Anthony Byrd

Posted On August 19, 2015
Categories Uncategorized

anthony-byrd_web photo400300Name:
Anthony R. Byrd

Degree you received at Georgia State:
MA in Religious Studies

Current Job:
Coordinator of National Scholarship and Fellowship in the Honors College at Georgia State University. I am also a Ph.D. candidate in Religion at Emory, set to defend my dissertation this Fall.

What do you do on an average day?
It really varies. When I’m wearing my scholar hat, I read, write, and think about issues in religious studies. For me, that means problems in classical Islamic theology, modern analytic philosophy of religion, and comparative ethics. As an administrator, I work to connect GSU students with the resources and opportunities they need to be successful. That can mean offering workshops on writing grant proposals and personal statements for nationally competitive awards, to hosting information sessions on scholarship and fellowship opportunities. This is particularly the case for awards focusing on language acquisition and international experience. If you are a current or former GSU Honors student and are interested in a Fulbright, Boren, Gilman, or IIE Critical Language Scholarship, come and see me!

Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree?
I don’t know if I necessarily chose graduate school, if by choose we mean rationally and with a clear set of objectives. After I finished my undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, I just knew I wasn’t done—that I had really just begun to break the surface of what was out there to know. I certainly didn’t go into graduate school with a plan. Though I don’t recommend this strategy, it has worked out for me so far. I was lucky to find a series of amazing academic mentors here at GSU and then at Emory who kept pushing me to pursue my interests, whatever they were and wherever that might lead.

How do you use your graduate degree in your current job?
In so many ways. In the most obvious sense, my graduate training at GSU prepared me for more advanced graduate work. The professors here taught me what it means to be a teacher-scholar, and they remain important models for me. But more surprising still is that the skills I learned during my graduate work in religious studies are immanently transferable to other fields. Learning to research, write, to analyze data, to develop individual conclusions and to defend those conclusions—these things are valuable in any profession. They have certainly served me well as I transition into university administration, and I believe the same would be true if I chose to go into some other field.

Would you recommend your degree program? Why?
Absolutely! And I’ll give you a reason that has been much on my mind lately. In my new role, I work with students and faculty across the university and in a variety of different fields. My training in religious studies has prepared me extremely well for this. Religious studies is inherently interdisciplinary; I can speak confidently with scholars in anthropology, history, sociology, political science, area studies, language and literature, etc. Our discipline has made me comfortable with transgressing traditional academic boundaries, and I’m not sure other disciplines prepare students in quite the same way.

What’s the strangest or quirkiest thing you learned in the course of your graduate study?
It’s not any one thing that I learned, but rather the way I learned to think about the world in graduate school. One of the joys (or dangers?) of graduate study it that you learn to denaturalize what had previously seemed natural. Now, everything seems potentially strange or quirky, and therefore worthy of study.