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Amy Hirschtick '07

Before my doctoral exams, I liked to joke with my colleagues that my worst fear was being asked, “What is religion?” It wasn’t that I had no answer, but far too many. Five years into my graduate degree in Religious Studies, nine years after I first enrolled in a Religious Studies class at Northwestern, I still find no other endeavor as engaging, enriching, and enthralling as the study of religion. Majoring in Religious Studies was a fantastic way to come to know the world. Among the most valuable skills I took away from studying religion at Northwestern was the ability to comprehend the worldviews of my fellow humans.

I have been fortunate enough to discuss the great Goddess with her devotees on the banks of the Ganges, to watch Hare Krishnas chanting in the streets of London, and to break bread with Sikhs at an Indianapolis Gurudwara. In this era of globalization, appreciating religious difference is perhaps more crucial than ever. Finally, as a politically-conscious citizen, the study of religion enables me to critically assess religious politics and identities in an increasingly post-secular world. When I started Northwestern as a curious freshman, I never realized that I would dedicate my 20s (and hopefully beyond) to the study of religion. Almost ten years later, I can think of no aspect of my personal or professional life that was not advanced by the mission of Religious Studies: to understand, appreciate, and explain the great spectrum of human belief and practice.