Santa Clara University

Religious Studies department

Mission and Goals

Mission Statement

The Religious Studies Department educates students in religious and theological disciplines, including the study of religious texts, histories, beliefs, practices, and ethics.  Rooted in Santa Clara’s mission and identity as a Jesuit Catholic University, the department seeks to engage Catholic faith in critical dialogue with the world’s religious traditions and conduct Christian theology in conversation with a full range of religious studies methodologies.  The department thus aims to educate students in the knowledge and skills they need (1) to think in a multidisciplinary and contextualized way about religion and matters of Christian faith, (2) to reason critically and ethically about personal beliefs and institutional religious practices, (3) to explore how religions are lived and practiced in local communities and global contexts, and (4) to cultivate a sense of solidarity with poor and marginalized communities informed by the study of theology and religion.

The department offers a B.A. in Religious Studies, a minor in Religious Studies, and oversees an M.A. degree in Pastoral Ministries. In the general undergraduate program, the department offers the majority of courses for the Core’s requirement in “Religion, Theology, and Culture.” As teacher-scholars, department faculty members are actively engaged in all the major fields of religious studies, participating regularly in the main scholarly societies and publishing in their respective disciplines, and engaging students in research. 


I.  Student Learning Goals and Objectives (n.b. these refer to the R.S. major only; Goals and Objectives for the Core are articulated in Core documents)

Goal #1: Majors understand religion as multidimensional, and the field of religious studies as interdisciplinary.


a.       Course work engages majors in multiple dimensions of religion (e.g. sacred texts and traditions, theological systems, and religion as lived and practiced in specific historical-cultural settings).

b.      The research papers in the senior portfolio reflect this diversity of approaches to the study of religion.  

c.       Majors can explain religious studies with reference to the history of its development, its interdisciplinary nature, and to relationship between the department’s three areas of Scripture and Tradition (SCTR), Religion and Society (RSOC), and Theology, Ethics and Spirituality (TESP).

Goal #2: Majors acquire proficiency in research methods in the disciplines of religious studies, including community-based learning and research.


  1. Majors have opportunities for research under the direction of a faculty member in multiple settings (courses, independent study, collaborative projects with other students, practica).
  2. Majors’ course work includes library research (e.g. use of library data bases, complete literature reviews), field research (e.g. conduct interviews, write field notes), and community-based learning.
  3. The department provides majors opportunities to present their research in varied settings in both written and oral (e.g. major seminars, the research methods sequence, department colloquia, academic conferences, honor society publications, and the Local Religion Project website).

Goal #3 Majors have an understanding of Christian Theology in Relation to Other Religious and Non-Religious Contexts


a.       Majors can compare key features of the Christian tradition, especially the Roman Catholic tradition, across at least three different historical or cultural contexts.

b.      Majors can relate the claims and distinctive questions of Christian tradition to religious diversity (e.g. examples of participation in interreligious dialogue).

c.       Majors have opportunities to use Silicon Valley’s diverse religious landscape to experience the relationship between religion, Christianity in particular, and globalization (e.g. course work, campus programs).

Goal #4: Majors integrate what they have learned in the religious studies department


  1. Department faculty advise majors about course selection, research and internship opportunities, and career goals.

b    Through an explanatory essay, the senior portfolio demonstrates an effort to make connections between methods, traditions, and ideas they have studied in their seminars.

  1. Through extra-curricular offerings, majors are offered opportunities to relate personal, academic, career and moral dimensions of their experience with the religious studies major.

II.  Scholarship and Creative Work Goals and Objectives

Goal #1: Support the teacher-scholar model.


  1. The department provides newer faculty systems of mentoring to bridge between research interests and courses taught.
  2. Twenty per cent of faculty participate in campus faculty development programming sponsored by the Provost’s Office.
  3. Faculty meet at least annually as department areas, and across areas, to enhance courses in light of scholarship.
  4. The department chair encourages research on questions of social justice and “solidarity” (e.g., by encouraging application for Ignatian Center grants).

Goal #2:  Support scholarly writing, publishing activity, and conference papers.


  1. The department provides funding for participation in regional and national conferences.
  2. The department holds at least two faculty colloquia per year to discuss on-going scholarly projects.
  3. The department provides funding for student research assistants, or helps faculty to secure funding for such assistants..
  4. The department hosts conferences (e.g., WESCOR on 3 year cycle; Pacific Regional Society of Christian Ethics on a 3 year cycle; various interdisciplinary intiatives, such as AIMES; and special events).

Goal #3:  Attract and retain excellent faculty.


a.       The department develops a five-year hiring plan every three years to ensure that long-range curricular and program needs will be met.

b.      The department hires and retains faculty who utilize different disciplinary methodologies in their teaching and research

c.       The department will regularly explore Jesuit Target-Of-Opportunity and other opportunity hires to meet programmatic needs.

d.   The department systematically attends to work-life issues (e.g., competitive salaries, Kids on Campus daycare) through a series of lunch fora throughout the year.

III.  Curriculum and Pedagogy Goals and Objectives

Goal #1:  A curriculum that serves the university core goals and objectives.


a.       Through the department curricular committee, regularly list departmental courses that meet the “Religion, Theology and Culture” core goals and objectives (RTC 1, RTC 2, RTC 3).

b.   The Curriculum Committee encourages the development of courses that also serve other core goals and objectives (e.g., Cultures and Ideas, Diversity, Experiential Learning for Social Justice and Civic Engagement,).

c.   The department develops assessment practices to ensure that course offerings meet departmental course and core goals and objectives.

Goal #2:  A curriculum that offers majors and minors opportunities for depth and breadth of study.


a.   Engage seminar enrollees with a collaborative pedagogy where students are expected to generate independent questions and take a leadership role in presentations and discussions.

Goal #3:  A pedagogy that encourages critical thinking, interdisciplinary engagement, and attention to global perspectives and local contexts.


  1. Designate RTC core goals and objectives (and therefore courses) that attend to global cultures, critical thinking, complexity of content and method, religious reflection and ethical reasoning.
  2. Design a range of assignments so that students are required to undertake scholarly research, demonstrate synthetic thinking, and engage in personal reflection.

c.   Embed interdisciplinary approaches to a coherent set of religious phenomena in the requirements for second level courses (RTC 2).

d    The Chair will encourage faculty to make use of the Local Religion Project’s resources and Arrupe Partnerships for Community-based Learning.

e.   The department will collaborate with the university’s Centers of Distinction to incorporate their program offerings into course curricula.

Goal #4:  A pedagogy that is encourages faculty collaboration .


  1. Convene teaching groups to offer mutual support and share best practices; full and part-time faculty regularly meet to discuss pedagogy and to observe one another’s classes.
  2. Assign mentors to incoming tenure-track faculty for guidance in areas of teaching and research.
  3. All Religious Studies syllabi are collegially read by the Curriculum Committee.
  4. The department will offer at least one team-taught course per year.
  5. Each quarter, department faculty will invite colleagues to guest lecture, including those from JST.

IV.  Service Goals and Objectives

Goal #1:  Contribute to the enrichment of campus intellectual life.


  1. Collaborate with University Centers of Distinction to offer programs on campus.
  2. Department members will assume leadership positions in University Centers of Distinction and Institutes (e.g., positions in Markkula Center for Applied Ethics; the Advisory Board of the Ignatian Center, etc.).
  3. The department will partner with off-campus community groups to brings programs to campus (e.g., Carry the Vision conference). 
  4. The department will regularly co-sponsor programs with other departments and programs (e.g., Women’s and Gender Studies; Ethnic Studies).

Goal #2:  Contribute to the profession of religious studies


  1. Faculty serve on editorial and advisory boards of academic journals.
  2. Faculty assume leadership roles in local, regional and national organizations.
  3. The department collaborates on the development of academic conferences
  4. Faculty serve as thesis readers and/or consultants.

Perspectives Spring '14_Page_1
Spring 2014

Check out our latest edition of Perspectives with news from alumni and faculty.

Upcoming Events
Printer-friendly format