Vijay Shah


Why did you decide to pursue a Master's degree at the University of Chicago Divinity School?

While studying philosophy and religion in India during post-graduate studies at a residential institution, I became extremely interested in further studying Indian Philosophy and languages at an elite institution, with the intention of completing a PhD and teaching at the university level. The University of Chicago is not only an elite institution, but it has a phenomenal South Asian studies program that works closely with the Divinity School. Not only did the Master's provide me with insight into what a PhD would be like, but I was able to study with renowned professors from both the Divinity School and SALC (South Asian Languages and Civilizations)  like Franklin Gamwell, Yigal Bronner, Philip Engblom, and Wendy Doniger, who was my advisor. I knew the University of Chicago would provide me not only with stimulating and challenging coursework, but great career options as well.

How did the program and the wider University help you to attain your goals?

The program was extremely rigorous and helped me grow tremendously as a student and as someone in the education field. It also provided me with connections to professors at the top of their respective fields. My career options grew tremendously because of my education and connections from the University of Chicago. After the Master's, I decided to go back into high school teaching instead of pursuing a PhD. The Master's helped me attain a boost in salary as well as a variety of other professional opportunities that I had always dreamed of, including teaching at the university level.

What were the highlights of your experience as a student?  Do you have a favorite memory from Swift Hall?

Some of my favorite memories are just sitting and discussing things in class, for example, sitting in Professor Gamwell’s class discussing Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the good life, and the beatitudes, or reading Sanskrit and discussing Krishna or Vedic times in Professor Doniger’s class. One of the highlights about the program is the flexibility it provided by allowing me to take courses in other divisions. I enjoyed working with SALC as previously stated, but I also was able to take a class on education in the Human Development department, which was very interesting. I also enjoyed playing flag football for the Div School.

What are you up to these days, and how does your time at the Div School factor in to your current work?

In the professional realm, I’m currently an assistant principal for an options (alternative) school that helps at-risk high school students earn their diplomas and either attend college, trade school, or enter the workforce. I’m also a professor at Loyola University in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. I usually spend my summers leading student expeditions for National Geographic. Indubitably, University of Chicago played a vital role in the acquisition of these professional opportunities, and I’m truly grateful.