Skip to content

Student Spotlight

Sara Poarch

Sara PoarchI have been a student at UT since 2013 and my interests have been constantly evolving. I have a double major in Anthropology and Classics with a minor in Religious Studies.  You might be wondering why a minor has been spotlighted on this page, but my experiences with Religious Studies at UT have been anything but minor. I have always found religion fascinating. Why do people believe different things? How do people use religion in their culture? How has religion evolved alongside culture? So when it came time to take general education classes, I took as many in Religious Studies as possible. I started with a course about Women in North American Religion, then came Religion in Ancient Rome and Greece, and eventually I took Anthropology of Religion which taught me how critical religion is to the field of Anthropology. However, what lead me to declare a minor was the guidance of Dr. Erin Darby. In the summer of 2015 I spent six weeks in Jordan under Dr. Darby's supervision on my first archaeological dig, Dig Jordan. We excavated a 4th century Roman fort under the harsh Jordanian sun alongside students from around the country and local Bedouin workers. So I was in a dusty trench digging for ancient artifacts, and all I could think about was Ramadan. We were there during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, and I was enthralled. I witnessed not only such commitment to religious tradition, but also the way in which that religion had an effect on every aspect of daily life. So sweating under that magnificent Jordanian sun, eating all the hummus I could ever want, I fell in love with the study of culture and religion.

Fast forward to the present day, I am still in love with Middle Eastern culture and how religion plays such a significant role within it. I am the recipient of the Elaine Evans Middle East Studies Scholarship, which will help me continue my study in the field.  I am currently working on my senior honors thesis under my brilliant advisor from the Department of Religious Studies, Dr. Erin Darby. My thesis is currently entitled Sustainability and Cultural Engagement in International Service Learning. I will be interviewing students and faculty involved in international service learning in order to create a prototype for creating a service learning aspect to Dig Jordan. I will be returning to Jordan in the summer of 2017 after my graduation from UT to implement my research findings. My hope is to one day work with international non-profits to make them more culturally aware and sensitive. I want to help people around the world understand one another's culture in a productive way. My time in Religious Studies has put me on track to do everything I ever dreamed of doing (and more).  Some might argue that minors in college do not matter, but if my case is any indication a minor can make all the difference in the world.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.