order for him to eat tonight, because if he doesn't sell enough, he won't be able to eat.’ And I just lost it. I didn't know how that was even legal, how parents would do that to their children.

And so after that, I started researching more and more, and knew that I wanted to help children, and especially Latin American children. I want to have that combination [in my studies]. When I started at UD, actually, there wasn't a Latin American Studies minor. So I was already taking classes in that realm when the head of that minor reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, most of your classes fit, do you just want to take a couple more, and we’ll label it, we're just starting with the new minor. The classes you take can shape it [the minor], there's no direct classes that you have to take. So, if you think a class can fit, just let us know. So, it was a match that really happened. So [the minor] started this year, and I have one more class because I had already taken most of the Latin American classes.

That's a very touching story. Thank you for sharing that story, Isabel. That would pull at the heartstrings of anyone, that story. The fact that you use that as a guiding narrative for your own studies is beautiful. I can tell that experience was very deeply formative for you.

How would you say that courses which have had overlapping curricula between Latinx and Latin American Studies as well as Religious Studies, so courses where those two areas overlap, what have you personally taken away from courses such as those?

Personally, I believe that religion is a huge factor in the culture of Latin America. Many people still practice religion to this day, and the culture itself was formed on the basis of religion. So understanding the history behind the culture as well as the culture itself gives me a better idea on why things happen the way they do, as well as what ways I can go about, let's say, helping people without overstepping the boundary of their culture, because that’s really important to me.

Understandably, Human Rights Studies has a more global approach, but I want to narrow that down; I really make myself think, ‘Am I overstepping some of these cultures, do I come in with a Western perspective, or would I come in acknowledging their culture and trying to incorporate that into my beliefs, into the way I try to go in this country?’ And so really learning the history behind it, as well as learning the history about myself, because I am Mexican, allows me to see how it all incorporates together. I believe that the Religious Studies course, especially the way that Dr. DeAnda teaches it, it really incorporates culture and religion, and I really did appreciate that.

Great answer! I couldn't have put it better myself.

So would you say that when you've taken any number of Religious Studies courses, such as the courses taught by Dr. DeAnda, that those courses allowed you to learn or pick up any specific intellectual tools, that would help you or have helped you to articulate your beliefs, truths, and insights into Human Rights and into Latinx and Latin American Studies? In other words, have Religious Studies courses given you a new intellectual framework for thinking about the concerns of Human Rights Studies and Latinx and Latin American Studies?

Most definitely, I do believe that. For Dr. DeAnda’s class, we were actually supposed to go to El Paso and interview migrants. But COVID-19 happened, unfortunately, we couldn't do that. But I know previous classes have done that, and hopefully classes in the future will do that.  We were all prepping the entire semester for that, and [building] our interview skills. So, it really did help enhance my major, because in Human Rights, you have to interview people – it’s about the people themselves. And I believe in participatory research, so it really much helped enhance that aspect; additionally, we learned how to talk and have hard conversations.

Not everybody wants to have a conversation about immigrants and refugees right now. It's a hard topic to discuss, and we learn how to properly have that [discussion] without letting our emotions overtake the conversation; we stuck to facts. But it was also a way for me to express my culture, because University of Dayton is a PWI, so you don't find a lot around there. Growing up, I was always engulfed in a culture, and going to UD, I really didn't have that. So, the class really gave me that opportunity to talk about my culture in a safe space as well as learn about it. And I took all those aspects and formed it into the way I study human rights. Now I take a more cultural approach. I can learn to have harder conversations. So it really has helped me to use all the skills that I learned in my religious classes and other aspects of life as well.

That's wonderful! I find it so fascinating that in Religious Studies there is this integral, cultural dimension to the way that we do Theology. If you think about it, religion is one of the primary aspects of culture. It's inseparable from culture. And religion is going to shape someone's definition of their culture. How that emphasis on culture has influenced the way that you approach Human Rights and Latinx and Latin American Studies, that's so fascinating. That's great! And I'm sure it'll be deeply formative for our viewers here.

So those are all the questions that I have for you. Isabel. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we close up?

The University of Dayton is a wonderful, wonderful school, really academically enriching. Your professors really, really care about you. And I think that's really important. They give you many opportunities that other schools don’t give to you, and I think academically, has given me one of the best educations that I've ever had. And it's really made me think differently about the world and about life. And there's a class for everybody! I really recommend!

Terrific. Awesome. Well, I couldn't agree with you more, by the way, you're absolutely right – we have amazing professors here, we have a great program, and you get a personal approach here that you will not find in other places.

Yes. Yes.

Well, thank you, Isabel. Thank you for your time. Thanks for joining us this morning and sharing some of your personal experiences. It has been a true gift for me and for our viewers to hear a little bit about your story and your intellectual background. So thank you, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day.

You as well, see you soon!





Department of Religious Studies

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Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1530