A Conversation with Aaron Estes

Aaron Estes graduated from IU Bloomington in May 2014 with a BA in Religious Studies. Religious Studies major Emily Vetne talked with him to see what he liked about the department, how he uses his Religious Studies degree in his career, and to see if he had any advice for current RS majors.

EV: What made you choose Religious Studies for your major?

AE: I chose religious studies in the summer between freshman and sophomore year. I was living in Bloomington that summer with my buddy, Charlie, and we decided to take a Buddhism course together. It was what we both needed because we always argued about religious topics without ever having any real background. This was not when I decided to major in the subject but it is where it all started. As I was taking courses I was really enjoying all the professors I was working with, and that's why I wanted to major in it.

EV: What is something you learned from the department that you still use in almost daily life? What do you apply to your career in traffic control?

AE: I started reading the Bhagavad-Gita religiously after I learned about it. I took what I learned in the department and devoted myself that text. I don’t read that text as a scholar but as a devotee. Studying texts like The Art of War with Professor Stalnaker prepared me for my career. The strategies in this text are timeless and war is everywhere.

EV: What are some of your favorite memories of the RS department? Any good stories you can tell me?

AE: The first paper I wrote was for my intro to Buddhism class, and it was so bad that I have erased most of it from my memory, haha. But I concluded with something like, "Winnie The Pooh is like Buddha because all he needs are his honey and his friends.” That's actually a better thesis then what I wrote. But after that, I wrote another paper in my Existentialism class with professor Levene and I said that Blaise Pascal was an atheist (which is not true. You can go to Wikipedia and figure that one out). She gave me a D on that paper which was kind of my wake up call. I wrote good papers for her after that...Her class was where I fell in love with the thinker Soren Kierkegaard. When I was a senior, I went back to him, studied a lot of his works, and wrote about the issue of gay marriage in our modern-day world and what Kierkegaard would have said about it based on his understanding of Christianity and what it means to be a Christian. I worked on that with professor Stalnaker.

Some cool memories I have…. One was when Professor Levene raised her voice at a student to wake him up and make him leave her lecture because he was sleeping. Also, I recommend taking an entry level class with Professor Haberman because his very first lecture was very memorable. It's amazing. I don't want to spoil it.

EV: Do you have any advice for current RS majors? Any final words?

AE: My only advice is that if you want to go higher with your education, you need to be focused and driven and really love what you’re studying.

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