Why Take Religious Studies Courses

Students who declare a RELS major often find a community within the small department that they can’t find in other departments. Students can experience intellectual rigor and a liberating sense of personal growth in their religious studies classes because they may feel no compulsion to attain a set of “marketable” skills. Many students have most valued their RELS courses for expanding and enriching their view of the world. Watch and read some testimonials from our alumni explaining how RELS courses benefited them in their professional and personal lives.

“When I started school at the College it was the first time I had lived in the US for an extended period of time. Religious Studies classes reminded me of home and helped me to cope with living in a foreign place. The lover of understanding other cultures was reminiscent of my international education growing up in Asia. One of the things that I value most about my religious studies training is the conversations and relationships I have developed with the professors and students in the department and in my classes. The reason I have cultivated such meaningful relationships with other majors is not only because we’re studying the same things but because we all share a desire to explore the unfamiliar. I value the empathy that my classmates and I have developed since taking religious studies courses, an empathy I know we share for one another and the people that surround us in our daily lives. I am proud of the fact that I can share my knowledge about Muslims and Islamic culture because of my Island in America class. I am proud that I can carry on a conversation with an Evangelical Christian and establish some kind of empathetic connection because of my training in religious studies theory. Everything I do is filtered through the Religious Studies lens that I have refined and worked at since declaring my major and continues to inform the way I approach every aspect of my life," Paige Anderson, class of 2013

“The time spent earning my religious studies degree has been enormously valuable. To my surprise, my academic achievements have far surpassed what I thought I was capable of, and the gratification I have felt from this alone is immeasurable. It has been a privilege to gain an education from an incredibly supportive and knowledgeable faculty. Originally drawn to religious studies through a fascination with Hindu, Daoist, and Buddhist philosophy, I have found that my degree has allowed me to explore areas and take paths I could have never imagined—from monks on mountaintops and Kabbalah heavens to the bottom layers of Greek cosmology. The breadth of topics I have covered has infinitely added to the wonderment I feel about the world around me, particularly concerning religion, and my sense of self in it. Halfway through my degree, my long-time thirst for travel was satiated by a study-abroad opportunity in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia. For the first time, I found the thrill of pushing the boundaries of academic thought matched by the excitement of overcoming cultural boundaries through travel and exposure to unfamiliar places. Approaching these experiences from the point of view of religion provided a cohesive and meaningful way of understanding other ways of seeing the world, and it was immensely rewarding, to say the least. My greatest accomplishment has been the unique way of navigating life through the lenses of religion that I have gained—it is challenging, intoxicating, and I feel its boundaries are endless. It has made my religious studies degree the most valuable one that I feel I could have earned, and it has guaranteed that my path forward is a truly exciting one.”  Hannah Booth, class of 2013

“I recently finished up my second of three years at law school and wanted to let all my former professors know that religious studies was great preparation for law school, particularly the skills I developed like bracketing and textual interpretation. I’m on track to become an environmental lawyer and this year wrote a paper about the potential for green religious adherents to use religious freedom statutes to protect the environment.”Robert Sherrier, class of 2015 and Juris Doctor candidate at Emory University School of Law