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Majors & Minors

Course Catalog

Religious Studies

Religion has played, and continues to play, a central role in virtually all societies. It is intimately related to such key aspects of communities as the structure of political power, economic organization, class structures, conceptions of gender, marriage, work and war. In short, religion shapes both the institutional order and the thought and behavior of individuals who inhabit it. The study of religion, therefore, is basic to the liberal arts and helps prepare students for a variety of career paths, including journalism, law, business, education and work in philanthropic and religious institutions. The department offers a major and a minor in Religious Studies; it also offers a bridge major, which involves the combination of work in religion with courses in another or other fields. Key to the program are courses on the history, scriptures, thought, practices and institutions of both Western and Asian religious traditions. Attention is also given to the interaction between religion and society and to the comparative study of religions.


Requirements for a major

Religious Studies

Total courses required Nine
Core courses REL 130 (or REL 130E), REL 479
Other required courses
  • One course in biblical literature chosen from the following: REL 141, REL 142, REL 241.
  • One course in Western religious traditions chosen from the following: REL 132, REL 244, REL 250, REL 252.
  • One course in Eastern religious traditions chosen from the following: REL 253, REL 257, REL 258.
Number 300 and 400 level courses Three (inclusive of REL 479)
Senior requirement and capstone experience The senior requirement consists of the completion of REL 479 with a grade of C or better. Students should consult with their major advisors about the senior seminar before the beginning of the senior year.
Writing in the Major

The writing in the major requirement for Religious Studies is filled through REL 480, Senior Seminar. This course is designed to cultivate discipline-specific writing skills within the major consistent with norms of professional competence in the field of Religious Studies. Through the analysis and critique of multiple drafts of written work in close and intensive consultation with the instructor/faculty mentor, students spend the entire semester developing "publishable" article-length theses. In class writing includes brainstorming assignments, autobiographical writing, free-writing exercises, long essay exam compositions and the construction of group work reports. Out-of-class writing assignments are sequenced to produce a final scholarly project worthy of the discipline, with care given to the use of appropriate documentation and sources. In addition to the composition and sharing of multiple drafts of each section of their research papers, students are required to submit and defend anywhere from 3-5 drafts of their final 25-30 page paper to the seminar instructor. Satisfactory completion of the senior seminar requires students to achieve a grade of C or higher.

Religious Studies courses at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels build toward the senior thesis. At the intermediate and advanced levels multiple 5-10 page papers may be required as well as longer and more complex essay exam questions. Final papers ranging from 10 to 20 pages and developed over multiple drafts in consultation with faculty members are not unusual. Total written work for the semester will typically include a variety of the following: exam questions, quizzes, in-class writing assignments, discussion prompts, short papers, long papers, message boards, e-mail correspondence, workgroup write-ups, outlining of reading chapters, book reviews, and summaries from oral presentations.

Religious Studies bridged to another discipline

Total courses required Nine
Core courses REL 479
Other required courses Five additional courses (two at the 300-400 level)

Two courses in the other discipline at the 200-level or above.

One course in the other discipline at the 300-400 level.

Number 300 and 400 level courses Four (inclusive of REL 479)
Senior requirement and capstone experience
Additional information Students seeking a bridge major must submit a plan by the third year which includes a description of desired courses, a rationale for the bridge demonstrating unity and consistency, and one course designated as the "bridge course." This plan is to be submitted to the major advisor and is to be approved by the department.

Requirements for a minor

Religious Studies

Total courses required Five
Core courses One course in Western religious traditions to be chosen from the following: REL 130, REL 132, REL 141, REL 142, REL 241, REL 244, REL 250, REL 252

One course in Eastern religious traditions to be chosen from the following: REL 130, REL 130E, REL 253, REL 257, REL 258.

Other required courses REL 130 may be counted toward either the Western or Eastern religions requirement but cannot be counted toward both.
Number 300 and 400 level courses One