May 21, 2024  
2023/2024 University Catalog 
2023/2024 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Study of Religion

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OFFICE: Arts and Letters 662
TELEPHONE: 619-594-5185 / FAX: 619-594-1004


Chair: Thomases, Drew J., Associate Professor of Religion (B.A., Hamilton College; M.A., Ph.D., Columbia University)

Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty:

Bartel, Rebecca C., Associate Professor of Religion, Associate Director of the Center for Latin American Studies (B.A., Canadian Mennonite University, Canada; M.A., Universidad de los Andes, Columbia; Ph.D., University of Toronto, Canada)

Levitt, Risa, Professor of Religion (B.A., York University, Canada; M.A., University of Toronto, Canada; M.A., Ph.D., University of California, San Diego)

Timalsina, Sthaneshwar, Professor of Religion (B.A., Mahendra Sanskrit University, Nepal; M.A., Sampurnananda University, India; Ph.D., Martin Luther University, Germany)

Whitaker, Jr., Delroi E., Associate Professor of Religion ( B.A., San Diego State University; M.D., Princeton University; M.T., Harvard University; Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University)


Feres, Angela M., Ph.D., Study of Religion

Kirkegaard, Brad A., M.A., Study of Religion

Meltzer, Scott A., M.A., Study of Religion

Sandvig, Kirk C., Ph.D., Study of Religion


Downing, Christine R., Ph.D., 1974-1992, Professor of Religious Studies

Frost, Christopher, Ph.D., 2006-2011, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies; Professor of Religious Studies

Gefter, Irving, Ph.D., 1970-1992, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Hansen, Wilburn N., Ph.D., 2007-2016, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Holler, Linda D., Ph.D., 1981-2010, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Letters; Professor of Religious Studies

Khalil, Issa J., Ph.D., 1969-1992, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Moore, Rebecca E., Ph.D., 1999-2015, Albert W. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies [Senate Distinguished Professor]

Sparks, Irving Alan, Ph.D., 1974-1999, Professor of Religious Studies

Stewart, Lori, M.A., 2007-2022, Lecturer of Religious Studies

Gillman, John, Ph.D., 1990- 2022, Lecturer of Religious Studies

Undergraduate Information

The Major

The academic Study of Religion is central to the creation of a community of world citizens. Our program is designed for students who live in a pluralistic society and who wish to investigate the role religions play in human life and society. Because religion has shaped the human story of almost every culture, it is difficult to understand human behavior or to interpret world events without grasping how religion has helped to determine them. As United States Supreme Court Justices Clark and Goldberg wrote in their decision allowing the study of religion in public schools, “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.” Part of the Liberal Arts, the Study of Religion employs critical analysis and methods from a variety of disciplines to understand religious traditions as well as to question the dogmas, stereotypes, and prejudices that may surround those traditions. In addition to investigating religious symbols, texts, practices, and belief systems, the study of religion examines the relationship of religion to ethics, contemporary social issues, politics, history, psychology, science, literature, and the arts.

Career Outlook

The Study of Religion prepares students for any career that requires critical thinking, analysis, oral and written communication skills, and the ability to reflect on questions of meaning and value. The study of religion is excellent pre-professional preparation for fields such as law, teaching, medicine, counseling, social work, conflict resolution, international business, foreign service, journalism, various ministries and other careers in non-profit organizations and public service. While some of our majors go on to do graduate work in religion or related academic fields, other graduates find themselves well prepared for careers requiring imagination, problem solving, communication, self-understanding, and awareness of human diversity.

Double Majors and The Minor

Because the Study of Religion is interdisciplinary and multicultural it is an excellent degree to complement many other majors. Double majors are easily accommodated within a well-designed four-year course of study, since the Study of Religion major has only a 36-unit requirement. Graduates from the program have had double majors with biology, communication, history, psychology, and other fields where the study of religion enhances or focuses the second major. The 15-unit minor is another way to combine your major interests with the academic study of religion. Anyone who is interested in human beliefs, behavior, and values would benefit from a minor in the Study of Religion.


All College of Arts and Letters majors are urged to consult with their department adviser as soon as possible; they are required to meet with their department adviser within the first two semesters after declaration or change of major.

Graduate Information

General Information

The department offers advanced coursework in the Study of Religion which may be used toward fulfilling advanced degree requirements in Interdisciplinary Studies and in other departments with the approval of the student’s graduate adviser.


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