Meet an Alum: Jennifer Sanka

Jennifer SankaClass of 2001

B.A., Miami University (religion, anthropology, and classics)
M.A., Duke University (religion and women's studies)

Current home: Chicago, Illinois

Current profession: Project manager and professional archaeologist. Ensures project compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for cultural resources, which covers archeological sites, historic structures, Native American resources, and human remains.


"My sensitivity to different ways of interpreting the world has helped me communicate with... diverse groups to develop creative solutions..."

Why did you decide to major in religion?

I took a course on "Religion and Society" to complement my anthropology major. That course proved so interesting and challenging that I was inspired to take more religion courses.

During my junior year, I spoke with Dr. James Hanges about my goal of being an archaeologist, while I was taking his course on "Paul and the Beginnings of Christianity." He told me about his own fieldwork in Greece, and he introduced me to another member of the religion faculty, Dr. Harold Forshey, who had worked for many field seasons in Israel.  This conversation led me to declare a second major, in religion, as a gateway to my career goals in archaeology.

What were your best experiences in the major?

Becoming a religion major gave me increased personal ownership of my educational path. I could take courses that inspired and challenged me while working toward my ultimate career goal.

I felt a sense of inclusiveness among the department faculty, staff, and other students, which made it truly enjoyable to attend classes and participate in other department activities, such as CRSA. I felt I belonged. The relationships I forged with faculty members have lasted beyond my years at Miami into my adult life.

How did studying religion prepare you for your career?

The Comparative Religion department provided me with access to my first archaeological field school, in Jordan. That opportunity lasted for two field seasons and served as the basis for the methods I would employ in the field as a professional.

Learning about the many religious ways of understanding the world prepared me to be sympathetic to different points of view. On development projects, I work with a wide array of professionals: representatives from federal agencies and local or national governments; civil engineers; scientists. My sensitivity to different ways of interpreting the world has helped me communicate with these diverse groups to develop creative solutions to development and land management issues.

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