Developing Critical Thinking Skill: Video Transcript

Rebecca Fradkin (Miami, 2012) [doctoral student at the University of Oxford]: My current research interest is pertaining to religion and politics in the context of nation-building, so being able to have an interdisciplinary approach between comparative politics as well as the political science department and having a major in Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Havighurst Center has allowed me to take these interests into graduate school.

When I first arrived at Miami, I had interest in politics as well as religion, so I started off with them, a double major. As I became more involved in the Havighurst Center and studying Russia and Eurasia, I realized that my interests kind of coalesced with religion and politics in Eurasia, so that's my path forward.

My undergraduate…the programs that I pursued as an undergraduate at Miami really allowed me to develop the critical thinking skills, being able to analyze different, various original sources and viewpoints, and it really helped me more generally develop research and analytical skills that are requisite for graduate work.

As an undergraduate, I had an opportunity to take a research oriented class, as an undergraduate, so it might not be my exact research interests. But the ability to work with the professor on how to design the research design, or to develop needed research skills was really instrumental. I also had the opportunity to do independent research with a faculty member. We would meet maybe once a week, and we’d go over my thesis, and so the development of those research skills was really key for me.

I study religion and politics in Eurasia, so having a major in politics and religion in an area studies program was really instrumental in allowing me to pursue my interests finally in graduate school. The ability to take classes, the small class sizes, the availability of professors to not just talk after class or during office hours — they were very willing to meet me outside of class to talk about my research, to discuss class material - has really provided the basis for me to pursue graduate work.

Last summer I was an intern at the U.S. State Department in Astana, Kazakhstan, and while there there was a new religious law that was passed that regulates religion in Kazakhstan. And so, my role was to help evaluate the implementation of this law in Kazakhstan.

I agree with the opinion that comparative politics is now even more so a very critical field, in terms of better understanding current world events, but also perhaps more generally I think that the skills that the comparative religion major at Miami teaches students in terms of, again as I mentioned, the critical thinking skills that are really vital to a variety of career opportunities.

[October 2013]