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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Our Mission

The mission of the Department of Religious Studies is to provide a focus at The University of Texas at Austin for the academic study of religion and for the dissemination of knowledge about religion. We encourage scholarly inquiry into the nature of religion as a system of human thought and practice, into the ways in which religion influences human identity and culture, and into developments within religious traditions. We aim to educate both Religious Studies majors and students from other departments about the diversity of religious traditions, about the influence of religion on political, social and creative interactions, and about the different approaches to the study of religion. In addition, we offer community outreach activities that promote informed public dialogue about religion and its cultural, historical, and political impact.

Our teaching mission includes:

  • An Undergraduate Major in Religious Studies. Students majoring in religious studies develop 1) a broad knowledge of different religious traditions and their geographical and historical contexts, 2) an in-depth knowledge of a particular area of concentration, 3) methodological and theoretical tools for the study of religion. In the process, students will learn the analytical skills and cultural literacy that is a part of a Liberal Arts education.
  • Introductory and upper-level undergraduate courses structured to educate the general student body of The University of Texas at Austin about the diversity of religious traditions and the ways in which religion forms a dimension of human identity and culture.
  • A Graduate Program in Religious Studies.  Through our graduate program, admitted students receive an MA and a PhD in one of five focus areas:  1) Religion in Asia, 2) Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean, 3) Religion in the Americas, 4) Religion in Europe & the Middle East, and 5) Transregional & Comparative Studies of Religion. 
  • A Graduate Portfolio Program in the Study of Religion that allows graduate students from different disciplines to enhance their professional development by incorporating into their program a focused set of Religious Studies courses.

The academic discipline of Religious Studies seeks neither to make students religious nor to discourage religious beliefs and practices. Instead, it focuses on the study of the continuity and changes within religious traditions, the operation of religions in particular social contexts, and the influence of religious ideas on human behavior and creativity. Its curriculum prepares students for careers in government, law, medicine, social services, journalism, the ministry, academics, and other careers in which the ability to operate in a complex religious environment is prized. By analyzing religion as a dimension of human identity and culture, Religious Studies prepares students to be educated citizens in a diverse and pluralistic society.

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