After a year of collaboration with LSA Student Government, the History Department has created a new minor in religion. Students were able to declare the minor starting the first week of winter semester.
The religion minor aims to provide a historical perspective on world religions and encourage awareness on campus. While there are religion courses offered throughout various departments, there is currently no religious studies department at the University.
Matthew Lassiter, associate professor of history and director of undergraduate studies in the History Department, said the minor will help centralize the various religion classes currently offered.
“There are a number of different departments that program and do a lot with religion, which is why we wanted to make it multidisciplinary,” Lassiter said.
No major or minor in religious studies has been offered at the University since its suspension in 1999. Founded in 1966 by Biblical Studies professor David Noel Freedman, the program was discontinued due to a lack of graduate programs and other commitments of faculty who were shared with other departments.
The interest in a religion minor originally came from LSA junior Natasha Dabrowski, academic relations officer for LSA Student Government, who wanted to shift the focus of the courses offered from an ethnic approach to a historical one.
Dabrowski said the University needed a religion minor that was more comprehensive and overarching. The LSA Student Government supported her vision for the minor, proposing the religion minor to the History Department to move away from the philosophical or psychological perspectives.
“Religion is a course that is an extremely important and influential part of American history, our society, politics, wars and everything else,” Lassiter said.
The religion minor will also complement other fields of study such as pre-law, pre-medicine and business.
“It gives you a better understanding of a patient you will be treating in a hospital and their religious beliefs,” Dabrowski said.
Lassiter said he doubts there will be a religion major in the near term, but said there is intense interest in a religion minor and said it could be strong evidence for supporting the idea in the future.
All University students — other than current history majors or minors — are eligible for declaring a religion minor. Dabrowski was the first University student to declare the minor.
Although there is no prerequisite course, all students must take History 105 in order to complete the program.
Along with the co-requisite course, religion minors are required to take five additional courses at the 200 level or higher, two of which must be at the 300 level or higher. The five additional classes must cover at least two religions out of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or another tradition approved by an adviser. Two of these courses also have to be outside of the History Department.
History Prof. Paul Johnson, who teaches History 105, said the course will introduce key terms, such as rites of passage, which will be crucial for future exploration of the discipline.