Alaina J. Thomas, Esq. – Major: Religious Studies
Housing Attorney at Essex Newark Legal Services and Rutgers Law School, J.D.
Why did you choose to study Religion – and why at Montclair State?
My becoming a Religion major at Montclair State was the result of a happy accident. Freshman year I intended to take an introductory course that would survey the world’s Religions to fulfill a Gen. Ed. requirement, so I signed up for Intro to Religion without fully reading the course description. Within the first five minutes of class, I realized that the course was not at all what I thought it’d be, but by the time Professor Clatterbuck wrapped up explaining the syllabus he had convinced me to stick it out. I enjoyed the class so much I took another Religion course the next semester and then another the next fall. By my sophomore year I decided to double major in Psychology and Religion.
Which courses and/or professors did you enjoy the most?
Professor Kogan’s course on the Old Testament was one of the most thorough and entertaining classes I’ve ever taken. Through his lectures and insights, even more familiar stories took on new profound and poetic meaning. I enjoyed Professor Vail’s course on mysticism and spirituality, which also allowed me to view familiar material through a new perspective.
Taking Professor Clatterbuck’s Native American Religions class inspired me to become a Religious Studies major and his Liberation Theology course was my favorite class in undergrad. I credit his warm, engaging teaching style with creating an ideal environment for class discussion. Student participation added a unique component to his lectures that set them apart from the rest of my classes. In addition to taking three of his courses, I also served as one of Professor Clatterbuck’s research assistants transcribing interviews for his book Crow Jesus, which gave me a brief peak into Religious Studies fieldwork.
Though not a course, attending the annual God debate between Professor Benfield and Professor Kogan was a highlight of my time at Montclair State as well.
What would you tell a current student who is considering a major or minor in Religious Studies?
Do it! Studying a subject that truly interests you is never a “waste of time.”
How has your study of Religion helped you in your “life after Montclair State”?
Professor Kogan once said “if you can read Heidegger you can read anything,” and he was absolutely right. In law school, I relied heavily on the skills I honed reading old religious and philosophical texts. Beyond strengthening the hard skills I needed in law school and as an attorney, my study of Religion trained me to think deeply and critically, a skill that is beneficial in every area of my life.