Savannah Finver BA ’16 arrived at St. Thomas Aquinas College with a plan to earn her degree in childhood and special education and become an elementary school teacher. But when she discovered a new intellectual curiosity in her English and religious studies classes, her focus shifted to higher education.
Savannah kept a minor in childhood and special education but switched her major to philosophy and religious studies. She graduated from STAC summa cum laude in 2016. Her growing interest in religious studies led her to the University of Alabama, where she earned a master’s degree in religion in culture, completing the program with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
Today, the New Jersey native works as a Teacher’s Assistant at Ohio State University where she is simultaneously pursuing a doctorate in comparative studies. “Getting to be a part of my students’ intellectual journeys and watching them grow into sharper thinkers throughout the semester is definitely the most rewarding part of my job,” Savannah says.
Her undergraduate advisor and mentor Dr. Craig Martin and his Religion, Politics, and Political Philosophy class greatly influenced Savannah’s passion for religious studies. She says that what she learned from Dr. Martin informs her research to this day. She thinks fondly of the very first class on the separation of church and state and how the conversation opened a new world of possibilities for her future.
“We discussed whether or not yoga was religious,” she says. “As it turned out, whether or not yoga is religious has a lot to do with if the owner of a yoga studio wants to pay taxes or whether public schools should be allowed to teach yoga as a form of exercise. I was shocked! I’d never thought about religion that way before, in terms of power and social interests.”
Savannah is dedicated to her studies and her current work with The Religious Studies Project, a podcast that brings together scholars from around the world to discuss new studies and research on a wide array of topics. When she isn’t soliciting replies and editing transcripts from the latest episodes, she’s a guest on the podcast herself.
As far back as she can remember, Savannah has always loved reading and writing. When she was a teen, she attended a summer writing camp called Shared Worlds, a two-week intensive held at Wofford College in South Carolina where she worked with published authors and professors on a science fiction project. “I learned just how complex our world can be through the process of trying to build my own fantasy worlds,” she says, adding that she hopes to one day write a science-fiction novel of her own.
As an honors student, Savannah says that one of her greatest memories of her college years was studying abroad at the University of Oxford where she took a 19th-century literature course. In addition to being her first experience abroad, she toured sites where some of her favorite authors penned their literary masterpieces.
At home accompanied by her pets, Goober the cat and a dog named Sumo, Savannah continues her quest for knowledge by teaching herself Japanese and dreaming up her great sci-fi novel. She looks forward to sharing the passion she found at STAC with her own future students.
“In the next five years, by the grace of all the gods that are and have ever been, I will hopefully be finishing up my Ph.D., defending my dissertation, and looking for work as a professor of religious studies and/or the humanities.”