A Drastic Turn for UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences: A Series of Perspectives from Professors, Current Students and Alumni Part III


Katherine Brennan Photo credit: Katherine Brennan

Olivia Belrose, Writer

A Student’s Perspective

Katherine Brennan is a senior majoring in religion at UVM. For Brennan, she particularly enjoys the people aspect and examining the ideas of society’s politics through the “lens” of individual people. 

Originally a political science major, Brennan was not satisfied with her first choice of study as she found it extremely predictable and not people-oriented. Given the current political climate, Brennan decided to take a religion class her freshman year and immediately fell in love with the discipline. Brennan would have left UVM had it not been for the religion department. In her sophomore year, there was another push to cut liberal arts programs, and Brennan started to worry about her favorite professors leaving and going to another institution. 

“I resolved within myself to go with them wherever they ended up. UVM isn’t a place I want to be if my major isn’t available or considered valuable,” Brennan said. 

According to Brennan, who was shocked and upset when she heard the news about the proposed cuts, having a religion department is important not only for students and learning purposes but also in a community like Burlington and the rest of Vermont, especially when you’re faced with different beliefs.

“There are not many programs that teach you how to be respectful and how to recognize when someone is being mistreated and to help remedy the situation if possible,” Brennan said. 

Aside from helping the Fleming Museum redo their African Gods exhibit, the religion department has given Brennan lots of learning opportunities beyond the classroom. For one of her assignments, she was tasked to choose and observe a religion of her choice. Brennan chose to observe a Catholic church in downtown Burlington for a French Catholic service and later wrote about the impact of music in her chosen religion. 

“I got in touch with the Congolese immigrant population in Burlington, and they still reach out here and there. I’ve been able to practice my French as I help them with certain things. I would never have found them having not pursued that project.” Brennan said. 

According to Brennan, religion is an area of study that people tend to forget about, even though it is everywhere. Religion students study how societies and politics work as well as understanding why events occur or happen the way they do and what can be done to prevent those events. 

“The study of religion isn’t about whose God is right. It’s about what motivates people and how those motivations change the world,” Brennan said. 

However, the decision to cut 27 programs gives Brennan a pretty clear stance on how UVM feels about humanities and diversity. According to Brennan, the University is cutting a lot of departments and majors that fulfill diversity requirements, which proves they are “money-motivated and not as people-motivated.” 

To try and stop the cuts from going through, Brennan immediately created a petition through change.org that quickly generated 4,450 signatures the last time she checked. On the petition, Brennan received comments from prospective parents who were unsure if they wanted to send their child to an institution that doesn’t value liberal arts. According to Brennan, UVM has been continuously pumping money into places of value, but departments, like religion, aren’t sustainable without funding. 

“It just seems a little ridiculous to me when they say that they value all of the things that humanities teach so much, yet, here we are facing cuts against humanities,” Brennan said. 

Any students that are currently majoring in a cut program will be “grandfathered” into graduating with their degree. However, in 2022, incoming students won’t be able to major in religion if the cuts go through.