Religious studies gaining popularity

By By Parker Williams and By Parker Williams

By Parker Williams

Collin Hafen’s interest in religion began when he was young. He always enjoyed learning about religion, but didn’t know how to convert his interest to a college degree.

After investigating what options were available, Hafen said it was “very discouraging” to discover the U didn’t offer a religious studies major. Hafen later learned of the U’s bachelor of university studies program — a program where students can essentially design a personalized degree.

After selecting applicable courses, Hafen submitted his graduation plan to administrators and received approval to pursue his custom-made degree.

“I never knew I could pursue my interest in religion on the academic level,” said Hafen, who is now a senior.

After graduation, Hafen said he plans to attend law school, where he intends to focus on the use of religion in diplomacy.

Hafen isn’t alone in his interest in religious studies.

In response to a growing demand for more religion classes, a new religion and culture track was recently created as part of the comparative literary and cultural studies major.

“A liberal arts education should include some way to think about religious phenomena at large,” said Muriel Schmid, assistant professor of languages and literature and representative of the new religion and culture track.

Regardless of what major a student chooses, a perspective on the cultures and religions of others will be a great benefit to students, Schmid said.

Several universities around the state have religion programs in place. Although most of these programs offer four-year degrees, Utah State University works on establishing a master’s program in religion.

“There is a sense that the University of Utah is a little bit behind in…the study of religion,” Schmid said.

According to the College of Humanities, the number of courses about religion is going up.

“We’re seeing an overall trend, not just on the college level but within the university as a whole, towards the U offering more comprehensive options in religious studies,” said Heidi Camp, assistant dean for the College of Humanities.

Although there is no specific religion program, courses such as Political Thought Islam, Christianity in the Ancient World and Buddhist Thought are scattered throughout the history, philosophy and anthropology departments.

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