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Alumni Spotlight

Katie Browne graduated in 2009 and now serves in the Peace Corps in Madagascar

katie brown

Katie was an outstanding student-athlete while at the College. She served as the captain of the women's soccer team and she was a finalist for the Stewart Walker Cup, the highest award offered to student-athletes at the College.  Since graduating in 2009 she has spent three years in the Peace Corps in Africa, where she has worked on environmental preservation projects in Madagascar. Here she reflects on how her training in Religious Studies prepared her for Peace Corps work:

"Though the field of Religious Studies is far too often misunderstood as narrow and withdrawn, I have repeatedly found that my training as a Religious Studies major equipped me with a set of diverse skills to apply in my life and work abroad. As a third-year Peace Corps volunteer in the African nation of Madagascar, I work not with, but within, a culture far different than my own. To understand this society and the way in which it functions, one must turn an objective and analytical eye to that which undergirds it: not just religion, but the compelling stories that serve to both unite and divide a people. Religious Studies teaches the student less what to think than how to think, and thus expands far beyond the limited realm of organized religion and into that of culture and communication, politics and society.  

Working on environmental conservation projects in Madagascar, I have found that my Religious Studies training has provided me with valuable insights into the relationship of Malagasy culture with its natural and manmade surroundings. The stories of past and progress in this developing nation often clash, and the wanton destruction of the environment is all too frequently the result. To successfully counter such widespread environmental devastation, conservation efforts must tread with care in a place where competing societal claims—heritage and future, poverty and development, isolation and interconnectedness—challenge a people and a nation. The skills acquired in Religious Studies provide an approach to understanding these issues by analysis of what drives and unites the affected culture, and what can effectively serve to alter disturbing environmental trends." 

Among her notable accomplishments:

  • Four-time Academic All-Southern Conference Team
  • Finalist for the Stewart Walker Cup

  • HSS Scholars Award in Religious Studies

  • Department of Religious Studies Honors & Outstanding Student Award

Katie-w-natives

To read more about Katie's experiences in Madagascar, check out her blogs on a ritual exorcism and the lives of quiet dignity of the Malagasy