Meet an Alum: Olivia Mote

Olivia MoteClass of 2011

B.A., DePauw University (religion, political science, sociology)
M.A., Miami University (religion)
J.D., University of Wisconsin

Current home: Madison, Wisconsin

Current profession: Associate attorney at Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C., Sun Prairie, WI.

"Expanding one's knowledge about how others make meaning in the world can... open new possibilities for conflict resolution."

Why did you decide to study religion?

I was hooked on the study of religion after an intro class my freshman year. My focus gradually centered on Islam, which I also studied during a summer abroad. By the time I became a master's student at Miami, my primary interests in Islam and modern politics were solidified.

My interest in studying religion stems from a fascination with people—how they think, what they value, how their actions do and do not reflect their professed beliefs, how each person's constellation of traits and experiences can both clarify and blind. Religion is a window into what often matters most to people.

I'm also drawn to conflict, to the "what," "why," and "what’s next" of disagreement. Expanding one's knowledge about how others make meaning in the world can facilitate self-understanding and empathy, open new possibilities for conflict resolution, and improve the ability to extend respect when agreement cannot be reached.

What were your best experiences in the department?

The department let me put together a diverse array of courses—in history, political science, and foreign language, as well as in religion—that made sense given my research interests.

One highlight was the summer I spent studying in Beirut, training in Arabic, learning about the state and its history, and devouring some of the best food on the planet.

How did studying religion prepare you for your career?

First and foremost, studying religion improved my ability to empathize with others' experiences. Because of that, I'm able to ask clients and colleagues better questions, and I'm reminded that there is plenty more to a story than what is said.

My skills in research and textual interpretation, honed in my courses on religion, make me a better attorney. And finally, studying religion is my passion; it reinforces my curiosity about the world and the people in it. The gratification I've found in pursuing that passion makes me a more enthusiastic learner in general.

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