Meet Our Minors!
Name: Ashley Noel Echard
Hometown: Glenville, WV
Degrees: WVU 2007: B.A. Anthropology, Religious Studies Minor
Degree Expected: Wheaton College 2009: M.A. Biblical Archaeology, Old Testament Emphasis
How I got into the Religious Studies Program:
Introduction to World Religions was my first Religious Studies course, and the only reason I picked it was because it was one of the more interesting options for my cluster requirements. I had no intention of becoming a minor. It just so happened that each semester after that Intro course the Religious Studies Department offered more courses that I thought were interesting. By my junior year, I’d taken so many courses that Dr. Gale suggested I sign up for the few required courses left, and add on a minor to my degree. So I did!
Best Course Ever:
My favorite course was Evil. Yes, really! I may have gotten strange looks for reading Prince of Darkness (one of our texts) out in public, but the time spent in the classroom was worth it. We read broadly about the origin of evil, evil in history, evil in literature, and what contributed to the modern concept of evil. We asked questions about the devil, about evil in religion, and how to reconcile an all good God to a world gone evil.
What I Did With My Minor:
You’ll learn in your Intro to Anthropology course that religion is a cultural universal: every culture has a religious view and makes use of religious practices. You can’t escape it. In the field of archaeology, more particularly biblical archaeology, I excavate and research areas in the ancient Near East (Israel, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, etc.) in order to discover the roots of the religions we practice today. Each site renders artifacts or texts that can provide clues about what our predecessors valued and passed on.
As a Christian, I have a special interest in excavations which pertain to the time period and geographical region of Old Testament events. I’ve done excavations with our WVU crew at Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, and also at Harvard University and Wheaton College’s site at Ashkelon, near Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve also done extensive field studies in Historical Geography at Jerusalem University College, travelling across Israel, examining ancient road systems, and visiting sites that match the biblical descriptions. Currently, I’m doing research on the religion of Abraham. As the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam I think it’s important for us to understand just what exactly YHWH called Abraham out of and shaped him into. There’s a great deal about our modern beliefs on God that can be drawn from what our “spiritual ancestors” understood and passed on. It’s my endeavor to discover and share that information.
Religious Studies is a MUST!
We live in one of the few societies where religion is separate from government and free for choice in society. The rest of the world is not so. There are a great number of countries where religion impacts all of society and political actions. The United States of America is just one part of the global community, and West Virginia is no exception to international exposure. We might live in the hills, but we still need to be educated in the cultures and religions of our “globe-mates.” It’s almost guaranteed with most career fields that you will encounter clients and co-workers from foreign countries. WVU’s Religious Studies Program is a great place to start making yourself ready to interact with people you may not understand so well. You might just find that your Religious Studies class is a bigger help in the work force than any political science class you took.