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PHD, Religious Studies, Trinidad & Tobago

A rich heritage is only as good as the person commanding it. Personal strength and your achievements are what make you, and your heritage then becomes your depth. Coming from Trinidad and Tobago, my family, my blood, is rooted in an acceptance and understanding of religious diversity. Trinidad and Tobago while tiny island nations, are the first in the world to have a national holiday that acknowledges Spiritual Baptists one of two African syncretic religions on the islands and recognizes Christian, Hindu and Muslim national holidays. Growing up in Brooklyn, particularly seeing Celebrate Brooklyn these past 30 years has shown me in so many ways, the rich tapestry of cultures that makes up my hometown.

While I have seen religious tolerance at its best, I recall, as a New York City Police Officer, all too well the riot that took place in my hometown of Crown Heights in 19XX. I remember feeling incredible sadness, disappointment and saw sympathetically from the viewpoint of my fellow officers the difficulty in handling a fragile situation.

I have reached a point in my professional career where I feel I have exhausted every possible avenue of promotion and challenges at my current academic level and need to enact changes in my life in order to bring my plans to fruition. It is at this time that I need to conduct research into African religions, particularly how they became African-American religions during and after the age of slavery. Moreover, I have a strong interest in researching the area of African syncretic religions and Caribbean religions of the Americas.

Through a PhD program in Religious Studies in conjunction with the African American Studies department, I will be better equipped to bring to light tangible evidence of the effects of religion and spirituality as a coping resource for students from an assortment of religious and spiritual backgrounds and orientations. The overall aim of my research and publications will seek to eradicate the ongoing fears and misinformation that fuel the mistrust and concerns different spiritual groups in our country hold against one another. I will be able to affect change, by bringing to the forefront the positive attributes and resources of the different religions that make up our nation. Overall, I foresee myself being in a position to promote improved relations between many differing religious groups, be it on a one-on-one counseling situation or on a larger, community scale.

Through a PhD course of study and research, I anticipate being able to instill in my future students the need to help restore the concept on which America was founded, that All men are created equal, and apply special emphasis on the need to appreciate our cultural and religious belief differences. Indeed, it is my passion for teaching, born from direct contact and interaction with students, watching them grow and develop academically and as burgeoning citizens that fuels my desire to teach Religious Studies at the university level. Throughout my professional career, I have been involved in teaching as well as counseling and believe that they are quite complementary. It is an aim of mine to work with a Religious Studies department and invite the Counseling Department to work together with the goal of designing workshops that foster spirituality and belief-system based coping mechanisms for first-generation students.

Giving back to the community is the responsibility of every community leader, of which professors are a prominent part. It is my intention to continue the work that I started, volunteering my career counseling services in urban communities, with the objective being to heighten students awareness of the barriers to success in higher education. Additionally, I feel that I have been successful in getting the young adults I have been working with to implement strategies of being, that assist them in counteracting both the internal and the external challenges that face them as they seek to improve their lives.

My commitment to my academic career is evident in my holding of two graduate degrees, one of which is in Psychological Counseling. Truly, Psychological Counseling has given me a thorough understanding of individuals from their idiosyncratic perspectives in the context of their cultural experiences. While conducting a peer-reviewed symposium for the 20XX Teachers College Winter Roundtable, I had the opportunity to present my research work which consisted of an extensive literature review and data analysis concerning the relationship between religious and spiritual coping and psychological distress among urban college students. Currently, I am preparing a manuscript, based on original research, which presents a spiritual and religious developmental model throughout a lifespan.

While I continue my work at my church in a ministry entitled, Be Transformed, I co-facilitate a woman's group that addresses their daily adversities and personal challenges with a psycho-spiritual approach. At the moment, and in a similar vein, I am working with the XXX, designing a seven-week group workshop, Spirit Speaks, which aims to provide a safe environment where students from different spiritual and religious orientations can enter into an open dialogue of similarities and differences within their spiritual experiences. The hope is that through these experiences there can be an increased awareness of any biases that may exist, laying the groundwork for greater understanding. None of this work would have been possible without my previous experiences such as when I volunteered for the Police Officers Providing Peer Assistance (POPPA) program in which I periodically managed a crisis hotline, which sometimes entailed meeting personally with officers experiencing crises in their lives.

Overall, I have become a very well-rounded and versatile teacher, having taught in many different educational settings and levels, with students from a multitude of backgrounds and ages, experiences which will aid me invaluably in my time with Princeton. The subject matter I have taught could not have been more diverse and ranged from teaching self-defense and tactics to police officers, to teaching students in an urban community college multicultural counseling. Combined with this has been my experience in designing original and creative educational programs, such as XXX program, in which children from Harlem were given free karate lessons in exchange for a chance to tutor them in basic reading, writing and math skills.

Princeton and particularly the Department of Religion is my sole choice for further education. On a practical level, having seen both developing and developed nations, a total of nine countries, I have been fortunate enough to interact with many ethnic groups, races and cultures. Overall, I have learned the value of being multilingual, and look forward to fulfilling the foreign language requirement at XXX. The work that I have done in and for my church and community is solid evidence of my Christian faith. However, my life experiences and heritage have served to develop a desire to understand and a capacity to appreciate the powerful positive attributes of all religions and spiritual orientations. I have a great deal to contribute to the Religious Studies program in terms of diversity. And through my work with XXX, I will be able to be a leader for change, to illustrate that differences are not something to be feared, but rather an understanding needs to be reached that differences are an accurate reflection of the realities of a diverse society. That diversity is what makes this society unique, and beautiful, a reflection of the tout ensemble of humankind.

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