Abbie Auster Interview

Abbie Auster Graduating Class '18

What made you decide to pursue graduate work?

I decided to pursue graduate work after 1) realizing that my passion lay in academia (specifically religious history) and 2) after discussing my post-graduate options with my professors in the religious studies department (specifically Dr. Callender and Dr. Walsh).

What will you be studying?

I’ll be pursuing a Dual Masters program which grants an MA in Archives and an MS in Library and Information Science (ALA-accredited).

What are you career goals?

I aspire to one day be an archivist, librarian, or work in collections at a major historical institution in the US.

Where will you be going to graduate school? (If you haven’t decided, feel free to talk about the places where you’ve been accepted so far)

New York University.

How did your work in the Religious Studies department contribute to your decision to go to grad school?

First and foremost, Religious Studies is my passion, and I learned that when you’re studying in a field that you’re passionate about, you’re happy and you flourish. I chose to pursue archival work in particular because I weighed all of my options and I felt like this route would provide me the job security and salary that I want while simultaneously providing the opportunities to remain immersed in Religious Studies and history more generally.

What skills (e.g., critical thinking) did you learn from the study of religion that might help you in your studies/work as you move forward?

The study of religion taught me the following
• critical thinking skills –learning to consider new perspectives
• patience –learning to accept that people have radically different points of view than my own
• writing skills –learning how to get my point across clearly and concisely
• confidence –learning that my voice is powerful, and my thoughts are important

What advice can you give to other students who might be thinking about applying to graduate school?

Research your options. Look up the cost of the programs versus the median and mean salaries of people in your profession. Talk to people in the fields you’re interested in. Participate in internships in the field you’re interested in pursuing or in related fields. Finally, be a good student and get to know your professors. I built strong relationships with my professors by demonstrating my interest in and engagement with class material and talking to professors outside of class. Professors who know you well both in terms of personality and in terms of your strengths and weaknesses can help you make connections and steer you in helpful directions.

What advice can you give to students who might be considering a Religious Studies major/minor?

DO IT! My religious studies classes were by far my favorite, and the relationships I have with my Religious Studies professors I will cherish forever. Furthermore, Religious Studies helped me grow as a young adult. You should be prepared to be exposed to new concepts and traditions that are different from your own and that may be challenging to comprehend or accept. Reach out to professors if you’re confused, concerned, or even if you’re just excited! Listen to others and be considerate of others’ opinions and beliefs. Don’t be afraid to speak up, challenge others, and defend yourself.

What is the one thing you will never forget about studying religion at UM? (a favorite memory, topic, reading, project)

For Dr. Walsh’s Jesus Myth and History class we had to write response papers based on readings she assigned for class. I wrote a paper in response to an article by Sidnie White Crawford called Romans, Greeks, and Jews: The World of Jesus and the Disciples. At the time when I wrote it, I was working at a bakery on Miami Beach. I often worked on homework during my downtime, and one of my coworkers who was really interested in my studies asked me if he could read what I was working on. I was really happy with that paper, so I agreed to send it to him, and he was really impressed. Without me knowing, he forwarded it to my boss. The next shift that I worked, my boss and coworker came over and commended me on the paper and told me that I taught them more about Jesus than they had ever known before and in an easily comprehensible manner. That was really special to me and I will never forget it.