Religious studies is the academic inquiry into the fundamental stories, symbols, and practices that human beings construct to make sense of themselves and the worlds in which they live. The Department of Religious Studies pursues this inquiry across a range of religious traditions by examining their textual, historical, and cultural dimensions. This inquiry does not seek to determine which religious views are “right” or “true,” but rather attempts to gain insight into how religious systems of meaning-making have shaped the cultural orders in which we live-with particular attention to how religious discourses have shaped understandings of race, gender, sexuality, nation, and class. The department is explicitly committed to the liberal arts tradition with a commitment to fostering both global and pluralistic perspectives, as well as excellence in close reading, critical thinking, and effective communication.
The Department of Religious Studies offers a B.A. in Religious Studies, an undergraduate Minor in Religious Studies, an Honors program, and an early entry M.A. in Religious Studies. Most students who choose to major or minor in Religious Studies do so to benefit from a broad liberal arts education focused on one of the most fascinating aspects of shared human life: religion. With the flexibility of the program and its relationship to other areas of the University, students can meet the specific objectives of religious studies while taking a wide range of courses in other departments.
The department gives two scholarship awards to outstanding undergraduate majors: the Lambda Chi Alpha Loy T. Witherspoon Scholarship and the Underwood Scholarship. They are awarded each year to recipients who have demonstrated by their academic performance a serious commitment to the field of religious studies. The department also houses a chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honor society for students focusing on religious studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Religious Studies majors are often asked, “What can you do with that?” While some graduates do go on to careers in ministry or social work, most students who major in Religious Studies pursue a wide range of careers that demand strong writing, thinking, intercultural, and communication skills. Students can choose to go on to graduate school, law school, or other professional school or to careers in the non-profit sector, law, healthcare, public policy, education, and many other fields that value agile thinking and cultural competence.
Early Entry Programs