I graduated with a BA in English Literature in December of 2009. I have read everything I could get my hands on since I was a child. In fact, my poor mother had to take it upon herself to start teaching me to read at age 3 because I apparently threw quite the tantrum whenever my older brother started reading on his own and I could not. So, it was no surprise to anyone when I switched my major from Nutrition to English after my first semester taking British Literature 201 at UT with Dr. Dolloff. However, as my senior year loomed and everyone else was applying to graduate school or law school or getting jobs in education, I realized that I still hadn’t truly found my passion.
I decided that I would work for a bit in the bartending job I had at the time and give it a semester to see where I wanted to go from there. After a semester, I was still unsure so I started to look for what I call a “big-girl job”. However, I was job hunting with an English degree at the height of the recession. So, I primarily stuck to restaurant jobs and kept reading everything, but I had become particularly interested in political memoirs.
Honestly, I fell into a pretty bad depression during this time. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and I wasn’t doing anything with the degree I worked so hard for. However, when the primaries for the most recent presidential election began, I found a focus. All of a sudden, my interest in the endless convergence and entanglement of American politics and religion and how there is a constant tug of war between freedom of religion and the ideal of separation of church and state seemed to be of utmost importance. It was then that I decided to go back to school. I wanted to not only learn about religion and politics, but I knew that I very much wanted to study and write on it as a career. What I didn’t know was how amazing that UT’s Religious Studies department would be.
My professors have been beyond helpful in aiding me every step of the way in getting over the learning curves of being an older returning student. Even though I already had a broad idea of what I wanted to focus on in my time back at UT and subsequent graduate school, Professors Bryson, Hulsether, Darby, Collins-Elliot, Kline, and Hackett, among others whom I am sure I have left out, have gone out of their way to help me not only narrow my focus, but provide me with appropriate literature and opportunities outside of the classroom. The Religious Studies department at the University of Tennessee is truly magnificent at fostering a love of learning and at nurturing the type of analytical skills I will need in my life and career.