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Information for Incoming Freshman Religious Studies Majors

Welcome to Siena College!

We are delighted that you have decided to major in Religious Studies. Our major consists of 36 credits. Some of these must be taken in defined areas, but our requirements leave you plenty of room to focus your major according to your personal interests.

All Siena students, including our majors, take one of our 100-level courses for their first Religious Studies course. Our department offers four courses that satisfy the Religious Studies core disciplinary requirement. You may take any one of the following:

  • RELG101 Religion in Western Culture: an introduction to religion through a historical examination of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • RELG121 Introduction to Biblical Studies: an introduction to the Bible, using the tools of contemporary biblical scholarship.
  • RELG141 Introduction to Religious Thought: an examination of theology and ethics in the western traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • RELG181 Experiences of the Sacred: an introduction to Religious Studies through an examination of the nature of religious experience.

We encourage our majors to take one of these courses in their first semester at Siena.

After taking the disciplinary course, you would continue with courses numbered 200 and above. Although there is no required sequence in which Religious Studies courses must be taken, it would be a good idea to begin with one or two 200-level courses. These courses are more of the general survey type, whereas courses numbered in the 300s and 400s are more specific or focused. For example, RELG240 Introduction to Christian Theology is a survey course that includes a unit on Christology, while RELG340, the Modern Search for Jesus, is a whole course on Christology.

We want all of our majors to receive a good general education in Religious Studies, one that introduces them to the diversity of fields within the discipline. Religious Studies majors must therefore take one course (numbered 200 or above) in each of the following five areas:

  • Historical studies: courses with numbers ending in 01-19.
  • Scriptural studies: courses with numbers ending in 20-39.
  • Religious thought: courses with numbers ending in 40-59.
  • Religious ethics: courses with numbers ending in 60-79.
  • World religions: courses with numbers ending in 80-99 (except in the 400s).

In addition, Religious Studies majors must take a seminar, RELG490. Seminars are offered every year on a variety of topics. Some recent ones have been "Religion and Film," "Interreligious Dialogue," and "Asian Religions in America."

The disciplinary course and the seminar are for three credits each, and the area courses add up to 15 credits. This means that 21 credits of the major have to be taken in defined areas -- but notice that you have a choice of courses in every case. That leaves another 15 credits (5 courses) that you can take in any area you desire. So, if you want to concentrate on one particular area, like theology or biblical studies, you are free to take as many as six courses in that area (the one you have to take, plus five more).

Your academic advisor will always be ready to help you select courses that are appropriate to your interests and goals.

If you have any questions, please e-mail them to the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.