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.

Jamil Wyne

Jamil Wyne

Class of: 2008

Major(s): Religion

I am a Graduate Student, Int'l Studies/ Economics & MBA Kois Invest, Summer Graduate Intern. I have worked in the international field for roughly 8 years and am now pursuing a dual Masters degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (MA in international relations and economics) and INSEAD (MBA).

What can you do with your major?

A lot of my work is writing-intensive, and there is a high-premium on good writers globally. Bowdoin set me up excellent for this. Writing can reveal good communication skills in general and indicate that a person thinks clearly, critically, etc. All of these are areas you can develop in a liberal arts school.

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.

Erin Fitzpatrick

Erin Fitzpatrick

Class of: 2015

Location: Los Angeles

Major(s): Music

Minor(s): Religion

I like to say that musicology came to me—I never came to Bowdoin intending to study it, but I had always had a profound love for music and a deep interest in how and why people make things and make choices. Whether or not you’d like to go into academia (as I didn’t think I did back when I was a Bowdoin student), the Social & Historical Context major concentration is a really great way of developing your analytical, creative, and rhetorical skills.

First, can you tell us about your musical background?

I come from a family of opera singers and theater performers and Irish traditional music fans and rock aficionados, and I was lucky enough to grow up on Broadway’s doorstep, so I think it’s safe to say that I was reared to have a voracious and wide-ranging love for music. My formal engagement started with piano lessons in kindergarten, then violin lessons in third grade—but I found my true niche when I got my first electric guitar in fifth grade. That’s when I started writing songs, and I have been composing ever since! Aside from guitar-ing, I’ve been singing my whole life, and musical theater and choral singing give me a sense of wholeness and joy I struggle to communicate verbally. Pop punk and alternative rock were the first “genres” that really spoke to me, followed by musicals, so my songwriting has a bit of a storyteller-y, punk-y, indie poppy vibe to it!  Also, in the last year I’ve also written and recorded my second full-length album (Tough Love, produced by Alex Rogers) which I’ll be independently releasing in January 2019! 

Can you describe the research you’re doing as a PhD candidate at UCLA?

My work at UCLA is particularly concerned with the intersections between gender, sexuality, race, bodies, and guitars; and how marginalized people—specifically queer women, as my current papers stand—physicalize their struggles and identities through their “musicking,” from playing techniques and onstage postures to the sonic products that arise from these musicians' own unique matrices of “human-instrument” entanglements. 

What is of most interest to me is questions of technology, of influence, of physicality, of creativity… Questions like, how do Annie Clark’s fingers tell her own social story? Why did she write that song like that? How can we hear Carrie Brownstein’s love for the ugly, the grotesque, and the unsettling? What might her own type of musicality tell us about her social position, and the ideology it has developed within her? How does Mitski Miyawaki move so many people with her eyes fixed on the floor, or the ceiling? Why is prog-rock virtuosity a laughable meme at this point; but the same musical structures take on new revolutionary meaning in a woman’s hands? Where does the craft enter the body? Should I refer to my drum machine as a member of my band? Should I stop using a capo on my 11th fret, like my guitar teacher said, because it makes the “notes sound weird”? What difference does that “weird” timbre make? What difference does it all make? In my work, I attempt to propose some of the ways that it does make a difference—and how, in fact, it makes all the difference.

What was your honors project at Bowdoin? Did this project carry forward into your PhD research?

In my honors project, I explored how the riot grrrls’ specific applications of the punk ethic could serve as an effective mechanism for liberating me from the prescriptive identities I’d been internalizing since childhood. I decided to create a punk band of my own, in which I was the guitarist and singer, and write the thesis as my experiences unfolded. Rather than writing a traditional ethnography, I approached the project through a “personal is political” angle, inspired by Trinh T. Minh-ha’s criticisms of postcolonial ethnographic writing techniques. Since in my specific project I was writing my personal story of liberation through music, I wanted to speak from my specific context as a queer woman at Bowdoin rather than speaking for other queer women or other “othered” people by writing an ethnography. I deconstructed key moments that arose throughout the process using theories including but not limited to abjection, informed by Julia Kristeva; queerness, “failure,” and postmodern feminist discourse, informed by Jack Halberstam, Donna Haraway, and Michel Foucault; noise, informed by Jacques Attali; and improvisation, informed by Tracy McMullen.

As you might be able to tell, this honors project has everything to do with my research now! Although my analyses have become more gracefully nuanced since my undergraduate years, it was because of this honors project that I play my own music for people again! It’s also how I discovered how to communicate why I care so much about music, and why I love the guitar, and why all music is vital and important and worthwhile and tells stories far beyond the ones communicated by lyrics.

How did you decide on a music major concentration in Social & Historical Context?

I like to say that musicology came to me—I never came to Bowdoin intending to study it, but I had always had a profound love for music and a deep interest in how and why people make things and make choices (which at Bowdoin I would come to learn is a whole discipline called “cultural studies”). I took "Intro to Sociology" and "Intro to Gender and Women’s Studies" during my first year at school, and I found that I kept writing about music and culture in all of my papers! I figured there must be somewhere I could do more of that on campus, because man, did I love it… and, lo and behold, I found the Music and Culture Major. During that fateful first year, I also took Vin Shende’s "How to Write Your Own Beatles Tune" class, as well as his "Intro to Composition" class; and Michael Birenbaum Quintero’s "Music and Everyday Life.” All of these courses piqued my interest in the discipline, and by the time I took Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Music with Tracy McMullen, there was no turning back!

Who was one professor in the Music Department who really inspired you or had a big impact on your time here?

Oh man, it’s impossible to single out just one! During my time at Bowdoin, I benefited tremendously from the department’s intimate size, collegial cohesiveness, and ideological diversity; and I really feel like I took something special away from my time with each and every professor. It was a privilege to sing each day with Robby Greenlee in Chamber Choir; Frank Mauceri gave me confidence in my musical improvisatory abilities; and Vineet Shende opened my ears to harmonic worlds I’d never thought to consider in the pop and rock music I love so much. I will never forget the day during my senior year when Mary Hunter essentially told me I would become a musicological academic one day; and I, a fool, expressed my doubts. That conversation meant the world to me when I finally decided to apply to PhD programs. I knew that somebody in the field whom I respected tremendously believed in me and could validate how fulfilled I was by the work. It is that level of personal engagement with students that makes the Bowdoin Music Department so, so special. Nobody was more instrumentally inspiring to me in this way than Tracy McMullen, whose revolutionarily egalitarian and kinesthetic pedagogical approach was so formatively impactful on my worldview. Not to be dramatic; but she kind of gave me punk music. She introduced me to fields of theory and performance that I had never even heard of before. She taught me valuable lessons in decolonization and improvisative joy and activist scholarship and personal kindness; and I’m just so grateful to her for all of her helpful, calming, and supportive advice, and her continued friendly encouragement. I honestly think I still would be afraid to perform my music for people if it weren’t for her; and now I’m putting out my second album and opening for bands I really admire.

Can you describe a highlight from your time in the Bowdoin Music Department?

I watched “The Punk Singer” (2014) in Tracy McMullen’s Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Music class during the spring of my junior year at Bowdoin. The documentary chronicles the origins of the Riot Grrrl Movement, a feminist movement that started in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s in which college-aged women rebelled against issues including patriarchy, the commodification of girlhood, rape culture, and racism. It opens with circa-1991 footage of Kathleen Hanna, frontwoman of the iconic riot grrrl band Bikini Kill, bouncing maniacally around a makeshift stage in a basement somewhere in Olympia, WA. I remember being captivated by Hanna’s unapologetic confidence. She was fiercely angry, strikingly young, and contagiously passionate, and she seemed to occupy physical and sonic space in ways I'd only ever associated with men. Possibilities flooded my mind with exhilarating urgency. I sighed and thought to myself, “Oh! That is what I’m here to do.”


I saw in “The Punk Singer” remarkable contradictions, subversions, and refusals of rock music’s conventionally white, male hegemonic narrative. Hanna laughed in the face of a society that teaches women to be quiet and demure; she broke down expectations for what it means to be a “successful woman”; and she created in the absence of these expectations a liminal space for women and other “othered” people to assert their identities and reimagine society’s seemingly rigid narratives. My realization was that I wanted to be a “Kathleen Hanna” in my personal studies, music making, and career!

What other aspects of the Music Department or the Bowdoin music scene were you involved in?

Pretty much all of them!!!! I sang in the Chamber Choir, directed/performed in the musical theater club Curtain Callers, was a member of the Bowdoin Music Collective, and played in the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble. I think I took almost every music course the department had to offer during my time at school as well. All the while I also wrote and arranged my own music and did a few radio shows for WBOR!

Were there other academic departments at Bowdoin that you participated in to further your research?

I took many courses with the Gender and Women’s studies department to supplement my research, since it has major intersections with feminist/queer theory. I was also a Religious Studies Minor because I was (and continue to be) fascinated with cultural questions about how and why people think what they think and do what they do. The minor gave me the ability to consider systems of thought (like religion or music) on a relativist scale. It was also really useful for deconstructing the fascinating resonances between music and religion, which highlight the ways in which cultures consider their bodies and express their values. I enjoyed taking English courses for similar reasons!

What advice would you give a student who is considering a Musicology major?

I love music more than anything in the world; and when I learned that I could study it in college, I was so elated. If you do too, get in there and do it! Whether or not you’d like to go into academia (as I didn’t think I did back when I was a Bowdoin student), the Social & Historical Context music major concentration is a really great way of developing your analytical, creative, and rhetorical skills—all of which are quintessential components of the offer of the College! I just can’t advocate enough for how much I learned, and how much I enjoyed getting to know and learning from the amazing faculty. Take advantage of all that you can—because there is so much the department offers, from ensembles to courses to mentorships—because the opportunities really are once-in-a-lifetime!