Luther senior Clare explores Buddhism in the Christian Midwest

September 20, 2018

Luther College senior Jane Clare took a look outside the “Luther Bubble” this summer in her research surrounding Buddhism in the Christian Midwest. According to Clare, it is important to be aware of and engaging in religions outside one’s own in order to navigate the world around us. “I think it is always important to look outside of our own experiences and learn about others so that we can live in and embrace a larger community,” she said.

Clare, a native of Palm Desert, California, graduated from Palm Desert High School in 2015. She is majoring in religion.

Clare worked alongside Anita Carrasco, the Associate Professor of Anthropology, on her summer research. Her study is focused on Buddhism in the predominantly Christian Midwestern United States. She conducted her research by attending a Buddhist monastery where she used anthropological methods of participant-observation and life-story interviewing in order to learn more about the community. She noted that it was particularly interesting to learn how they defined their belonging and how their location impacted them.

“One of the things I found most interesting and intriguing was the intentionality surrounding food. I was invited to take part in a ceremonial meal called Oryoki, in which the meal is eaten in silence so that one can be mindful of the gift of food and eating,” she said. Clare explained that the tradition had several intricate parts to it, including a specific set of bowls and a system to cleaning them after the meal.

Clare believes in the importance of being aware and engaged in religions outside of one’s own. She hopes that her research will bring awareness to opportunities outside of Luther, as well as an understanding about those that people view as different from themselves.

“I learned that I can find value and inspiration in religious traditions other than my own, and that my experience of faith can be enriched by conversing with and learning from others,” she said.

Clare and Carrasco’s project is one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther’s College Scholars Program and Dean’s Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities that are part of Luther’s academic core and intend to deepen the learning process.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: