Religious Studies

Your courses will provide perspectives on many of the world's religious traditions. Research will be a crucial part of your work, and the interdisciplinary program presents an array of options.

Shannon Boley ’17
Shannon Boley ’17

A student’s discovery: religious studies and summer research

Shannon Boley ’17 started Hamilton College convinced she would major in English. She ended her first year in love with a major she hadn’t known existed – religious studies. She spent the next summer on a team of students working on a research project called “Sacred Spaces in Transition,” with Assistant Professor of Art Robert Knight and Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies Brent Plate. They are researching religious spaces in the nearby city of Utica, a refugee resettlement center, and Boley is getting to know immigrants from around the globe who are finding new uses for the old places of worship. The plan is to create a history of the structures.

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In many ways, religious studies resembles English, Boley discovered. “Right now in religious studies, I’m reading and writing but about things that I’m more interested in, because religious studies for me is the study of people,” she says. Boley is gaining a greater understanding of the beliefs that influence people’s actions around the world. She’s active in the All Beliefs Union on campus and is considering an administrative career in nonprofits.

Billy Ford '10 in Malaysia.

A graduate’s progress: promoting global freedom

An interest in Vietnamese Buddhism drew Billy Ford ’10 to Vietnam to study his junior year at Hamilton College, and the experience set him on his career path. He now works at Freedom House, which describes itself as an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world.

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“My time in Vietnam drastically changed my professional trajectory and opened up an entirely new area of interest for me – the human right to religious freedom,” says Ford, who majored in religious studies.

He won a Fulbright scholarship to live and teach in the conservative Muslim province of Terengganu, Malaysia. Then Ford landed an internship at Freedom House, where he worked his way up. He is program manager on the Southeast Asia team and oversees a legal reform project in Burma, liaises with the State Department and other bilateral governments and develops and pitches project proposals.

“So, within a year of joining Freedom House I had been promoted three times, and I can say with confidence that I had been promoted in large part because I manifest the ability to write well and speak with confidence – an ability that I developed as a religious studies major at Hamilton,” Ford says.