College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Philosophy and Religion

Kara Lassen Oliver graduated from Butler University in 1996 with a degree in Religious Studies.

Questions have always been so much more interesting to me than answers.

Oliver2And I was fortunate from a young age to have parents, teachers and pastors who encouraged those questions and wrestled with me to find answers.

That didn't change when I went to Butler University. I started as a math major, determined to have a practical degree that might actually provide me employment. But as I continued through calculus class after calculus class, I discovered that at a certain point equations cease to have answers. Wrestling with numbers wasn't nearly as appealing as delving into faith, religion and their intersection with people. I changed to a Religious Studies major.

The Religious Studies and Philosophy department drew students and professors from a variety of traditions and religious backgrounds into an intimate circle. I took Intro to the Bible with a young wicken woman. I looked at art with my Buddhist professor. I discussed morality with the atheist in my class. And I considered divinity schools with a fellow United Methodist.

I found a mentor with a gift for leading a stimulating discussion on topics of Bible, the apostle Paul, feminism and atheism without ever revealing his own opinions, but helping each student to clarify his or her own.

The questions and the study and the dialogue and the reading allowed me to see - and to respect - a much broader world than I had ever considered. It was this larger vision, love of questions, respect for the intellect and perspective of others that prepared me for life and ministry beyond Butler.

Oliver1I have been privileged to serve in youth ministry at a national level within The United Methodist Church and serve on local church staff as youth pastor. The ability to hear, embrace and wrestle with their questions was a gift that my major prepared me for.

And most recently, my family and I served as United Methodist Volunteers in Mission in Malawi, Africa. When we couldn't find the abundant life in our American dream, we followed God's call to serve alongside church pastors and lay people in Malawi. I was grateful for academic study of the Quran and Muslim faith and tradition that allowed me to interact with respect and understanding in an interfaith setting. And to dispel myths and prejudice within our local churches.

I was grateful for the model of professors and students who asked questions first and formed opinions second. And I was blessed that some of those same professors reached out to us with interest and followed our journey with delight.

The Religious Studies Department at Butler provides a rigorous and in depth study of a variety of religions and faith traditions. It challenges students intellectually. But more importantly, it develops the ability to hear, appreciate, challenge and discuss the issues at the heart of so many of our personal and corporate conflicts. A religious studies major will lead students into the beautiful world of questions and wonderings. And it may propel them into their own wanderings all over the globe to develop friendships and relationships that they had never considered.