Cassie Ball – Religious Studies


Alexandra Karlinchak, Editor-in-Chief

Senior Cassie Ball did not come to Wake Forest expecting to major in Religious Studies. If anything, the major found her.

Hailing from Beckley, W.Va., Ball said that she originally discovered Wake Forest via a family friend’s recommendation.

“I came into Wake knowing I wanted to major in English, and that is actually my other major,” Ball explained. “So, that’s what I’m studying — English and religion.”

Ball was first introduced to the religious studies department during her freshman fall. She took Introduction to Jewish Traditions expecting to learn about holidays and simple traditions, but instead walked away with the knowledge that religion impacts all facets of life and the human experience. Suddenly, there was no turning back.

“The thing is, even if you’re not religious, religion still impacts your life,” Ball said. “Everything you are interacting with has something to do with some form of religion.”

Ball said that she became increasingly aware of how deeply embedded religion is in society, not only through her religion courses, but through her English classes as well.

While studying abroad in Venice, Ball lived in Casa Artom, a beautiful Wake Forest-owned living and office space located directly on the canal. Here, she and a cohort of students took mainly English classes. There, Ball said she took away more knowledge about the study of religion than she could have ever imagined.

“Though I didn’t necessarily take any religion classes, religion was very interwoven through what I studied,” Ball said. “I took two English classes, and a history and art history class. Italy is a very religious country, in my history and art history classes, we would visit different churches around Venice and see phenomenal art pieces that were just painted on church walls and these different mosaics and things — it was beautiful.”

Even in non-waterfront Winston-Salem, Ball says that the religion classes she took shaped both her experience at Wake Forest and her outlook on the world.

One particular course that truly piqued Ball’s interest was titled Religion, Culture, and the Body. In this class, students studied the many ways religion impacts the ways bodies are viewed, displayed and altered.

“It was so fascinating,” Ball remarked when asked about the class. “We studied different intersections between religion and everything from my body appearance to clothing and tattoos. We even talked about religion and [and its impact on] medicine in the past and the present. I think that is one of the best classes I have ever taken.”

Ball’s study of religion extended far beyond the classroom. Last summer, she was granted a URECA scholarship and used the grant money to study nature, religion and their influence on Irish poetry.

Next year, Ball will be pursuing her Master’s in English and American Literature at New York University. Eventually, she hopes to get her doctorate in English literature so that she can study the intersection between American literature, religion and nature.

The knowledge that Ball took away from her time studying religion is unique to her and her alone. Afterall, religion is both a personal relationship as well as a community-based belief. In learning that the world is interconnected via the impacts of spirituality and religion, Ball is leaving Wake Forest with a degree in her hand and years of wise, deep-seeded knowledge in her heart.

When asked if she had any advice for freshmen or sophomores who have not yet declared their majors, Ball suggested that everyone take a religion divisional at some point before they graduate. After all, she did … and look where she is now.