Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Graduation Year

Why did you major in Religious Studies?

A wise mentor advised me to begin college by selecting courses on the basis of the best teachers, regardless of subject.  I took this to heart and sought out Robert Gregg’s course on early Christianity after hearing the buzz of his teaching prowess.  This formula served me well until I recognized more clearly the pattern in the religious studies department and declared my major.

On a more personal level, I recognize that I came to the major as an attempt to resolve the dissonance I felt after my own religious experiences as an adolescent.  I was raised in a culturally Christian home, though we didn’t attend church together. In high school, I became very involved with an evangelical parachurch organization, but came to have many questions and concerns about the theology and culture of that group.  I left somewhat abruptly and did not become involved in any campus ministries at Stanford, but rather equipped myself to deftly dismantle the evangelical and fundamentalist positions I struggled with.  Through it all, I discovered a more authentic and meaningful form of faith, informed by an understanding of the Christian and other traditions.

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

We didn’t have such a requirement when I graduated!

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

I live in Hood River, Oregon, a beautiful small town in the Columbia River Gorge.  After Stanford, I taught humanities at a private high school in Colorado for three years.  I then went on to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley to earn a Masters in Divinity at the Pacific School of Religion.  This led into health care chaplaincy, which led into an administrative role at a small hospital, where I work in the fields of leadership formation, ethics, and community health development while supervising a staff of chaplains.  I’ve had the chance to be involved in some global health work and to educate health care executives on the Catholic social teachings in our work at home and abroad in the context of the larger health system of which we’re a part. I love my work.  It’s been challenging and meaningful to work with diverse groups of employees in our attempt to reflect on, struggle with and apply religious thought in practical and relevant ways, where the rubber meets the road in our modern society. I draw from my undergraduate training on a daily basis and feel my degree has been enormously relevant.

Why should students consider Religious Studies today?

The dynamics of religion will continue to shape and be shaped by the world we live in.  Religious studies offers insights into the mysteries of being human in the world, both individually and communally. I’ve never regretted choosing this major.  I had unbelievable access to my professors and my own thinking and growth were encouraged though a bunch of small seminars where I was intellectually accountable on a daily basis.  I am still in contact with some of those professors today.