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Jamie Sommer ’14

Posted in: Alumni Profiles

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Jamie Sommer ’14 – Majors: Sociology; Philosophy; Religious Studies Ph.D. student, Sociology, Stony Brook University (present)

Why did you choose to study Religion at Montclair State?
My story of choosing Montclair State is not all that exciting. I grew up on the Jersey Shore, so it was in close proximity. But growing up I did not think I  would attend college, and to be honest, I applied only to appease my best friend. (She claimed that I “had potential” or something.) In my first year at Montclair State, I was put into a learning community and had to take three classes: Religions of the World, Ethics, and Social Problems. These three classes gave me the the framework for all the ideas I used to have growing up that other people thought were crazy! In short, each of these classes – one in Religion, one in Philosophy, and one in Sociology – led to me choose each subject as a major.

Which courses or professors at Montclair State did you enjoy the most?
In Religion, Professor Sargese taught me that thinking differently is commendable. Dr. Rogers taught me how to be a feminist, and how to stick up for myself in a world ruled by men. Dr. Kogan taught me that it is not difficult to do anything if you apply yourself and trust your ability.

In Philosophy, Dr. Benfield taught me how to pick a point and argue it with evidence and logic. Dr. Roholt taught me how applicable philosophical thought is to everyday life. Dr. Herrera taught me how to write well. Dr. Garrett helped me form my outlandish ideas into well thought out arguments.

In Sociology, Dr. Besen-Cassino taught me how to empirically support my ideas. Dr. Wang encouraged my ambition. Dr. Parashar taught me how to calculate statistics.

All of the above amazingly gifted people inspired me and encouraged me to “waste my 20s” getting my Ph.D., and I truly appreciate each and every one of them for it!

How has your study of Religion helped you after “life at Montclair State”?
It has helped me tremendously in my Ph.D. program in Sociology at Stony Brook University. In my Religion major, I learned how to read complex writing, decode arguments, write clearly and concisely, teach openly and honestly, and situate my point of view within contemporary and classical debates. These are skills I use every day as a Ph.D. student, and I would be completely lost without them.

Also, I do not quite know how to describe this, but even as an Atheist, the Religion program at Montclair State helped me develop a kind of spirituality that I would also undoubtedly be lost without. It is not spirituality in the sense of an unsubstantiated purpose, a leap of faith into the absurd, or some sort of teleological metanarrative to guide my life, but more of a love for wisdom, knowledge, and the unknown.