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Linfield Magazine #27

Think religious studies classes are only for the religious? Think again. Students are finding those classes enrich their lives no matter what careers they pursue. Living a better Breanna Ribeiro ‘14 came to Linfield to play basketball and pursue a health related-major. One religious studies course changed the direction of her education and, perhaps, her life. Now an intern for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Ribeiro works with lobbyists at the state Capitol and tracks legislation relating to affordable housing and criminal justice reform. As cofounder of Student Advocates for Gender Equality (SAGE), she is a campus leader, a member of the Chaplain’s Team and she helped create the Interfaith Committee, made up of students from all backgrounds and beliefs. “I told my parents I was exponentially growing as a human being by being in that fi rst class,” said Ribeiro, a religious studies major with three minors – political science, sociology and gender studies. Ribeiro says her classes have equipped her with the skills to engage the world in a more ethical way that goes beyond religious tradition. They are helping her to live a better life. “It doesn’t matter what career I pursue – or life as a mother or friend – if I’m not a good person to step into that role,” she said. Thinking critically, broadening perspectives Students like Ribeiro are finding a solid academic foundation with ties to a multitude of careers. Once dominated by students bound for seminary, religious studies classrooms are increasingly filling with a different sort of learner – future doctors, politicians, police officers, business leaders and lawyers who are bolstering career paths with ethical perspective. Not 6 - l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e Summer 2013 only do religious studies classes train adept scholars and religious leaders, but simply put, they train good people. Religion courses have shaped the lives of thousands of Linfi eld College students – religious, apathetic and agnostic alike. As one of the anchor disciplines of a liberal arts education, classes draw on numerous areas including history, language, art, literature, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, political science and cultural studies. The study broadens students’ overall education, and introduces them to new cultural experiences and ways of thinking. It poses questions of ethics and values, prompting students to examine their own lives for greater meaning. Courses range from Old Testament and the Qur’an, to ethics, forgiveness, reconciliation and death. Languages such as Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Sanskrit and Tibetan are offered. While some graduates pursue careers in ministry, the majority move into other fields, according to Bill Millar ’60, professor of religious studies since 1984 and department co-chair. Students learn skills that prepare them for a changing world. “Most people adjust career tracks several times over the course of their working lives,” Millar said. “We work on critical thinking, which is important in multiple situations. How do you relate to people who think and live differently than you?” Tim Wagar ’11 uses lessons he learned in religion classes daily in law school at the University of Washington. He earned a finance degree from Linfield, and said ethical training and critical thinking have been invaluable. “Every day I read and think critically to understand arguments about the law,” he said. “It’s helped open my eyes to higher moral standards. It’s perfect preparation for law school.” David Fiordalis, assistant professor of religious studies and department co-chair, is an expert in Buddhism and Asian religions. He has opened new doors for Linfi eld students to explore Asian traditions and encourages students to apply what they’ve learned through experiential learning. Fiordalis has a bachelor’s from Carleton College, master’s from the University of Chicago and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.


Linfield Magazine #27
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