As many of you know, the College of Liberal Arts and the Classical and Near Eastern Studies Department completed a major revision of the Religious Studies major last spring. This past fall, it was my privilege to be hired to launch and administer the new program. Now, with one semester under our belts, we're delighted to report the addition of 34 new students to our ranks of majors and minors. I'd like to extend a hearty welcome to these students and express my profound thanks to the many faculty, staff, and students who have assisting in getting this program up and running. In particular, we all owe an enormous thanks to Sara-Jo Kriedeman, a senior RS major, who has done extraordinary work as the student assistant to the program this year.
Many of you will recall that the previous RS major focused on antique religions of the Mediterranean. The new major, which is still housed administratively in CNES but functions autonomously, builds upon our strength in that area and expands the scope of the program to provide comprehensive study across many religious traditions, geographical locations, and time periods. The new program is interdepartmental, drawing from courses offered in many departments across CLA. In particular, we have developed close ties with the departments of History, Asian Languages and Literatures, Sociology, Anthropology, and Art History, along with our continuing relationship with CNES.
The centerpiece of students' major programs is a four-course area concentration, which can focus on a particular tradition, theme, geographical location, methodology, or time period. Even a brief sampling of current students' concentrations is illuminating:
Social Justice in the Christian Tradition
Religion in the Medieval Period
Religion in the Contemporary Middle East
Mysticism across Religious Traditions
Religion, Public Life and Politics
Early Christian Interpretation of Judaism
Many students pair their work with the study of a language associated with the religious tradition or location under examination, and many students have incorporated a study abroad experience into their programs.
Our near-term goals include providing a variety of opportunities for our new RS community to come together, including lectures, informational lunches, and end-of-the-semester parties. Keep an eye out for communications from the RELS listserv. And enjoy the rest of the semester!
Jeanne H. Kilde
Monks with prayer flags, Bhutan