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Religious Studies

Mission Statement

The Religious Studies Department educates students in religious and theological disciplines, including the study of religious texts, histories, beliefs, practices, and ethics.  Rooted in Santa Clara’s mission and identity as a Jesuit Catholic University, the department seeks to engage Catholic faith in critical dialogue with the world’s religious traditions and conduct Christian theology in conversation with a full range of religious studies methodologies.  The department thus aims to educate students in the knowledge and skills they need (1) to think in a multidisciplinary and contextualized way about religion and matters of Christian faith, (2) to reason critically and ethically about personal beliefs and institutional religious practices, (3) to explore how religions are lived and practiced in local communities and global contexts, and (4) to cultivate a sense of solidarity with poor and marginalized communities informed by the study of theology and religion.

The department offers a B.A. in Religious Studies, a minor in Religious Studies, and oversees an M.A. degree in Pastoral Ministries. In the general undergraduate program, the department offers the majority of courses for the Core’s requirement in “Religion, Theology, and Culture.” In the graduate program, a staff Director, a faculty Associate Director of Graduate Studies, and the standing committees in the department oversee the curriculum and teaching and are responsible for their own Assessment Plan. As teacher-scholars, department faculty members are actively engaged in all the major fields of religious studies, participating regularly in the main scholarly societies and publishing in their respective disciplines, and engaging students in research. 


Student Learning Goals and Objectives 

Goal #1: Students graduating with a major in religious studies will understand religion as multidimensional and the field of religious studies as interdisciplinary.


  1. Majors will identify and describe what constitutes the academic study of religion: the history of the field, the differences between religious studies and theology, and the multiple phenomena practitioners examine.

Goal #2: Students graduating with a major in religious studies will have a proficiency in research methods in the disciplines of religious studies, including field research.


  1. Majors will apply disciplinary approaches to the analysis and interpretation of religious phenomena, and design a capstone project with one or more of these approaches.
  2. Majors will recognize religious phenomena in a lived context and interpret the phenomena with disciplinary concepts or methods.

Goal #3: Students graduating with a major in religious studies will understand the relationship of Christian theology to other religious and non-religious contexts.


  1. Majors will identify and explain key features of the Christian tradition, especially the Roman Catholic tradition, in two different historical or cultural contexts.
  2. Majors will compare and contextualize central beliefs and practices of at least two different religious traditions, at least one of which will be non-Christian.