On Wednesday, February 9, 2022, at 12:30 PM, we will be hosting an Instagram Q & A all about applying to our MA program. Graduate student Amanda Dominique will host this virtual event and she'll be answering all the questions you didn't even know you had about the Religious Studies MA program, including questions about applying to the program, courses you can take, and life at GSU and in Atlanta. Be sure to follow us here: https://www.instagram.com/gsureligion/
Amanda is a first-year MA student pursuing the Nonprofit Management Concentration. She received her Bachelors in Religious Studies and International Studies at Ohio State University and my Masters of Education at the University of West Alabama. In this interview, we chat with Amanda about her experiences as a student and her future plans.
Introduce yourself! Give some background info- name, where you’re from, what you were doing before entering the MA program.
My name is Amanda Dominique. I was born and raised outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. I attended undergrad at The Ohio State University before moving to Alabama for Teach for America. I completed two years with TFA, teaching high school English and completing a Masters of Education at the University of West Alabama, when I decided to return to grad school full-time to pursue my passion in Religious Studies.
Why did you choose the Religious Studies MA program at GSU?
I am pursuing the MA in Religious Studies with the goal of teaching religious studies. I chose the program at GSU because of its applied focus and opportunity to teach an introductory undergrad class in the second year. I knew I wanted to reenter the workforce after completing this degree, so GSU’s emphasis on Applied Religious Studies really intrigued me. With the Nonprofit Management Concentration, I have the opportunity to participate in an internship experience and gain additional experience in the nonprofit sector. Moreover, GSU offers a course called “Applied Religious Studies” which offers grad students the chance to network with professionals in a variety of fields. Another major draw of the program was the opportunity for a GTA position. This position not only provides full tuition and a stipend, but it allows GTAs to be the lead teacher for an “Intro to World Religions” class. I am really looking forward to experiencing the difference in teaching secondary students and undergraduates.
What have been some of your favorite courses, lectures, and subjects over the past year? Why?
I am really enjoying reading different contemporary theorists in Pro-Seminar on Theory and Method. Dr. Moultrie put in the effort to show us diverse thinkers who engage critically with social justice issues and religion. In particular, I've found the work of Gloria Anzaldúa and Judith Butler very interesting and useful for my future research plans in developing a secondary curriculum. This semester I am enjoying my two courses dealing with religion and health – Buddhism and Healing, and Religion, Race, and Health in America. It’s been fun to dive into these different approaches to health, and I’ve found both Dr. Takkinen and Dr. Walker-Cornetta to be extremely knowledgeable in their subjects. Both classes stimulate thoughtful and engaging discussions.
What’s something surprising or interesting you’ve learned this semester?
Something surprising I learned this semester is that there are different types of ghosts! You might experience a spirit, a haunting, or even a poltergeist - and they all have different attributes!
What do you enjoy most about living in Atlanta?
I love the diversity of experiences that Atlanta offers. Inside the city, there are countless restaurants, parks, museums, and breweries. There are tons of unique neighborhoods to explore, and I am constantly finding something new and cool. Outside the city, there are even more options for outdoor activities – hiking to the north and the beach to the east. Atlanta is a big city, which means more opportunities to explore.
What do you enjoy most about the GSU campus? Favorite places to eat, study, hang out?
I love how walkable it is. The department offices, the library, classrooms, and the rec center are all within a few blocks. And there’s a Starbucks right in the middle! I spend a lot of time in the department offices because it’s got great light, views, and tons of quiet space.
What resources have you found to be most valuable while working on your degree?
The library and my professors. The library has great resources for completing research and a subject librarian for our department. Also, my professors are great thought partners. They are always willing to discuss topics from course readings or my own research interests. They provide very useful guidance. I also rely on my friends – those within the program and those without. They are my support system where I can vent frustrations when needed or go to for advice.
What has it been like to work with the faculty in Religious Studies?
The faculty in Religious Studies are very approachable. Everyone I’ve met has been eager to get to know students and discuss their interests. I feel like I could go to any of my professors to discuss my research interests or career plans.
What is the grad student community like in the program?
The grad student community is very friendly and welcoming. With virtual classes and activities, it has been hard to get to know people outside of the school setting. But everyone in my cohort is open and kind. The community also brings students from a variety of previous experiences – different undergraduate majors and previous jobs – so there are a lot of different perspectives to learn from.
What research projects are you working on this semester?
Fall semester I was working on several research projects. I wrote a paper comparing surrender by Muslim women in the work of Saba Mahmood with surrender in Al-Anon. I also completed a paper on Sufi Islam soul beliefs and a grant proposal for creating a secondary school curriculum on religious studies. I also participated in a panel discussion unpacking Native American perspectives on Thanksgiving and Columbus Day put on by the Multicultural Center at Georgia State. This spring semester is just getting underway, but I am looking forward to future projects!
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying to the MA program in Religious Studies?
I would say talk to us! Talking to the current students when I was applying was really helpful in getting an inside look into different programs. Current students can answer most of your questions and give you a realistic idea of what the program might be like before you begin.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to graduate with this degree in spring 2023 and then return to teaching, hopefully teaching religious studies or some form of diversity, equity, and inclusion with a religion-focused lens. I would love to be a part of more widespread access to religious studies education for younger students and hopefully, work toward getting religious studies classes into public secondary schools.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Outside of class, I spend a lot of time traveling and hiking. I also love to read fantasy novels and workout. I am currently planning a hiking trip to southern Utah!
What are you reading/watching/listening to lately?
I am currently reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, watching Love Island: Australia, and listening to the We Can Do Hard Things podcast and Red (Taylor’s Version).