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Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

College of Arts & Sciences

Spotlighting Alumni in Religious Studies

As the Department of Religious Studies grows, we want to spotlight Alumni; keeping in touch with them, learn how their degree has enhanced their career, and what new horizons they have moved on to. 

Spring 2016

This Alumni spotlight is focused on Evan Blonigen, a Spring 2012 graduate. Read on to learn more about Evan's and how his Religious Studies major has incorporated into his career:

After earning my undergraduate degree in religious studies, I went on to study law at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I have since graduated and now work at a law firm specializing in civil litigation with a focus on the defense of employers and insurance companies. While in law school, I was the only individual I knew who had a background in religious studies. Many of my colleagues studied English, finance, political science, or business management prior to attending law school. Like clockwork, each person who learned of my background in the studies of religions would ask, “What do you do with that?” My response would usually digress into a diatribe on the merits of a religious studies education, the value of critical thinking, thoughtful analysis of the forces affecting human life, and ultimately on the value of my coursework. I would go on to state any program which promotes further development of a student’s critical thinking skills, written communication skills, and deepens their understanding of the forces which can affect a human’s decisions, is immeasurably valuable.

I constantly use the skills secured during my time with the Religious Studies department. Young litigators constantly struggle with the myriad of forces which can affect the outcome of a case. My religious studies degree helps me to make better sense of these forces and work within the legal construct to understand others’ viewpoints and effectuate better outcomes for my clients. My education taught me I do not need to adopt a differing point of view to understand a person’s reasoning. Once I understand someone’s reasoning, I can work logically to deconstruct their arguments and work to further my client’s objectives.

The professors in the Religious Studies department constantly stressed the value of effective written communication. This emphasis directly translated to a career in which words mean everything. The best way to advocate my client’s position is through succinct and clear written submissions. The professors in the Religious Studies department worked diligently to help improve my writing. Their personalized instruction and feedback helped me become more effective and persuasive in my written communications, which helped me succeed in law school and has helped me immensely in my practice.

On a personal note, I am struck with pangs of nostalgia as I reflect on my time in the Religious Studies department. The professors engaged my imagination and nurtured what has become a life-long passion for religious studies. I often reminisce on how lucky I was to have my former professors as mentors. I doubt I will encounter another group of brilliant and talented individuals who will engage my curiosities while also teaching me life-long skills.


Fall 2015

Our first spotlight focuses on 2013 graduate, Jacob Benson. Here is what Jacob has to say since leaving UW to focus on his career:

As a student at a conservative seminary (Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN M.Div., 2018 [anticipated]) I often receive raised eyebrows when I say that I studied religion at a state university. Unfortunately, the moniker “Religious Studies” carries with it anti-Christian, anti-religion, and anti-traditionalist sentiments. This, however, is not the case at the University of Wyoming. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The diversity of the students that have graduated from the department is a testament to the open-mindedness and genuine academic interest of the professors. By challenging me both spiritually and intellectually, UW Religious Studies prepared me for seminary by introducing me to modern trends in academic religion, as well as historical and cultural movements within the story of Christianity that empowered and strengthened my ability to confess and articulate my own Lutheran tradition.

I transferred to UW after receiving my AA at Northwest College, and after my first Religious Studies course, fell in love with the program. It was an online survey of the New Testament, and I found that diving into the textual, historical, and cultural aspects of a book that I had been told from a young age was so important, opened up the text in such a way that I did’t think possible. I declared a major after one semester, focusing on the role of religion in American Politics. The College of Arts & Science provides a plethora of classes that work as excellent aids to studying religion. History, Women and Gender Studies, Political Science, and International Studies all go hand-in-hand with a holistic understanding of religion, no matter what the student’s focus is.

The department itself is filled with brilliant minds and loving hearts. The Professors are incredibly personal. Dr. Ward held his office hours in the library coffee shop to make himself more accessible to students. I remember meeting with him numerous times. Whether it was discussing Mosaic authorship of the Torah, who in Laramie had the best coffee, or the bible study I was currently going through, Dr. Ward took a personal interest in my – and all his students’ – life. Similarly, Dr. DeNapoli (my advisor) was always welcoming when I needed to discuss academics, university politics, or whatever was on my mind on a given day.

The academic rigor was also intense and rewarding. I found myself reading and writing more than my friends in other programs, and because of the discipline, knowledge, and wisdom that I received from my professors, was offered generous financial packages at several notable graduate schools, ultimately deciding on Concordia Theological Seminary.

Apart from academics, UW Religious Studies did an excellent job of preparing me to be a responsible citizen and community member. The department provided me not only with the opportunity to study abroad, but also the financial aid to do so. By the generous hands of several donors, I had a nearly fully funded 7 week experience that took me to the Holy Land and across India. I was elected president of the religious studies club my last year at UW which allowed me and other members of the RSO to be voices for religious education in the community, engaging in discussion panels, various worship services, and the most important spiritual activity: potluck dinners.

As I look back at my University experience, I don’t see my former professors as such, but instead as friends and colleagues that continue to encourage me in my spiritual and academic growth.

Evan Blonigen


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Department of Religious Studies

Kristine Utterback, Head

Office Associate:

Clayleen Rivord

Ross Hall, Room 220

Department 3392

1000 E. University Ave

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-3204


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