Lisa Sargese 2000 – Minor in Religious Studies
M.T.S., Drew Theological School; M.A. in Counseling, Montclair State University Adjunct Professor at Montclair State, Department of Religion
What led you to study Religion, and why at MSU?
The year I applied to Montclair State was the year it went from being a college to a university. Montclair had a wonderful reputation as a teachers’ college, so I believed it would be the best place to be mentored as an instructor.
I chose a Religious Studies Minor because I was on a quest to discover what gives people meaning in life. I was studying Philosophy and Psychology, but I wanted insights into the numinous dimensions of human experience. Also, I had heard rumors that there were actual intellectuals who were people of faith. This contradicted my teenage beliefs about faith being in opposition to fact. As it turns out, religious truth and scientific fact are not opposed. There are many people who speak, write, and live with deep spiritual conviction while maintaining a genuine respect and understanding of science.
Which courses and/or professors did you enjoy the most while you were here?
My most memorable courses were taught by Dr. Michael Kogan. My first course was an honors seminar in Religious Existentialism. It was there that I learned that one can have existential resolve regarding what God desires for one’s life path. In his Bible courses, Dr. Kogan taught me to conduct exegesis in a pluralistic, scholarly way and still leave room for faith-based interpretation. He taught me that just because we believe we’re right doesn’t mean we must believe others are wrong. Dr. Lise Vail opened my eyes and heart to the beauty of Hindu mythology. The Upanishads are still of great value to me in understanding the nature of the cosmos.
How have you used what you learned as a Religious Studies major at MSU?
I am blessed to be a perpetually employed adjunct professor who teaches at two universities and one community college. My interfaith work has brought me to the Institute of Ecstatic Naturalism in New York and to receive an award with Montclair State’s Council on Faith and Spirituality at President Obama’s Community Service and Interfaith consortium in Washington, D.C. It is my honor to continue the Building Bridges Interfaith Dialog Series with the Office of Equity and Diversity that Dr. Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel and I began in 2006 and for which I received the Tikkun Olam Award and the Nelson Mandela Award for Excellence in Diversity.
Ok, here’s the Big Question: What are you doing now …
I continue to enjoy my reputation as a competent and loving professor of religion and to do interfaith and ecumenical work on and off campus. My counseling work has led me to write a book about my own recovery from an eating disorder called Losing 140 Pounds the Hard Way: My First Year After Gastric Bypass Surgery and to produce motivational videos on YouTube where I am nearing half a million views. My next book, From Wheelchair to Warrior, on my continuing recovery should be out in 2016!