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Emily A. Fabiny Memorial Scholarship Previous Winners

Carole Walker (2006-2007 winner), Luke Hopkins (2008-2009 winner), and Adina Disney (2010-2011 winner) wrote excellent essays that made them deserving of the Fabiny Scholarship Award. They are all outstanding students for several reasons, including academic excellence, their contributions to an atmosphere of religious tolerance on campus and in the greater community, and their active participation in the life of the department. The three of them have served as members, treasurers or presidents of the Committee for the Study of Culture and Religion or the Religious Studies Club.

In their essays, these three students agree on the all-encompassing influence of religion in peoples’ lives. Their stress on this effect is twofold: on the one hand, they all reflect on the strong influence of religions on individuals. Adina Disney offers a brief but effective description of this power: “For many people, religion is a tool they use to live their daily lives, structure their decisions, and find morals, values and motivation for living.” Moreover, Luke Hopkins points out the importance of approaching religions critically and addresses the importance of questioning “individual truths and the claims religions ask us to accept.” On the other hand, all three also agree on the global, wider significance of religions: “Not only does religion affect political systems and their relations with each other, but it also establishes a number of influences within each individual nation,” Disney adds.

Beyond the academic, the three students think that the knowledge and experiences they obtain through their studies in the Religious Studies Department go well beyond the classroom activities and will be key outside of the university environment. Carole Walker reflects on the value of a Religious Studies major or minor: “A background in religious studies complements any major and will likely give students an upper hand over the candidates for employment simply because they have developed sensibility to the vast and subtle differences in cultures. Understanding religions also helps understand other people allowing us to be better prepared to work alongside others, to share what we have in common, and to learn from our differences.” In these essays, there is a constant stress on the importance of learning about other peoples’ cultures, or the practitioners of other religions at very different levels, from complex issues such as politics to simpler ones such as food. As a result, interest in, and respect for non-Western traditions and minorities become of central importance for these students. In the three cases, they highlight the opportunities to broaden their knowledge through different department activities, among them the visit of Tibetan Buddhist monks to IUP campus, the organization of a panel on the current crisis in the Middle East, or an exhibit on Eastern religions in Pennsylvania, to name a few.

The Religious Studies Department is proud to count these bright students as members of its community.