The Department of Religious Studies stands apart from other B.A. and M.A. programs in the country because of our distinctive applied approach to studying religions. Taking an applied approach means we work with a variety of community partners to incorporate learning opportunities into our courses that prepare our students for careers and advanced graduate study. Our students work alongside clinical ethicists in hospital settings, they intern for nonprofit organizations advocating for human rights and they create resources to educate the public about religious literacy and religious diversity. We are engaged in taking our subject-area specializations in religions and religious studies into the community to meet existing needs in health professions, business, law, nonprofits and education.
Students in RELS 3270, “Religious Traditions of the World,” partnered with Fred Armon Toomer Elementary‘s International Baccalaureate Program Director to support teaching about world religions in public schools. The students read the AAR’s Guidelines for Teaching about Religions in K-12 Public Schools and publications by experts on religion and education. Then they worked in nine small groups to identify a K-2 appropriate book about a cultural celebration. They researched the cultural celebration and its religious contexts, and wrote essays on each. These essays, along with an annotated bibliography, will support kindergarten teachers providing instruction on religious celebrations, like Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah, among others. We concluded the project with a field trip. In December 2019, we visited the school and GSU students read to FATE kindergarteners.
In Dr. Bassett’s Fall 2020 offering of RELS 3270, the pandemic precluded in-person work with public school students and teachers. Instead of developing a resource for a specific community partner, students in the class engaged in a public scholarship project by writing their own version of Religion in 5 Minutes. After reading many of the chapters in Religion in 5 Minutes as they learned about the religious traditions of the world, each student wrote their own question. With the help of our Writing Across the Curriculum consultant Nathan Springer (Religious Studies, M.A. 2022), the class produced a forthcoming book full of their own questions and answers. To answer the questions they crafted, students conducted research with the support of our subject area librarian, Dr. Jill Anderson. The class book will be a resource for the students and their friends and families.
The Teaching Religion Unit and the Applied Religious Studies Committee co-hosted a conversation about how programs navigate teaching the study of religions while integrating applied objectives (e.g. NACE career readiness competencies) into undergraduate and graduate curriculums. The session invited faculty in programs with an applied focus or in departments considering an applied approach to discuss program origins, faculty development, curriculum, student outcomes, benefits and challenges.
Sabina Ali, Georgia State University
Molly Bassett, Georgia State University
Kevin Minister, Shenandoah University
Paul A. Williams, the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Thomas Pearson, Wabash Center (Presider)
Sunday, November 24, 2019 – 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
In the fall of 2018, students in Dr. Molly Bassett’s graduate seminar worked in partnership with Compassion House for Living and Dying to create online orientations for Compassion House’s volunteer death doulas. The students assessed their own strengths before organizing themselves into four small groups. Each group selected a focus from the topics our community partners suggested: Buddhism in America, Islam, and “Spiritual, but not Religious” (SBNR). The enterprising fourth group suggested adding Religious Literacy to the mix.
Over the course of the semester, the class worked with our community partner, area scholars, and experts from our Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning & Online Education and the University Library to create online orientations. Students in the course became subject-area experts in their group’s topic, and they acquired or practiced a variety of skills related to teaching online, including course design, researching and writing presentations, and crafting assessment.
In recent years as the job market for tenure-track academic positions has tightened and the use of contingent faculty has exploded, increasing numbers of graduate degree seekers are intending to pursue non-academic careers. While some areas of study present obvious nonacademic options, for scholars in the humanities, nonacademic career opportunities and the best preparation for them may not be obvious and religious studies faculty are exploring how graduate programs can – and should – prepare all alumni for multiple employment outcomes. This panel brings together faculty members from a variety of institutions to discuss some of the problems confronting their students and their programs as more people turn – by necessity and by choice – to nonacademic career paths. Cristine Hutchison-Jones, Harvard Law School, Presiding. Panelists: – Molly Bassett, Georgia State University – Jason C. Bivins, North Carolina State University – Kathleen Moore, University of California, Santa Barbara This session was recorded at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston, Massachusetts, on November 19.
Department of Religious Studies
Georgia State University
25 Park Place, Suite 1700
Atlanta, GA 30303
Department of Religious Studies
Georgia State University
P.O. Box 3994
Atlanta, GA 30302-3994