Student Spotlight

Amanda Platek, MA Candidate in Religion

Where did you grow up? 
I am originally from Rye, NY, and I have lived in Manhattan for the past six years. 

Amanda PlatekWhat drew you to your field? 
I studied Buddhism and aesthetics as an undergraduate. I worked in finance for four years before returning to GSAS for my MA. I was drawn to the Department of Religion as it provides a venue to thoughtfully approach philosophical, technical, and theological questions in a cross-disciplinary environment. My current research integrates Buddhism, dreams/oneirology, psychoanalysis, and film theory. The ability to undertake a project of this nature within the department and the greater GSAS community has been formational and foundational to my studies. While the Department of Religion has various tracks and specializations, there is a strong emphasis on mastering theory and method, and as much as we dive deeply into the specifics of our interests, we develop foundational skills that reformulate our approaches to reading, questioning, and thinking.  

How would you explain your current research to someone outside of your field? 
When asked about my current research, I tell people that I study Buddhism, dreams, film and psychoanalysis.

What is your favorite thing about being a student at Columbia GSAS?
GSAS has a wonderfully diverse, intellectually charged student body. The academic environment and high level of discussion is as much a product of my professors’ leadership as it is my peers contributions. I've taken advantage of cross-enrollment in other departments and schools to expand my academic network. My peers have helped me to rethink how I speak, listen, and engage.

What Columbia resources or opportunities have been most valuable to you?
The Columbia library network has been an amazing resource. As a bibliophile, I have found the library spaces to be wonderful havens and the university’s collection to be inexhaustible. Through the Butler and  Burke Rare Book Libraries, I have been able to study rare books pertinent to my area of research. The reciprocal program also allows me to utilize the NYU library, which is close to my apartment.

Is there a common misconception about a topic in your field that you wish you could correct?
The Department of Religion can often be misperceived as a vocational program (i.e., preparing clergy or religious professionals). In fact, we engage various strains of philosophical, cultural, social, and ethical questions in a cross-disciplinary environment.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I am proud to be an advocate and mouthpiece for all Master’s students as the Master's Affairs Chair, a new role on the student council, the Arts and Sciences Graduate Council (ASGC). With the attention and commitment of the GSAS deans, we have done great work in the past year to address the specific needs of Master’s students and improve their quality of life while at Columbia.

Who are your favorite writers?
I absolutely love to read, and though I am often knee-deep in theory for my thesis, I like to dive into Paulo Coelho, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Miller.

Who is your hero of fiction?
Santiago in The Alchemist — a shepherd who recalibrates his life to follow his dreams. Conviction is difficult but something I strive for in my daily life, and this character (and book) is a constant reminder.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Those who inspire me academically and personally peers, professors, friends, family.

Who in your field do you consider to be a role model?
I feel lucky to be at Columbia with many phenomenal academic professionals. I’ve learned something foundational from every professor I’ve studied (and am studying) under.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I’m quite happy with my life, so I would hope to just have a near-death experience and return to my current situation.

What music have you been listening to lately?
Lana Del Rey, VHS Collection, and Chopin. An eclectic trio.

What is your favorite blog or website?
Reddit, definitely, though I should mention that Courseworks and Clio are currently my most visited sites.

Where is your favorite place to eat on or around campus?
Jin Ramen, Hungarian Pastry Shop, and Absolute Bagels.