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Student Spotlight

Dani Salazar

Daniela SalazarIn the fall of 2013, I entered the University of Tennessee ready to conquer my dreams of one day becoming a forensic anthropologist. I worked diligently on making that dream come true, often working weekday shifts at the Forensic Anthropology Center. Then within four short years the first half of my dream came true. In May of 2017, I graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Anthropology with a concentration in Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights. Now one may be asking what forensic anthropology has to do with religious studies. I often found myself asking this same question during my senior year of college. During this last year I ventured into one of Dr. Mark Hulsether’s courses out of pure curiosity. Religious Studies has always been a topic of interest to me. I often found myself relating different aspects of anthropology to global religious practices and ideologies. It was then that I realized my love for anthropology was only strengthened by religious studies.

Dr. Hulsether recognized my particular interests and took me under his wing. He encouraged my questions, and provided me with many different avenues of research, all while pushing the idea of religious studies as a second major. At first, I was not fond of the idea of adding a fifth year to my college career but come summer after graduation I found that my future career would only feel right if I continued my undergraduate education. After realizing this, I quickly enrolled into the university as a returning student. The Department of Religious Studies has made it their mission to facilitate my transition back into the educational system through personal and academic tribulations. The resources provided to me have created a new understanding of my original academic dream.

In May of 2018, I plan to graduate from the University of Tennessee once again, this time with a second major in religious studies. I plan to apply to graduate programs in the fall in hopes of one day obtaining a Master’s and PhD using both my religious studies and anthropology degrees. I plan to take a holistic approach to Latin American religious changes in the context of modern day political and media influences. As a first-generation college student from a Mexican American background I never thought achieving a bachelor’s degree would be possible, but thanks to the academic opportunities the University of Tennessee has offered me I will soon have two. I cannot wait for what the future holds. For those who have believed and pushed my interests in religious studies I would like to say a big thank you.

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