Shelly Graves Sizemore

What are you doing today (professionally) and how did studying Religion prepare you for this?

Today I am the Assistant Director of Campus Life and Service and for me there are a myriad of ways that studying religion has shaped what I do but there are two that really stand out for me.  The first is in the way that social justice plays a significant part in my understanding of the work that I do.  My philosophy towards service cannot be separated from my intense desire to create a more just world and my understanding of what this just world should look like comes directly from my study of religion. However, it doesn’t just come from the study of my own religion, which is Christianity.  I came to Wake Forest with a deep knowledge of how my faith related to my personal desire to serve others and create a more just world, but it was through the Religion department and my study of other traditions in the department that my appreciation of other faiths grew and developed and my understanding of justice became more complex.  This is the second way that my study of religion at Wake Forest continues to shape the work that I do, by continuing to inform my appreciation for and engagement with diversity.  The Religion Department was the first place where I was introduced to the truth that a just world is a diverse world.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying Religion?

Religion is a multi-faceted and holistic discipline.  It was in my religion courses where I felt that I wasn’t really going to class but instead was learning about myself and about the existential nature of myself and of others.  For me, the study of religion is so central to civilizations.  There are so many interesting intersections.  I found my most stimulating conversations in the intersection of gender, ethics, and tradition but there are so many ways to make your study personal and for me that is what is exciting about religion. The faculty are so eager to make the material relevant and meaningful to the students’ lives that I felt so cared for as a student and relished class time and office hours.

What advice do you have for current Religion students?

First of all: congratulations, you are in for a treat.  Secondly, take full advantage of your experience and the incredible resources at your disposal.  My advice to religion students is similar to my advice to many a Wake Forest student but it is particularly pertinent for religion students.  Take time to immerse yourself in your studies.  Go to lectures.  Meet with your professors.  Do all of the reading and participate in class discussions.  Never turn down an invitation to a professor’s house for dinner.  This is the stuff that dreams are made of.  When I tell my friends now about the personal relationships that I still have with my professors from Wake Forest, they are shocked.  How many of them ask me about my family, still invite me to lunch, came to my wedding. The story of the close intellectual Wake Forest community between faculty and students can be real…but only if you seek it for yourself.

How have other areas of your life been shaped by studying Religion?

Many of my dearest friends are still to this day people I met in religion courses.  One of my best friends, Jessica Devaney, activist extraordinaire, was my glorious debating counterpart in Dr. Simeon Illesanmi’s Christian Ethics and Social Justice course.  The class was incredible and was my first scholarly introduction to the social justice implications of my own tradition.  The course inspired my master’s thesis on the beloved community and just importantly it birthed a life-long friendship.  Seven years out from Wake Forest,  many of my dearest friendships were forged in seminar courses and I still return to readings and books I purchased for my religion courses.  Religion taught me to think more openly about the world around me and I think that’s why the friends I made in those classes have endured.

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