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UWL history students in Egypt's Muhammad Ali mosque, summer 2012.
INTRODUCTION TO THE TOPICAL EMPHASIS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES Students in the UWL History Department’s topical emphasis in Religious Studies will have an opportunity to study the fascinating phenomenon of religion from a variety of disciplinary perspectives with course offerings in the departments of History, Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The Religious Studies emphasis challenges students to question common stereotypes about religion and religious people, to become aware of the multiple roles and functions religion plays in human cultural life, and to both critically scrutinize and empathically understand the rationales that have shaped the wide variety of religious world views, behaviors, and experiences that humans have used in the course of constructing, maintaining, and inhabiting their cultural worlds. In these ways, the Religious Studies emphasis sharpens students’ awareness of and understanding of human cultural diversity and prepares them for responsible global citizenship in a religiously pluralistic world.
What sets apart the three new topical emphases in the History Department including Religious Studies is that faculty will work with students to produce portfolios packaging and showcasing their aptitudes and skills that they develop over the courses of their undergraduate education. These portfolios are where Religious Students will be able to demonstrate their skills in such areas as analytical and critical thinking which are notoriously difficult to measure and assess through means such as standardized testing. Such skills, aptitudes, and abilities will become manifestly palpable and concrete through an examination of these portfolios. Portfolios will contain the following items: (1) a cover letter introducing the portfolio, (2) a resume or CV, (3) a sample letter of application for a job in your intended field of work or for application to a graduate program of study, (4) samples of your best scholarly research and writing, and (5) letters of support from teachers, professors, employers, and others who have supervised and who are willing to assess students. Because of their importance, all the materials in these portfolios should be backed up in multiple sites, both print and electronic. Students in the Religious Studies emphasis, especially those planning on going into the ministry or religiously-based social work, are encouraged to consider the option of taking HIS 450, the internship/field experience course that is an option in all three of the topical emphases in the History Department. Students interested in this option will need to apply for and undertake professionally supervised internships with organizations and businesses related to their special areas of interest. For instance, students considering the ministry might find it helpful to work as ministerial interns working under the judicatory or synodal body of their denomination of professional interest.
The History Department’s emphasis in Religious Studies helps students to develop a wide range of writing, thinking, and research skills that prospective employers and professional and graduate school admissions committees will find to be of great value. Some of these skills would include the ability to think critically, a keen sensitivity to cultural diversity, the ability to construct a persuasive, evidence-based argument in clear, grammatically correct English, the ability to solve problems and carry out successfully various research projects, informational literacy--the ability to locate relevant sources of information both in print and online including the ability to make efficient use of a library and its resources, the ability to make explicit the tacit assumptions embedded in a particular argument or world view, and the ability to see the “big picture, i.e., to situate contemporary problems in a wider historical and global perspective. A graduate from the History Department’s Religious Studies emphasis would be prepared to pursue further graduate work to prepare for a college or university-level career teaching in either the history of religions or religious studies. Students preparing for a career in the ministry would find this program an excellent preparation for seminary study towards a Master of Divinity (MDIV) degree and students considering a career related to faith-based social work would also find this program to be helpful foundation for postgraduate study and future employment in that area. Students preparing for entering into the State Department Foreign Service as diplomats or consular personnel would also find that this program would prepare them well for entry-level employment in that area. The Religious Studies emphasis would also provide a good liberal arts education for students planning a career in international business and marketing, publishing, journalism, and law and legal services.
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