Sept. 9, 2003
CUA School of Religious Studies Gets a New Name, Structure
CUA’s School of Religious Studies has undergone a name change that reflects its new organizational structure. On Aug. 22, 2003, it added two words, becoming the School of Theology and Religious Studies. This change corresponded to the replacement of the school’s four departments with seven “academic areas.” The reorganization is intended to streamline the way the school offers degree programs, allowing greater cooperation among faculty and making the school more “user-friendly” to students.
The newly non-departmentalized school will continue to offer its 300 graduate students ecclesiastical (S.T.B., S.T.L., S.T.D.), civil (M.A., Ph.D.), and pastoral (M.Div., M.R.E., D.Min.) degrees, as well as graduate and undergraduate certificates in pastoral ministry and in Hispanic leadership and ministry. It will also continue to teach theology and religion courses to roughly 1,000 undergraduates each semester.
“But the structural changes will help make the school a more cohesive body,” said Monsignor Stephen Happel, the school’s dean. “It will also provide a singular platform for Catholic University to make important statements about how theology and religious studies should be undertaken to best serve the global Catholic Church and the Church in the Americas.”
The restructured school has been organized into seven academic areas:
(1) biblical studies;
(2) church history;
(3) liturgical studies/sacramental theology;
(4) moral theology/ethics;
(5) pastoral studies (including ministerial studies, Hispanic-Latino studies, religious education/catechetics and spirituality);
(6) religion and culture; and
(7) systematic and historical theology.
Formerly, the school was divided into four departments — biblical studies, church history, religion and religious education, and theology. (The School of Canon Law also was a department until it was re-established as a separate school last year.)
The major changes are beneficial at both philosophical and practical levels, Happel said.
The philosophical dimension involves the re-insertion of “theology” in the school’s name. In 1973, when the university combined CUA’s religion department with its schools of theology and canon law, the goal was to make the resulting School of Religious Studies a center for theological scholarship and religious thought. But, Happel said, the term “religious studies” recently has developed new meanings within American universities. It is often considered a non-faith-influenced, scientific, even secular analysis of various faiths.
“Catholic University had a hard time indicating to its various audiences what the focus of its programs might be,” the dean said. “With the insertion of the word ‘theology,’ CUA is reaffirming its original commitments to academic excellence in theology and religious studies, but from within the Catholic and Christian tradition.”
This fall, the school has reestablished its ecclesiastical doctorate (S.T.D.) in biblical theology, which CUA ceased offering 25 years ago. Before this year, only the school’s theology department could grant ecclesiastical degrees (baccalaureate, licentiate and doctorate in theology). One of the advantages in restructuring is that all the school’s qualified faculty now will be available to teach in the ecclesiastical degree programs. This will give the school considerable flexibility and accentuate its unique status in Catholic higher education in the United States, according to Happel.
The school also is changing the curriculum for undergraduates. Prior to fall 2003, only one department (religion and religious education) had primary responsibility for the four required theology and religious studies courses taken by nearly 1,000 undergraduate students each semester. All the other departments focused upon graduate students. With the reorganization, however, professors in all seven academic areas will regularly teach both undergraduate and graduate students. “Instead of having only 17 faculty available to our undergraduates, the new school will have 43 faculty regularly rotating into the undergraduate curriculum,” Happel said.
MEDIA: To read more about the reorganization and name change, visit http://inside.cua.edu. To arrange an interview, contact Chris Harrison or Victor Nakas at 202-319-5600.
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The Catholic University of America,
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