Undergraduate Program

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Learning Outcomes

  • The ability to analyze, interpret, and write about the history, texts, and practices of one religious tradition in depth
  • Strong analytical skills in comparative research across at least two religious traditions
  • Critical thinking in the theories, interdisciplinary approaches, and methodologies that have been important to the academic study of religion

Apply

  1. Obtain a copy of your Cornell transcript. Request a transcript online.
  2. Print and fill out the Major Application or Minor Application. Applications can be found at 409 White Hall.
  3. Schedule a meeting with the Director of Religious Studies. Be sure to bring both your application and transcript.

Major

Major Advisor

Upon entering the major in Religious Studies, a student is assigned a faculty advisor whose area of expertise closely matches the proposed interest of the student.

Prerequisites:

The applicant must have completed at least one Religious Studies (RELST) course. 

Major Requirements:

The sequence and combination of courses to fulfill the major is selected in close consultation with the student's advisor. All courses for the major must be taken for a letter grade and students must receive a grade of B- or higher in order for it to count toward the major.  After completing the prerequisite course, students must complete nine additional Religious Studies courses in the following three areas: 1) Approaches, Methods, and Theory of the Academic Study of Religion (two core courses); 2) Breadth of Religious Traditions (at least three courses); and 3) Depth of Focus (at least four courses). Furthermore, all students are required to take at least two courses at the 4000-level or above, excluding the required RELST 4449 course; one of these 4000 level courses must be in area 3. In conjunction with the advisor, the student will select the appropriate courses to fulfill these categories and requirements.

Approaches, Methods and Theory of the Academic Study of Religion (Required):

  • RELST 2273- Introduction to Religious Studies
  • RELST 4449- History and Methods in the Academic Study of Religions

Breadth of Religious Traditions (three courses):

Students are required to take at least three courses that treat different religious traditions. The goal here is to obtain breadth across diverse religions, time periods, and regions. Selection of these courses should be made with a student's academic advisor.

Depth of Focus (four courses):

Students are required to take at least four courses with a focus of a given religious tradition, geographical area, thematic concentration, or methodological approach. At least one of these courses must be at the 4000 level or above. 

Note:

While it is not required, we strongly encourage all majors to work on a relevant language during their studies to enhance and deepen this focused work. Students planning to attend graduate school in Religious Studies or related disciplines (Anthropology, History, Area Studies, Comparative Literature, etc.) are strongly encouraged to make language work an ancillary part of their undergraduate major in Religious Studies. One course in advanced language study can be counted toward the Religious Studies major, and this by petition only, indicating that the material covered was directly related to the academic study of religion.

Minor

Undergraduates interested in the academic study of religion are invited to apply for a minor in Religious Studies by taking five RELST courses (minimum of 15 credits) subject to the following conditions:

  • Three courses must be at the 3000 level or above.
  • A minimum grade of B- must be received for all courses toward the minor (S/U courses are ineligible).
  • RELST 4449 - History and Methods of the Academic Study of Religion is strongly recommended.

Summer Research

Russell and Wendy Weiner Prize for Undergraduate Research on Buddhist Practice

This prize, given in honor of Gelek Rimpoche, provides funding for summer research (limited to travel, research materials, and living expenses) for an undergraduate student studying Buddhist practice in an Asian context during the summer.  Preference will be given to a student with strong coursework in Religious Studies and Asian religions.

Apply for summer research prize

Complete proposals should include a description of proposed praxis to be studied, one letter of reference from a faculty member and a budget.

Students should submit proposals to Ayla Cline, Undergraduate Coordinator for Religious Studies. Submit your summer research proposal by email or to 409 White Hall. The deadline is March 1 and the awardee will be notified by March 15.

Questions?

Contact chair of the Prize Committee, Prof. Jane-Marie Law

Info on Alumni

To read what some of our alumni have gone on to do, view our Alumni profiles.