Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona/Religious Studies & Classics
“I love interacting with folks. Much of my research is based on ethnographic methods. I go out and go to religious festivals, sites, and services and meet with different individuals and communities. I get to speak to them and hear in their own words what their experiences mean to them.”
Daisy Vargas grew up in Orange County, California, to Mexican immigrant parents. She was interested in the intersections of religion and political movements, including liberation theology in Latin America and in the United States. Vargas earned her B.A. in Religious Studies; and a Minor in Chicana/o Studies at CSUF. “My scholarship on race, ethnicity, and religion focused on Latina/o /x religions, has been strongly influenced by my undergraduate training in Chicana/o studies at California State University Fullerton. There, I learned that the histories of religion and the construction of racial categories were linked to longer processes of colonialism, imperialism, and nation-building. Both religious studies and ethnic studies helped me understand different methodologies through which to understand the resilience of diverse communities. Religious studies taught me a lived religions approach, and ethnic studies taught me the importance of decolonial scholarship.”
The faculty of Religious Studies encouraged her to go on to graduate school. She attended the University of Denver for an M.A. in Religious Studies, then onto UC Riverside for her Ph.D. in History.
At the University of Arizona, Vargas is an ethnographer and historian specializing in race, ethnicity, and religion in the U.S., Catholicism in the Americas, and Latina/o/x Religion. Her current project, Mexican Religion on Trial: Race, Religion, and the Law in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, traces the history of Mexican religion, race, and the law from the nineteenth century into the contemporary moment, positioning current legal debates about Mexican religion within a larger history of anti-Mexican and anti-Catholic attitudes in the United States. This scholarship “reflects on the implications of studying racialized communities within larger histories of settler colonialism, slavery, racism, and immigration. An ethnic studies approach to religious studies also challenges and critiques the study of American religion through re-defining the term ‘American’ and questioning the category itself in a way that troubles institutional definitions of citizenship and belonging.”
She has served as an ethnographic field research for the Institute for the Study of Immigration and Religion since 2012. In 2017, she was awarded a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Dr. Vargas serves as co-chair of the Latina/o and Latin American Religion section for the American Academy of Religion-Western Region, and as a steering committee member for the Religions in the Latina/o Americas unit for the American Academy of Religion at the national level.
“Every part of American culture is touched by religion practice and religion experience.”
Chief of Operations to the Provost, CSU Fullerton
“I had amazing professors that kept me so interested that I wish we had a doctorate program, because I would have continued my education!”
“I was in my 40’s, raising a teenage son, and dealing with a parent who had Alzheimer’s” Gladys recalls while commenting on her station in life when she finally decided to go back to school. She quips, “I couldn’t have picked a better time to go back, huh?” And that is Gladys in a nutshell – honest, tough, jovial….real.
Backing up a bit, Gladys had no intention of ever earning her degree. She was working at CSUF, living comfortably, and “had no interest in getting into the rat race.” Despite her disinterest, Gladys had people in her life that persistently encouraged her to re-consider, chief among them was her boss at the time. After several years of urging, Gladys finally broke down and decided to go back to school. Now the only thing for her to figure out was what to study.
Discussing that very question with her wife, the obvious choice was to study IT, the field she was working in. “But you are not interested in that field. You will never finish college unless you study something you really love.” Her wife warned and then asked, “what is something you have always been interested in?” Gladys’ immediate response – “religion!”
And that was that. Gladys spoke with a professor in the department to be certain that she was making the right decision, and four years later “through blood, sweat, and tears” she graduated.
Gladys’ bottom line when it comes to education/career advice is simple – do what you love, “If you love engineering, study that. If you want to be a doctor, study medicine.” Today Gladys is the Chief of Operations to the Provost of CSU, Fullerton. Prior to holding this position, she had been his Project Manager, and Executive Assistant. And all of this comes on the heels of being an Assistant Director in the IT department.
To put a fine point on it, this perfectly illustrates a thought that Gladys would like to leave all potential students with – “most people who get a degree end up in a field that has nothing to do with what they studied, some with major debt because they were bamboozled into going into a field in which they have no interest, some drop out because they hate it…or worse struggle through years racking up debt in a field they hate, and waste years of their lives being miserable. Why? Because someone told them you cannot do anything with that degree?” Adding that a degree is about more than just what you can do with it, “it’s about the education. It’s about the tools you learn while studying, the critical thinking, the interaction with other students from various backgrounds and ages. It opens your eyes, perspectives and the world.”
PhD. Student at Claremont Graduate University & Actor/ Composer/ Musician
“A degree in Religious Studies was a great preparation for helping me to understand the treasured beliefs and practices of so many different people and cultures throughout the world.”
Ian didn’t settle on a major until after he had already finished his General Education requirements. He had always had an interest in world religions, but what sealed the deal was the opportunities and freedom that majoring in religious studies afforded him in terms of exploring his own interests within the field. “I was treated more like a colleague than just a student.” Ian recalls.
After graduating, Ian went to Claremont Graduate University where he received his MA in Cultural Studies, and is working on his PhD in Religious Studies. He was even able to turn his Masters’ Thesis into his first published book “A Sound Salvation: Rock N’ Roll As a Religion”. Additionally, he has spent that last several years working as an actor and composer on an Emmy Award Winning television show and he regularly tours as a professional guitarist in Billboard charting rock bands, performing all over the globe.
“I am travelling constantly and working closely with people from very disparate backgrounds and mindsets. A degree in Comparative Religions was a great preparation for helping me to understand the treasured beliefs and practices of so many different people and cultures throughout the world.”
Paralegal, The Walt Disney Company
"It is a fantastic program and the professors are happy to mentor you."
Samantha came to CSUF as a freshman majoring in English. Early on she realized that a lot of the literature she was reading and studying dealt with different cultural mindsets and religious periods. “I immediately signed myself up to double major in Religious Studies, which made for a better understanding of the religious periods I was learning in my English literature courses. It was a win-win situation for me.”
Samantha believes that her degree in Religious Studies has enabled her to better understand people from all sorts of different walks of life. She also believes that the degree has served her well professionally and personally by improving her social skills, stating “often times my Religious Studies degree has been the BEST conversation starter during my job interviews.”
Following her undergraduate degrees, Samantha went on to earn a Paralegal Certificate from UC Irvine and a Master’s in Jurisprudence with a focus in Business Law at Loyola University of Chicago. She currently works for The Walt Disney Company.
“It is a fantastic program and the professors are happy to mentor you… they really care about their students and are a great resource.” Samantha says while reflecting on her time here at CSUF. “If I could do it all over again, I would still choose Comparative Religion as my second major.”
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About Our College and Campus
The Religious Studies department is a part of the larger College of Humanities and Social Sciences at CSU, Fullerton. H&SS offers its students more than 20 unique degree programs ideal for students who plan to continue their studies in graduate programs, or who want to work in areas such as education, law, politics, business, psychology, public administration, and more.