Dr. Laura Ammon’s journey toward a career in religious studies started with a question, Why doesn’t religion make the world a better place?
She said she found that religion acts both positively and negatively in society, which spurred her curiosity about “how religion does what it does in the world,” and how people perceive and think about not only their religions, but other religions as well.
A class she took as an undergraduate at Webster University, called “Utopia and Dystopia,” stayed with her for a long time and also influenced her decision to study religion as a career, she said. From her professor, she learned more about humanity and its interaction and thinking about religion.
She wanted to find answers to her questions and, at the same time, become a professor whose teachings also resonated with students for years to come, Ammon said.
In her research, Ammon has explored the role of science fiction in religious thought.
“I am a historian ultimately, and what I often say to students is that thinking about the past and thinking about the future have a lot in common,” Ammon said.
She explores how the science fiction we read and watch informs our imagination and thinking about religion and the future. In classes, she often references “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
“What do people think it will be like in the future?” Ammon asks. “What can our thoughts about the future tell us about who we are now?”
For Ammon, Appalachian’s size and culture help cultivate personal connections between faculty and their students.
“They are interested in participating in the world thoughtfully and I love that about our students,” Ammon said. “I hope my students are able to learn as much from me as I learn from them.”