College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Philosophy and Religion

Renee Tapp Photo            I graduated from Butler in 2005 with a BA in International Affairs and Religion.  Studying Religion at Butler has continued to shape my life long after classes were over; I continue to use religion as a basis for understanding people and culture, and to critically analyze my own experience of the world.

            As an undergraduate at Butler I focused on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.  I developed an interest in these religions in the Mysticism course and was able to explore these religions more deeply during an academic year abroad in India.  For a research paper that would become the basis of my Honors thesis, I traveled in North India conducting interviews, making observations, and researching the places where Sufism was practiced.  Despite the Hindu/Muslim divisions in South Asia, the Sufi shrines, or dargahs, were places in a community that both Muslims and Hindus could peacefully co-exist and co-worship.  Along the way I went to a camel fair in a desert that turned into a pilgrimage to the temple of the Hindu god Brahma; I visited the vibrant and colorful dargah in Ajmer, and explored the four-hundred year-old Jama Masjid Mosque in Delhi.   My time in India was not only about conducting research, but also about personal growth. I am thankful to the supportive professors in the Religion department at Butler for encouraging me to take this trip and fully embrace different experiences.

            I moved to Philadelphia after graduating from Butler where I worked with several non-profits before starting a Master's degree.  I had the opportunity to work with Scribe Video Center, a community media non-profit, on their Precious Places Project.  The Precious Places Project is a nine-month process where local scholars and filmmakers are partnered with community groups that want to create short documentary films about spaces that define their community.  The first project I worked on was with the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, a racially integrated urban church.  (You can watch the film here.) Working on this project made me realize how pronounced racial divisions are in America, this is especially evident in places of worship.  To better understand this critical issue, I again relied on my studies at Butler; Modern Religious Thought and Theory and Method challenged me to think critically about religion and how it impacts the way we experience the world around us.  I began to see that two people practicing the same religion could have entirely different experiences of that religion (and the world) because of their race.  Working with the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown opened my eyes to race in America through the lens of religion, and to the idea that it is possible to begin to bridge the racial divide in faith communities with diligent practice and intentionality.

            After completing my Master's degree in Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University (2010) and an additional three years of teaching at colleges and universities, I am entering a PhD program in Geography at Clark University.  For me, studying religion at Butler opened up a door to understand the impact religion has in people's everyday lives.  Although my current research is primarily urban and economic, I can't separate the cultural and religious traditions from the places I research; religion provides context to the world around us.  Studying religion at Butler also provided me the opportunity to travel to India and gave me the confidence to explore on my own, and since then I have not looked back!  Finally, studying religion at Butler provided me with a path to think critically about my experience of the world and to not fear questioning myself, inequalities where I see them, and how others may experience the world differently from me. 

Regardless of your future career aspirations, Religion at Butler is a gateway to a more enriched understanding of the world and of you.  The faculty in the department will encourage and challenge you to explore unknown possibilities.  Good luck!