Briana Greene Interview

Briana Greene Graduating Class 2016 briana-greene-graduating-class-2016

What will you be doing after graduation?

Post-graduation I took a gap year to apply to medical school and do volunteer work abroad. In 2017 I traveled to Tanzania by myself without an organization for 3 months of service. Two weeks into my trip I stumbled across a semi- constructed home- with unfinished ceilings, a bare cement floor, and only water pipes jutting out from the wall (no sinks!)- that serves as an unofficial daycare for about 40 infants and children with only 4 staff members. It is called Vipaje Daycare Center and is run by a man named Goodluck, whose mission is providing free or reduced childcare to support women in the community, so they can work to provide for their families. However, the center was in dire need of structural, organizational and curriculum improvements. This is where I did my work and where my heart is. Learning Swahili along the way I constructed a dental hygiene room, installed plumbing and designed new curriculum while teaching the children. I am returning in one week to Tanzania to the daycare center to continue improvements and am in the process of registering From Hearts 2 Hands as a nonprofit. From Hearts 2 Hands will be an organization aimed at transforming the goodwill of our hearts into action in Tanzania, with more information being available at After returning from Tanzania in July 2017 I completed a Masters in Medical Science at Loma Linda University in California and now will be starting medical school at LLU this August.

What are you career goals?

My end goal is to be a physician working overseas in an underprivileged area. I aspire to have my own non-profit with the purpose of bettering the lives of children across the globe; providing resources, improving public health, and opening orphanages based on a “cottage” model that encourage and replicate a more familial experience.

How did your work in the Religious Studies department contribute to your future path?

I have always known I wanted to have a mission-oriented career and life. For myself, my religion is a big part of my daily experience and the “Religion and Healthcare” major perfectly blended my interest in religion and my interest in the medical field. Learning more about the different cultures and religious practices around the world further ignited my interest to go abroad and explore the mosaicism of culture, people, and practice that make up our world.

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?

One skill I learned from the study of religion is to separate my beliefs and biases when learning about religion or traditions and look at things objectively. I remember being surprised that students who were not religious were interested in the study of religion but sharing a classroom with them allowed me to learn to delve deeper into the study of religion from an edifying standpoint, without interjecting my personal beliefs on topics. I discovered that at times it is important to be objective rather than subjective and I think my future studies will benefit from that. Additionally, medicine and religion are intrinsically linked. For example, there are chapels in the ground floors of hospitals and religious beliefs often dictate the type of medical care accepted or refused. Having this background knowledge will make me a better, more conscious physician.

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

I would absolutely advise students to make the decision to work towards a religious studies major/minor. Whether one is religious or not, the opportunity to be versed and knowledgeable in a subject that fascinates the world and influences many people’s decisions will broaden your horizons and make you a more diverse individual who can better relate to the world around you.

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

One thing I learned while studying religion at UM that I will never forget was a lecture in my “Religious Issues in Death and Dying” class about the practice of sky burial in the mountains of Asia. The process of sky burial involves leaving the deceased on top of the mountain to be deconstructed by nature. The discussion highlighted the practical and spiritual reasons for this custom. It also shed a light on how from the outside Western view it may be easy to judge and deem something odd or barbaric but when you take the time to learn about a practice—why it is done and what it means/represents to those who do it—things change. Suddenly an alien idea begins to make more sense when viewed from a non-critical, non-ethnocentric lens. This lecture demonstrated the value in asking questions instead of judging and in exercising empathy instead of condemnation when encountering views and traditions different from my own, and I believe that is something that has become ingrained in me and made me a better person.