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The Department of Classics & Religious Studies

The major in Classics and Religious Studies brings together two fields of study that overlap in interesting ways. In this major, you will choose either an “Emphasis in Classics” or an "Emphasis in Religious Studies," and most of your courses will be in your chosen emphasis.

The field of Classics encompasses a wide range of courses in the civilization of ancient Greece and Rome—their languages, literature, and history. And your courses in Religious Studies will acquaint you with the world’s great religions, their history, sacred writings, and essential beliefs and practices. You can work with faculty who specialize in Buddhist Studies, Islamic Studies, Christianity, and Judaism. 

Why Classics & Religious Studies?

  • You can expect to enroll in core courses taught by experienced faculty, offering even the first year student the opportunity to develop a working relationship with a senior professor. Students receive a level of personal attention which is rare at a major research university.
  • You have a unique opportunity to study ancient languages including Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Tibetan, and Arabic.
  • Our faculty have joint appointments with other departments and programs including Digital Humanities, Judaic Studies, Archeology, History, Women and Gender Studies, Anthropology, Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
  • You will be encouraged to further your experience with education abroad. Recent study tours have been conducted in Ireland, Greece, and Japan.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to work individually on joint faculty-student research projects in the college’s UCARE program. Recent UCARE project titles: “Byzantine Ceramics and Gender”; “Transcribing Medieval Manuscripts”; “Fundamentalism: Perspectives on a Contested History”; “Digital Methods and Labor Efficiency in Greek Archaeological Survey Projects.”
  • Connect with faculty and peers through student organizations such as the Classics Club. 

Career Opportunities you will have:

A major in Classics and Religious Studies is good preparation for further graduate study in each of these two fields. In addition, because of the emphasis on critical thinking and analysis of texts, and exposure to different cultural traditions, students who graduate with this degree find that they are well-suited for careers in:

  • Teaching
  • Social Service Organizations, NonGovernmental Organizations, Non-profits
  • Government and Diplomatic Service
  • Ministry
  • Law
  • Counseling 


Undergraduate Advisor in Classics: Matthew Loar, 240 Andrews Hall, mloar2@unl.edu
Undergraduate Advisor in Religious Studies: Simon Wood, 234 Andrews Hall, 402-472-2434; swood2@unl.edu


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Emphasis in Religious Studies

If you choose an Emphasis in Religious Studies, you will have a unique opportunity for intellectual discovery and personal growth. You will find that the Religious Studies program is a welcoming environment in which to pursue the academic study of religion, regardless of your own particular faith, or even if you do not consider yourself religious.

Why Religious Studies at UNL?

  •  You will explore the world’s great religious traditions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism—each with its own unique history and cultural background. You will learn about the founders of these religions, their basic beliefs and sacred scriptures, and how they are practiced and lived in the world today. 

  • You will gain an understanding of what religion is, what religions have in common, and how religious individuals and communities have given answers to the deepest questions we can ask—questions about who we are and where we came from; how we are connected to other humans and to all living things; and how we might find meaning in our lives and in the universe.

  • The study of different religions will enable you to be more self-aware and critical of your own ideas about religion. And equally important, the more encounters you have with other cultures, other peoples, other religions than your own, the more likely you are, in situations of tension and conflict, to understand the other, and arrive at peaceful resolutions.

  • Interdisciplinary studies. Our faculty members have close associations with other departments and programs including Judaic Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Global Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Archeology, opening up other fields of study that you can combine with your Religious Studies major or minor. 

Career Opportunities

An Emphasis in Religious Studies will enable you to develop skills that will be extremely useful for just about any career that requires a sensitivity to the cultural needs, interests, and practices of other people. Because of their exposure to different cultural traditions, our graduates find that they are well-equipped for careers in: 

  • Education, Teaching
  • Social Service, Non-Governmental Organizations, Non-profits, Peace organizations  
  • Government and Diplomatic Service, Military
  • Ministry, Counseling
  • Professional fields of Law, Medicine and Health professions, Business (International) 

In addition, because of our strong emphasis on writing, critical thinking, and the analysis of texts, our students are well-prepared to do further graduate work not only in Religious Studies, but in related fields including (but not limited to) history, psychology, political science, international affairs, and peace studies. Also, many have gone on to pursue theological training in seminaries.

The Major and Minor in Religious Studies

The Requirements for the major in Classics & Religious Studies, and the minor in Religious Studies, are designed to give you maximum freedom to select courses that meet your particular needs and interests.  Undergraduate Bulletin/Major Requirements

Possible Areas of Study

Here is a sampling of some (optional) areas of study that you may want to focus on as a major or minor in religious studies, and some of the course offerings relating to each area: (See Courses for a full listing of Religious Studies courses.)

Introductory Courses

  • World Religions (RELG 108)
  • Explaining Religion (150)
  • Judaism, Christianity, Islam (181)
  • Introduction to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism (118)
  • Introduction to Islam (208)

Biblical Studies

  • Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (205)
  • Israel: The Holy Land (217)
  • Early Christianity (New Testament) (307)
  • Women in the Biblical World (340)
  • Dead Sea Scrolls (308)
  • Second Temple Judaism (406)
  • Classical Hebrew (101,102)


  • History of Christianity (216)
  • Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire (312)
  • The Crusades (319)
  • Religion of Late Western Antiquity (409)
  • Gnosticism (410)
  • Reformation Thought (426)

Religious Thought and Theology

  • Ways of Western Religion (206)
  • Reason and Religion (220)
  • Science and Religion (225)
  • Great Ideas in Religious Thought: From God to Nothingness (310)
  • Medieval Literature and Theology (489)
  • Buddhist Thought (355)

Jewish Studies

  • Israel: The Holy Land (217)
  • Introduction to Jewish History (219)
  • Jews in the Middle Ages (332)
  • Judaism and Christianity in Conflict and Coexistence (209)
  • Second Temple Judaism (406)

Buddhist Studies

  • Buddhism (218)
  • Buddhist Meditation (345)
  • Buddhist Scriptures (335)
  • Buddhist Thought (355)
  • Tibetan Buddhism (230)
  • Death, Immortality and Transcendence in Asian Religions (351)

Islamic Studies

  • Introduction to Islam (208)
  • History of Islam (214)
  • Islam in the Modern World (318)
  • Fundamentalism, Religion, and Politics (418)
  • The Quran (342)
  • Women in Islam (cross-listed with Modern Languages)
  • Arabic I & II (Modern Languages)

What Our Graduates are Saying

Alison OToole

JESSICA LOKE, graduated 2012

  • Majors: Religious Studies and Psychology
  • Minor: History
  • Position held after graduation: Residential International Student Coordinator with UNL Housing
  • Currently: Resarch Masters program in Psychology, University of Amsterdam, specializing in Brain and Cognition

“The Religious Studies program has made me question everything I have learned and gave me the ability and courage to investigate where this knowledge originates from. I have come to see how so much of my own knowledge is culturally acquired, and I understand that unless I understand my own biases and assumptions, it remains difficult to objectively seek new knowledge. Now that I am in graduate school, this ability is even more valued. Frankly, not a week goes by without my thoughts on how my classics and religious studies education helped me in my current graduate program. Most of my classmates are European students who did not have the privilege of a liberal arts education. Though sometimes I do envy the depth of their knowledge in psychology, I feel that they have missed out on so much more education can offer!” 

Jessica Loke

ALISON O’TOOLE, graduated 2015

  • Majors: Classics and Religious Studies
  • Minors: Political Science, Theater, English
  • Capstone Topic (Religious Studies): “The deconstruction of political violence and religion: A case study comparison of Augustine of Hippo and Lewis Atiyat Allah” (Advisor: Simon Wood)
  • Currently: Graduate program (PhD), Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“My experience in the UNL religious studies department prepared me for graduate study in political science. Learning about the history of religions, different philosophies, and modern science deepened my perspective, and put in context how our world has come to be what it is today. At a special seminar that FBI and CIA operatives in training are required to take, I found that I was already familiar with much of what was taught about perception and analyzing everyday world occurrences because of the courses I took in the Classics and Religious Studies program. Studying religion has given me a deeper understanding of how humans perceive and relate to one another, and that is a valuable asset in the integrated political and economic systems we live in today—one that both employers and graduate schools recognize as important.”

Michaela Montgomery


  • Majors: Religious Studies and History
  • Minors: Latin, Philosophy, English
  • UCARE project: “How Buddhist Philosophic Writings Altered the Course of History (Advisor: Yaroslav Komarovski)
  • Currently: Master of Theological Studies, with concentration in (Christian) theology, Harvard Divinity School

"Working in the Classics and Religious Studies department most importantly taught me how to ask questions. Knowing how to critically analyze information is crucial, but knowing how to approach topics from multiple angles is equally important. I also learned how to read—religious texts are often dense and cannot be skimmed if they are to be understood. Further, studying various languages (Latin, Greek, Tibetan) opened my eyes to how authors use language to inflate or obscure. This, of course, has also helped my own writing. I use all of these skills every day for my current work and couldn’t succeed without them."

Jonathan Poarch

JONATHAN POARCH, graduated 2015

  • Majors: Classics and Religious Studies, Geography
  • Minor: Vocal Music
  • Currently: Duke Divinity School, Master of Divinity degree program

"My religious studies professors did a great job of interacting with me as a student, allowing me to work through the complexities of religious history and theology. Their encouragement of me affirmed my passion for religious topics. Many of the topics discussed in my classes—whether it was balancing science and religion or the history of Israel—raise issues that do not have clear-cut solutions. Working through these difficulties in a critical manner has helped me to understand not only these religious topics better, but any social problems that humanity faces. The skills I acquired at UNL are the foundation for the work I am currently doing in the history of Christianity and theology in seminary. Further, my studies in different religious traditions have given me a broader perspective on the world, which I hope to use in interfaith relations."

Emphasis in Classics

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