Alumni and Careers

What can you do with your religion major?

Jessica Weaver

Class of: 2010

Major(s): Religion

Since graduation, I have been working at the intersection of civic engagement, dialogue and storytelling in the corporate, nonprofit, and higher education sectors. After graduating and completing a year of service with AmeriCorps, I worked in business development, project management, and branding for a strategic communications firm that worked with nonprofits, governments, and Native Tribes in and around the Pacific Northwest.

Where do you currently work?

Now, I work in technology and community building through the Local Voices Network, a project that originated out of MIT. We work across the country with convening partners such as libraries, museums, tenants organizations and community centers to record community conversations about what matters to people at the local level (and analyze the content utilizing natural language process, a cutting edge AI technology)—and connect those voices to media outlets to improve coverage and rebuild trust in journalism. I have always been fascinated by how people make meaning of their lives and how they understand both themselves and others - a curiosity stoked through my time as a religion major at Bowdoin College. I truly believe that if our country is to find ways to heal, we have to find ways to be curious about each other—and that happens through learning about personal experiences, not policy positions.

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Zach Winters

Class of: 2011

Major(s): Religion

After graduation, I first had a brief stint as a contractor in Washington, DC with the State Department. It was probably wise to take a hiatus from academia, but deep down, I still wanted to come back for the PhD, and I applied to graduate programs after a couple years of government work. I have been at the University of Chicago now since 2014, first having finished my MA in Middle Eastern Studies before continuing on to the PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. This fall, I proposed my dissertation, which will consider themes of sacral kingship, Sufism, and the esoteric sciences in the Bahmani Sultanate of medieval South India.

How did the Religion major impact your learning?

The Religion major at Bowdoin did a great deal in shaping my own worldview, and I think about it often. Many of my current academic interests were, in one way or another, sparked by conversations I had with professors or classmates in my studies at Bowdoin. On a practical level, the sorts of skills I learned at Bowdoin are helpful in academia and beyond — it taught me how to read texts in such a way that you try to figure out what they're hiding, so to speak.

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Mae Speight

Class of: 2013

Major(s): Religion

In 2014, I enrolled in a doctoral program at University of Virginia. At the time, I planned to study Mormonism, an interest I developed at Bowdoin working on an independent study. But, as is usually the case in graduate school, interests evolve. I am now completing a dissertation on women's ordination in mainline Protestantism, a project I have loved working on. Graduate school has been a wonderful way to spend the last six years. The dissertation-writing phase has been a highlight, so has working with undergraduates and introducing them to Religious Studies. I was also stunned by the incredible religious diversity of a Religion department as big as UVA's, and the religious scene in Virginia was entirely different than what I was accustomed to.

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Hannah Scheidt

Class of: 2010

Major(s): English, Religion

This year, I am starting as a lecturer at Lake Forest College, a small liberal arts school in Illinois. I am teaching “Religion and Politics” and “Religion and Capitalism.” I am thrilled to be returning to a small school, and I think my appreciation for the liberal arts environment and the liberal arts mission gave me a foot up when I interviewed for the position. I am also involved in a working group for young scholars hosted by the University of Alabama, which has motivated me to continue my writing. Studying religion at Bowdoin sparked a curiosity and a passion for me, and I haven’t been able to give it up. As I think holds true for many in the humanities fields, my academic work is also part of a lifelong project of personal and ethical development.

How did the Religion major prepare you for graduate school?

I started graduate school in religious studies at Northwestern University. The majority of students entering this doctoral program complete a master’s degree first, but I was well-prepared from my undergraduate work. I was comfortable in the seminar setting, had both a depth and a breadth of knowledge in the field, and had honed my writing, research, and project-management skills in an honor’s project in the department. When I started graduate school, I followed the interest I developed at Bowdoin, in the intersection of religion, media, and technology.

Alithea McFarlane

Class of: 2014

Major(s): Religion

I recall leaving Professor Pritchard’s course on Citizenship and Religion senior year with a strong conviction in the value of service and volunteerism, which led me to pursue a position as a GIS specialist with AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps. While I had to leave the program early, my time with AmeriCorps helped me secure a year and a half long fellowship at a community health focused philanthropy in my hometown of Houston, TX. It was during this time that I applied to and received the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which allowed me to pursue my MPP at UC Berkeley in preparation for a career with the Foreign Service.

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Morgan Rielly

Class of: 2018

Major(s): Religion

After graduating from Bowdoin College in May 2018, I worked as an immigration paralegal in Boston. I was hired to specifically work with “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability,” such as scientists whose work the United States deems critical to the country’s national interest. However, I quickly took on a wide array of visas (including the R visa for religious guest workers!). While working as part of a team, I also managed a high volume caseload, interacting daily with foreign nationals and client contacts from around the country and world with varying skills, needs, and backgrounds, as well as communicating with many different governmental agencies amid the constantly changing federal immigration backdrop.

What can you do with your major?

While I enjoyed working as a paralegal, I wanted to get involved in the 2020 election. I was so inspired by Mayor Pete Buttigieg that I decided to leave my job in Boston and began volunteering with the campaign in New Hampshire. I have since been hired as an organizer. I am currently responsible for a portion of the New Hampshire seacoast.

Majoring in Religion at Bowdoin has provided me with both flexibility and discipline in tackling issues that I face whether as a paralegal at a large law firm or as an organizer on a presidential campaign. This has ranged from being able to read critically through a “Request for Evidence” from Homeland Security and then formulate a rebuttal as a paralegal to drawing on knowledge I gained from Professor Morrison and Professor Pritchard’s classes, especially on the intersection of religion, politics, and culture, to understand large systemic issues, which is helpful when working on a presidential campaign.

Sarah Shadowens

Class of: 2019

Major(s): Religion

Minor(s): Asian Studies - Chinese

I’m spending my first year out of Bowdoin as an Americorps member in Boston at Match Charter Public High School. My work focuses on tutoring geometry with a small group of students that I have for the entire school year while also assistant teaching for a senior math class. It’s interesting that I have ended up in the math world, but so much of my work with students focuses on study skills, organization, executive functioning, emotional regulation and the intense critical thinking I developed from the Religion major has been so essential to the constant problem solving I need to do. Although more school and studying is in my future, I want to emphasize how meaningful my studies at Bowdoin have been to my start in the education field. I’m so excited to see where this all takes me, but I know that my Religion studies will always serve as a solid grounding for me to approach whatever comes my way.

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Oriana Farnham

Class of: 2015

Major(s): Religion

I am currently in my second year of law school at Northeastern University School of Law. After I graduate in 2021, I anticipate taking the bar exam in Maine and looking for a job in civil legal services where I can continue to work on economic justice issues.

What was your first job after graduating Bowdoin?

My first job after I graduated from Bowdoin in 2015 was with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Maine’s largest legal services provider. I worked as a paralegal in Lewiston where I helped low-income people maintain their basic needs like housing and healthcare in cases ranging from eviction defense to eligibility for public benefits like MaineCare. I was particularly interested in working with Lewiston’s first- and second- generation immigrant population. This interest stemmed in large part from seeing the ways that cultural misunderstanding exacerbated the legal issues my clients faced. In too many cases, I noted the need to supplement our legal arguments by advocating for meaningful language access and basic cultural competency at agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services and local public housing authorities. Ultimately, I decided to apply to law school so that I could advocate for low-income Mainers in court.

Robby Bitting

Robby Bitting

Class of: 2011

Major(s): Religion

Minor(s): Chemistry

The religion department at Bowdoin does a great job teaching students to think about and talk about complexity. The writing and research work done as a religion major proved a firm foundation for marketing, public relations, and other communications work. This is very useful to me in most of my communications roles—pitching new concepts, explaining how a product fits into a broader strategy, and branding for a public audience.

How did the Religion major at Bowdoin help shape my profession in nonprofit management?

Writing about religion—and all of its complicated and unfamiliar texts, practices, and cultures—turned out to be great training for public relations. Who would you trust to communicate the value and wonder of a large (misunderstood?) corporation and its attempts to do good in the world through their various corporate social responsibility programs? I’d choose the religion major.

From Ruder Finn, I joined MassChallenge, a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses. From 2012-2016 I ran marketing activities out of our Boston office, recruiting 10,000 startups to apply to MassChallenge programs. In 2016, I moved into a “special projects” function, helping launch additional MassChallenge programs. In 2019, I transitioned again, this time into operations. Now I manage a team that supports the nine MassChallenge programs around the world.