Student Spotlight - Undergrad Alumna Kelsey Dallas

Kelsey Dallas graduated Suma Cum Laude from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies, English, and Economics.  We recently checked in with Kelsey and asked her to write about her how her experience at Iowa helped to shape her future.  

Bringing a Love of Learning to the Faith Beat


I write about religion for a living, but I often joke that, at heart, I'm not a journalist. I prefer to think of myself as a student, no matter what my business card says. "Student" fits my approach to my work. I enter my office each weekday more excited to learn than to write. 

Last week, I studied how states regulate religiously affiliated adoption agencies. This week, I'm reviewing the history of America's religious freedom work overseas. I don't have to take midterm exams anymore, but I do have to be knowledgeable enough to pass what amounts to an essay test. My teachers are attorneys, religion scholars and faith leaders. They don't give me grades, but they certainly reach out to clarify what I've misunderstood.  I also frame my reporting job as a type of learning as a nod to why I went into this work in the first place. I became a religion reporter because I love thinking and talking about religious communities, a hobby that originated at the University of Iowa. 
Picture credit "Yeoman Photo"

For most of my first two years on campus, I focused on studying English and economics, subjects that appealed to my love of books and ease with numbers, respectively. I was a passionate student, who was just as excited about finishing a statistics problem set as I was about doing a presentation on Jane Austen. However, when I enrolled in a course on sexual ethics offered by the department of religious studies, I felt engaged in my work in a deeper way. I couldn't stop talking about my reading assignments, much to the chagrin of my roommates. That one class dramatically changed my last two years at the University of Iowa. I squeezed in extra religious studies classes to my already busy schedule, taking on a third major as a junior. I learned about violent religious movements, Native Americans spiritual practices and why getting a tattoo can be an act of faith. 

It was a whirlwind education, and I wrapped up my University of Iowa career hungry for more. With the help of some supportive religious studies professors, I was accepted to Yale Divinity School, where I attended a two-year master's program. At Yale, I figured out how to turn studying religion into a career, while also attending some very confusing lectures on systematic theology. 

For the last five years, I've been at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City writing full-time. My editors indulge my reflections on religious trends even as they urge me to write a little faster. (It's hard to break academic writing habits.) Although life on the faith beat is a little too busy these days for much daydreaming, I do find myself thinking back to my time at the University of Iowa a few times a month. Teachers there taught me to love the topics I cover and to respect the people I interview, and I will never stop being grateful. 

Kelsey Dallas
National religion reporter for the Deseret News