Hayley Segall ’20 Awarded Jacobs Prize for the Study of Religion

July 28, 2020

Hillary Hempstead

woman sitting in front of a pond and large building in the background.
Religion major Hayley Segall ’20.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Hayley Segall

Hayley Segall, a religion major from Potomac, Maryland, has been awarded the Jacobs Prize for the Study of Religion.

The Jacobs Prize for the Study of Religion is made possible by Tilia Jacobs ’88. The award recognizes one graduating religion major who gives the best answer to the question, “Why is the academic study of religion important?” with a $25,000 award.

“The Jacobs Prize itself seemed a bit surreal,” says Segall. “It provided an open opportunity to reflect on my field with the possibility of an incredibly generous award. While the essay prompt seemed, on the surface, simple, I stared at a blank page for literally months trying to figure out how to articulate what the study of religion is and means to me. Regardless of whether or not I won the prize, the challenge to write out an answer was a meaningful process in and of itself.”

Segall was encouraged to apply for the prize by professors and peers. “Trying to write a substantive piece with so few guidelines, and with a substantial award at stake, felt intimidating to say the least,” she says. “The support and inspiration I garnered from Cindy Chapman, my capstone professor, and my religion major peers were essential in my decision to apply.” 

Segall will use the award money to support her graduate studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she will pursue a master’s degree in divinity. After graduate school, she hopes to begin a career in interfaith dialogue and diplomacy.

Outside of the classroom, Segall cites the invaluable encouragement and support she received from her housemates, friends, and teammates. “They constantly hyped me up and challenged me to be my best self throughout my entire Oberlin experience: academically, athletically, and personally. I’m very lucky to have such strong Obie support systems that consistently build me up in the moments I need it most.”

At Oberlin, Segall was a participant and facilitator for the Barefoot Dialogue Program, and she worked for the Department of Rhetoric and Composition as a speaking and writing associate. She was also a member of the Oberlin College Field Hockey team for three seasons.

When thinking about how the award may affect the pursuit of her studies, Segall says, “I hope this prize allows me to continue to challenge ingrained assumptions and push forward in respectfully learning about and appreciating others’ cultural and spiritual beliefs and experiences.”

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