Meet our achievers for the Bachelor of Theology.

Bachelor of Theology

Achievers

Meet our achievers for the Bachelor of Theology

Meet some of our students who are pursuing the Bachelor of Theology degree. Students come to the program from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, religious and non-religious, seeking to further dialogue, understanding and social harmony.

Adam Bidwell

Adam Bidwell is a confirmed atheist with a keen interest in religion. Open minded with a love of learning, he brought his natural intellectual curiosity to his studies in the Bachelor of Theology program at UoN.

"I'm interested in the big philosophical questions, like why am I here?" he said. "So many areas of study are intertwined—philosophy, physics, religion. I've always had this underlying question inside me about the meaning of life. Nearly three-fourths of the world believes in some version of God and I wanted to find out if I was missing out on something. "

"I'm exploring all of that through the study of Theology."

Adam BidwellAdam decided to pursue a Theology degree after a chance meeting with Dr Ed Parker, a lecturer in the program. After a lively discussion around issues of faith, Adam decided to learn more about the degree. Six years later, he continues to be impressed by the quality of teaching and the support for students offered by program academics.

"There are some really big and deep thinkers teaching in this program," he said. "I have a great deal of respect for the professors and lecturers in Theology. They really are amazing people."

"I was also attracted by the program's focus on interfaith relations and the community. More tolerance in the world would certainly be nice."

After studying full-time the first year, attending face-to-face courses, Adam switched to part-time and online courses. Busy with a day job installing large-scale water purification systems and a night job running a bar with his brother in Morpeth, he needs to do most of his reading, writing and studying late at night or on weekends.

"Because of my work, I tend to get to my studies late at night so the online option is just brilliant for me," he said. "The online courses have gotten better every year, and the classes offered online are continuing to increase. The program has kept up with advancements in technology so that online students can do everything they could possibly need to or want to other than being there in the classroom."

 


Fiona Scorgie

Fiona Scorgie, a scientist studying Theology, sees no disconnect between science and religion.

"I understood that faith and science are polarised from one another but I've found that's not the truth," she said.  "They actually complement one another. Through my studies, I can now look at things from both a scientific and a theological angle. They are usually more similar than different."

A hospital scientist at Calvary Mater Newcastle since 2001, Fiona does genetic screening of patients for disease biomarkers and researches snake-bite induced blood clotting. As a student, she switches gears from science to the humanities.

When asked how she juggles the two, she shakes her head and laughs.Fiona Scorgie

"It's been a journey," she said. "I wanted to go back to university but I wasn't sure what to study. I saw the diploma program in Theology on the website and thought that would be a good place to start."

She finished the diploma in 2 ½ years part-time, and is now working toward the Bachelor of Theology, which she will add to her two science degrees, a Bachelor of Applied Science in Medical & Applied Biotechnology and a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours).

Fiona's interest in Theology began when she became a Christian in 2006, she said. Her studies have enabled her to explore questions about Christianity and other religions within the context of her faith.

"Some of my friends thought studying Theology would cause me to question my faith but it's been the opposite," she said. "Theology helps me to understand the foundations of my faith. It's made me a better Christian and hopefully a better person."

"Theology has also opened me up to a bigger world view—in general, not just about religion—and it's helped me learn to create dialogue with people of other faiths."

With a full-time career, Fiona does most of her studies online. Having been out of school for about 10 years, she was a bit nervous about the required reading and academic writing.

"The first weekend I studied I thought my brain would explode," she said. "There was so much to absorb. But studying has become a way of life now. I would miss that if I didn't have it."

"I like being able to do the program on my own time at home. I can go through the recorded lectures at my own pace. The system is flexible and easy to use."

She has also enjoyed working with her lecturers, who have been helpful to her as a returning student and an online student.

"The lecturers in Theology know your name and remember you and they spend time with students to help them," she said. "They're very accommodating and encouraging."

Fiona said Theology has taught her the benefit of asking questions and discussing issues with other people, even if occasionally they must agree to disagree.

"This program has vastly surpassed what I thought it would be," she said. "It has helped me to see issues of faith within in a broader context. Theology teaches you to view what you're reading and learning with an independent mind. I think more Christians should do that."

 


Justene Manson

After several years of traveling and working abroad, Justene Manson returned home and decided to pursue a degree at the University of Newcastle. Uncertain of what she wanted to study, she began exploring options on the University's website. When she saw the Theology degree she knew it was right for her.Justene Manson

That was three years ago. Now, Justene is finishing up her degree and marvelling over the changes it has brought to her life.

Justene Manson"Pathways are opening up for me now that I never thought possible," she said. "When I saw a degree offered in Theology, it sparked something within me. I have a passion for Jewish-Christian dialogue and I'm very interested in the Jewish faith, traditions and culture. In doing this degree I found that there's a place for that and my career path turned toward Jewish-Christian relations."

Prior to her studies, Justene worked in social care settings in the community. Initially she planned to continue in that field; however, her Theology courses allowed her to explore other possibilities for her future. She particularly enjoyed studying Theology within the secular context of a university.

"As a Christian, I knew I wanted to deepen my study of religion and learn about other religions," said Justene. "But I didn't want to be told what to believe and how to believe. I wanted to explore different beliefs and ideas myself."

"My Theology classes put me in an environment with many different opinions, some completely opposite to my own. That experience challenged me and I feel enriched for that. It allowed me to stand in someone else's shoes and better understand their perspective, even if I might not agree."

Justene said she was attracted from the beginning to the Theology degree's emphasis on social harmony and inter-religious dialogue.

"I've found that space where I can contribute and make a difference," she said. "The study and practice of Theology doesn't have to be through the ministry or the church. It's a great degree for university academics, teaching or working for non-profit organisations. We are all going to encounter people in our work and our lives who are different from us in their beliefs. Bringing people together successfully is an important skill."

Having left school in Year 10, Justene was nervous about starting at the University in her 30s and having the skills to succeed. She took advantage of the University's support programs, such as the UoN Prep Bridging program, the Writing Academy and the Learning Development Centre. She also received a great deal of help, support and encouragement from her professors and lecturers.

"With that help, I have done far better at this degree that I ever thought I could," she said. "It is a lot to juggle—Theology courses require a lot of reading and processing information, then writing about it. The work is difficult but very rewarding."

"For me, it has been a personal development process. The most amazing thing is the person I've become through this degree—it has given me the confidence and the hope that I can impact society in a positive way."


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