Profiles of Current Students
Rachel Leslie, A.M.R.S.
Why did you decide to pursue the AMRS program at The University of Chicago Divinity School?
I have wanted to study religion in an academic setting for many years, and I was drawn to the AMRS program at the University of Chicago Divinity School for several reasons. First, the Divinity School is world-renowned for its rigorous scholarship and distinguished faculty. Second, it is one of few institutions that offers a one-year master's program for mid-career professionals who are interested in gaining a broader understanding of religion. Third, the Divinity School is also affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and in conjunction with my studies, I am honored to be a scholar of the Disciples Divinity House residential scholarship program.
How is the program at the Divinity School and the wider University helping you attain your goals?
My academic and professional background is primarily in political science, public policy, and public diplomacy. My studies at the Divinity School are providing me with the language, frames of reference, and context in which to discuss what religion is, and how traditions, texts, and religious practices are influential. They have helped me develop a path of inquiry into the role that religious communities overseas play in shaping current events and how they can be engaged in a constructive dialogue.
What is your current profession and how will your degree change the way in which you pursue that profession?
I am a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, and since 2003 I have lived and worked in five countries in the Middle East. My goal in studying at the Divinity School is to gain a broader general understanding of the theology and practices of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I want to better equip myself with the knowledge and tools to more fully analyze religion as a part of the foreign policy process, and my experience at the Divinity School will help me enrich the debate on current events taking place in the Middle East.
What have been the highlights of your experiences thus far?
One of the benefits of the AMRS program is the flexibility it gives students to enroll in a wide array of classes that will help them achieve their academic goals. In addition to courses in the Divinity School, I have benefited from classes offered in other departments such as Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. I have also been impressed by the breadth of lecturers invited to campus, and have taken part in discussions on topics ranging from the Cairo Geniza to Palestinian politics.
What do you plan to do after you have completed your degree from the Divinity School?
I plan to continue my graduate studies in the near future, and I am exploring Masters of Divinity programs. One of the challenges of the AMRS program is that an academic year passes incredibly quickly; there is much to learn, but so little time! Professionally, I will be returning to work for the State Department. My husband, also a U.S. diplomat, and I have been assigned to a three-year tour in Jerusalem.