Zachary Malone

Interview with Zachary Malone, BA Religious Studies

What motivated you to come to the BA Religious Studies program?
My principal motivating factor in attending Naropa University in general and the Religious Studies BA specifically was the fact that this is the foremost university incorporating and integrating both the traditional academic study of religion with that of personal practice or “contemplation.” Additionally, my inspiration was to continue my studies as a transfer student in Buddhism, but what has most interesting and fulfilling for me at Naropa has actually been those courses primarily dealing with the three Western “theistic” religions being, of course, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

What do you have to say about contemplative practice as an aspect of this program?
I have found for me, contemplative practice has been the crucible where the pithy, integral work of incorporating my academic insights into practical tools for personal transformation.

How has your time in the program been so far?
Overall my experience has been positive in both my personal and academic journey. There have been times where I have been challenged and stretched in ways I was not expecting in a university setting, which has, at times, been difficult but, now looking back, this has been rewarding.

How do you regard the academics of the program?
Again, overall, I feel that the academics have been positive. I have been challenged and have learned from highly trained and experienced professors. There have been those classes that have disappointed me in their lack of academic rigor, but I have come to feel this is more due to personal preference than an inherent problem found at Naropa University.

How would you describe life in Boulder and the connections to the religious studies community?
Simply put, I would describe Boulder as a fun, young, outdoorsy-type of a city. Being from the west coast, cities like Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz have very similar “vibes.” In regards to the religious studies community, my involvement with the department at Naropa has been slight but I have found the greater spiritual communities in Boulder to be thriving. It has been my experience that if something has been organized into a spiritual community, you can find others who practice similarly somewhere in Boulder, and it usually doesn’t take much hard work to find them.

What would you say to prospective students?
I would advise prospective students in several ways, the first being to consider whether you want to be part of a contemplative community as you engage your academic pursuits. Secondly, I would advise the student to look at the issue of finances. Let’s be honest, both Naropa and Boulder are expensive places. However, if this is the right place for you, and it is the right place for a lot of us, just make sure you can come up with the resources because it is difficult to fully engage your course work while stretched beyond your financial possibilities. Finally, if the student is considering the Religious Studies BA, I would make sure the prospective student knows that this is an institute, while beginning to incorporate more interreligious courses, it is still principally a Buddhist studies program. That being said, and as I shared above, I planned on studying only Buddhism here at Naropa and, as fate would have it, while studying Buddhism, I’ve principally engaged other traditions.

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