Interdisciplinary Studies


The Interdisciplinary Program in Religious Studies offers an Honors, Combined Honors and Major and Minor in Religious Studies.

See the University of Alberta Calendar for information on the requirements for the Honors in Religious Studies, Combined Honors or Major or Minor in Religious Studies.

FAQ Advice for Undergraduate Students

Here are answers to some of the questions you may have about the Religious Studies Program. Feel free to contact our Program Advisor for more information.

Why is Religious Studies an Interdisciplinary Program?

Religious Studies is an academic discipline. Like other disciplines, it has its own history, areas of study, and specialists. As a discipline, it is traditionally grouped with the “Humanities,” which include disciplines such as Philosophy, Classics and Cultural Studies, among others. Our program offers a wide range of RELIGION courses covering western and eastern religious traditions, special topics, and approaches to the discipline, all taught by specialists in Religious Studies. At the same time, Religious Studies has an exceptional affinity with other disciplines, making it a natural site for combining the ideas and perspectives of many disciplines, including those in the Fine Arts, such as Art History and Music, and the Social Sciences, such as Anthropology, Sociology and History. Our interdisciplinary program offers an extraordinary opportunity to explore different disciplines using the study of religion as a common focus. Consider, for example, the abundance of religious themes in painting, sculpture, architecture and music. Poets, playwrights and novelists have produced masterpieces drawing from religious sources and ideas. Many prominent historians, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists focus on religious issues and questions. Religious Studies is uniquely positioned to enhance and support interdisciplinary work. The great advantage in our interdisciplinary program is that you can partake of all of these disciplines as you focus on the study of religion.

Do I have to take RELIG 102/103 in order to major or minor in Religious Studies?

No. RELIG 102/103 are valuable undergraduate courses, and offer an excellent introduction to world religions and their practices. They are designed to interest and inform a wide range of students at the U of A. If you are attracted to our program in your second or third year of university, and did not take RELIG 102/103 in first year, that’s OK. Your program of study can begin with our 200-level courses.

Which courses are required for majors, minors, and honors students?

All majors must take RELIG 200 and 475 and minors must take RELIG 200. Honors students must take RELIG 200, 475 and 499. Besides these specific and mandatory courses, there is a range of courses to choose from to fulfill general area requirements. These choices are found in the University Calendar (44.25.1). Area coverage includes western religions, eastern religions and traditions, and thematic areas. Consult with our web site or our Program Advisor for possible additions and updates to the Calendar list.

What other courses can count toward my major/minor in Religious Studies? How are they approved for credit if another department or program offers them? 

There are a number of courses "cross-listed" with Religious Studies. These cross-listed courses may also be taken as credit toward the major/minor in religious studies. They are designated in this website’s section on courses and in the Calendar’s outline of requirements (44.25.1). However, students wishing to have a cross-listed course count toward the major/minor are reminded of their responsibility to notify the Office of Student Services. According to the Calendar (43.3[5]):

Courses listed in more than one major/minor are known as cross-listed courses.The use of cross-listed courses is especially common in interdisciplinary programs (East Asian Studies; Film Studies; International Studies; Middle Eastern and African Studies; Native Studies; Science Technology and Society; Women's Studies), but is becoming increasingly common in other areas also (e.g. Religious Studies). Unless otherwise notified by the student, the Undergraduate Student Services Office will apply cross-listed courses to the specific subject discipline. For example, a Classics course cross-listed with Religious Studies will apply to the Classics major or minor unless the student has advised the Undergraduate Student Services Office in writing that it should apply to the Religious Studies portion of his or her program. When students request that a cross-listed course be applied to their other subject of concentration, that course may then be applied to the minimums and maximums for that other subject.

I want to take an “independent study” or “directed reading” course in an area of interest to me. How do I do that?

Please note that courses such as “RELIG 480 Directed Reading in Religious Studies” are not regular curricular offerings. Enrollment in an independent study or directed reading course requires previous consultation with a continuing, full-time faculty member in the Faculty of Arts, who has agreed to take on the additional duty of offering such highly specialized instruction. If a student should find a faculty member with expertise in the area of religious studies pertaining to the particular subject of interest, and that faculty member agrees to offer the course in addition to her or his regular teaching duties, then a Consent Form indicating approval from the instructor/program coordinator will be needed. If no prior arrangement with a permanent faculty member has been made, then this is not a course you can take.

I am/will be a transfer student. Does a course I previously took or will take at another institution count as credit toward a minor/major in religious studies at U of A?

The Undergraduate Advisor for the program in Religious Studies can make no “official” ruling on whether such courses can count. These decisions involve a number of administrators working at different levels. Sometimes the Advisor and Program Director may be consulted in such decisions, and will request the course syllabus and seek to learn the instructor’s credentials. But even in such cases the program representatives do not have the final word. Usually, the higher administration is able to determine these matters after looking at the transfer student’s relevant application documentation. The Advisor may indicate whether a course corresponds to one of our offerings at U of A, but in doing so, he/she is neither claiming nor guaranteeing that the course will be considered as transferable credit.

Do I have enough credits for my major/minor in Religious Studies?

Especially when the time for convocation draws near, students ask whether they have taken the required courses and have earned the credit needed to graduate with a minor or major in religious studies. Keep in mind that both the Calendar and the webpage for Religious Studies set out the requirements with precision and clarity. Hence it is possible to determine this matter “unofficially” simply by seeing whether the courses you have taken meet the requirements. Of course, the advisor will also offer assistance, if you request her/him to look at your transcripts (or list of courses). But if you want to be absolutely certain, you should go to the sixth floor of the Humanities Building, where it is possible for you to request the Student Services in the Faculty of Arts to do a “program check.” Remember, not only students but also a program advisor can make a mistake. So the best way to avoid any such error in determining graduation requirements is to have your position confirmed both by the advisor and the Faculty of Arts. 

The course is full and I want to take it. What can I do?

It is often the case, particularly in the 100- and 200-level courses, that students become concerned when they find out their desired course has reached the enrollment limit and has been closed to further registration. Remember that, especially prior to the commencement of a course, there is much fluctuation in enrollment. Students are frequently dropping and adding classes. Such activity usually results in spaces opening up in the lower-level offerings around the time courses start up at the beginning of each term. So if you want to enroll in one of these classes but find that it is full, keep trying to secure a place as room in the course will likely become available once other students who previously registered in it have dropped. Obviously, for upper-level courses the fluctuation in enrollment is not as considerable as that which occurs in the 100- and 200-level offerings. The advisor cannot help you enter a “seminar” course if it is already full. Students should speak to the actual instructor of the seminar—but please note that the professor is under no obligation to exceed the limit of the enrollment.

I want to appeal my grade—where should I go?

First, you should reflect calmly on the grade you have received along with the feedback on the assignment from your instructor. If, after much reflection, you still think there are legitimate grounds for an appeal, you should then make every effort to resolve the matter with the professor. According to the Calendar (23.8.4), “any grievance concerning grades should first be discussed with the instructor…. The informal process is meant to precede and to avoid formal appeal….” Only after you have earnestly and assiduously tried to settle the matter with the instructor, should you seek the Program Advisor. Remember that such matters can lead to a long and involved process—so it makes sense to seek a “formal” appeal only as a last resort. In short, work out the problem with the professor to avoid taking the matter to a higher level.