Please visit our NEW WEBSITE at http://religiousstudies.usu.edu/default.aspx
the Summer 2004 issue of Utah State Magazine, Jane Koerner wrote:
"When history department chairman Norm Jones and his colleagues
proposed a religious studies program for Utah State University, one
skeptic after another said the idea could never fly in a state where
politics mirrors deep religious fault lines. They were wrong."
The Religious Studies Program was approved by the university's Institutional
Board of Trustees on April 8, 2005, and opened its doors to students
for Fall Semester 2006.
its way to official status, in addition to internal planning, Utah
State University consulted well-known religious studies scholars:
Professor Robert Orsi, former Chair of the Committee for the Study
of Religion at Harvard University, now at Northwestern; Professor
Peter Kaufman, from the Department of Religious Studies at the University
of North Carolina; and Professor Jan Shipps, a USU alum and emeritus
professor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
Religious Studies Program, which is the first such degree program
in the Intermountain West, was enhanced by a number of generous
endowments. Initially, a $1.5 million gift from the Charles and
Annaley Redd Foundation established the university's first chair
in Religious Studies and first appointment solely in Religious Studies.
The Charles Redd Chair in Religious Studies was quickly augmented
by the Leonard J. Arrington Chair in Mormon History and Culture,
sponsored by more than forty-five donors. In addition, a $600,000
gift from the Tanner Charitable Trust has provided the new Religious
Studies Program with an endowment for purchasing library materials
to support the new program.
2006, the Charles Redd Chair was filled by the appointment of Charles
S. Prebish, a well-known Buddhist Studies scholar who had taught
at Pennsylvania State University for more than thirty-five years
and had recently been honored by his Buddhist Studies colleagues
with a festschrift volume titled Buddhist Studies from
India to America: Essays in Honor of Charles S. Prebish. Prebish
joined the faculty at USU in January 2007. The Arrington Chair was
filled by Harvard-educated Philip Barlow, a Utah native and LDS
Church member who has carved out a highly productive career at Hanover
College, Indiana, where he has taught since 1990. Barlow joined
the USU faculty in Fall 2007. By accepting the Arrington Chair,
Barlow becomes the first person in a public institution to be specifically
hired to study the history and culture of Mormonism.
interdisciplinary Religious Studies major consists of 36 credits,
six of which are earned by taking two required courses: Introduction to Religious Studies and
a Religious Studies Capstone seminar. The remaining 30 credits are
earned by taking new and existing courses in three areas: Cultural
Inquiry, Scientific Inquiry, and Doctrinal Inquiry. In addition,
a Religious Studies Minor is being offered, consisting of 15 credits,
and requiring the first of the two required courses listed
above for the major. It is expected that students completing the
Religious Studies Major will understand the influence upon culture
and the influence of culture upon religion; analyze the influence
of religious value systems on individuals; apply appropriate methods
of research and argumentation to questions concerning religion and
culture; communicate their findings in clear well-reasoned writing;
and express cultural literacy concerning the major religions of
the Religious Studies Program began with courses already in existence
in the university curriculum, it graduated its first major, Trevor
Alvord, a 26 year old student from Ogden, Utah, in May 2007. Alvord
came to USU because of the Folklore and Religious Studies Programs.
He has said, "I think religious studies will be the best thing
that has happened to Utah State in a long time. The community here
is so passionate about religion, and this will add an academic level
religion is such a profoundly sensitive issue in Utah, Gary Kiger,
Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and
university president Stan Albrecht sought and received much input
from the local religious communities and surrounding universities
prior to beginning the movement to launch the Religious Studies
Program. Virtually everyone was enthusiastic and supportive of the
endeavor, leading Kiger to remark, "Utah State is the perfect
place for a religious studies program. We have the credibility,
the resources, and the reputation." Enrollments have been packed
to the limit for Religious Studies courses, and the demand for future
courses is overwhelming. The unit has already gained many majors,
and students enrolled in the university's honors program have chosen
to select Religious Studies courses as part of their curriculum.
the new program has its two endowed chairholders as its current
core faculty, additional funding is currently being sought to provide
additional endowed chairs in Judaism and the Hebrew Bible, Islamic
Studies, Hindu Studies, Catholic Studies, and Christian Studies.
Because Religious Studies regularly draws on faculty from within
the disciplines of Sociology, Languages, Art History, English, Philosophy,
History, Psychology, and Anthropology, the university already provides
a wide range of courses in these disciplines, staffed by a group
of nationally and internationally acclaimed scholars, including
such individuals as Norman Jones, Richard Sherlock, Richley Crapo,
and Bonnie Glass-Coffin. Utilizing all facilities and faculty currently
available to it, the Religious Studies Program is offering an incredibly
balanced and comprehensive study of religion.
Redd, trustee of the Charles and Annaley Redd Foundation and a 1961
Utah State graduate has said, "A well-educated person ought
to have a basic understanding of each of the world's religions.
Historically, the religious impulse to believe in a supernatural
or divine being and to construct a purpose for human existence is
found in all peoples throughout all of recorded history. This impulse
is deeply felt by many today, both for good and ill. A religious
studies program will begin the process of asking why we believe
and act as we do." To that end, we hope that Utah State University's
new Religious Studies Program will continue to be an exciting place
of inquiry, learning, and sharing.