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Haverford College
Department of Religion

Curriculum: Learning Goals

A central mission of the Religion Department is to enable students to become critically- informed, independent, and creative interpreters of some of the religious movements, sacred texts, ideas, and practices that have decisively shaped human experience. In their coursework, students develop skills in the critical analysis of the sacred texts, images, beliefs, and performances of various religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. The Department's programs are designed to help students understand how religions develop and change and how religious texts, symbols, and rituals help constitute communities and cultures. Thus, the major in Religion seeks to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Haverford Religion major is unique in that it provides students with a comprehensive curriculum that includes carefully designed areas of concentrations, specialized coursework, supervised research, a lengthy written research product, and a departmental oral conversation with the entire department as the minimum requirements for fulfilling the major. Through coursework, senior thesis research, and the Tri-College Senior Colloquium with Swarthmore College, the Department seeks to fulfill the following learning goals:

  • Expose students to the central ideas, debates, scholars, methods, historiography, and approaches to the academic study of religion.
  • Analyze key terms and categories in the study of religion, and utilize the diverse vocabularies deployed among a range of scholars in religion and related fields.
  • Develop critical thinking, analytical writing, and sustained engagement in theory and method, together with the critical competence to engage sacred texts, images, ideas and practices.
  • Cultivate the learning environment as an integrative and collaborative process.
  • Expand intellectual opportunities for students to broaden and critically assess their worldviews.
  • Encourage students to supplement their work in religion with elective languages (Arabic, Chinese, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Japanese, Latin, Sanskrit, Yoruba).
  • Foster interdisciplinary methods and perspectives in the study of religion, while continuing to model this through the curriculum.
  • Prepare students for professional careers, for graduate studies in religion or related fields, and for leadership roles as reflective, critically-aware human beings.

The Senior Thesis Research Project

The senior thesis research project in the Department of Religion serves as a capstone experience for our majors. The work of Religion 399b, the required course related to the senior research project in Religion, consists of five stages: I) the formulation of a thesis proposal; II) presentation of the proposal; III) presentation of a portion of work in progress; IV) the writing and submission of first and final drafts; V) oral discussion with department faculty. The goals of the senior thesis process are to:

  • Further develop research skills and obtain a mastery of academic citational practices.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to pursue original research questions and to sharpen scholarly interests as one masters a particular field/argument.
  • Enhance written and verbal analysis through participation in the senior seminar with department faculty and students, weekly meetings with individual advisors, and the final oral presentation of the thesis to the department.
  • Nurture group cohesion as a department, through collaborative participation with fellow majors during the course of the senior seminar, concretely expressed by way of critical feedback to shared writing.
  • Build student confidence in the ability to see to fruition a rigorous project requiring prolonged periods of thought, writing, revising, and research.