U to offer religious minor in Fall 2009

By Katie Valentine, Staff Writer

The U will begin offering a minor in religion starting in Fall 2009.

The 18-credit minor includes courses in several different colleges, including philosophy, literature, sociology, history and Middle Eastern studies.

“For the first time, U students will be able to study religion and get a specific degree,” said Muriel Schmid, a professor of language and literature who helped create the degree.

The U has a religion and culture track in comparative literary and cultural studies but doesn’t allow students to get a degree for studying religions. The U is the only university in the Salt Lake Valley that doesn’t offer a religion minor.

“The flagship university is left behind,” Schmid said.

Vince Pecora, chairman of the English department, said the religion and culture track has had success as a precursor to the religion minor and he hopes the same students will be interested in the minor as well.

Schmid said that since 9/11, many universities nationwide have created a religions study program because of an increased interest in Islam and Islamic traditions. Scholars began to develop religion programs and courses to teach about these cultures in an academic and positive setting, Schmid said.

“After 9/11, we as a culture received a wake-up call about religions,” said Jordan Rainey, a junior in comparative literary and cultural studies.

Islam is a major world religion and learning more about it helps prevent prejudgments about that culture, Rainey said.

The U’s research initiative group in religious studies met several times during the course of a year to work on the development of the minor.

Pecora and Schmid wrote the proposal for getting the degree approved along with presenting the minor to the College of Humanities and Academic Senate committees.

“(Schmid) was the leading force in getting the minor through, and she deserves the credit,” Pecora said.

Pecora will take on independent study students and plans to teach courses in three years, including a theory of religions course.

Jessica Woods, a senior studying French, said there will even be a class on Tai Chi Yoga movement, taught by Bill Parkinson, which will be one of the classes students can take for the religion minor. The class is now offered in the theater department.

Woods said she thinks that a general religion course like “World of Religions” should be a required course for all students. She hopes that one day the U will offer a major in religion.

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