Meet a Major: Kelsi Sievering

Kelsi SieveringHometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Triple major: Religion, political science, and international studies
Graduation: Projected, May 2018

After graduation: Would like to work for an intergovernmental agency related to national security

"If you're going to understand the Middle East, you have to study religion."

Why did you decide to major in religion?

I was sitting across from the office of the Comparative Religion department, and I saw a sign with a quotation from John Kerry, about how if he could go back to school, he would study religion. I wanted to get into national security, and I started to think that if you're going to understand the Middle East, you have to study religion.

What have been your best experiences in the major?

I did the study abroad program in Oman the summer after my freshman year. I hadn't taken a single Islamic studies class yet; I had never left the country. Culture shock--but it was amazing! From the moment I came home, I've wanted to go back so badly.

During my freshman year, I took REL 314, "Social and Religious History of the Jewish People." We went on a field trip to an Orthodox community in Cincinnati; we went to Amma's Kitchen [a kosher restaurant]. It solidified for me that these were the kind of courses I wanted to take. I went into the course knowing nothing about the subject, but I never felt left out of discussion, and Dr. Gray was very helpful when I had trouble keeping up with the upper-level papers.

I love this department because of the ability to interact with professors who are experienced in their fields but don't make you feel overwhelmed or intimidated--they want to help. There's a sense of closeness among the faculty. The department has mixers and other events that gave me the opportunity to get to know all the faculty even before I'd taken a course from everyone.

How has studying religion prepared you for a career?

I think many of the challenges American administrations have faced in the Middle East since 9/11 came from a lack of understanding--or not listening to people who could understand.

Studying religion can open your eyes to the bigger world. If I hadn't taken courses on different religions, I would be more closed off to what's different from what I'm used to. These courses get you out of your comfort zone--make the most of it. Take a course on something you've heard of but don't really know what it is.