College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Philosophy and Religion

Stephanie Slemp graduated from Butler University in 2008 with a BA in Religion.

I felt like a child again sitting in the lotus position on the carpet square.  Only this time, our hands were in a prayer position.  I remember hearing only Eddie's voice, raspy yet beautiful.  He was wearing a gray robe and his round face was young, his head shaven.  For a moment, it was as if I was in a monastery, somewhere in Korea perhaps, surrounded by devoted monks chanting their sutras.  We all followed Eddie's actions.  Stand up.  Bow.  Head on the floor.  Repeat.  The man across from me was breathing hard-struggling to keep pace.  I tried to concentrate on the unvarnished wooden floor.  "Only fifty more," I thought to myself.  As soon as we finished 108 full prostrations, I began to chant along in Korean.  After five lines, I realized that I didn't know what I was chanting.  Eddie's voice brought me back to reality.  How did I end up at the Zen Buddhism Center?  How did I go from wanting to study biology to studying religion?

Slemp ProfileI finally thought that I was on the path to becoming a doctor when I became a biology major at Butler University.  However, a whirlwind of doubt and uncertainty soon swept through my world.  As we studied evolution in class, I began to question the purpose of life.  Why is our miraculous, intricate human body here?  Evolution was one way to answer my questions, but there seemed to be more to the story.  Why did people believe differently and why was religion such a large part of life, conflicts, and morality?  With these questions in mind, I took a risk: I changed my major.  I was almost certain my decision would scar my chances of becoming a physician.  Perhaps I would choose a different career, something in religion.  Yet my path through religion has taken an ironic turn-it has affirmed my commitment to a career in medicine.

During my studies, I began to realize that religion was an important part of many people's lives.  I am still fascinated when I read the first line of the Hippocratic Oath, as its religious references are clear.  Religion is present in St. Vincent Hospital's Emergency Room as well.  While training for my EMT-B license, I tried to keep up with the doctor, walking hurriedly in all directions.  The paramedics brought an older woman into room five; she had just had a seizure.  She was frail, shaking, and kept a blank stare at the ceiling.  As I followed the doctor out of the room, an older man was entering.  I heard a brief second of his whispers, but it was enough to understand, "Please God."  When medicine falls short, experience has shown me that religion is there.  Studying many different religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity at Butler University allowed me to investigate and question my own beliefs as well as appreciate, erase assumptions about, and develop empathy for different cultures and traditions.  Although I job shadowed Christian counselors and considered seminary, something was missing.  I knew a career in religion would not completely satisfy my passion for studying the human body. 

My senior year at Butler, I was accepted into Indiana University School of Medicine.  Throughout my four years of medical school I have come to cherish even more-so my time spent in Jordan Hall classrooms and various places of worship discussing such a passionate subject like religion.  I continue to draw inspiration every day, especially in times of stress, from one of my favorite classes: The Book of Psalms.  After medical school, I will be starting a residency in Pathology.  I have met many different classmates, teachers, patients, and doctors along my journey and I thank my professors and classmates of the Religion Department for teaching and challenging me to respect and appreciate others, no matter what their beliefs may be.       

Before I left the Zen Buddhism Center, Eddie explained that Zen was about answering the question: "Who are you?"  I am not a Buddhist, but I do believe that I am discovering who I am.  Even after changing my major to investigate my questions of life, I could not change my desires, my purpose.  Although I have come full circle, ended up where I always began, trying something new did not scar me-it inspired me.