The first event of the celebration was a symposium moderated by Professor of Religion emeritus, Richard Crouter, on "The Role of Religious Studies in a Liberal Arts Education." Presenters included Amy Carr '89, of Western Illinois University, Paul Powers '90, of Lewis and Clark College, and Rachel Wheeler '91, of Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis - all of whom are Assistant Professors of Religious Studies. Judith Berling '67, Professor of Chinese and Comparative Religions at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California served as the respondent.

Amy Carr

Amy Carr '89The Place of Religious Studies in the Liberal Arts

I reflect on this question from two standing points: my memory of being and becoming a religious studies major as a student at Carleton, and my current experience teaching in the philosophy & religious studies department at Western Illinois University. I’m also mindful that many religious studies majors do not go on to teach in higher education, so I will be curious to hear how those of you who are not college professors might describe your sense of the place of religious studies in a liberal arts education. More...

Paul R. Powers

Paul Powers '90Religious Studies in the Liberal Arts

People tend to think that a religious studies major must be strongly religious, and this tends to elicit either something almost resembling conspiratorial commiseration (“you’re a religion major? I’m a Catholic! Shhh… I actually go to church”), or a certain conspiratorial hostility (“you’re a religion major? so they got to you, too, huh?”). Or, at the very least, it sparks some serious confusion: a friend of mine, for example, who was a religion major at Brown University, was often asked whether this was leading to a career in the priesthood. This even from her own family, and in spite of the fact that she is a secular Jewish woman. More...

Rachel Wheeler

Rachel Wheeler '91Teaching Religion in a Liberal Arts Setting

I never dreamed when I set off for Carleton in the fall of 1987 that I would become a Religion major. Religion had never played much of any role in my life, and it hadn’t really occurred to me that it could be something that you studied, rather than something that you did: I thought I would probably be a psychology or perhaps a political science major and from there perhaps head on to law school. But because religion was never mentioned in my public school education, enrolling in a religion class felt vaguely taboo, and for that reason all the more exciting and so I signed up for a freshman seminar with Chaplain Jewelnel Davis called “Contemporary Issues and Values” where we read everything from Martin Buber to biomedical ethics and I discovered that studying religion was basically a way to examine human nature and study history, and in a way that was far more exciting and engaging, I thought, than the way we had studied history in high school: as a series of facts and dates and wars. More...