Internship Launched '19 Religion Alum's Career


Brenden "Ty" McReynolds is a 2019 alum who took an internship for academic credit toward his Philosophy and Religion major while at JMU. That internship––with a non-profit youth mentoring organization––set him apart from the crowd of applicants when looking for his first job after graduation.

"When I was at JMU, I loved looking at the Religion website and browsing the available classes. One time when I was scrolling, I saw that I was able to do an internship for credit. I asked about it and learned that it was something the department was excited to offer, and that the internship was open for whatever I wanted to do––as long as it made sense with the major."

"I had been volunteering with an organization called Young Life and asked my supervisor if I could do an internship with him to learn what he does. I put aside 10 hours a week for the internship. I spent several hours each week learning from him in the office, another few hours mentoring students, and about an hour a week writing and jotting down what I had learned and experienced throughout the week."

Ty now works as Acting Area Director for the Wythe County Young Life Organization, one branch of a global Christian-affiliated organization for mentoring middle and high school youth. When Ty applied for the job, he was placed in a role with less direct supervision because of his prior experience volunteering and interning. "I get to be stretched... They trust me in this role," Ty says.

"It was really fun to learn from somebody who has the role I would love to have in an organization that I would love to work for, before I even left college. I got to taste a little bit of what it would be like, and now I get to be in that role. I currently lead a team of 14 volunteer leaders and serve on a committee of 8 volunteer adults who help support the leaders. I also get to walk into schools and build meaningful relationships with students and mentor them."

Students may intern at organizations with any or no religious affiliation, as long as they can connect their experience to the skills that they develop in the Religion major: cross-cultural communication, critical thinking, and understanding the role of community context in shaping human behavior and identity. 

The skills that a Religion major provides are relevant for many careers outside religious and non-profit organizations. Ty notes, "In my job search post-college, I had a few job offers and one was in the business world. When I was in the interview, I remember saying, 'I don't have technical skills or marketing skills, but I understand people and I understand the people that you want to reach. That's the greatest skill. You can teach me how to use Excel and these other programs, but you can't easily teach someone interpersonal skills­––those have been cultivated in me through my experience and coursework as a Religion major."

"Religion is so intertwined with our culture. To understand people better, understanding religion is very important. It is an interesting and challenging degree where you are exposed to different cultures and ideologies every day in coursework, and I loved that." 

Ty offers advice for other JMU students interested in taking an internship for credit toward their religion degree:

"Make sure that every week you're taking the opportunity to reflect and write down what you're learning. It's a requirement of the internship and the course credit, but it's also for yourself––staying motivated and having time for reflection. That reflection allows you to have a conversation with your supervisor if you're not learning something you wanted to learn, or if you don't feel confident in a particular skill that you've been asked to perform, so they can train you. Taking time to reflect each week is important for the class, but also for you as a person."

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Published: Monday, January 24, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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