Sylvia Cassidy, BA '25, Religion and Political Science

November 30, 2023
Sylvia Cassidy and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

This summer I had the great fortune of working for the Department of Education and as an intern for the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP). This office is one of several located in agencies across the Biden-Harris Administration and works to connect the federal government to secular
and faith-based non-profit organizations. At its core, CFBNP recognizes that students do not check their secular or religious identity at the classroom door and are committed to ensuring they are safe, supported, and valued as their whole selves.

In my time as an intern for CFBNP, I supported the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism by researching programs aimed at addressing bias, fostering inclusion, and cultivating cross-community/interfaith relationships. I was excited when some of my research got sent to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. I also got to support and attend the first-ever Department conference on religious inclusion in education. There I got to talk with students, teachers, and faith leaders who were passionate about inclusion and realized how powerful cultural and religious literacy is.

This experience was spectacular because it was the perfect intersection of my two academic interests: political science and religion. My coursework in religion, importantly, equipped me with the knowledge and critical thinking skills to offer well-rounded and thoughtful work.Nearly everyday I thought back to my class, whether it be referring to the fundamentals I learned in Introduction to World Religions or citing authors from Thinking About Religion like Johnathan Z. Smith and Mircea Eliade in casual conversation.

Not only was I able to find a job related to both my majors, I also found the work particularly meaningful. Having a background in religion and the humanities helped me be a more empathetic and understanding public servant because I have been exposed to diverse cultures, perspectives, and experiences. This knowledge served me well when handling issues that addressed discrimination and inequality and also helped me recognize the intersectionality of bias and discrimination.

I have always thought of my time in the religion department as personally fulfilling. My work experience proved that studying religion, and other humanities for that manner, are extremely valuable. Looking forward, I plan on bringing what I have learned in my religion classes to the civil rights space and hopefully continuing some of the work I did with the Department of Education.