Religious Studies Major Goes Above and Beyond to Volunteer

Michigan State University senior Rana Omar believes in giving back to the community. For four straight years, the Honors College student, who will graduate with a B.A. in Religious Studies and a B.S. in Neuroscience in Spring 2023, has received the Spartan Volunteer Service Award, which is presented on behalf of the MSU President and Center for Community Engaged Learning to recognize MSU students who have participated in 100 or more hours of community-engaged learning or volunteering during the academic year. 

Person smiling in front of a solid background
Rana Omar

This past year, Omar completed about 300 hours of volunteer service. In 2021-2022, she completed 335 hours; only 15 other MSU students had completed more that year. In 2020-2021, she completed 421 hours, with only seven other MSU students turning in more hours. And in 2019-2020, she logged 107 hours. 

Omar has volunteered as a tutor and mentor for the Refugee Development Center in Lansing. She also has volunteered for Sparrow Health System and for MSU’s Summer of Service. Since June 2021, she has had an internship with MSU Pediatrics.

Besides receiving the Spartan Volunteer Service Award, Omar also is the 2023 recipient of the Engaged Scholar Award presented by the Department of Religious Studies. This award recognizes the Religious Studies undergraduate major who best represents the ideal of the engaged scholar and whose aspirations are to serve the wider community. Omar was presented with this award at the Religious Studies Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 14.

Omar recently completed her capstone thesis, which focuses on Islam and the misconceptions of that religion. She presented this research at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum at MSU on April 14.

Omar has been accepted to the master’s degree program in Public Administration at Cornell University and will begin that program in Fall 2023. But before she moves on, she reflected on her Religious Studies education in the following Q&A, which was published in a recent Department of Religious Studies e-newsletter. 

Why did you decide to major in Religious Studies? 

I have always been interested in religion and I knew it was something I wanted to educate myself further in. Religion ties to our identity in so many ways. I had a course called Religion in America (REL 220) with Dr. Shreena Gandhi and she got me interested in the major itself. When I took a few more classes, it solidified my interest in Religious Studies and I knew it was the major for me.

What has been your favorite Religious Studies course?

I loved taking REL 330 (Islam) with Dr. Mohammad Hassan Khalil. I learned so much from this course and there was a lot of discourse within the classroom, which I enjoyed. When professors evoke so many questions and welcome those questions, it makes the student learn so much more about the topic.

Why do you think it is important to study religion?

Many people tie so much of their identity to religion. Religion is a way of life for so many. Religion will affect the way people speak, dress, act, or even their perspective of life and purpose. Everyone is different and that is the beauty of religion. When it comes to religion, it is important to understand and educate yourself when it comes to other religions in order to understand and connect with people of all kinds of backgrounds and religions. Religion gives us a sense of belonging and support.