When Kelly Murphy enrolled in college after growing up in Virginia, she was the first in her family to do so.
"I was a first-gen student," she said. "My parents dropped me off and said, 'Here you go.'"
She set off on her own path to find her passion.
Kelly immediately fell in love with the academic study of religion.
"You get to ask the big questions and how over time people wrestled with those big questions … like why do bad things happen to good people," Kelly said. "And you can look at how different religions throughout history have answered those questions."
For her, it offered the chance to explore and experience the world through religious texts. It gave her insight into culture, religion, history and thought.
Now in her fourth year as an assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Central Michigan University, she brings that opportunity to her students.
"There is nothing better than sitting down with students and reading different texts and things that interest me and seeing their interest and intrigue in the same texts," she said.
Her courses range from the introduction of both the Old Testament and New Testament to "From Revelation to 'The Walking Dead': Apocalypse Then and Now."
"The students who take my class take it because they need to check the 1A box," she said. "But they are leaving with the thing we want every student to leave any class with, and that is better critical thinking.
"The skills students gain through studying my field are useful beyond the immediate classroom setting, no matter their future career paths."