Success Stories in Religious Studies

Recent Religious Studies alumni are completing advanced degrees at institutions that include Oxford University, University of California, Santa Barbara, Boston University School of Theology, Drew University, Claremont School of Theology, California State University, Long Beach, German-Turkish Master’s Program (in Ankara and in Berlin), University of California, Riverside, Pacific School of Religion, and The University of Chicago Divinity School.

Among our graduates are professors, screenplay writers, marriage and family counselors, fundraisers for non-profit organizations, prep-school headmasters, ministers, entrepreneurs, elementary teachers, magazine editors, and sports coaches.

See what our alumni are up to

Kristina Shaw '11

Kristina Shaw ’11
Graduate Student
German Turkish Masters Program
Humboldt University

Majors: Religious Studies, European History

Activities: Theta Alpha Kappa (Religious Studies Honor Society), Phi Alpha Theta (History Honor Society), College Choir, Model United Nations, and lots of intramural sports.

What first attracted you to Whittier College? Initially, I was interested in Whittier's small class sizes and the good reputation of the political science department. However, my interest in history and religious studies professors led me down another academic path.

Why did you choose to pursue Religious Studies? In the beginning, professor Joe Price initially encouraged me to take Religion 101 and from there I kept taking religious studies classes as electives until I realized it was a real passion of mine. I ended up going to Morocco during JanTerm in my Sophomore year with professor Marilyn Gottschall's class Looking For Islam. The next semester, I took professor Rosemary Carbine's Life and Teachings of Jesus, which really inspired me to learn more about early Christianity. In the end, I began to realize that when you study religious studies you're really studying the way people find meaning in their lives. Religion touches everything, even if it’s not obvious.

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What was your favorite class? Classes are only as good as the professors who teach them and since I can't choose just one I'll go with my three most memorable classes. First is Ways of Understanding Religion with professor Jason Carbine. It was a great religious theory class that made me really think about how and why people believe in religion. Second is the Philosophy of Love and Human Sexuality with professor Michelle Switzer because she really turned me into a confident feminist and gave me a gender focus to my studies. Third is Three Wars with professor Laura McEnaney because she energetically forced me to question the truth behind ever narrative in history. 

The professors make Whittier worth it. They are all so amazing and care so much about the students. As someone who went on to study at larger universities, I feel like the attention and care that was given to me at Whittier was priceless. 

Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? Instead of doing an internship I did a history preceptorship with Professor of History Jose Orozco in which I wrote a syllabus for a class I created with him. 

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefitted you professionally? Currently, I am in the German Turkish Masters Program in Social Sciences at Humboldt University in Berlin. It's a unique international program that spends one year in at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, and the next year at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. I will begin my masters thesis next semester and I tentatively plan on discussing homosexuality and Islam in the context of Turkish immigration to Germany.

Whittier's Religious Studies Department prepared me greatly to think critically and taught me to use theoretical arguments. I was forced to question my previously held beliefs about religion and made me more open to different opinions. For my particular graduate school, the professors in religious studies were particularly helpful because they encouraged me to take a risk and really gave me a wonderful knowledge of Islam before I left for Turkey.

What advice would you give to future Religious Studies students when they graduate? It might feel like religious studies is only for people who are going into academia, but don't let that limit you. You should do what you enjoy and you'll be amazed at what comes out of the major. There is life beyond the university as a religious studies major.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… Whittier College taught me grow and change.

-Are you a graduate of the Department of Religious Studies and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at