Aisha Ansano

Aisha Ansano

Graduation Year

Why did you major in Religious Studies?

I was, and am, fascinated by why people choose to be religious, and what religion and spirituality mean in people's lives.

Tell us about your senior capstone research or a favorite research project in Religious Studies.

My thesis was entitled "'Finding That Right Place Where I Fit': Hybrid Identities of Young American Muslim Women." In it, I explored what it means to be a young, American, Muslim woman, interviewing 11 women about their experiences with this identity. It helped me take a deep dive into one particular population that many people have stereotypes and assumptions about without actually understanding.

Where are you today, and how has your degree in Religious Studies shaped your path?

I live in Cambridge, MA and am a ministerial intern at First Church in Boston, on my way to ordination in the Unitarian Universalist church. I wasn't considering ministry when I was at Stanford, and wasn't even UU at the time, but my major had me considering academia, which led me to Harvard Divinity School for a master's degree when I didn't get into PhD programs. At HDS, I quickly realized that I wasn't interested in academia, and that ethnography wasn't the only way to get to talk with people about their religious and spiritual lives. My Religious Studies degree definitely helped me get here, though I spent a lot of time as a RS major explaining to people that I didn't want to be a minister! Life has a way of surprising us....

Why should students consider Religious Studies today?

In my Religious Studies coursework, I got to learn a lot about things with which I wasn't familiar, to experience critical thinking, and to gain deep appreciation for the wide diversity of our global community. I think everyone would benefit from taking at least one RS course, and I think a major in Religious Studies can prepare you well for quite a range of career paths.