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Alumni Spotlight

Peter Dziedzic

BA Religious Studies, '13

BA Religious Studies, '13

Where are you these days and what are you doing? 

I am currently a Master of Theological Studies candidate at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. I graduated from DePaul in 2013 with a BA in Religious Studies and Islamic World Studies. 

Between my undergraduate studies at DePaul and my graduate studies at Harvard, I wanted to contextualize my academic studies with international experience. I pursued language study and ethnographic research in Amman, Jordan and Dharamsala, India, received a Russell Berrie Fellowship to study Catholic-Jewish dialogue at the Angelicum in Rome, and studied Sufi saint veneration in Morocco through a Fulbright US student research grant. I started my graduate studies at Harvard in 2017.

I’m interested in studying the history of the Mughal Empire, particularly by looking at textual transmission from Sanskrit into Persian and Arabic. I’m broadly interested in questions interreligious engagement, aesthetics, historiography, and comparative philosophy and literature, topics I began to explore while a religious studies major at DePaul. I intend to pursue doctoral research in the field of Religious Studies.

What do you most like about what you are doing? 

As I’m still a university student, I’m not having a very different experience than many DePaul undergraduate students! I am perhaps a little further along in my journey, where I’ve narrowed in on a specific career path and a topic of interest.

As a graduate student, I enjoy the opportunity to take ideas seriously and to shape my ideas in conversation with peers, mentors, and other students. As a graduate student, I develop close and intimate relationships with faculty advisors - the gap between teacher and students seems much less intimidating as a graduate student than as an undergraduate student. I enjoy the freedom to explore and tackle a range of ideas and to become a more serious member and contributor to the field of Religious Studies.

I also enjoy the many opportunities available to conduct international research and language development. As a Religious Studies student, I found learning modern and classical languages important for my research. There are many options available to pursue language study and research such as Critical Language Scholarships, Fulbright grants, Boren Fellowships, and school-specific scholarships. It’s a time consuming process to research all the opportunities available, and many applications are unsuccessful, but the reward is often well worth the effort.

What would you say to a student who was considering a major or minor in Religious Studies about why this is important in today’s world/ in your work?

Religious studies is a broad, challenging, and rewarding field that does not often get the credit it deserves. Religious studies considers, in a meaningful yet critical way, the “big questions” - human experiences of transcendence, belonging, and community. Religious Studies can incorporate approaches and insights from fields as diverse as philosophy, art history, literature, statistics, and biology. 

Religious narratives also permeate our societies, cultures, and histories. The cultivation of “religious literacy” - a general understanding of basic elements of diverse religious world views - is sorely lacking need in our time. Students and scholars of religious studies can help in promoting religious literacy in a variety of sectors, from government and business to media and hospitality management.

Religious studies may or may not lead you directly into a big accounting firm after graduation, but it will certainly prepare you to be a serious student of life for the rest of your life - the goal of any real and meaningful education.

I’m happy to help students navigate post-graduation experiences. Please find my profile on the DePaul ASK network.

Luke Burrows

BA Religious Studies + Intercultural Communication, '17

Luke Burrows

Where are you these days and what are you doing?

I am currently working as a Primary Education volunteer for the Peace Corps in Lesotho, a small yet spectacular country in southern Africa. I teach English and Life Skills (sex ed. combined with a mess of other important things) to children ages 6-12.

What do you most like about your work?

While I am still early on in my tenure with the Peace Corps as I write this, I have already found a deep appreciation for the unpredictable nature of my job. I am repeatedly forced into new and challenging situations. Every day is unique and wholly special because of this. It is true what they say about Peace Corps service: it is the hardest job you'll ever love!

What would you say to a student who was considering a major or minor in Religious Studies about why this is important in today’s world/ in your work?

If you are currently an "undecided" major, as many freshmen and explorative sophomores typically are, declare religious studies, or at least sign up for an REL class or two. Even if you decide that the major isn't for you, I can nearly guarantee that the class will spur some hidden interest. My experience with religious studies was riveting because of the content of the classes, but it was intellectually formative due to the classes' very nature. Religious studies majors study worldviews. This means we are constantly introduced to new and often foreign ways of thinking. Philosophy was too stuffy and informational for me, and history classes often left me yearning a greater connection to the people I studied. Religious studies is that impossible balance. The field builds analytical skills with the calculative lens of a social scientist, yet it handles the subject matter with the sensitivity and understanding of a social worker. Every day of my life after DePaul, I find myself applying this skill set to daily interactions. How would this culture view something I take for granted in my own? What happened in this person's history to form the ideology they hold to now? How can I better check my own epistemological worldview? Who are my own communities of accountability? These questions come to mind so readily because of my REL degree. If you are undecided and are looking for a path that is as fulfilling as it is important for a society that all too quickly disregards cultural and religious literacy, try out an REL class or two. It will lead to something phenomenal.