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Student Spotlight

George Groh

Frank GawrylaReading has always been one of my favorite pastimes since I was a child.  From an early age, my topic of choice was mythology: the stories of gods and heroes, monsters, and adventures of ancient peoples.  My father (pictured with noted Judaism scholar Daniel Boyarin) and my mother always kept my library well-stocked with books filled with stories from the ancient Greeks, Norse, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Israelites, Americans, Japanese, and Indians.  In addition to providing access to the material I craved, my parents also pushed me to go beyond the bottom line in my studies, telling me time and again that "'Good enough', isn't."  Even today, my parents still make the long drive from Memphis to attend concerts and lectures hosted by the university to support my sister and me.  As the time to look at college majors approached, however, I was unsure how I would be able to work my passion into a career, or even a major, in a university setting. 

After two years as a Music Performance major here at UT, my love for myth led me to the Religious Studies department as a place where I could further my education, not only on "What" messages the stories from my childhood contained but also on "Why and How" they conveyed them.  Influenced by the advice of my parents to pursue the best education I could receive, I decided to earn my Honors degree in Religious Studies through my enrollment in the Chancellor's Honors Program.  I am certainly glad I chose this more demanding route.  Not only do I feel I have been more challenged in my approach to the study of religion, I also feel that taking courses in an honors setting has allowed me access to more information and perspectives on a greater number of topics than might be examined outside of this setting.  Following my passion for mythology, both the Honors and Religious studies departments encouraged and made it possible for me to attend an overseas conference this past September on mythology hosted by the University of Essex, England.  I also serve as a representative for the department on the Dean's Student Advisory Council with my fellow major, Blaire Hamilton. 

The faculty in the Religious Studies department are as varied as the subjects they teach.  During my two years as a major I have taken courses ranging from study of the Bible, Japanese, North and South American religions to Religious Ethics, Violence in Religion, and the Anthropology of Religion.  The faculty have always been extremely helpful and open to discussion concerning whatever topic I have had trouble with or wished to know more about.  My academic advisor, Dr. Erin Darby, has been especially helpful in working with me to identify a topic for my senior thesis project. I plan to analyze the characteristics of deities from Near and Middle Eastern mythologies that modern Judeo-Christians might consider to be "ridiculous," such as drinking contests and divine familial relations.  In my search for a graduate program in Religious Studies, I feel my classes and the efforts of professors here at UT have helped me prepare me for the workload and expectations of graduate school.

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