Asking Tough Questions: My Reflection as a Doyle Fellow

By: Brittany Neihardt

April 27, 2015

“That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars/And whether they had one, or not, upon thars.” It only seems appropriate to begin my reflection on the Doyle Engaging Difference Fellowship with the same Dr. Seuss quote with which I inaugurated this experience. Dr. Seuss’ message in Sneetches is predicated on the same idea that inspired my application for the Doyle Program. I wanted to further investigate why we think of the world in categories, distinctions, and dichotomies. We consistently qualify ourselves by the groups to which we belong—and also those to which we don’t belong. But, why? Why have such strong divisions persisted to this day? Is there a way to eliminate them and how long must we wait for this ideal to become a reality?

While my questions have not been answered, I didn’t expect them to be in a year-long fellowship. In fact, I’m not sure we can say for certainty that there are answers. But, the scholars at the Berkley Center and my fellow colleagues in the program are in search of those answers. They are nobly pursuing an understanding of the relationships that define our lives. And, I am so pleased to play a part of that pursuit.

I learned from the other fellows as well as my mentors. I had the opportunity to meet with leaders in the fields of international development and religious tolerance. I tested ideas and asked questions. I participated in dialogues about interfaith issues and interactions on campus. I heard about the fascinating topics that my colleagues were researching. I grew not only as a student of this university, but also as a citizen of this increasingly globalized world.

My own research focused on the effect of religious themes and imagery in fiction on a reader’s perceptions of the represented religion. Fiction is a powerful tool that can subconsciously influence one’s ideas and opinions. The Berkley Center allowed—and encouraged—me to marry my love of fiction with an interest in data driven research about contemporary issues of religious understanding and tolerance. My mentors challenged me to ask critical questions of my hypothesis and conclusions. I cannot wait to expand and continue my research on this subject area.

I feel that my work as a Doyle fellow has been just the beginning. I’ve merely scratched the surface of all the questions left to be answered in this subject. But, my year as a Doyle fellow has still been very illuminating as it has dared me to ask tough questions of myself and others and taught me to recognize themes of difference in my community.

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Asking Tough Questions: My Reflection as a Doyle Fellow