Department of Theology and Religious Studies
   
   
  

Graduate profiles

From solicitors to charity workers to stand-up comedians our graduates have used the knowledge and skills they gained at Nottingham to launch successful careers.

Paul Kerensa: theology gradaute and writer/comedian

"...my old theology text books were open 12 years on as I wrote my first book, 'So a Comedian Walked into a Church..."
Paul Kerensa, theology graduate and writer/comedian.

 
 

Kate Harper

BA English and Theology (2013)

Kate HarperWhy did you choose to study at Nottingham?

I chose my joint honours course initially because I couldn’t decide which subject I enjoyed most. I loved studying English at A level, but I also had a keen interest in religious studies, so I decided to carry on studying both. Also, Nottingham has a fantastic reputation and a gorgeous campus. It is perfectly located in the midlands and offers a good range of courses, particularly with joint honours.

Which of the skills gained while studying at Nottingham do you think will prove most useful subsequently?

I love the range of volunteering opportunities available at the University, and the benefits of getting involved. It’s great to know that your time at university wasn’t just spent in the library. Completing the Nottingham Advantage Award is also a great way to boost your CV, and is a nice reward for doing that bit extra. Obviously, the fact that you’re at a leading UK university is quite exciting too!

I’ve done a lot of volunteering during my time at university. I’ve worked as a literacy volunteer in a local school, helping children with their reading, as well as volunteering as a Teacher Associate, which involved spending a day a week in a local school supporting the class teacher. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to the charity IntoUniversity, which is about encouraging children from disadvantaged areas to consider University as a realistic option, and to help them improve their academic attainment in order to achieve their goals. Getting involved with the local community is so rewarding!

I’ve also been a member of the Rambling and Hillwalking society (Ramsoc) for the last three years and served a year on the committee, which gave me great experience of how working in an effective team can help other students get outdoors and enjoy the countryside during their studies. I also volunteered as a Course Rep for the Theology department, giving the staff feedback from the student body and helping to improve the department by talking to my course mates and sharing ideas with the staff at regular meetings. This was a great opportunity to help improve the way things run for future students, and to make my mark on the department.

My degree has really boosted my confidence in my academic and personal abilities, as well giving me the time to consider issues that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. The careers team at the university are really helpful! They are with you every step of the way, from deciding which career path you want to take, to helping you write a stand-out CV, to proof reading applications for you. They will even help you once you’ve graduated!

What did you enjoy most about studying theology?

I really enjoy the way the course is structured. The freedom to choose modules that interest you is great, and within those modules you can really get to grips with a subject before exploring your ideas in an essay or arguing your point in an exam.

My favourite module had to be Literature and Religion. It was really interesting to do a module where you look specifically at the way religion is portrayed through literature, as this is a form that many people don’t consider when they think of ‘Theology.’ I’ve also really enjoyed the dissertation module, as it gives you an opportunity to make the most of the library facilities and become an expert in something that really interests you. It’s also a great talking point!

I’ve found that studying two subjects gives you a great range of knowledge and skills. It never gets boring! Every module will make you think about things in a new way, so that you build up your ideas with a sound basis in academic research. Arts degrees give you so many transferable skills, such as critical thinking and communication skills, whilst you’re doing something you enjoy and studying something you love.

What would be your advice to students thinking about studying theology at Nottingham?

I was initially anxious about moving away from my small home town, but there is a fantastic support network at the University, and everyone else in the same boat. Remember, home will still be there if you want to go and visit! I would suggest making the most of staff office hours! This is an opportunity to discuss your ideas and essay plans with the people that will be marking your work, so be ready to discuss your thoughts and take on board any feedback that you are given.

 

Tim Lees

BA Theology (2009)

Trainee solicitor White & Case

Tim Lees: theology graduate, solicitorCareer since graduating

During my degree I completed internships with KPMG (a leading accountancy firm); Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and Latham & Watkins (leading American law firms); and within the consulting practice of Bovis Lend-Lease (especially at that time, a major construction and development company). I subsequently accepted the offer of a training contract with White & Case, another leading global law firm.

For theology graduates, a training contract entails two years in law school (rather than a single year for those who hold law degrees), following which you spend two years working as a trainee solicitor in a law firm. White & Case paid all of my fees for law school and provided me with a bursary. 

I started work on a very competitive salary, and have been heavily involved in a number of high profile matters – most notably the approx. $40billion restructuring of an Icelandic bank. As I write this I am sitting in my office in Johannesburg, where I am on secondment for six months. 

Why did you choose to study theology at Nottingham?

Before studying theology I worked in sales, and then trained as a scuba diving instructor. I needed intellectual challenge, however, and so entered university. There were three main reasons why I chose Theology. Firstly, I found theology genuinely interesting. As a Christian, I wanted to explore the Bible and the Christian tradition more rigorously and in more detail than is easily possible without the guidance of leading scholars. Moreover, I was fascinated by other faiths, and the interactions between them, and the complicated relationship that ‘religion’ seemed to have with ‘secular’ society (I suspected, and indeed discovered, that the lines might be blurrier than popularly imagined). 

Second, doing theology well requires you to exercise and develop skills from across a wide range of disciplines – history, philosophy, languages, anthropology… I even did a statistical analysis of the Pastoral Epistles as part of my “Introduction to the New Testament” essay. I took A Levels in English Lit, Economics, and Psychology, with a further AS Level in Maths, and really enjoyed the breadth that this gave me. Moreover, I wanted to choose a degree that would teach me to think broadly, as well as rigorously, so that I would be well placed to enter a wide range of careers.

Third, and notwithstanding the above, theology is not “General Studies”. I knew that if I worked hard at a theology degree, I would graduate knowing a lot more about a substantive field of study. Being “an expert” (at least compared to most people) in scuba diving frankly felt pretty good – I thought being an expert in theology would also be a good thing in itself, and moreover help me stand out in a workplace where theologians are somewhat underrepresented.

Which of the skills you gained while studying theology have proved most useful subsequently?

As a lawyer, I work with texts. Studying theology taught me to pay very close attention to difficult texts, to unpack them, analyse them, and use them in forming arguments. I suspect the fact that these texts were more interesting than the cases and textbooks you read at law school meant I developed such transferable skills more acutely than I might otherwise have done. Moreover, I quite regularly read things that radically altered the way I looked at the world – that practice of having your perspective shift made me more open minded in my reading, which has helped me find solutions to difficult legal problems.

As a lawyer, I also work with people. Encountering the ideas of people from radically different eras, cultures, and traditions – and moreover considering with academics and other students what these ideas mean, inherently in our own time and place – inevitably makes you better at understanding the perspectives of others. That doesn’t mean you surrender your own ground, but rather that you gain a better understanding of it and where it lies in relation to the positions of others. Developing this skill in the context of theology has, I believe, made me better at understanding the positions of my clients and those they do business with. 

The value of not being just another law or business graduate, but having an interesting perspective and background to share when talking to colleagues/clients in the pub is also not to be underestimated.

What did you enjoy most about studying theology?

At the end of my second year the department hosted a conference on the Pope’s recently published book “Jesus of Nazareth”. I attended along with three other students from the department, and we were all made to feel very welcome. Many of the papers presented were very interesting, and I had the chance to meet many of the people whose books and articles I had been reading over the past two years. I also had a lot of fun socialising with some of the lecturers and post-graduates. But probably the most enjoyable aspect of attending was, on reflection, that I was able to attend and make sense of an academic conference about a book I had only finished reading the day before. Moreover, I could put my hand up and ask vaguely sensible questions – I had clearly learned something over the previous two years.

What would be your advice to students thinking about studying theology at Nottingham?

If other people really want you to know something, they will pay for you to learn it. So while it’s going on your tab, study something that interests you. Moreover, study something that you might not get the chance to do later in life. There will be time for law, or accountancy, or business school later on – your employer is unlikely to agree to give you the time off, let alone fund, your theology degree. 

If you become an interesting, articulate graduate you’ll find that you’re in demand – whatever your degree discipline. Getting a high mark in theology because you loved it will be far better for your career prospects than a low mark in supposedly more ‘marketable’ degrees.

With respect to choosing which University to study theology at, take a close look at the modules on offer. These might change from year-to-year, but they will give you a sense of what the department’s focuses are. They are different, so think about what areas will interest you most. Nottingham gives you a lot of options and has all the main bases covered, but (in my view) is especially strong on philosophical theology, with some very notable strength in the New Testament. If that appeals then Nottingham might be right for you.

It’s also important to consider the broader student experience outside of your course. Nottingham has a brilliant Students Union which supports a wide range of societies, perhaps less extensively than would be ideal, but which nonetheless compares extremely favourably to other leading universities. The city also has a lot of great bars, nightclubs and restaurants, which are affordable and relatively concentrated near the main student areas, making access easy. Of course, what’s on offer might not be for everyone. But most people will find that they will learn a lot and have a great time at Nottingham.

 

Charlotte Page

BA Theology (2006)

Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid

charlotte page 150pxCareer since graduating

I am the Regional Co-ordinator for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for Christian Aid. This means I spend as much time as possible out and about speaking in churches, talking at events, encouraging volunteers, lobbying MPs and doing whatever else I can to inspire people to join Christian Aid in trying to eradicate poverty.As part of my job I have been on short trips to Kenya, Zambia and Brazil to see what poverty really looks like and to gather stories about Christian Aid's work which I use in my talks and at events to help with fundraising and campaigning. 

While I was studying at Nottingham I went to an event organised by Christian Aid where someone was speaking about the Middle East and from that moment I knew I wanted to work for this charity. I spent 10 months doing their internship as a volunteer (expenses paid) doing youth and student work in Devon. From there I worked doing admin for another charity while I volunteered for Christian Aid as a speaker in my spare time. All the volunteering was really important in showing I had the necessary experience when I applied for my current job.

Why did you choose to study theology at Nottingham?

While I was at school I had no idea what I wanted to do at university, only that I wanted to get a degree. I got as many prospectuses as possible and thought that theology looked by far the most interesting subject. Many people thought it was an odd choice as I didn't do an RS or Philosophy A-level but in the end that wasn't a disadvantage and I know that I definitely made the right choice because I had a fantastic time at Nottingham and studied really interesting subjects that still fascinate me now.

Which of the skills gained while studying Theology have proved most useful subsequently?

I think the most important skill I gained is the ability to take in lots of information but then present it clearly to people in a way that can be understood. In my job I talk about issues of poverty in the world, from emergencies like famine and drought to structural problems like tax injustice and land rights, so I have to be able to understand complex issues and speak about them in a clear and engaging way to an audience with no previous knowledge of the subject. Presentation skills are also really important in my job and my degree definitely helped me to speak in front of audiences. Another part of my job is preaching in church services about Christian Aid and social justice and I think the knowledge from my degree and the skill of looking critically at the Bible have really helped me to do this.

What did you enjoy most about studying theology?

The discussions I had with other students about theology whether in seminars or at the pub is one of the things I enjoyed then and wish I did more of now! It was great to be with other people who found theology fascinating and I think that studying the subject widened my perspectives on what is happening in the world today and why. Being able to discuss these issues with other people with both similar and completely different views was fantastic. I also loved the department as it was so friendly and by the time we graduated we knew everyone in the year and we celebrated everyone's achievements together and with our families.

What would be your advice to students thinking about studying theology at Nottingham?

Do it! But more seriously, think about what you find most interesting and study that - you will be spending three years on it! I would also advise people not to be put off if they aren't sure what they want to do after university yet. I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do and wasn't sure how my degree would help with a career but actually it has proved to be incredibly useful in ways I never would have thought when I was applying to Nottingham. 

 

Paul Kerensa

BA Theology (2002)

Writer/Comedian - has written scripts for a number of successful BBC television comedy series, including Miranda.

Paul Kerensa: theology gradaute and writer/comedianWhy did you choose to study theology at Nottingham?

A simple narrowing of interests: Of my A Levels, I couldn't see me doing 3 years of Maths or Economics without wanting to stove in my calculator, but I could talk about philosophy, religion, history, ideas and cultures, for years. I thought that if I didn't study Theology, I'd be reading up on it anyway.

The subject fascinated me, and continues to fascinate me, and I knew that if I took a course where other people were doing it for similar reasons, they'd be good people to debate things with for three years. Some subjects attract people that, for me, are looking for the wrong things in life; Theology attracts people who want to ask questions and delve deeper. We're a good lot.

Which of the skills you gained while studying theology have proved most useful subsequently?

Apart from the depth that theology gives to understanding the world, to when to trust research, and to encourage debate; apart from the added insight it's given the way I approach everything from the Bible to Dawkins to news stories about the Middle East; apart from all this, it's given me an enquiring mind, an ability to question properly.

In addition, in my career as a comedy writer and stand-up comic, it's meant I've toured a comedy show about the book of Genesis, given me several routines about the Bible, and my old Theology textbooks were open 12 years on as I wrote my first book, 'So A Comedian Walked Into A Church...'.

What did you enjoy most about studying theology?

As well as the course itself, theology gives you the time and ability to try other parts of uni life. I took a module in Law, and am delighted to say that persuaded me to reject that as a career. I joined the university theatre, and found my current job as a writer and performer.

In theology classes themselves I found friends I'm still in touch with, still debate things with, as well as having the chance to hear from some of the best minds in the country who lectured us. 'Lecture' is the wrong word. Some lecturers 'lecture' - I generally found most of mine just began the process for us, got the ball rolling, encouraged us to look further and find our own interests and paths through the degree. I ended up writing a dissertation on Shakespeare's use of Protestant and Catholic ideas - something I'd never thought I'd be looking at when I began the course. The openness of the department led me to that point, and I'm grateful for it.

What would be your advice to students thinking about studying theology at Nottingham?

Do it. The course is a perfect balance between biblical studies, philosophy, history of religion, and studies of other cultures, your mind will be broadened, and University Park is a great campus to study on. Oh, and the kebabs on Alfreton Road are near-perfect.

 

Where are they now?

Recent graduates secured employment with:

  • Teach First
  • Raw TV
  • Nottingham Community Housing
  • Holy Trinity Church
  • Adecco
  • Link Community Development
  • Derby Cathedral
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Samsung
  • New Life Publishing
 
 

 

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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