Rethinking religion

History has been plagued with religious strife. In an age when tension between religions has reached a critical point, the need for dialogue, understanding and tolerance has never been more important.

This fall, recent U of L graduate and religious studies major Erika Jahn (BA '08) confidently headed out into the world, ready to begin her life's work in the scholarly pursuit of a more peaceful tomorrow. Her first stop – Harvard University, where she is pursuing a master's degree in theological studies. It's a renowned academic program that accepts only a select group of the world's most stellar students.

"I cried with excitement when I received my acceptance letter from Harvard," Jahn recalls. "I hadn't told very many people I applied there, including my parents, so when I was accepted, it was a really big deal."

Jahn says her U of L professors and real-world experience played important roles in her acceptance to the Harvard Divinity School.

"I had the most astounding professors at the U of L who have been personal mentors to me," she says. "My professors instilled in me an appreciation for academic rigour and the desire to engage with my community and the world around me."

During her second year at the U of L, Jahn went to Thailand to study Buddhism as part of an independent study – an experience she says not only deepened her understanding of the field, but also strengthened her appreciation for cultural diversity.

Now as a graduate student, Jahn is continuing her research of religious conflict, peace studies and ethnic violence, and is focusing on religion and politics. And as she takes in all that Harvard has to offer, she has her eyes set on the road ahead.

"I hope to complete my PhD after this and find a great university to work at," she says. "I'm also interested in working abroad with a non-governmental organization to establish better systems of conflict resolution between different religious and ethnic communities."

It's a promising future – one that will hopefully bring peace thanks to the efforts of Jahn and individuals like her.