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Scharmota applies religious lens to independent research in Chicago

February 20, 2008

Independent investigations and an investigation of independence: Alison Scharmota found a perfect opportunity for both during a semester in Chicago. Scharmota recently completed a Newberry Seminar in the Humanities, a semester-long program that led her deep into 18th century research at the Newberry Library while exploring life on her own in a large, vibrant city.

Alison Scharmota: "In a world where religion is prevalent in so many different venues, students need to know how to apply what they learn and that’s what Cornell’s religion department prepares us for. The professors are constantly forcing us out of our comfort zones in order to actually test theories of faith, destiny, benevolence, social religion, etc."

Scharmota’s research interest began while studying the hiring practices of the British East India Company in the late 1700’s with Economics and Business Professor Santhi Hejeebu during summer research in 2006. During the project, she learned about the Gordon Riots of 1780 that took place in London.

“I am attempting to refute the claim that the riots were an instance of religious persecution,” she says of her Newberry project. “In doing so, I used books, newspapers, journals, letters, and pamphlets/broadsides from England dating back to the 1500’s.”

The project combined Scharmota’s dual majors, religion and English, and gave her solid experience — both in research and in independent living — as she applies for graduate school in religion and ethics. She says the semester built upon lessons learned in Cornell religion courses.

“In a world where religion is prevalent in so many different venues, students need to know how to apply what they learn and that’s what Cornell’s religion department prepares us for. The professors are constantly forcing us out of our comfort zones in order to actually test theories of faith, destiny, benevolence, social religion, etc. I don’t think students could ask for a better team of professors.”

For more information, please contact Cornell's Director of Media Relations

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