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Emily Grossi '98

I entered Northwestern intending to study biology. Serendipitously, organic chemistry left me uninspired, and, to complete a requirement, I enrolled in an introductory course on world religions taught by Prof Kieckhefer. That class quickly changed my academic direction and impacted my life tremendously. Prof Kieckhefer was a wonderful instructor who took time to truly get to know and mentor his students. I spoke to him often about my burgeoning interest in pursuing Religious Studies as a major but my concurrent fear of doing so because I didn’t want to “preach or teach” following graduation. Ultimately, I took the plunge, and as he’d suspected, studying religion made me feel intellectually engaged and alive in a way I hadn’t previously.

It was a new lens through which to understand people, cultures, morality, behavior. Having grown up agnostic in a very religious Southern town, I’d often felt like a confused outsider, and Religion courses enabled me to explore some of those experiences in academic and ethnographic ways. The writing-intensive coursework honed my critical writing skills which helped enormously at NU and in post-graduate study: though I pursued master’s in two fields largely unrelated to religion, the analytical and writing abilities I’d obtained in college benefitted me greatly and still do (I write a food blog). Religion continues to fascinate me, and though still a non-believer, I engage with it intellectually as often as possible. Presently, for example, I’m co-chair of the Quaker Life Committee at my son’s school which has made our family’s experience there all the richer.