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Nikki Hoskins Shares the Benefits of Majoring in Religious Studies

January 2021

My name is Nikki Hoskins, and I graduated from Spelman College in 2009. Currently, I am finishing my dissertation work on Black women’s eco-religious activism in Chicago. My research explores how the religious values, moral visions, and environmental practices of Black women affected by everyday environmental violence can be a resource for our climate and environmental crisis and can reshape our ethical relationship to the earth.  

The Benefits of Majoring in Religious Studies @ Spelman

Majoring in religious studies at Spelman helped me to pursue my passion to teach and to do research at theological schools and at colleges and universities. Personally, majoring in religious studies helped me to understand my religious orientation and the religious practices of others more deeply. Before pursuing religious studies, I was naïve about the centrality of religion in history, culture, and politics. I had a narrow perspective about religions other than my own.

Studying religion at Spelman helped me see how, over time, this disposition can be harmful. It also helped me see how important it is that we demand a world that resists simplistic interpretations of religions, religious practitioners, and sacred texts, and that we demand a more critical engagement with religion to counter racism, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, and capitalism. Equally important, majoring in religious studies also inspired me to create more just systems that honor the well-being, flourishing, and dignity of all — especially women of color.

My Advice to Prospective Religious Studies Majors and Minors

For students who are considering majoring/minoring in religious studies, I would echo the words of Howard Thurman. In his 1980 baccalaureate address at Spelman, he invited the graduates to listen to "The Sound of the Genuine," within themselves.

I would also paraphrase Audre Lorde and say that it’s not a question of what you do but a question of how acutely and fully you can feel complete and whole in the work you do. Because, once you’ve experienced the depth of fullness, you will not only recognize its power but this will be the measure by which you assess what is good.

More About Hoskins

Hoskins, who recently received a doctoral fellowship from the Forum for Theological Exploration as she completes her Ph.D. in Christian Social Ethics at Drew University, is an adjunct professor at Pacific School of Religion. After earning a bachelor's degree in religious studies from Spelman, she received a masters of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.  She was also awarded the Maxine Clarke Beach Leadership Prize for the Outstanding Student-Teacher, which celebrates a Ph.D. student who has demonstrated exceptional ability, dedication and promise as a teacher. Hoskins is steeped in the United Methodist tradition and credits PSR alum Traci West as a key influence in her academic work. Hoskins also serves as the managing editor for "Feminist Studies in Religion."

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