What does it mean to major in religious studies?
Religious Studies aims to understand sympathetically yet critically the world’s religions, and to explore the phenomenon of religion itself as a prominent component of human life and culture.
Through courses in sacred texts, world religions, and contemporary religious life, religious studies majors explore the means by which human beings have expressed themselves religiously, both historically and cross-culturally. This exploration involves studying myths, rituals, symbols, divine figures, and scriptures, as well as mastering the methods and analytical tools required by an academic approach to religion. All major cultures continue to be influenced by religious traditions and ideas, and citizens need to make well-informed judgments about the cultural forces shaping global events. The major cultivates skills such as critical thinking, textual analysis, curiosity, open-mindedness, ethics, decision making, and understanding other cultures and ways of life.
Why is the University of Mississippi a good place to study religious studies?
There are five religious studies faculty in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, with different areas of expertise ranging from Judaism, Chinese religions, Buddhism, biblical studies, religious ethics, feminism and religion, Islam, and Christianity, comparative religion. Our department is small enough that professors know their students personally, offering advice in scheduling classes, deciding upon a career, and seeking complementary educational opportunities (such as internships and study abroad).
Students have the opportunity to study religious life from a perspective unlike that offered in traditional religious institutions, and allows students to study different religions of the world in a distinctively systematic way. Religion students take classes that involve visits to the places of worship of different religions, and they can apply to participate in community-based internships.
The Department of Philosophy and Religion also sponsors a Forum Series and bi-annual Furr Lecture that welcome well-known scholars to campus, allowing students to meet major thinkers in the field.
Dr. Sarah Moses, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, earned her Ph.D. at Boston College. Her central research involves social and religious ethics, and she is author of Ethics and the Elderly. She is currently working on a chapter about ethics and contemporary aging for an edited volume on Christian ethics.
An award-winning teacher, Dr. Moses oversees internships and services-learning projects.
She teaches a Medical Humanities class that provides a weekly shadowing experience at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi combined with observations in class and readings with different viewpoints on medicine from the humanities and from around the world. “The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of factors that shape the human experience of illness and medicine in a contemporary clinical setting, such as historical, cultural, societal, emotional, economic, or religious factors. Students get a holistic perspective on medicine that will help them, whether they plan to be doctors, healthcare administrators, policy advocates, or hospital chaplains.”
Why study religious studies at UM? “The comparative study of religion and ethical values gives students an important lens on the diverse cultures and societies of the world in which they live. Whether they are going on to a career in healthcare or business, students gain broader insight into human experience and the values and institutions which influence human behavior.”
What can religious studies majors do after graduation?
A liberal arts education empowers and prepares students to deal with complexity and change through a broad knowledge of the world. They gain key skills in communication, problem-solving, and working with a diverse group of people. Related careers in political science include religious professions, non-profit work, law, medicine, education, public relations, social services, and counseling.
Jessica Williams (BA religious studies, minors in English, psychology ’14) Home Town: Quitman, GA
“I wanted to learn more about my faith along with other world religions, so I decided to switch from history to religious studies. The major is a key part of my personal journey. It opened my mind to different cultures and has gave me the desire to look outward and embrace the title of global citizen.”
Jessica was a Writing Center tutor, a teaching assistant for religious studies professors, and a global ambassador to international students. She served on the leadership team for the campus ministry Reformed University Fellowship, was president of the Theta Alpha Kappa honor society, and helped plan a religion festival. Jessica participated in Harvard’s Diversity and Explorations program. Her final thesis was on Jews in the South, and she traveled to the Mississippi Delta to research the Jewish tradition.
After graduation Jessica served in Albania as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. She is currently earning her Master’s degree in social work at the University of Kent in England. Jessica has a passion for young people and children and wants to work with a non-profit outside the United States, maybe starting in Albania.
Why study religious studies at UM? “The major broadened my horizons and opened my mind to move to another country and excel there. The things I learned were intriguing and vital to who I am today. As an aspiring social worker, I know that my degree will help me to accept those that are different from me. I will have at least a basic understanding of their religious worldview.”