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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

Minor: Religion

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 course."

Larsa K. Ramsini '09

Major: Philosophy

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

Major: Philosophy

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

Major: Philosophy

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

Major: Religion

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

Major: Religion

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 believed it."

Nick Kiger '06

Major: Religion

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

Major: Philosophy

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

Minor: Religion

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 Information Science.

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 Methodist Church.

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 undergraduate education."

Jim Wright '02

Major: Religion

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

Major: Religion

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

Major: Religion

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 face.

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.

/ Department of Religion and Philosophy

Andrew Mills, Chair
Towers Hall 323
p / 614.823.1368
e /amills@otterbein.edu

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