Hi, Pitt Honors blog readers! My name is Yasmeen (she/her/hers), and I am a fourth-year at Pitt from outside Washington, D.C. A fun fact about me: I am certified to scuba dive sixty feet down into the ocean! At Pitt, I am on the pre-medical track and pursuing the Honors Degree, and I have majors in Psychology & Religious Studies and minors in Chemistry & Studio Arts. I began college already certain that I wanted to be a pre-med Psychology major, but I didn’t even know Religious Studies existed as a field when I started at Pitt. My first semester here, I took Philosophy of Religion with Prof. Brock Bahler on a whim as a gen-ed course. In Philosophy of Religion, Prof. Bahler both introduced me to the field of Religious Studies –– which I became increasingly fascinated with –– and offered me valuable mentorship –– which continues today into CUTF.
Through CUTF, I am working with Prof. Bahler on his Science & Religion (S&R) course, which I took in the spring of my third year at Pitt (last year). We are focusing on weaving queer studies topics throughout the course’s lectures to make lasting changes that undermine existing structures of power. Through dialogue with Prof. Bahler, I have learned how important it is that diversity initiatives do not just give marginalized voices a seat at the table and call it a day, but rather change the way the conversation operates to allow these voices to participate and be heard. In other words, instead of just tacking on an extra lecture at the end of the syllabus, we hope to review existing material to notice and replace andro-, hetero-, Christian- and eurocentric thought with traditionally silenced perspectives. We have incorporated queer studies-related discussion questions into every lecture this semester, have planned two queer studies-related lectures (one on religion and the gender binary; the other on queer theory and ecology) into the syllabus, and are working on curating a bibliography of sources from feminist, queer/gender-diverse, and indigenous voices in S&R for students to consult while writing their final papers. These steps are just the beginning of Prof. Bahler’s ongoing diversity work with the several classes he teaches at Pitt.
In the long-run, I hope to eventually work with marginalized populations as a physician. I don’t yet know what medical specialty I would like to go into, but I know that I would like to continue advocacy work in my career and maybe even end up in non-profit leadership one day. The experiences I am gaining through CUTF are not only cultivating my leadership and teaching skills, but they are also teaching me to be thoughtful about and committed to diversity initiatives. I am grateful that CUTF has given me the opportunity to bring advocacy work into the classroom, and I am excited to see what is to come this semester!