This edition of the Religious Studies Alumni Spotlight focuses on Liz Hanna, a 2020 CWRU alumna and Religious Studies minor, who has navigated her post-graduate journey with exceptional accomplishments.

Liz Hanna

Meet Liz Hanna, a remote program management and business development professional at Education For Employment (EFE), a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Washington, D.C. She graduated from CWRU in 2020 with a Religious Studies minor, completing majors in International Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as another minor in Economics. Based in Cleveland, Liz supports EFE, a leading nonprofit in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, in the implementation of diverse skills training programs for unemployed youth. EFE specializes in soft skills, entrepreneurship, and technical training to connect participants with high-quality jobs. Additionally, she actively contributes to EFE’s Alumni and Mentorship initiatives, playing a crucial role in fostering community and support for program graduates.

As we delve into Liz’s journey, she was kind enough to answer some questions:


Where are you originally from and why did you choose CWRU?

I am from Cleveland originally. Truthfully, CWRU wasn’t my first choice just because I wanted to leave Cleveland at the time! But attending CWRU was an amazing decision, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Attending a smaller school that is less “known” for what I studied, proved to be an amazing path. I had the opportunities of such close faculty attention and guidance, grant/funding opportunities, and exciting connections that I don’t think I would have had at a different institution.


Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

The most exciting thing for me is always travel! So, in 2024, EFE will have its annual Summit in Morocco, and I will play a role in planning that. This past October, our Summit was in Cairo, which was an unforgettable trip.


What have you done, either during your time at CWRU or since you have graduated, that you are the proudest of? 

My final project for my Master’s degree (at the American University of Beirut) is one of my favorite accomplishments. I wrote my final project on Marian rituals in Lebanon (devotions/rituals related to the Virgin Mary). The title is Popular Marian Rituals in Lebanon: An Opportunity for Christian-Muslim Encounter and Lebanese National IdentityAlthough my Master’s was in Middle Eastern Studies and not necessarily related to Religious Studies, I always come back to my love for Religious Studies and that is evident through this research!


Why did you choose religious studies?

As I was presenting my International Studies capstone in my junior year, one of my judges was Professor Jonathan Tan in the Religious Studies Department. He had some challenging and thought-provoking questions for me at the end of my presentation, and it was a very exciting conversation. Further discussion with Professor Tan led me to realize my biggest research (and personal) interest – Middle Eastern Christianity (large topic) – is part of Religious Studies, and it was silly that I wasn’t already enrolled in a Religious Studies major or minor. I truly just never considered it before! With his help, I fit in a few religious studies courses my senior year and was able to complete the minor. One of those courses was an independent study with Professor Tan on Middle Eastern / West Asian Christianity, and given his expertise in Asian Christianity, it was one of my favorite courses ever.


How did religious studies impact you and your goals?

Studying Religious Studies played a key role in shaping the way I think and interact with people. I think one of my strengths is my ability to really listen to someone, find a way to understand or relate to their experience, and come away from the situation with an appreciation for them and their views.

Being totally honest, I was always most excited for my Religious Studies courses and never dreaded them or the work for them. I also participated in extra activities through the Religious Studies Department that provided me with incredible hands-on learning and really shaped me. I entered and won the Baker-Nord Undergraduate Humanities Prize for my Religious Studies minor capstone which was such an honor, and I was awarded the Reisacher Summer Fellowship, in which I used the funds for summer research on migrant Christian identity in the Arab Gulf. This led me to travel to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Bahrain to interview people and learn about a totally new topic for me at the time. All of these experiences deeply impacted me by shaping my mind and my ability to relate to others.


What was your favorite part about the program?

A few things: first, the professors – every single one of them in the Religious Studies Department is incredible! I didn’t have all of them as professors, but I got to meet and learn from them in other ways. Second, the opportunities for funding – I was able to conduct research in 3 countries in the Arab Gulf because of the department’s funding opportunities, which was one of the most valuable experiences of my undergraduate career. And lastly, the exciting courses available!


What advice would you give to future students?

Spend time getting to know CWRU professors and other professionals in the areas/industries that you’re interested in. You’ll learn so much from them, as well as get pointers for amazing opportunities like grants, internships, jobs, travel experiences, connections to new friends and business partners, and so much more.