Lauren McEwan-NugentUndergraduate profile

Lauren McEwan-Nugent


Lauren McEwan-Nugent's mother was brought up Protestant; her father Catholic; she was promised to the Baptist Church as an infant; and raised a pagan.

So when she enrolled in Religious Studies, intending it as a minor alongside a commerce degree, she was nothing if not open minded about the world’s various systems of ritual and belief.

But what did take her by surprise was discovering how much she loved the subject. "It was actually amazing," she remembers. "The ideas being discussed were so interesting and inspiring, and the lecturers were so genuinely enthusiastic about their work. It was impossible not to get caught up in it."

Lauren switched to a double major in Religious Studies and Politics, with a minor in Marketing, subjects which she says are constantly overlapping in fascinating and unexpected ways.

And since then, reading the newspaper just hasn't been the same. Indeed, Lauren maintains that one of the strengths of Religious Studies is its extraordinary relevance to the world around us.

Her study of Eastern religions – for which she won a Dhammachai Education Foundation Scholarship for Buddhist Studies – provided Lauren with deeper insights as she watched images of monks pursuing peaceful protest in Myanmar.

However, it has been the study of Islam that has truly captured Lauren's imagination, and which she intends to study in greater depth for her honours dissertation.

"I had heard about Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and could not understand why they were motivated to do the things they did. But gaining an understanding of their history and the divisions in the Muslim faith has given me a much greater appreciation of the underlying issues in the conflict. A lot of people would benefit from learning about this."

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University of Otago Religious Studies Programme