The Religious Studies Department explores practices, beliefs, and cultures from a variety of angles and in multiple ways: through history, in politics, philosophically, as part of current events, in literature and sacred texts, through lived experience, within film and visual culture, in relation to science and economics, and through the study of ritual and ethics. Faculty in our department engage texts and traditions in areas of the world including India, Japan, Turkey, Germany, China, Israel, Italy, France, Mali, Morocco, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, and the United States.
As an inherently interdisciplinary field of study, Religious Studies prepares students for a variety of paths and careers. Our students are creative and critical thinkers who appreciate intellectual challenge and want to engage the world in all of its diversity. We encourage our students to ask questions with us, whether we are in the classroom, working at a local non-profit, visiting an area temple, studying abroad, or doing undergraduate research. We are a department of active scholars who care about the world and enjoy sharing our passion for the study of religion with students.
Majoring in Religious Studies has been incredibly helpful for my career. Through my coursework, I was able to develop skills for analysis that have been greatly valued in every job I’ve ever had. I’ve been relied upon as someone able to dive into a complex challenge, analyze it thoroughly and provide clear recommendations for how to address it. I’m valued for being a writer who is able to articulate complex concepts clearly and concisely. These are skills that were honed during my time in the Religious Studies department, skills that truly set me apart from my peers.
Erin Culp ’07, director of major giving and campaigns at Kettering Medical Center Foundation
Religious Studies Students Benefit from a Dynamic Curriculum
Religious Studies majors are encouraged to tailor their course selections to their personal interests. The credit-hour requirement for the religious studies major allows students to earn a double major or add minors. The department also offers popular minors in Religious Studies and in Interreligious Studies, programs that pair well with degrees in Communications, Business, History, Political Science, Psychology and many other fields of study.
The Department of Religious Studies offers a diverse set of courses, beginning with an introductory course titled “Religion in a Global Context.” Other introductory-level courses examine the diversity of Buddhist traditions, Hindu traditions, Secular traditions, Islamic traditions, Christian traditions, Jewish traditions, and biblical literature. Many of our upper-level courses engage aspects of these traditions in depth, and other upper-level courses explore topics such as Religion and Popular Culture, Satan and the Supernatural, Environmental Ethics, or Sites and Rites (Sacred Space and Ritual). Our faculty also offer study abroad courses in India, Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, and elsewhere around the world.
Religious Studies Students are Undergraduate Researchers
Many Religious Studies students pursue independent study and research projects with faculty mentors, and our students regularly attend and present at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR) annual conference. In 2018 thirteen students (pictured right) attended the conference and six students – Kimberly Byrne, Daniela Ceron, Katira Dobbins, Anya Fredsell, Joel Green, and Ali McCorkle – presented their original research at the SECSOR conference. Religious Studies students also present their research each year at Elon’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) and participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). Some of our students receive support for their research through Elon’s Multifaith Scholars program.
Research and writing are an enormous part of my law school career and because I already had strong skills from my experiences as a Religious Studies major, I was able to immediately utilize and adapt these abilities to my new environment. This made my transition to a new school and academic context so much easier. Through my discussions with my Religious Studies peers and professors, I learned how to explore different worldviews and ideas, a mindset that has proved invaluable throughout my legal education. The Religious Studies department helped me foster my passions in effective ways while I was at Elon and continued to guide me as I moved into the next stage of my studies; without this formative academic background and the department’s ongoing support, I would not be where I am today.
Melina Oliverio ’16
Student at American University, Washington College of Law
Religious Studies Students Have Global Perspectives
- Religious Studies students have most recently studied abroad in Denmark, France, Ghana, Hawaii, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Scotland, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey, as well as with Semester at Sea.
- Students have recently conducted research at the Sikh Gurudwara of North Carolina, yoga centers in India and the US, at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture in New York City, and within the Interfaith Worker Justice movement.
- They have served as interns at the High Museum in Atlanta, Planned Parenthood in Durham, NC, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
- Our students study and speak a variety of languages, including Arabic, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Latin, Spanish, and Tamil.
- Many of our graduates eventually work and live internationally, in places such as Germany, France, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, and Rwanda. Domestically our students are in locations as varied as Asheville, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, New York, Seattle, and DC.
Religious Studies Students Become Successful Graduates
Recent graduates have been accepted to top graduate programs at Duke Divinity School, Elon School of Law, Emory’s Candler School of Theology, Harvard Divinity School, Indiana University Bloomington, Princeton Theological Seminary, University of Chicago’s School of Divinity, University of North Carolina School of Law, University of Washington, Vanderbilt University, and Wake Forest School of Divinity.
Our students pursue careers in a variety of fields, including law, museum education, non-profit fundraising and management, chaplaincy, library science, social work, international human resources, secondary education, school counseling, the restaurant industry, and university teaching.
Religious Studies Faculty Are Engaged Scholars/Teachers/Mentors
Associate Professor Amy Allocco is an ethnographer who researches the religions of South Asia, particularly Hinduism and everyday religion in India.
Associate Professor and Department Chair Geoffrey Claussen focuses on the history of Jewish practice, ethics, and theology. His research deals with topics including love and justice, war and violence, and moral formation.
Professor Lynn Huber specializes in New Testament and Early Christian History, focusing on apocalyptic and gender and sexuality.
Assistant Professor Ariela Marcus-Sells is an Islamicist focusing on Sufi traditions of West Africa. She also studies the difference between religion, magic, and science.
Assistant Professor Andrew Monteith specializes in Religion in the United States. He is particularly interested in questions about secularism, social regulation, and popular culture.
Professor Brian Pennington directs the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society. He researches the history of Hinduism and modern religious change.
Professor Toddie Peters is a Christian social ethicist. Her research interests include economic ethics, globalization, feminist and liberation theologies, sexuality and reproductive justice.
Senior Lecturer LD Russell focuses on Religion and Culture. He leads a study abroad course in France.
Associate Professor Pamela Winfield specializes in East Asian religious traditions, especially Japan, and religion and visual culture.