Mary “Cassie” Norton ’14, a triple major in English, History and World Religions, is Ohio University’s first member of Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology.
Ohio University’s Alpha Lambda Tau chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa was established in February.
“Having a Theta Alpha Kappa chapter allow us to formally recognize our students’ academic achievements, give them opportunities for undergraduate publishing and research, and encourage them to become active in the larger community of those who study religion in a disciplined and rigorous way,” says the chapter adviser Dr. Brian Collins, Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy.
Difficult Dialogues—a course she took as freshman with Dr. Steve Hays—sparked Norton’s interest in world religions.
“It was the first class that I took in the department, and it’s what got me into the subject. As a freshman in that class I read a lot of different things (like Plato and Richard Dawkins) that I wouldn’t have read on my own,” says Norton. “My three majors all work together very well. They’re all subjects I’m very interested in, and I’m fortunate enough that I can pursue all of them because of how related they are.”
“It’s impossible to discuss literature without knowing historical context, and it’s difficult to get through a history class without some religious history coming up. I eventually want to go to graduate school and study modern American history, which is a period that I find extremely interesting.
“One of the most interesting aspects is how closely politics and religion have become in America. The rise of the evangelical right and its role in the Cold War and social and political movements during this period is something I’m very interested in and want to study further. This topic definitely brings together my multiple majors, and is just an example of how they work together.”
Norton took the American Religions course with Dr. Loren Lybarger. “It was a really challenging class, but the discussions were great and it was really interesting. I think my all-time favorite in the department, though, was Theories of Religion with Dr. Elizabeth Collins. The reading was very challenging, but I learned so much. It was a very, very small class, and we all got very close and had fantastic discussions. I think it’s probably one of the classes I learned the most in while I’ve been in college.”
About Theta Alpha Kappa: In 1976, Professor Albert Clark, F.S.C., established Theta Alpha Kappa at Manhattan College in Riverdale (the Bronx), New York for the purpose of recognizing the academic achievements of religion and theology students. Since then, Theta Alpha Kappa has grown to more than two hundred chapters nationally in four-year educational institutions ranging from small religiously affiliated colleges to large public research institutions. It is the only national honor society dedicated to recognizing academic excellence in baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate students and in scholars in the fields of Religious Studies and Theology. Induction requires nomination by a local chapter and, to be eligible, students must have a 3.5 GPA in Religious Studies and/or Theology and a 3.0 GPA overall. Residency, class ranking, and unit requirements must also be met.