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.

Lillia McEnaney '17 at the Institute for American Indian Studies.

A student's twin passions produce a double major 

Lillia McEnaney ’17 has pursued archeology since high school and discovered Hamilton College’s program as a high school junior. She was drawn to its focus on the U.S. and Canada. Once on the Hill, McEnaney discovered a related passion – religious studies.  Her particular archeological interest lies in the U.S. Southwest and examining designs on pueblo pottery from a scientific and religious studies perspective.

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She’s also interested in curatorial work, so Hamilton’s Wellin Museum of Art was another draw. “The idea of going to a school with a new museum that has such a rich archeological and ethnographic collection was really appealing,” says McEnaney, who became a curatorial intern at the Wellin. Her accomplishments include publishing an article in the international Journal Museum Anthropology and curating exhibitions at the Institute for American Indian Studies.  McEnaney double-majors in archeology and religious studies.

She likes the religious studies program’s anthropological approach, and she works as a research assistant in the program with Assistant Professor Seth Schermerhorn. Her coursework builds on her experience, which includes internships at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque and the American Indian Studies Museum and Research Center in Washington, Conn. Her interest in religious studies, she says, is “ever-expanding.” “In addition to pueblo pottery studies, the area of pilgrimage studies has begun to captivate me; this a field that Professor Schermerhorn introduced me to through his research on the O'odham, and also through his Sacred Journeys course,” she says.

“Last semester I took Native Rituals and Religious Freedoms, where I was able to apply my knowledge of native communities to the new concepts of law and government that the professor was presenting, which was really interesting,” she says.

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.