The department offers a combined major in philosophy and religion. Students may choose one of the four concentrations: either philosophy, religion, philosophy with an interdisciplinary focus or religion with an interdisciplinary focus. Whether concentrating in philosophy or religion, students in the department acquire the following fundamental skills and knowledge: the ability to think critically and rigorously with increased capabilities for problem solving and analysis of arguments; thorough familiarity with the literature, major figures, issues, ideals and practices of the discipline and the ability to express themselves clearly, soundly and persuasively in oral and written form. These three skill areas are the foundation and substance of a major in philosophy and religion. On the basis of this training, students should be prepared to express their own creative thought in a disciplined and effective manner.
What is Religious Studies?
The study of religion by its nature includes different disciplinary approaches and critical methodologies. Students completing a major with a concentration in religion will gain experience in these approaches and will improve in the following skills and competencies:
• researching and synthesizing complex information
• thinking critically, examining claims for strengths and weakness, assessing different perspectives on particular questions, and formulating persuasive arguments
• presenting research and arguments effectively in writing and public speaking
• competence in the major religious traditions of the world (Hinduism; Buddhism; Judaism; Christianity; Islam) and their expression in cultural and social practices
• specialized competence in particular topic areas in the study of religion (e.g. ethics; biblical studies; religious thought and theology)
• competence in the comparative and multi-disciplinary analytical methods used in the academic study of religion
• ability to make connections between religion and other areas of knowledge, such as literature, politics, history, ethics, and the arts
• ability to assess the role of religion in contemporary social and political contexts, American and global
All students who concentrate in religion take a 400 level capstone seminar during their senior year that will provide them extensive opportunity for research, critical and creative thought, and oral and written expression.
Career Opportunities and Marketable Skills
Many of the department's majors enter graduate school in philosophy or religion, law school or seminary. Alternatively, a departmental major graduating with a concentration in religion might move directly into work connected with religious service, into the human services fields or into teaching. A concentration in philosophy leads most directly into teaching or law school.
A student's opportunities are by no means limited to these more obvious options, however. While there is no direct path from philosophy and religion to many specific jobs, students who have majored in philosophy and religion successfully find satisfying employment. Employers seek many of the capacities which the study of philosophy and religion develops such as:
• problem solving
• effective communication in speaking and writing
• organization and analysis of ideas and issues
• assessment of the pros and cons of arguments and issues
• reduction of complex information to essential points
These capabilities represent transferable skills useful in almost every work environment. Many students of philosophy and religion ultimately find careers in business or industry, in government or public service, in law, human services and communications.
Students should work with the office of Academic Advising and Career Development for help in finding suitable employment.
For students interested in future studies or a career in the seminary, the pre-seminary adviser will help majors and minors design undergraduate programs that will prepare them for theological seminaries and university divinity schools. Academic counseling of students takes place within guidelines provided by the American Association of Theological Schools. Students are encouraged to visit various seminaries and the department welcomes seminary representatives to the campus to discuss the possibilities for further theological education with students. Interested students may receive academic credit for practical supervised fieldwork with social agencies and churches in order to help them find the particular forms of ministry (pastoral, campus, youth, missions, social, counseling) for which they are best suited. Qualified students are also encouraged to undertake independent study and write an honors thesis in their junior and senior years. For more information on pre-seminary study, contact Dr. Iain Maclean by phone at (540) 568-7059 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Co-curricular Activities and Organizations
A student-run Society of Philosophy and Religion, a philosophy honor society (Phi Sigma Tau) and a religion honor society (Theta Alpha Kappa) provide excellent opportunities for fellowship and student participation in the intellectual and social activities of the department.