Pandora Lefroy: masters in international relations
I graduated in 2010 and am now just about to start a masters in International Relations. It was while doing my BA in Theology that I became interested in this subject field due to the modules available allowing me to explore the relationship between Religion and Politics. This led to my undergraduate dissertation researching the relationship between democracy and religion in Pakistan and the country’s relationship with India. Ultimately my career plan is to enter the Civil Service or the Foreign Office.
Maddy Parkes: NHS researcher on spirituality and mental illness
I am currently working for the NHS, researching how spirituality plays a role in recovery from mental illness. The majority of my work consists of discussing religion and spirituality with patients suffering with schizophrenia, depression and other conditions such as eating disorders and personality disorders. Additionally, I liaise with various faith communities in Birmingham to understand how their religious views of how mental illness is caused and treated.
My degree in Theology and Religious studies provided an excellent theoretical understanding of faith and religion, which has enabled me to knowledgeably converse with patients from a range of faith backgrounds. Further, an understanding of different expressions of faith from modules such as Pentecostal and Charismatic studies, Black Theology and Women’s Weekly have enable me to challenge the view of the clinical team that the patients presentation is actually part of their religious/spiritual tradition (e.g. speaking in tongues, practicing Wiccan rituals) and not a symptom of their psychosis. Additionally, being able to talk realistically (but with a philosophical foundation) about reconciling belief in a benevolent God with periods of severe illness and distress has been invaluable in my work on the wards.
Research methods taught in the dissertation module provided a framework that I have built upon through further training in clinical research methodology. Additionally, spending many hours trying to organise bibliographies and references into the correct format, whilst a bit of a chore, is now second nature and a useful skill to enlist as I write papers for journal publication.
In the placement module I shadowed a female vicar and had my first experience of hospital chaplaincy – an experience I still draw on today as I routinely visit patients on different wards. The most useful lessons in my degree were the most informal - drinking coffee in the Mason lounge with my peers. The conversations we had about how own spirituality was unfolding and being challenged through what we were hearing in lectures are conversations I draw upon daily in my work.
I hope to continue researching spirituality as a component of holistic mental health care. Interest in the field is currently increasing, with my research being presented at international conferences and in journals. Although I have received training in clinical research that can often be reductionist in its approach, my theology degree has taught me to value the person and their experiences without viewing them as a statistic.
Deborah Carter: From Harrods to a masters in human resources
Since studying Theology in 2008, I knew that I wanted to join a workforce that valued diversity in people. I began working for Harrods on the Graduate Programme and I found that my interest in a wealth of different backgrounds helped support my career development. I also found that my growing interest in the diversity of people helped to channel my career path and I now am working towards a master's degree in Human Resource Management at Middlesex University whilst continuing to be an HR practitioner for Harrods.
Studying Theology helped to build a vital foundation to the understanding and tolerance of a variation of different people and cultures. It's so vital in the workforce to build relationships with all types of people and I can confidently say this challenge was heavily supported by studying a Theology degree.
Richard Day: Secondary school teacher
I graduated in 2007, and am now about to enter my third year of teaching (completing my PGCE in 2008). I've always been interested in the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics and am now teaching these as part of GCSE Religious Studies at a secondary school in Worcester.
While I was doing my BA in Theology, I tried to focus my assignments towards education, and examined attitudes towards Religious Education among teenagers in three separate schools. In a similar assignment, I dealt with whether or not homosexuality/homophobia could and should be tackled in RE lessons: an issue raised as part of the inspirational Que(e)rying Theology module; by far the best module I took in three years at this university (and one at another!) and which has encouraged me to try and disband heterosexism in my career and other surroundings where possible.
Other modules which have benefitted me in teaching include Christian-Muslim Relations, which gave me the opportunity to explore how Religious Studies can benefit such relations, and Modern Theology, in which I was able to expand my interest in Philosophy through studies on whether suffering disproved the existence of a the God of classical Christian theism.
Women's Weekly provided a significant and unique insight into feminist religion and the women's movement. With teaching becoming evermore a combination of curriculum and pastoral provision, I have tried to incorporate some of the ideas on and advice discovered in this module into my practice at school as a form tutor, and when teaching some, on occasion, quite controversial and orthodox religious views on women.
This past year I have been working on my MEd (to be submitted September 2010) which focuses on provision for more able students in Philosophy, Ethics and Religious Studies. It is great to still have a couple of links with the university, and the Department of Theology and Religion in particular. This is a link which I hope to expand upon in the future.