Students often ask, “What can I do with a major in Religious Studies?”

While the question is a sensible one, such an approach implies that the major one chooses is little more than a tool used to acquire a job. We believe that a major in religious studies prepares you not only just for making a living, but also for making a life. What kind of person can you be with expertise in the study of religion? The anecdotes and short video clips below capture a few of the many different vocational paths that majors have taken.

Religious Studies Alumni

Hannah Sikes '16
Watkinsville, Ga.

Sarah Aziz '17
Indianapolis, Ind.

Chris Woods '16
Burlington, N.C.

Kerry Honan '17
Saint Paul, Minn.

Photos of alumni answering the question why pursue a major or minor in Religious Studies. Alumni answer the question why pursue a major or minor in Religious Studies.
Joe Morrison in office

Joe Morrison ‘14
Head of Product Success and Impact, Umbra Satellite Imagery in Austin, Texas
“My religion major absolutely prepared me for my career [in satellite radar technology]! . . .  I rely on the same skills I learn at Davidson every day in my career. Above all else, I got the job because I started writing publicly and that opened countless doors. I credit religion classes with teaching me to write persuasively and giving me the confidence that I can quickly come up to speed on arcane subjects.” 

Dr. Katherine Cox, M.D. '07

Dr. Katherine Cox Ansley, MD ’06
Internal Medicine and Hematology/Oncology, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
"One thing I think about a lot as an oncologist when dealing with death is how people make meaning out of their life. I have end-of-life conversations almost weekly, and I find my patients usually want to talk about their family and their faith. Although most of my patients are Christian, I also have Muslim and Hindu patients, and I am so grateful I took those classes at Davidson to give me more background and appreciation for their faiths… As a physician, and particularly as oncologist, I see my calling as the relief of suffering. Some days I am able to do that with medications to cure cancer and treat pain, but a lot of days it is more about listening to the patients’ stories and being physically present as a patient transitions out of this life."

Boyce Whitesides '05

Boyce Whitesides '05
Senior Manager, Bain & Company
Management consulting basically boils down to taking hard and complex questions and breaking them down into more manageable chunks that can be researched and tested, and eventually proven. And it’s hard to think of more complex questions than those we regularly discussed in the religion department, such as, "What is the role of religion as a social force in the world?" or "What did this early Christian follower mean by this particular piece of prose?"

Through my time in the Religion Department, I developed and honed my critical thinking skills and my writing/presentation skills. This same critical and logical approach to presenting arguments has applications in whatever field you choose, and I have felt very well equipped to tackle these challenges because of the academic training I received in the Religion Department."

Mac Skelton ’07

James (Mac) Skelton, Ph.D. ’07
Director, Institute of Regional & International Studies, American University of Iraq; and Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics
"What can you do with a religion major from Davidson? The short answer is, well, just about anything that interests you. Since I graduated from Davidson, I have split time between several jobs in nonprofit organizations and graduate studies, all of which have had some relation to the Middle East and/or Islam. All have required solid writing and reading skills. Perhaps most importantly, they have required an openness to allow concrete experiences and observations to challenge my assumptions. And this is precisely what a religion major at Davidson does."

Lillian McCabe '15

Lillian McCabe '15
Graduate Study in Religion, Harvard University
"You don't need to worry about what in the world you will be with a religion degree. The study of religion is about something different—it's about how you will be in the world. I think that the study of religion is an empathetic endeavor. It is about thinking critically about the beliefs you hold, and considering how someone else could hold totally different beliefs. It's about imagining the world through another's perspective, and coming to value that perspective. It's about encountering the other with the possibility that your own way of being in the world might be challenged or even change. Religion is a way to study people. And in this pluralistic society we live in, it is only becoming more important that we try to understand the 'others' around us.

Preston Davis '06

Preston Davis '06
Chaplain, High Point University
"I witnessed faculty who were deeply moved by what they taught. It was like they were rediscovering it anew as they offered us an opportunity to discover the wisdom of those who went before us. I wanted to be a part of that same movement. The religion department guided and supported me. They cared enough to challenge me."

Manish Kurien '15 (minor)

Manish Kurien '15 (minor)
Executive Office of Immigration Review, U.S. Department of Justice
"The ability to comprehend differing perspectives is also a useful tool in the modern world. I have found that my study of religions at Davidson helped reinforce in me an open mind to new perspectives as well as instill in me knowledge of a wide variety of religions and belief systems. This combination has allowed me to engage with a wide spectrum of people from all different nationalities and backgrounds. These engagements go beyond the superficial since I am used to discussing ideals that may be drastically different than my own."

Dylan Deal '01

Dylan Deal '01
Upper School Director at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, PA
"The exposure to great thinkers has helped me with what Keats called "negative capability." I enjoy the unknown. And, since so much of this life is unknown, I think my experiences learning and teaching religion have helped me endure the sufferings inherent to being alive. Studying and appreciating religion has helped me have a softer soul. I am certain I am kinder because of it–it encourages me to be self-aware, compassionate, just generally more thoughtful."

Azalea Tang '14

Azalea Tang '15
Student Assistance Counselor, Westerville City School District, Ohio
"Studying religion enhanced my appreciation and ability for many ventures that make me eternally grateful for the teachers I had. I continue to seek the depth of learning from my everyday encounters that I experienced with the Davidson College Religious Department. In other words, religious studies taught me that I will always be a student, and that everyone is my teacher."