Major in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Overview

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The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies offers the Major in Philosophy and Religious Studies (PHRE), designed to be one of the most widely applicable, flexible, and efficient majors at Radford University, which you can tailor to your own interests and goals. The PHRE Major leads to either a B.A. or a B.S. degree that consists of 36 hours; 30 hours of core courses in philosophy or religious studies and 6 hours of program specific electives, making it ideal as a primary major or as a second major to complement other programs of study. See the Radford University catalog for further B.A. and B.S. requirements.

To learn more about the PHRE major, get in touch with our department chair or visit us in Hemphill Hall 4202 (one level above Starbuks). 

This program fulfills the REAL Curriculum "E" area in Humanistic or Artistic Expression.

NOTE: Students who enrolled prior to Fall 2022 complete different requirements. Consult the Catalog that corresponds to your current degree-completion plan, or contact your Faculty Advisor to discuss your Degree Audit.

Why Major in Philosophy and Religious Studies (PHRE)?

After nearly 20 years in law teaching, I can confirm that no one is smarter than the serious undergraduate philosophy major.

Brian Leiter, University of Chicago

Philosophy and Religious Studies is the major that allows you to acquire some of the most desirable traits sought by employers while exploring life's most enduring questions. As a PHRE major you learn skills in critical thinking, written and verbal communication, and moral and ethical reasoning, and will learn how to analyze and understand arguments better that just about any other major. And you develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for diverse cultures, a trait increasingly important in today's globalized and pluralistic workplace.

Because of the multidisciplinary nature of the major, students learn to examine problems from many different perspectives. The study of philosophy and religion at Radford University immerses students in geopolitics, ethics, law, sustainability, healthcare, sociology, and history. Because of these traits, more and more employers are recognizing the value of philosophy and religious studies majors, and our majors typically promote faster in the workplace.

What PHRE Majors Learn and Do

I often say that if I headed back to college today, I would major in comparative religions rather than political science. That is because religious actors and institutions are playing an influential role in every region of the world and on nearly every issues central to U.S. foreign policy.

John Kerry, former U.S. Secretary of State

As a PHRE major, you’ll build a strong foundation and develop essential skills and curiosity, then explore widely in more focused areas of inquiry, and culminate your major with a capstone research seminar or practical internship experience.

Courses in the Philosophy and Religious Stuides Major progress through five categories, grouped according the skills and perspectives that they emphasize:

  1. How to Think About Philosophy and Religious Studies
  2. Thinking About the History of Ideas
  3. Thinking About Social Issues
  4. Additional Perspectives in Philosophy and Religious Studies
  5. Capstone Seminar or Internship

Descriptions for courses in Philosophy (PHIL) and Religion (RELN) are posted in the Catalog.

Begin the major by developing a solid foundation that prepares you to develop well-reasoned ideas, generate logical and ethical arguments, and increase your skills in cultural competency and understanding of diverse perspectives. In the category “How to Think About Philosophy and Religious Studies,” you’ll complete either PHIL 111 or PHIL 112, either RELN 112 or RELN 113, and PHIL 213.

Then branch out to explore the diverse forms of human thought, expression, and experience that are encompassed within philosophies and religions, from across the globe and throughout history. In the categories “Thinking About the History of Ideas” and “Thinking About Social Issues,” you’ll choose four courses from 18 options that can lead you in many directions, targeted to your goals and interests as they develop during your time as a Highlander.

Next, you’ll activate the capabilities and perspectives developed early in the major to deepen your skills as a thinker and researcher through upper-level courses in specialized topics under the category “Additional Perspectives in Philosophy and Religious Studies." 

Then, culminate your degree by completing a Capstone research seminar or seeking placement in a professional internship to increase your experience and connections—and demonstrate the usefulness of your learning—in the workplace before you even graduate.

PHRE Student and Alumni Testimonials

  • “The greatest benefit of being a philosophy major are the skills you gain in writing, structuring arguments properly, and learning how to evaluate complex philosophical language.” —Parker Brackin
  • • "Being a religion major has allowed me to connect and relate to people in a more universal and innately personal way, which was a large part of my wanting to stick with it."   —Katelyn Dobbins
  • “I am more prepared for the global world that we now live in and can work with and understand people from various backgrounds different from my own.” —Brandon Dunford
  • “Through my studies, I have gained exposure to a plethora of different perspectives. I have strengthened my ability to analyze, critique, and form well-reasoned arguments.” —Greg Capps

Where Are They Now?

Philosophy and Religious Studies majors find their way into all career fields, including law, business and finance, education, nonprofit, and medicine. Our former majors hold many different types of jobs, including: project manager, admission counselor, psychologist, and teacher.. Not only that, our majors outscore other majors on the LSAT, GRE, and GMAT. Philosophy majors are also among the highest mid-career earners. Our former majors hold many different types of jobs, including: bioethics program director, project manager, teacher, psychologist, and marketing coordinator.

Philosophy Faculty

Our philosophy faculty come from diverse backgrounds, have diverse interests, and are internationally recognized in their areas of specialization.

  • Dr. Guy Axtell is a widely recognized expert on virtue theory and objectivity.
  • Dr. Steven Fesmire is an internationally known scholar of ethics, education, and politics.
  • Darrell Shomaker holds expertise in healthcare ethics.
  • Dr. Heather Keith publishes widely on ethics, intellectual disability, and environmental philosophy.  
  • Dr. Katy Shepard is a philosopher and artist, and studies the role of artists in building identity and fostering liberation.  
  • Dr. Gilburt Goffstein is an expert in philosophies of human liberation, focusing on thinkers like Freud, Marx, G. H. Mead, and Habermas.
  • Mike Zarella specializes in offering courses about the fundamental questions of human existence.
  • Nickolas Montgomery researches game theory and the philosophy of language.
  • David Parks specializes in offering introductory courses in philosophy.

Religious Studies Faculty

Our religious studies faculty come from diverse backgrounds, have diverse interestes, and are internationally recognized in their areas of specialization.

  • Dr. Paul Thomas is an expert on the use and impact of religious texts. 
  • Dr. Geoffrey Pollick is an expert on American religion and culture. 
  • Dr. Eric Rothgery's expertise focuses on Hinduism and Islam in India, specifically addressing healing rituals.
  • Ryan Lytton specializes in offering courses about early Christianity and its scriptures.

Despite their specializations, they all enjoy teaching introducotry courses in religious studies.