Religious Studies is the academic study of religion from a variety of perspectives, using a variety of different disciplines. In keeping with the mission of Saint Michael's College, the Religious Studies Department offers a wide range of courses that study the broader Christian religious tradition and the Roman Catholic tradition in particular. We also offer a variety of courses in the study of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In addition, our courses tackle broader philosophical and cultural issues surrounding the phenomenon of religion. Some students choose to create a focus for their major in specialized areas such as Christian traditions and thought, World Religions, Ethics, Early Christian Studies, or the study of the Bible.
Religious Studies majors learn to think critically about and evaluate the claims made by various religious groups. They gain detailed knowledge about the history of the world’s religious traditions, and they are expected to develop an empathetic understanding of the world-views of others. Our graduates more fully understand the complex interplay between religion and other aspects of society, and they learn how various people both past and present have lived out their spiritual lives. Few areas of study are as relevant for understanding our twenty-first century world as the study of religion.
Many Religious Studies majors also double major in another discipline. Popular combinations with Religious Studies are Political Science, Psychology, English, History, and Elementary Education. In addition, many students choose to minor in Religious Studies. Current Religious Studies minors are majoring in such diverse fields as Business Administration, Biochemistry, Sociology, Economics, Media Studies, Anthropology, Biology, and Classics, among others.
Religious Studies Learning Outcomes:
Students will demonstrate comprehensive, in-depth understanding of the Christian tradition.
Students will demonstrate a familiarity with religious traditions other than Christianity, and deeper understanding of at least one of these traditions.
Students will demonstrate understanding of the field of religious studies, including an appreciation of disciplines and sub-disciplines within the field.
Students will demonstrate increased religious literacy, including the ability to comprehend a range of theories and methods in the study of religion.
Students will demonstrate appreciation of the complexity of interpretations in the study of religion including hermeneutical theories.
Students will demonstrate understanding of the importance of research and scholarship through completion of a Senior Thesis to be completed in RS410 (Sr. Seminar).
There are many special opportunities available for a Religious Studies major or minor at Saint Michael's.
As a Religious Studies major you will always have a Religious Studies professor as your academic advisor, so you get the very best advice about courses, study abroad, senior thesis topics, and careers.
A highlight of your program is that majors (and minors if they choose!) participate in the 2-part senior capstone experience of RS 310 (Religion: Theory and Method) and RS 410 (Senior Seminar). In the fall semester of senior year you take RS 310 and develop ideas for your senior thesis. You write your senior thesis in the spring semester of senior year, working closely on a specific project with one faculty member. This chance to work in close collaboration with a faculty member on your thesis is one of the high points of being a Religious Studies major.
If you are interested in studying abroad, there are many study abroad programs which have great courses on religion. Recent majors have studied religion at leading universities, such as Oxford. In the past three years, Religious Studies students have studied in Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, India, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and many other countries. These courses can really broaden your understanding and experience of religion as a worldwide cultural force, and most of them can be counted towards your Religious Studies degree from Saint Michael’s.
Back at Saint Michael's you can get involved in internships through the department or even apply for scholarships to work on a summer research project with one professor. Religious Studies department internships provide real life work experience coupled with an academic component designed by the student and directing professor. Examples of recent internships include working at a Catholic charity while studying Catholic social teaching, and working on a local program that promotes environmental ethics while investigating the concept of environmental stewardship in world religions. In recent years several Religious Studies students have been granted competitive awards to pursue research with a faculty mentor on such diverse topics as Christianity in Russia since the end of communism, and the influence of technology on the concept of community in religious groups in the Burlington area.
A degree in Religious Studies is similar to a degree in any Humanities subject, such as Philosophy, English, or History. Careers pursued by our recent Religious Studies graduates include:
- Media Consultancy
- University Admissions Officer
- Social Work
- Graduate School in Religious Studies
- Brewing (true!)
- Law Enforcement
- Campus Ministry
- Prosecutor's Assistant
Saint Michael's Religious Studies majors have had great success in acceptance to graduate programs. Recent graduates have received advanced degrees in Religious Studies/Theology from such institutions as:
- Brown University
- University of Chicago
- Boston College
- The Catholic University of America
- University of Hawaii
- University of Kansas
Our majors have also pursued graduate studies in other disciplines, including:
- international relations
- special education
- criminal studies
- high school counseling