Professors Gunasti and Michael
The founding of Ohio Wesleyan University is inextricably linked to the religious activity of the Methodist Church and the ethos that came from the Second Great Awakening that emphasized social reform and the role that institutions can play in improving people’s lives. The founders of OWU expressed this belief in the charter: the “University is ever to be conducted on the most liberal principles, accessible to all religious denominations, and designed for the benefit of our citizens, in general.”
A lot has changed in the United States since the founding of OWU in 1842, yet religion’s interest in social issues and our humanity has endured and is central to coursework in the department. The study of religion is concerned with understanding human responses in moments of crisis and solitude, love and hate, and suffering and death. The study of religion helps us make sense of our relationships to our communities and the environment, informs the quest for meaning in human life, and aids in the project of finding purpose in one’s existence. Religious studies is one of the primary disciplines that rigorously engages with the most profound issues of human existence as they touch upon theology, law, ethics, politics, philosophy, culture, and the arts. In order to engage these issues, the academic study of religion draws upon many disciplines—including literature, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, the arts, and history—in its examination of the many different religious traditions that have existed across time and place. The study of religion is very much concerned with issues of values and ethics, which is captured in the “How shall I live?” question—the very question at the heart of many inquiries into the nature of religion and social justice.
The academic study of religion is interdisciplinary, multicultural, and global and develops skills among students that are transferable and complimentary to their studies in other disciplines. Students with varied career interests, such as those in law, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations, refugee work, ministerial work, and community-based work and relations, will benefit from a major or minor in religion.
The Interdisciplinary Religious Studies Major is designed for students whose interests in religion intersect with their work in other disciplines, such as Literature, Fine and Performing Arts, Psychology, Politics & Government, Social Justice, Environmental Studies, or Sociology & Anthropology, or other career interests, such as those in law, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, refugee work, ministerial work, community-based work and relations, and non-profit organizations. The major involves taking 2 required introductory courses in the study of religion; taking an additional 4 elective courses in religion, or cross listed in religion; and taking 2 cognate courses in a discipline related to the student’s academic or professional interests—chosen in consultation with the Religious Studies Adviser. Note that no course can be double counted—each student must take 8 unique courses, one of which must fulfill an OWU Connection Experience. The cognate courses and the OWU Connection Experience course will be agreed to in consultation with the Religious Studies Adviser, whose advanced approval is required before filing for the major. Before the student declares the major, the student is required to meet with the Religious Studies Adviser in order to set out their path of study; this meeting should take place in the same semester in which the student intends to declare the major. At this meeting, the student and Religious Studies Adviser will formalize the student’s plans to complete the major with the Interdisciplinary Religious Studies Major Form.