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Religious Studies

Department of Religious Studies 


For More Information


Missouri State University
901 South National Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65897
Office: 417-836-5514
Fax: 417-836-4757
Email: ReligiousStudies@missouristate.edu
http://www.missouristate.edu/relst

Career Preparation

With the rise of globalization, it is becoming crucial to understand the role that religion plays in American society and in broader international relations. Therefore, the Religious Studies major is designed to open up broad vocational possibilities. It provides students with an excellent liberal arts education comparable to that of students who study literature, languages, history, philosophy, sociology and the like. Although not a specific vocational preparation, the major enables one to develop a variety of skills and abilities that are readily transferable to a broad range of occupational fields.

The major, especially when combined with a complementary minor and electives, leads to job/career opportunities in areas both related and unrelated to religious studies. Examples of related occupational fields are social work positions with government and not-for-profit organizations, specialist research and consultant positions, positions in journalism and other communications media and ministry positions within religious organizations. Examples of non-related occupational fields are retail trade; sales; administrative functions in communications; insurance underwriting and claims; student service areas in business schools, colleges and universities; personnel; and many other similar possibilities. Individuals who enter these careers can expect incomes approximating the national median.

Religious Studies majors and minors who have worked with Career Services to learn the job search process and also participate in the Cooperative Education program have been very successful in the job market.

Academic Program

The Department of Religious Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts major and a Bachelor of Science major requiring at least 33 semester hours, including an 18-hour core curriculum and 15 hours distributed among history of religions, biblical studies, history of Judaism and Christianity and religion, self, and society. The sample schedule below is for the B.A. major. For the B.S., electives can be substituted for the courses in the sample schedule marked B.A.

An 18-hour minor in Religious Studies is available with the Bachelor of Arts, the Bachelor of Science, the Bachelor of Science in Education and the Bachelor of Social Work degrees. Students willing to enter the program would find it helpful to stress English and history while in high school. Though not required, courses in foreign languages, computer science and religious studies also would be helpful.

Religious Studies at a state university is often misunderstood. Simply stated, we study about various religions. Or, to put it another way, we study religions in a way that seeks to understand them in a fair and sensitive manner. This means we do not "teach religion" from a faith perspective; that is, students are not taught to be "religious." While the law prohibits confessional religious instruction in a state university, it encourages the academic study of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 1963 decision said, "One’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization." Therefore, while religious studies professors are sometimes rabbis, priests, ministers, etc., they do not teach spirituality and religious dogma. Rather, they are educators like other professors in the university. They conduct their classes in a fashion similar to classes in history, philosophy, sociology and similar academic disciplines, enjoying the same rights and responsibilities of religious freedom as do all members of the Missouri State faculty as well as all citizens of the United States. They are prohibited from imposing their faith on others in the classroom but are free to practice, or not practice, religion according to the dictates of their consciences outside the classroom.

Students who enroll in religious studies courses can be certain that they are free to bring any faith commitment to these courses and that they will be able to interact freely with different interpretations people have given to religious persons and their teachings. Because faculty are dedicated to teaching excellence, students find that they are given individual attention. Faculty/student ratios are excellent with beginning level classes averaging about 1:40 and advanced classes averaging about 1:20.

Courses

The Department of Religious Studies offers a wide range of courses.  The introductory course, Introduction to Religion, is the most popular, followed closely by courses about the Bible, American religions and world religions. Five of our courses can be used to meet General Education requirements. We offer courses for honors students every semester and participate in the Service Learning Program. Please consult the Missouri State Catalog online at www.missouristate.edu/catalog for details.

Faculty

Our faculty members, with graduate degrees from leading universities throughout the country, have attracted national and international attention through their many books and hundreds of articles. Most faculty have traveled and studied abroad and bring a global perspective to the classroom. Many professors in this department have received a teaching, research, service or an advising award, and several have received multiple awards. All of the faculty are active in their professional societies, and many have held executive positions in these societies. The department has one endowed chair, The Blanche Gorman Strong chair of Protestant studies held by Dr. Schmalzbauer.

 

Opportunities

The Department of Religious Studies at Missouri State is unique. It was the first religious studies department in a Missouri state university when it was founded in 1969. It was the first to offer a minor in 1972, the first to offer a major in 1982 and the first to offer an M.A. in 1994. Today it is one of the largest and best undergraduate departments of religious studies in a state university anywhere in the Midwest.

Religious Studies graduates already have experienced a high level of success in being admitted to quality graduate programs. Several of our majors complete our own outstanding M.A. program with assistantships or scholarships. We have had students accepted with excellent scholarships in most of the finest graduate schools in the country,  including Harvard University, Princeton University, Emory University, University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Pennsylvania, Florida State University, Yale Divinity School, Brite Divinity School and Candler School of Theology.

The department has sponsored many outstanding lecturers over the years to enrich both religious studies students and the wider campus community. Numerous educational trips to the Middle East and Europe have been sponsored for students. These trips have included several summers of hands-on excavation experience in Israel. In recent years the department has been able to offer more than $4,000 each year in scholarships to majors and minors.

Sample Schedule

Missouri State is committed to assisting students to graduate in four years--see sample graduation plans for this major.

The following is a sample schedule for this major--your actual schedule will vary.

Freshman Year

First Semester Courses Hours
ENG 110 Writing I 3
REL 100 Introduction to Religion 3
KIN 100 Fitness for Living 2
REL 101 Literature and World of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible 3
GEP 101 First-Year Foundations 2
MTH 130 or Higher 3
Total Hours 16
Second Semester Courses Hours
CSC 101 Computers for Learning 2
REL 102 Literature and World of the New Testament 3
Gen Ed: Natural World 4
REL 131 Religion in America 3
COM 115 Fundamentals of Public Speaking 3
Total Hours 15

Sophomore Year

First Semester Courses Hours
REL 210 Paths of World Religions 3
B.A.: Language 101 3
Gen Ed and B.A.: HST 103 World History 3
PLS 101 American Democracy and Citizenship 3
Gen Ed: Culture & Society/Social Science 3
Total Hours 15
Second Semester Courses Hours
REL Upper Level 3
B.A.: Language 102 3
Gen Ed: Natural World 4
HST 121 or 122 3
B.A.: HST 104 World History 3
Total Hours 16

Junior Year

First Semester Courses Hours
Upper Level REL Elective 3
Course for Minor 3
B.A.: Language 201 3
Writing II (ENG 310 Recommended) 3
B.A.:Fine Arts (Upper Level) 3
Total Hours 15
Second Semester Courses Hours
B.A.: Fine Arts (Upper Level) 3
REL Upper Level 3
B.A.: Language 202 3
Gen Ed and B.A.: PHI 105 or 110 3
Course for Minor 3
Total Hours 15

Senior Year

First Semester Courses Hours
REL 580 Theories of Religion 3
Upper Level REL Elective 3
Gen Ed: Self-Understanding/Creativity & Vision 3
Course for Minor 3
General Elective (Upper Level) 3
Course for Minor (Upper Level) 3
Total Hours 18
Second Semester Courses Hours
REL 500-level course 3
Courses in Minor (Upper Level) 3
Course for Minor (Upper Level) 3
General Elective (Upper Level) 3
Gen Ed: Self-Understanding/Social Behavioral 3
Total Hours 15