Hometown: Glen Head, N.Y.
Growing up in England, on Long Island and in New Hampshire, Nick Noreña was impressed on a visit to Davidson by the warmth of the people and the place. Farther north, students shuffled to class hunched against the cold. Here, not so much. And they made eye contact. "At Davidson, I had a gut reaction to the people." His gut said to come on. So, he did, on a Presidential Scholarship.
The Question of Why
The basic question of why people do the things they do led Noreña first toward psychology. Upon investigation, he found the field "too science-y" for him. "You can't prove everything by the scientific method. Eventually you hit this wall called faith. I think more abstractly than psychology wanted me to." He shifted his focus to Comparative Religious Studies and Middle East Studies.
The Road to Damascus
The son of a Colombian dad and Italian-American mom, Noreña has lived in a Tibetan monastery and studied Arabic in Syria as a Davidson student. He and fellow language students traveled to Damascus in summer 2010 with Assistant Professor of Arabic Rebecca Joubin, who will direct the inaugural "Davidson in Syria" program in spring 2012. He's grateful for that travel-research collaboration. "She wanted to help us pioneer this idea she had."
Senior year, Noreña continued exploring the intersection of spirit, faith and religion. He's a charter member of the interfaith service group Better Together, a member of a Buddhist group organized by Assistant Professor of Religion Hun Lye, a founding leader of a campus meditation group, and co-editor of Availing student magazine. "My passion lies in the study of religion. More than going to church, I find what I need at this point in life is studying religion. I'm more of a humanist."
Money, Meet Mouth
In the end, for Noreña, the life of the spirit is about bringing it all home in the day-to-day. He's a Presidential Scholar and religion major, an Ultimate Frisbee player, a trip leader with Davidson Outdoors and a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. "In religious dialogue, an ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory."