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Derrick Sweeney ’14

Posted in: Alumni Profiles

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Derrick Sweeney 2014 – Major: Religious Studies
M.A. Student, Education, St. Peter’s University (current) Music Teacher, Newark Public Schools

Why did you choose to study Religion – and why at Montclair State?
Religion has always been with us. Throughout history, we find the question “what does it mean to be?” a motivating factor that has influenced some of the greatest leaders and thinkers. Today that question still exists, and I wanted to address it in my own way. That is why I decided to become a Religious Studies major.

Whether studying Atheism, Hinduism, Feminism, or Christianity, the academic study of religion at Montclair State examines all religious traditions even-handedly. Religion also involves interdisciplinary learning – an understanding of philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and theology – in order to promote higher-level thinking. Studying religion at Montclair prepared me for global leadership. It helped me develop critical thinking skills, learn to listen empathetically, and be able to articulate my ideas, in both speech and writing.

Which courses and/or professors did you enjoy the most?
Although, I am clearly not an atheist, I really enjoyed Dr. Eller’s class on Atheism. I enjoyed hearing my classmates’ perspectives and having the opportunity to take this course to fulfill my Seminar requirement. In addition, I’m glad I had the opportunity to share my understanding of praise-dance in my Spirituality and Mysticism course with Dr. Vail. That class allowed me to discuss how we practice our faith and showcase how I express it in my own life. My favorite professor was Dr. Kogan. He was extremely intelligent and committed to my success as a Religion major; particularly with my writing skills.

What would you tell a current student who is considering a major or minor in Religious Studies?
Don’t fall prey to idle talk – skepticism that you cannot live a comfortable life – because you decided to be a religion major. There are vast amount of career choices you could choose from. The world needs a lot more people who understand religion – in court rooms, hospitals, real estate, libraries, and even in government.

How has your study of Religion helped you in your “life after Montclair State”?
Currently, I am teaching Music in a charter school in Newark and pursuing a master’s degree in education at Saint Peter’s University.

Being a Religious Studies major has provided me with the stamina to go back into my own community in Newark to build change. Studying religion gave me sense of ethics; allowing me to go out in the world to aim for greatness with a spirit of integrity. It also enhanced my ability to embrace diversity and have cultural conversations that help improve my school and community.