Religion, like philosophy, history, or literature, is a vital living realm of human life, so it merits serious attention within the university curriculum. The Department of Religious Studies at UPEI has the primary responsibility for teaching and research in this field of study. As a small team, we offer a well-structured program of course selections for majors and minors, following the same standards of modern scholarship and critical thinking found in our neighbouring humanities disciplines. We teach various topics on religion, its historical developments, textual and spiritual traditions, cultural diversity, and the new questions religion poses for comparative, ethical, socio-political, or scientific reflection in today's world.
We get many students from various faculties, schools, and departments. In fact, it is very hard to imagine a Humanities major that does not include some education in the study of religion and culture. For example, many of our courses would help History students to understand the historical significance of world religions. Sociology majors will find that certain religion courses enhance their understanding of society in terms of religious beliefs, symbols, and values; similarly, a psychology major can benefit from taking a Psychology of Religion course, or a course dealing with spiritual teaching and experience. Simply put, Religious Studies broadens or deepens any student's knowledge of the world, enhancing his/her intellectual growth and career goals.
Unlike other programs, Religious Studies also embodies a unique combination of pedagogic challenge and opportunity. For example, many of our students are willing to learn the religious teachings and practices that are different from their own faiths. Even our introductory classes often reveal their existential interests in understanding the ultimate meaning of life and the spiritual nature of the world. In other words, the insights and values they may attain through Religious Studies courses should facilitate students in managing inevitable challenges of daily life, or in dealing with certain fascinating questions about the dynamics of the relationship between oneself and the world. As a major (or minor) in Religious Studies, you will gain a broad understanding of the religious and spiritual dimensions of human experience from antiquity to the present. This will give you the splendid opportunity to study diverse cultures, literatures, and values. Particular courses may emphasize historical, thematic, philosophic, or comparative approaches.
As a Religious Studies major, you may concentrate in one of the three general areas : Western Religious History; Eastern Religions and Comparative Studies; or Religion and Modernity. We encourage you to develop a primary area of concentration, in consultation with the Department Chair or another faculty member (i.e., your potential advisor). There are also flexible ways of choosing your elective courses in Religious Studies and other Arts programs.
So what about career implications? What do our students do after specializing in Religious Studies? Religious Studies majors, like other liberal arts majors at UPEI or elsewhere, follow various career paths after graduation. Many go into professional careers, such as teaching, journalism, social work, government affairs (federal, provincial, or local), law, library work, publishing, office work, or business. For these kinds of career opportunities, the Religious Studies Program is certainly committed to high standards of academic excellence.
Moreover, its interdisciplinary and international nature also allows majors and minors to develop a variety of career goals. This fact continues to be confirmed by the diversity of our students' interests and their successful career paths after graduation. Surely, the major in Religious Studies will learn good professional skills (e.g., reading, thinking, understanding, writing, and communicating). A handful of our majors and minors go on to advanced graduate degrees (M.A. and Ph.D.) in Religious Studies or a related discipline (e.g., Philosophy, History, Archival Studies, or Library Science).
An undergraduate concentration in Religious Studies also prepares you to enter a popular professional program school such as Education (Master of Education) or Law. Some move on to graduate programs in Divinity/Theology (e.g., Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, and Doctor of Theology). A small number enter seminaries, pursuing formal careers as ordained clergy (or pastoral counsellors). For most students, however, majoring in Religious Studies is not a route to a formal religious career (likewise, majoring in English does not necessarily put someone on a path toward becoming a novelist or a poet).
Furthermore, we are delighted to list the following updated summary of our recent alumni's professional career paths, achievements, and success stories. Following are just some examples, but more will be added as they become available. Also check our page Alumni Career Profiles for individual success stories of our previous students.
- Professor in Religious Studies (Ph.D. and M.A. in religion, women, art, and aboriginal spirituality; University of Ottawa) — UPEI Religious Studies major (1992) currently teaches part-time at Carleton University (Ottawa); also taught several Religious Studies courses (e.g., religion and art at University of Ottawa and Asian Religions and Women at UPEI).
- Master of Education (2002, UPEI) by a double major in Religious Studies and Psychology (1999) — now doing international professional work outside Canada.
- Full-time ESL teacher in South Korea and M.A. in comparative Philosophy (Zen Buddhism and Sartre) in progress (Brock University) — a double major in Religious Studies and Philosophy at UPEI (1997).
- Social worker for Child and Family Services in PEI — a double major in Religious Studies and Psychology 1999, who then completed a social work degree at McGill University, Montreal.
- Full-time freelance journalist in Toronto — a Religious Studies major who completed a post-graduate journalism program at Centennial College in Toronto.
- Pursuing a Legal Assistant program at Centennial College, Toronto — a Religious Studies major (2001) plans to work as a law clerk for a career.
- Working with his father's business in auto sales in PEI — a minor in Religious Studies and a major in Psychology (2002); wants to work at HRDC and DVA in PEI.
- Completing his M.Div. (Master of Divinity; modern Christian ethics and interreligious dialogue) soon at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto — a UPEI Religious Studies major (2001), who will be ordained as a United Church minister.
- M.A. in Archival & Library Studies in progress (her first year) at University of British Columbia — a Religious Studies major (and a History minor; 2003); also had a good deal of travel and work experience in archival-library work.
- Pursuing her M.A. in Religious Studies at McMaster University — a Religious Studies major (and a Modern Languages minor; 2003), who wants to become a professor after completing a doctoral degree.
- M.A. in modern History (war and Islamic states) in progress at the University of New Brunswick — a Religious Studies minor (and a History major; 2003).
- M.A. in Religious Studies completed at the University of Toronto — a double minor in Religious Studies (2001) and Classics (an Honours in History); successfully taught a special summer course (2003) on early Christian literature and thought.
- Ordained minister - a Religious Studies major (2001).
As indicated in our alumni's career highlights above, the Department of Religious Studies at UPEI ("a great small university") is fully committed to offering a high-quality program for your academic interests and career goals. We also emphasize that an immense benefit of studying in a small department like ours is the immediate availability of the faculty, and the friendly teacher-student relationship you may develop with your advisor.
If you wish to pursue a major or minor in Religious Studies, then feel free to contact the Department Chair, Dr. Joe Velaidum, another faculty member or Susie Jay, the Department Administrative Assistant. We'll be pleased to discuss and accommodate your academic interests and needs in a rewarding manner.
You are also welcome to contact some of our recent graduates directly (via e-mail if available) for any academic or career-related advice. For further information, drop by our offices on the 3rd floor of the Main Building.