Learning Goals for Religion M.A. Students

An M.A. in Religion may be useful within a variety of post-degree career tracks. Our program goals and objectives reflect the range of needs of our actual and ideal students. Upon completion of the M.A., we expect our students to be able to do the following:

1) Utilize theories and methodologies. Graduates should be able to identify and coherently discuss the theoretical frameworks and critical methodologies that comprise the academic study of religion. M.A. students should be able to articulate how the study of religion has developed as an academic discipline that stands outside particular religious traditions. Graduates should be able to utilize the standard methodologies and assess what theories pertain to the study of particular religious traditions, texts, events, etc. Graduates should be able to recognize scholarly debates both within religious studies and within interdisciplinary studies of religion.

2) Critically explain the history and development of select religious traditions with attention to the historical, social, and political contexts. With attention to continuities and innovations as well as claims of continuity and innovation, M.A. students should be able to explain how religions are shaped by their own past and by the past of their society and institutions. Likewise, graduates should be able to discuss how religions continue to shape and be shaped by contemporary social and political structures.

3) Place themselves within their scholarly field and subfield. M.A. students should be able to locate themselves within the academic discipline of Religious studies, and more specifically, identify their subfield. They should be aware of how their training at Rutgers and with their particular advisors is distinct.

4) Recall a breadth and depth of knowledge. Graduates should show a balance of appreciating diverse religious traditions with a focus on one or more subfields. They should have mastery over the basic tenets and chronological data of the subfield(s). This includes knowledge of primary texts, ritual, theology, ethics, and epistemology, as well as historiography and geographical range. They should show progress toward language proficiency relevant to the particular subfield.

5) Conduct independent research and write with clarity. Graduates should show the ability to work independently, conduct critical research, and successfully integrate feedback within writing projects and presentations. Research projects should reflect the ability to read, understand, and discuss a variety of primary sources such as the “scriptures” of various religions, memoirs, rules for religious practice, theological and philosophical texts, and liturgical instructions; to read and understand analytical studies of religious issues written in academic prose; to conceptualize, research, structure, articulate, and defend an original thesis in both written and oral presentation.