In August 2011, I stepped into my first ever theology class, Foundations of Theology. Two days later, I turned in a paper expressing my opinion on whether Notre Dame’s theology requirements were beneficial to students. In this paper, I conveyed my excitement to learn about a subject that was a huge part of my life, and – without having any experiences to back-up my claims – I voiced a few reasons explaining why I thought taking these classes would ultimately make somebody a better person.
Fast forward 3 ½ years, in which I completed two theology courses, a summer of Notre Dame Vision, and a philosophy course based on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, and I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without having gone through any of that. Working for Notre Dame Vision and taking the corresponding theology course (which fulfilled my 2nd theology requirement) opened my eyes to what it means to be Catholic and has forever changed the way I view the world and my place in it. That experience even prompted me to make sure my 2nd philosophy course was intertwined with Catholicism.
The funny thing is I probably would never have taken a theology or philosophy class if it wasn’t required. I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, so even in high school I gravitated towards STEM classes. I figured math and science were what I needed to focus on and I really didn’t give much thought to any of my other classes. I did well in them, but I didn’t appreciate them because they didn’t really align with what I wanted to study in college. Because religion is a big part of my life, theology was the first non-STEM subject that I truly felt engaged in. I’m glad I had the opportunity to explore it because I truly did find it to be beneficial to my education. See learning about the bible may not help me to understand the mechanisms by which a transistor conducts current and exploring the beliefs of St. Thomas Aquinas may not help me to understand the methods of chip fabrication, but these courses taught me something completely different.
These courses are responsible for making me more well-rounded and more open-minded. They are responsible for teaching me how to express my opinions in ways that allow me to have meaningful discussions with others; and they are responsible for showing me where I stand in relation to the world, and in relation to God. As a result, I am no longer studying electrical engineering because it’s something I’m really interested in. I’m studying it because I realize that my passion for engineering is a gift and I want to use it to contribute to the world. At one point I may have thought that theology or philosophy classes didn’t play a role in helping me to become a good engineer, but now I know that they have set me on my way to becoming a great engineer. That’s the Notre Dame difference, and that’s why I hope that future students, who might not other wise have the opportunity to take these courses, get to experience the benefits of studying theology.