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Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion Taster Day – 30 January 2018

image of taster day

On Tuesday 30 January 2018, Girton ran its first ever Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion (TRPR) Taster Day for Year 10 and 11 students. The day was hosted in collaboration with the Faculty of Divinity with academic speakers introducing the visiting students to a diverse range of topics from across the TRPR disciplines. Thirty-eight students travelled to Cambridge for the day, all seeking to explore the details of what the study of Theology, Religion and the Philosophy of Religion involves at university level, and the interesting research and careers this study may lead to.

The day kicked off with a talk from Hilary Marlow, the Director of Studies for TRPR students at Girton College, who introduced what Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion is and why it is important. The fact that 84% of the world is religious today seemed to surprise all the attendees and drove home the importance of understanding the religious, theological and philosophical reasons and motivations behind some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Emma Salgard Cunha, Access and Outreach Officer for the Faculty of Divinity, continued the message on the relevance of the study of TRPR in the world today as she looked at the array of careers Cambridge TRPR graduates have gone into. These careers ranged from law, the church, charity advocacy and even acting!

After a short break it was time for the taster sessions to commence, delivered by academics working in different areas of Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion.

Beth Singler’s enticingly titled topic ‘Will robots ever take over the world’ looked at how Artificial Intelligence is challenging how we understand ‘the human’ as a being, creator and worker. This led to interesting questions from our visiting students such as: ‘Should we treat all AI as sentient beings, unless we can prove otherwise?’ and ‘Who would be to blame if a self-driving car caused a fatal accident?’.

Jim Aitken then took over to introduce us to a different area of study encompassed within TRPR, the study of ancient manuscripts. The visiting students learnt that the way scripts are written and the physical properties of the script can be just as important as the content, even spelling corrections can tell us a great deal about the evolution of language!

Next up, it was time of lunch. This gave the visiting students the opportunity to talk to each other about their motivations for attending the day, as well as a chance to eat some pizza and meet Girton’s famous College cat, Buster (pictured below).

After lunch it was time for the last two taster sessions. Ruth Jackson started us off with her taster session on ‘How do you tell a good friend from a bad one?’. In this session students examined the different relationships between famous duos such as: R2-D2 and C-3P0; and Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. The following discussion questioned whether humans could ever be friends with robots.

The final taster session of the day was delivered by Hilary Marlow who delved into the complex issue of whether science has done away with God. The visiting students debated whether science can explain everything and whether science and God are really looking to answer the same questions.

Before the end of the day, the visiting Year 10 and 11 students got the chance to reflect on their own aspirations and ambitions and learn more about what university can offer. In the aspiring to university session the visiting students were given advice on their post-16 choices and got the chance to ask current Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion students questions about the course, university societies, student life and their future plans.

The Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion Taster Day was a great success with many students enthusiastically discussing the topical issues discussed in the taster sessions on their way out. The feedback and evaluation of the event showed that 88% of visiting students had a better opinion of studying TRPR after attending the event, with one comment noting the day had “sparked a passion that wasn’t necessarily there before.”

Many thanks to all the Girton College and University of Cambridge staff and TRPR Student Ambassadors who made the day possible.

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