2018-2019 Undergraduate Course Catalog 
    Jul 25, 2024  
2018-2019 Undergraduate Course Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Religion, BA

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Philip P. Arnold
501 Hall of Languages

Director of Undergraduate Studies:

Marcia C. Robinson
501 Hall of Languages


Ahmed E. Abdel-Meguid, Philip P. Arnold, Zachary J. Braiterman, Virginia Burrus, Gareth J. Fisher, Ken Frieden, Ann Grodzins Gold, Biko M. Gray, M. Gail Hamner, Tazim R. Kassam, R. Gustav Niebuhr, William A. Robert, Marcia C. Robinson, Joanne Punzo-Waghorne, Ernest E. Wallwork, James W. Watts

Knowledge of religion is critical in today’s world. The academic study of religion at Syracuse University offers students the opportunity to explore religion in a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary context.

Students who take our courses learn to interpret the dynamics of religious thought, convictions, actions, and expressions. Some of the questions that they engage include: What kind of life is most worth living? How do we understand the nature of the world? How do we relate to ourselves and to others?

Students study religious life and thought from the perspectives of arts, ethics, ethnography, gender, history, literature, mythology, philosophy, political theory, psychology, scriptural studies, social sciences, and theology.

The academic study of religion is not simply a critical undertaking.  It is also often a transforming experience, introducing students to unfamiliar aspects of their own world, and to the religious realities of our global situation.

The Department of Religion has articulated three goals that shape its teaching and its expectations of what students in its courses and programs may expect to gain from this study:

1. to understand better the nature and diversity of religious expressions in the contemporary world and in history, and their power in peoples’ personal and collective lives;

2. to think more deeply and critically about religious experience and its modes of expression and forms of interpretation;

3.  to recognize and appreciate the difficulties and possibilities in a disciplined study of religion; and to become aware of a diversity of approaches and methods within that study.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Examine the degree of religious diversity in the world both historically and in the world today

2. Appreciation for the crucial role that religion has played in the course of human history

3. Critically and imaginatively analyze the role of religion in human expression, thought, and social institutions both historically and in the present day

4. Explain a particular religious tradition and/or problem within the study of religion

5. Recognize the difficulties inherent in undertaking a coherent, disciplined study of religion, and to be aware of the diversity of perspectives within that study

6.  Communicate effectively in writing

7. Communicate effectively orally

Major Requirements

Students wishing to obtain a B.A. in Religion must complete 30 credits (10 courses).  Of the 30 credits, 18 credits (6 courses) must be at the 300-level or above.  Up to 12 credits (4 courses) may be at the 100- or 200-level.

Other Requirements Regarding the Distribution of Credits:

Students must:

1. Take one course in each of the four areas: “Traditions,” “Society,” “Inquiry,” and “Literature”; and

2. Develop a concentration by taking at least two additional courses in one of the four areas.

Options Regarding the Distribution of Credits:

Students may earn up to six credits (2 courses) in individualized work within the Religion Department.  This includes Honors thesis, independent study, etc.

At the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, students may also apply up to 6 credits (2 courses) in courses taken outside of the Religion Department toward their major.

Additional Information

Students are strongly recommended to take courses in multiple religious traditions in consultation with their major advisor.

Students intending to pursue graduate study in religion are recommended to take at least nine credits (3 courses) under “Traditions.”

Students may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies to create their own concentrations based on certain themes in the academic study of religion (e.g., religion and gender or religion and sexuality).

In certain cases, students may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies to count courses listed under one requirement for a different requirement.  However, under no circumstances can students use the same course to count for two or more areas (i.e., students may not “double-count”).

Selected Topics courses (REL 100, 200, 300 or 400) and individual semesters of  REL 320  (“Themes in the Study of Religion”) may count toward fulfilling requirements for one of the areas listed above at the determination of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Graduate-level courses (numbered 600 and above), taken by undergraduate students at the permission of the instructor, may also count toward fulfilling requirements for one of the areas listed above at the determination of the course instructor. 

Both individualized work and outside courses may be approved to count for a student’s concentration requirements and/or the major requirement overall with the permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Students who qualify may earn a BA degree in Religion “with distinction.” Qualifications and requirements for this special honor include:

• completion of the Religion major with a 3.5 GPA in program courses and a cumulative 3.4 GPA by the end of the senior year;

• study of at least one foreign language through the 201 (intermediate) level; and

• preparation for (REL 498  , 3 credits) and writing and defense of a senior thesis.

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