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Alumnus Jeffry Halverson graduated from SHPRS with his master’s degree and PhD in religious studies in 2004 and 2008.
Halverson answered a few questions about his current position, his time with SHPRS and tips for current students.
Tell us a little bit about your current position and you found yourself there.
I am currently an associate professor, recently tenured, of religious studies in the department of philosophy and religious studies at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C. I arrived at Coastal in August 2013 after spending the previous three years as an assistant research professor and post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Strategic Communication at Arizona State University.
Growing up, were you always interested in religious studies?
I have always been fascinated by religion and I spent a lot of time reading about different religions while l was in middle school and high school in Trumansburg, N.Y. just outside of Ithaca. As an undergraduate at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. I minored in religious studies and received a Fulbright to study Sunni Islam in Cairo, Egypt after graduation.
What attracted you to the religious studies program at ASU?
When I returned from Egypt I was looking for a graduate program that would allow me to specialize in Islam, but within the broader context of religious studies. I didn’t want a Middle Eastern studies program or something else. ASU also offered the foreign language resources I needed, and I took Arabic at ASU for four years or so. Plus, Tempe is an awesome place to live, especially if you’re a kid from upstate New York like I was!
Tell us about your time with SHPRS.
I completed a terminal Master of Arts in religious studies in 2004 and a PhD in religious studies in 2008 at SHPRS at ASU. In fact, I was the first student to receive a PhD in religious studies at ASU. I was very fortunate to receive financial support from the religious studies program in the form of a teaching assistantship throughout my graduate studies and had minimal debt by the time I finished. The financial support made an enormous difference, especially as an out-of-state student.
Were there any extracurricular activities you were involved in at ASU?
During my PhD studies, I became a season ticket holder for ASU football, basketball, and baseball. When I wasn’t studying, writing or working, I was usually at a game watching the Sun Devils.
Do you have any tips for current students?
If I were going to give a tip to incoming graduate students, especially doctoral students, I would tell them they need to be willing to make sacrifices. Lots of students start but don’t finish. You’ll have to be willing to put other things in your life on hold and "grind it out." Also, do not take lots of student loans as a graduate student! Being an academic isn’t a lucrative profession so be smart with your money.