Daniel Gaztambide, Class of 2006


Daniel Gaztambide

Thesis Title: "The Birth of A Dying Saviour:  Simon Peter on the Couch"
Advisor: Mahlon H. Smith

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Let me make this clear: if it were not for the Department of Religion, I would not have had the strength, resolve, and support to survive these last four years at Rutgers, let alone New Jersey. I flew thousands of miles away from my homeland in Puerto Rico to study Psychology at Rutgers. However, my experience was initially frustrated: I wished to study clinical psychology, but the department's requirements demanded that I take a barrage of more experimental and biologically oriented courses in psychology. That, along with a maelstrom of personal difficulties in adjusting to life in the U.S. mainland, made school all the more troublesome.
My desire to study something of more existential importance—something other than the structures of the eye or how the ear functioned—led me to the Department of Religion. Thanks to professors like E. Leigh Gibson and Mahlon H. Smith, I learned to appreciate the complexities of Jewish and Christian religions from political, theological, social, and even psychological dimensions. It was also here that I met the Psychologist of Religion James W. Jones, who rejuvenated my interest not only in clinical psychology, but also helped me come to terms with the world of more quantitative, empirical psychology. The combined mentorship, feedback, and support of faculty from both the Psychology and Religion Departments led me to begin what would become a two-year research, which eventually became a Henry Rutgers Thesis on a psychological look at Christian origins. Titled The Birth of a Dying Savior: Simon Peter on the Couch, my work stimulated (provoked?) intense discussion and debate during both my oral defense and public presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Hard work on my part (and editing on my advisor Prof. Smith's!) resulted in being awarded the Highest Honors on the project. This I consider nothing short of a blessing, a sign that my hardships were not in vain, and that my effort was well spent.
After graduation I intend to take a year off and continue working at the Psychology Department's Child Study Center. I also plan to continue writing and publishing my work on psychology and religion (some of which has already found a home with the Society of Biblical Literature's FORUM), and hope to enter into a graduate program in clinical psychology.