Religion and Philosophy majors and minors leave Otterbein with the
skills and knowledge to pursue a plethora of careers, from law school to
the Peace Corps to the military. Here's a look at what some of our
recent graduates are doing:
Chelsea Merriman '09
Chelsea Merriman graduated from Otterbein in 2009 with a minor in
Religion. Today, she holds a position as Guardian ad Litem Education
Services Specialist with the Supreme Court of Ohio. Post-graduation, she
worked as a curriculum developer and presenter at COSI Columbus before
being hired at the Supreme Court this past winter.
She wrote, "It's (religion minor) always a good conversation piece!
Especially the topics related to Dr. Jackson's Religion in Films
Larsa K. Ramsini '09
After graduation, Larsa entered the Teach for America Program, and moved
to Baltimore where she taught mathematics to middle school students in
the Baltimore City Schools. She plans to enter law school at the College
of William and Mary in the Fall of 2011.
She recently wrote about her experience at Otterbein, "Studying
philosophy at Otterbein helped me to become a better reader, writer,
speaker, and thinker. Teaching middle school requires one to be
extremely precise in what one says, especially when responding to and
asking questions of students, and philosophy helped me to develop that
skill. My work at Otterbein has benefited my students, as I am better
equipped to push forward and challenge their thinking, which is not
always the most logical. Studying in the Religion and Philosophy Dept.
at Otterbein also made me more open-minded to different views, which is
essential when moving out of one's comfort zone into a new community."
Sarah Martindell '08
Major: English; Minor: Religion
Sarah currently works in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Crossroads Urban
Center where she is a social justice advocate. The Center serves
lower-income families through a food pantry and a thrift store,
organizes "low-income people to be advocates for themselves," and Sarah
also works with Utah legislators in an effort to fight "the systems that
create the need for a food pantry."
She recently wrote of her experience in the department, "I took
Introduction to Religion autumn quarter of my freshman year. The class
blew my mind. And I was hooked. Religion courses at Otterbein opened up
so many questions. I had grown up in the Christian tradition for 18
years, with two ordained pastors for parents, so I thought I knew plenty
about Christianity. Not quite. . .Even if you don't consider yourself a
religious person, these classes are still vital. Religion colors so
much of society, especially politics, history, and international
relations. You don't have to become a ‘believer' to enjoy these classes.
They're just helpful in developing a global perspective and
understanding people who are different from you...a skill we all have to
learn eventually." In thinking about her service to the people of Salt
Lake, she remembers that her "religion courses gave [her] a glimpse
into Jesus' life on earth, and the message he spread of good news to the
poor...They are the strongest voice for the issues they face. They are
the ones who belong on Capitol Hill. And they are the ones Jesus talked
with, ate with, and lived with."
Joe Achterman '08
Joe is now studying law at Capital University. He writes to us that the
skills he developed in his Philosophy classes - particularly the focus
on critical thinking - are put to use "every day" in law school.
Jason T. Craig '07
Upon graduation, Jason received an MA degree in philosophy from Georgia
State University, and is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the
University of Virginia.
He recently wrote about his major, "It has helped me very much. Most
importantly, it prepared me very well to continue pursuing philosophy at
higher academic levels."
Christopher A. Johns '07
Christopher is currently a Pastor at Madison Mills United Methodist
Church. He received a full tuition scholarship as an Alford Scholar at
Methodist Theological School, and he is working on his Master of
Divinity degree with an anticipated graduation date of December 2011.
He expressed, "My career at Otterbein led me to accept a call to
ordained ministry. I was also able, due in part to grades, to receive a
tuition scholarship to graduate school. Otterbein opened my mind to
cultural and religious diversity, as well as, offered me a strong
foundation to continue religious studies as a graduate student."
Kari Benge '06
Major: Art; Minors: Religion and Art History
Kari recently returned from living and working in Ghana, West Africa
doing volunteer work for the Peace Corps. She was in the Northern
Region, teaching Art at the Savelugu school for the deaf. She hopes to
return to Ghana in the near future. Upon completing her tour with the
Peace Corps, she anticipates earning a Master's Degree in Art Education.
Of her time at Otterbein, she writes, "Taking a minor in religion didn't
make any drastic difference in my life, but it really helped me
solidify my views, morals and approach to life. In Buddhism class I was
forced to step outside myself and critically assess my spiritual journey
and beliefs. In History of Christianity I learned the solid facts
behind all the stories I had been hearing since I was a child. In the
Religion INST survey I learned about ways of approaching life around the
world that I didn't even know existed. I know I won't become a Religion
professor or found a new religion, but taking your classes helped me to
better understand aspects of my chosen profession, art, and aspects of
my outlook on life in general."
Chris Durban '06
Chris writes that, in 2007, he "left his comfort zone, and everything he
knew" and moved to Southern California. He worked as an office PA for
Ricochet Television (famous for ABC's Supernanny), and part-time at
KDAR, a Christian talk station. He recently accepted a position with
KDAR as full-time Production Director.
He writes of his time at Otterbein, "How did the Religion and Philosophy
Department help me? It's made my faith stronger. I walked into those
classes a Christian, and walked out a stronger one. The Department both
challenged me and helped me look at things in a different light. It was
amazing exploring the history of my faith, as well as exploring why I
Nick Kiger '06
Nick is currently the Assistant Regional Director of the Ohio Region of
Church World Service. Church World Service is an international
humanitarian and development organization made up of 36 Protestant,
Anglican and Orthodox denominations. He is mainly responsible for
program interpretation, education and fund-raising in Ohio. After
graduating from Otterbein, he attended Methodist Theological School in
Ohio and received a Master's of Theological Studies with a concentration
in New Testament in 2008. He is currently beginning the ordination
process with the United Church of Christ.
He recently said of the department, "Studying Religion at Otterbein gave
me a real advantage over many other students pursuing graduate work in
religion. Not only was I able to "test out" of many intro courses, but I
was well prepared for upper level courses as well. Religious Studies at
Otterbein made me a well rounded student in Biblical Studies, Theology,
Religious Philosophy and Ethics at the graduate level."
Jason Carney '05
Jason is currently a Ph.D. student in the History of Writing at Case
Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He received his M.A. in
Literary History from Ohio University in 2008. He has taught part-time
at various universities and colleges around Ohio.
On his experience at Otterbein, "I would say that my philosophy degree
has increased the overall quality of my life in general. I am able to
perceive more details, to question tacit assumptions, and to glimpse the
overall uniqueness and singular nature of, well, pretty much
everything. I think studying philosophy has allowed me to get behind and
commit genuinely to that famous quote from Socrates, 'The unexamined
life is not worth living.'"
Erin Hood '05
After graduation, Erin worked for a time at Nationwide Insurance as a
temporary office worker, and then as a Research Assistant with OCLC. In
the summer of 2008, she began work on a Master's Degree in Library and
She writes that so far her Otterbein degree has not contributed directly
to her professional life, but insists, "religion and philosophy classes
were never useless. Understanding a person's or a people's religion is
to understand their society and their viewpoints. It forces you to stand
in their shoes and see life from their viewpoint, thus creating an
understanding and tolerance of thoughts and actions you may not have
been able to comprehend before. I am thankful for my classes every day."
Kris Vigneron '05
Majors: Philosophy and History
After graduation, Kris pursued a Master's in Philosophy and Social Theory at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England.
Upon completing that degree, he and his wife returned to Columbus, where
he presently manages the textbook department of the DeVry University
bookstore. He expects to begin teaching a few classes in the near future
and ultimately hopes to teach Philosophy full time.
Of his time at Otterbein, he writes, "Studying philosophy at Otterbein
changed me in many significant ways, not only academically, but in more
deep-rooted personal ways. Coming from a small town in southeastern
Ohio, I was narrow-minded and naïve...Studying philosophy challenged
every single presupposition I had about myself and the world around
me...It has changed the way I think about and understand everything,
from a baseball game to relationships to politics to the food I
eat....Philosophy taught me to open myself up to the world. It taught me
to be an empowered and informed member of society."
April Casperson '03
Majors: Philosophy and History; Minor: Psychology
While in school at Otterbein, April served as associate pastor of the Asbury South UMC in Columbus.
After leaving Otterbein, she went to the Methodist Theological School of
Ohio to begin work on a Master's of Divinity degree. In 2007, she was
hired as a full-time Coordinator of Recruitment for MTSO, a position she
still holds. She anticipates completing her M.Div. degree within the
next year, and plans to seek ordination as a deacon in the United
Of her time at Otterbein, she writes, "My interests in philosophy
started as an intellectual curiosity, became a minor, and then a second
major. I said this as I graduated, and I say it again: my studies at
Otterbein taught me how to think."
Robert Evans '03
Major: Philosophy; Minor: Religion
After graduating Otterbein, Robert taught Enblish in Japan from
2004-2007, but he could not resist the lure of philosophy. He completed
an M.A. in Philosophy at Ohio University, and is now in the Ph.D.
program at the University of Hawaii. He has also worked as an Adjunct
Professor of Philosophy at Edison Community College.
Of his time at Otterbein, he writes, "My education in Religion and
Philosophy from Otterbein University is directly responsible for the
professional and personal opportunities I have enjoyed since my time in
Towers hall. Without the attention and care of the faculty I would not
have been able to live and teach in Japan, and would not be pursuing a
career in teaching Philosophy. Having developed an understanding of a
variety of religious and philosophical world views at Otterbein, it was
possible for me to experience the Japanese culture to a degree of depth
not afforded to all visitors. This experience solidified my conviction
that Religion and Philosophy are subjects that, when studied
academically, contribute greatly to personal and interpersonal
development, and thus should be a significant part of all students'
education. I encourage all students at Otterbein to take advantage of
their opportunities to study Religion and Philosophy during their
Jim Wright '02
After graduating from Otterbein, Jim earned a Master's Degree of
Physician's Assistant Studies. He and his wife Kristy were married in
2005. Jim served as a Physician's Assistant with the Ohio Army National
Guard, and spent 10 months in Ramadi, Iraq. He has since left the army,
but continues to work as a Physician Assistant and currently specializes
in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Bellefontaine, Ohio. In a
recent note, Jim said, "Thank you for all you have done for me and
helped me to look at the world from more than my previous tunnel vision I
had prior to attending Otterbein. I can honestly say I don't see the
world, or myself, the same as I did prior to attending your courses."
Amanda Pershing '01 and John Nash '01
Majors: Religion and English (Amanda) and Philosophy (John)
Amanda graduated in 2001 with a major in Religion (and another major in
English). After graduation, Amanda worked as a Pastoral Assistant at
Vineyard Church of Columbus. She and John (a Philosophy major) married
in 2003 and now have a son, Grason Lewis. She and John are currently
living and working in Amsterdam Netherlands, as part of a mission team
charged with planting a new Vineyard Church there.
Pat Dietsch '99
Pat writes, "I am definitely one of those students who is using my Otterbein degree for a purpose other than teaching."
She is now Senior Program Manager at Columbus Public Health, where her
specialties are Communicable Disease Prevention and Response. She
writes, "My day to day work involves working with people from all
nations and races with a focus on the Somalis now living in Columbus. My
understanding of their religion and culture makes it easier for my team
to provide the services that the refugees need....We try to respect
their patriarchal society, their dietary restrictions, religious
holidays, and dress codes."
Pat also works with the Biological Event Response Team in Columbus. The
team is charged with preparing for disasters as wide ranging as Pandemic
Flu epidemic to terrorist attack, to outbreaks of Anthrax or Smallpox.
Karen DeJong '97
After leaving Otterbein, Karen earned a Master's of Divinity in Pastoral
Counseling from Ashland Theological Seminary. She was an Associate
Pastor at Zion Christian Fellowship (a non-denominational church in
Powell, OH) for eight years; there she established a counseling program
and wrote the curriculum for a 12-week course for new church members.
She currently is on the Board of Directors for the Emergency Spiritual
Care Team in Columbus. This team partners with the Red Cross to give
spiritual care to people in crisis, and to train counselors, priests,
rabbis and other religious leaders to deal with crises their members
Finally, she began (along with three partners) a multi-faceted private
ministry called Grace Connection. Among this ministry's constituents are
women prisoners in a nearby correctional facility, high school students
interested in community service, and students in Bible study groups.