Vassar College

Department Name: 
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Number of Religion Majors: 
Number of Full-Time Departmental Faculty: 
Public Institution?: 
Related to a religious denomination or body?: 
Which best describes the institution?: 
Grants bachelor degrees only
Department offers undergraduate coursework in ministerial preparation (either a track, a minor, or a major)?: 
Department or institution offers masters programs in religious studies or theological studies?: 
Department or institution offers doctoral programs in religious studies or theological studies?: 
Description of Undergraduate Major: 

The concentration in religion provides an understanding of major religious traditions, an exposure to a variety of approaches employed within the study of religion, and an opportunity for exploration of diverse problems that religiosities seek to address. Many of todayʼs pressing political and social problems can be better understood with more knowledge about the religious practices that undergird them. By exploring the public and private concerns that religions engage — for example, the nature of community and solitude, suffering and death, good and evil — students will discover new ways of interpreting the complex world in which they live. As students venture into the religions of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, and Europe, they will learn about behaviors, doctrines, values, rituals, texts, and forms of community. Students will also discover much about conflict and accord within and between religions, as well as between religious and secular perspectives.

The Department's goals for all students enrolled in Religion courses include: (1) developing tools for understanding and interpreting religions in varied historical, cultural, and social contexts and for identifying and interpreting patterns across religious histories and cultures; and (2) engaging critically the various ways in which scholars of religion have attempted to understand and evaluate the nature and functions of religion as a vital force in human society, behavior, and global politics, both in the past and present.

The Department of Religion offers students a broad range of course options in recognition of the variety of academic approaches to the study of religion, including courses that engage the category of religion through textual analysis, sociology, historical studies, ethnography, material and popular culture studies, and philosophy, among others. In addition, department faculty participate in many of the College's multidisciplinary programs, including Africana Studies, American Culture, Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Jewish Studies, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and students are encouraged to take advantage of the resources available in these and other programs. We also encourage all students to apply for Junior Year Abroad. Majors are expected to develop breadth and depth in their studies, both in terms of methodology and traditions.