Religious institutions, beliefs, ideas, and practices are central to the workings of human societies across the globe. But what makes something “religious”? How does the concept of “religion” differ between cultures? How have religious traditions developed over time? And what possibilities for and challenges to human flourishing does religion offer in the contemporary world? These are questions that students explore in Religious Studies courses.
Our department offers a truly global perspective, with courses offered on the major religious traditions and on more local religious phenomena throughout the world. We also study religion from a variety of perspectives drawn from across the humanities and social sciences. : Our our department is home to anthropologists, environmentalists, historians, literary theorists, philosophers, philologists, and poets.
Students who major in Religious Studies gain expertise in the history and practices of particular religious traditions, encountered from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and in theoretical discussions of religion. They also learn how to engage with texts and other kinds of sources critically and sensitively, and to communicate their ideas and arguments clearly. Students specialize in two religious traditions, but they are encouraged to take a diverse range of courses that will expose them to the many methodologies and approaches that are used within Religious Studies, from environmental ethics to religions of the African diaspora to Buddhist meditation to spirituality in America.
II. Distinguished Majors Program
Qualified students who are interested in adding an independent research project to their program of study can apply for entry into the Distinguished Majors Program (DMP). In consultation with a faculty advisor, DMP students devise and undertake a course of research in a topic of interest to them, which culminates in a thesis of 30–50 pages, which they will have an opportunity to present publicly. They will learn how to conduct and present research in the RELG 4800 Research Methods in Religious Studies Workshop. Students are eligible to receive, at graduation, the honor of “Distinction,” “High Distinction,” or “Highest Distinction.”
III. Five-Year Religious Studies BA/MA Program
Students who are contemplating graduate studies in Religious Studies or who would like to engage with material at an advanced level can apply for admission to the five-year combined BA/MA program. Students must apply for this program in the Spring of their third year. They are required to take two 5000-level graduate seminars in their fourth year, and the following year they continue enrollment as MA students. Admission is competitive, and interested students should talk with faculty as early as possible.
Minoring in Religious Studies can enhance a student’s’ undergraduate education, whether their major is in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities. Students will specialize in one religious tradition and have the opportunity to study religion from a variety of perspectives.
V. Interdisciplinary Majors
Students who have questions or wish to learn more about the Department of Religious Studies’ undergraduate offerings are encouraged to contact the Department’s Undergraduate Administrator or the Director of Undergraduate Programs.