Religious Studies minor takes shape
October 19, 2010Tweet
A new Religious Studies minor is taking a multidisciplinary approach to allow students to learn about a multicultural world.
“There are already courses offered in (in Harpur College) in which religion is studied,” said Randy Friedman, assistant professor of Judiac Studies and philosophy and director of the minor. “There was just no centralized curriculum that would allow students to focus their studies on religion.”
Friedman said the idea for doing a program on the study of religions came from Jonathan Karp, associate professor of Judiac Studies. Since Friedman’s background and doctorate is in religious studies, it was decided that he was the right person to lead the project.
Friedman worked with the Harpur dean’s office to get the project off the ground and credited Jennifer Jensen, associate dean for academic affairs, with “shepherding” the process and helping it gain approval from Harpur departments and the Harpur College Council.
The minor was formally approved last spring and a faculty committee led by Friedman was formed.
“Our challenge was figuring out what the requirements would be,” he said. “How do you get someone with six courses enough of a focused curriculum that they have minored in the study of religion?”
Friedman examined more than a dozen similar programs at other schools and determined that there should be an emphasis on discipline and religious tradition.
“One of the great things about Harpur College is that these courses already exist,” he said. “There are courses on Islam, Judaism, Christianity, African religions, native American religions, multiple Asian traditions.”
The minor requirements include:
• at least two traditions, including but not limited to: African religions, Asian religions, Islam, Judaism, Christianity.
• at least two disciplines, including but not limited to: anthropology, biology, comparative literature, EvoS, philosophy, psychology, sociology.
• a minimum of six courses. Students can count two courses from their major toward the minor. Courses are now offered from a dozen departments.
• a course created specifically for the minor: PHIL315 “Method and Theory in the Study of Religion.” Friedman will teach the course, likely in the spring.
“I think we have a good model to study the multiple disciplines and multiple traditions,” Friedman said. “At Harpur, you want students to have a multidisciplinary background, but also want a focus on high-level study of the material.”
There is now one student pursuing the minor, said Friedman, who expects to initially draw students who realize they have taken some of the prerequisites.
“As we build the program, I think students will begin their course of study at Harpur thinking, ‘I am going to be an anthropology major’ or ‘I am going to be a philosophy major’ and minor in religious studies.”
Friedman believes the minor will benefit both students and the University.
“It benefits students because it provides them with a background in what is a central, moving force in world politics and world culture,” he said. “It benefits the University because it provides a meeting point for scholars from all of the disciplines who are working on the phenomena.”