A major in Religious Studies prepares students for leadership and success in their chosen fields. Highlighted below, three recent Religious Studies alumni share their personal experiences following graduation. The broad-based academic program and the opportunities for undergraduate research, study abroad, internships, and experiential learning provide invaluable experience for a career or graduate school.
Alumni Experiences, in their own words…..
After graduating from Lafayette in 2014 with a double major in Religious Studies and History, I completed a Master of Science in Religion and Society at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, as a recipient of a 2014-2015 Fulbright U.S. Postgraduate Student Award. Following a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Philadelphia, I joined the Religion Department at Princeton University in 2016 as a PhD student in the Religion in the Americas subfield. My research interests include perceptions of and responses to religious decline, paying particular attention to the roles of property, age, authority, and ethnicity in discussions surrounding the role of institutional religious decline in urban areas.
Majoring in Religious Studies at Lafayette introduced me to the questions I am now pursuing at the doctoral level: How do religious communities talk about their pasts and futures when they define themselves in the present? How do they maintain certain identities? When religious communities experience markers of decline–aging or declining membership, for example, or financial burdens surrounding property upkeep–how do they perceive and respond to these challenges? Furthermore, in my doctoral program, I am often grateful for the breadth of training–in reading, writing, and thinking critically–that I experienced through the Religious Studies Department, as well as more broadly as a student at a liberal arts college. This background has helped me engage productively with the variety of texts and subject matters, well beyond my own interests or experiences, that I have been studying at Princeton.
Madeline Gambino, ’14
I have been employed at Barclays Capital in New York since graduation in 2014. The critical thinking skills coupled with a plethora of knowledge has been very impactful. I am currently a candidate for the CFA designation, passing level I in December.
My passion and commitment around studying the Troubles in Northern Ireland [for my honors thesis] has no signs of slowing. Working on my honors thesis was an unforgettable experience. I plan to travel to extend my research in the coming years.
Tim Simon, ’14
I had multiple offers for different sales positions, mostly in technology and software. I ended up taking a software sales position for JetPay an HR and Payroll based out of Bethlehem. After working there for 5 months after graduating and gaining some sales experience I left JetPay to pursue a startup called Flutter. I am the VP of Sales at Flutter and the only full-time employee. I have been working on this startup (a mobile app that generates recommendations for things to do in NYC weflutter.com).The experience so far has been exciting, nerve-racking, and most of all, very rewarding. I think part of the reason I had the courage to take the road less traveled (leaving behind a secure job to pursue something that might go to zero) can be attributed to my decision to become a Religious Studies major I can confidently say it has all been for the best and I have never looked back since making that leap and I am hopeful the same will happen professionally.
I think sales requires a certain understanding of people and human nature, why people do the things they do as well as understanding that as different we all are there is an underlying similarity to humanity; my religion classes did a tremendous job of forcing me to think critically and view people and humanity from several different perspectives and often times led back to universal realities of human nature. For the most part, I felt that my religion classes allowed me to dive deeply into a specific culture, religion, or moment in history and attempt to make objective evaluations of very subjective materials. As a skill, it taught how to effectively research and organize complex thought. This is the same way you have to approach sales, you have to dissect your prospect, learn everything you can, you take in information from every possible avenue and perspective and use it to form an argument of sorts as to the value of the product you are selling and why it’s worthwhile to them. It’s all a matter of organizing complex information and understanding multiple perspectives and respecting the inherent value of each of those perspectives. Religion is all about people and sales is all about the customer(people) so it really has a strong translation. My experience with Religious Studies classes also taught me to read and write effectively which is arguably one of the most valuable skills as we move to a more commoditized marketplace, people who can synthesize large amounts of complex information, write and communicate effectively and succinctly, and have a deep understanding of people has become increasingly valuable in today’s job market.
Being a Religious Studies major and writing a thesis that applied to what I wanted to do professionally, has been one of the most valuable things I have done to make myself a qualified candidate in today’s job market. In interviews, I get so much joy out explaining what a liberal arts religion major entails. Every employer or potential employer I have come across is amazed when I tell them how I wrote a 70-page thesis that combined religion, the story of Oral Roberts, with marketing and sales, as I detailed his rise to fame and success and how it can be attributed to creative and impressive marketing and sales efforts, of course, riding the back of religiosity. I think being a religion major is going to pay dividends as I pursue an entrepreneurial career where you constantly have to think about all the different perspectives at play and synthesize massive amounts of information and material. My hope is that more Lafayette students realize the dynamic nature of a religion major, and how not only can it actually act as a way to set yourself apart from the crowd in the job market but you also get to learn about some of the most fascinating pieces of history and culture that you would never have learned otherwise, all the while getting an incredible education from some of the best professors on campus. Anyone with a strong intellectual curiosity, a knack for writing, and a love of reading should be a Religious Studies major, and if at first, you are lacking one of those areas, the amazing Religion classes will inspire the best in you.
Charles “Cormac” McCooe, ’18