The Catholic University of America

Sept. 10, 2014

STRS Now Offers Bachelor's Degree

  STRS majors (standing from left) Victoria McClellan, Tom Carani, Daniel Lopes, Morgan Yost, and (sitting), Magda “Carolina” Baker.

Catholic University senior Tom Carani plans to pursue a master’s degree after earning his bachelor’s in theology and religious studies next May. Until last May, Carani would have received his bachelor’s from the School of Arts and Sciences, but at Commencement 2015, he’ll get his diploma from the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS).

Carani, of West Chicago, who plans to be a high school theology teacher when he finishes his studies, says that knowing he’ll have a diploma from STRS “is just awesome. It carries a lot of weight. It makes me feel that I’ve earned something significant, especially since I care so much about theology and the Church. It’s an honor.”

With the change, STRS rather than the arts and sciences school sets the course requirements for the degree. The school has increased the required number of courses in literature, history, and art for theology majors. “We want our students to develop an appreciation of Catholic culture,” not just study theology on its own, says William Mattison, assistant dean of undergraduate studies and associate professor of moral theology.

The change also enables STRS faculty to provide more personalized advising for students. Under the new arrangement, all theology majors minor in philosophy unless they request an alternate minor.

The school has “grandfathered in” students like Carani who will continue to follow their general education requirements since they originally enrolled in the arts and sciences school, Mattison notes.

At the time of its founding in 1887, the School of Theology and Religious Studies took only graduate students. After Catholic University started educating undergraduates in 1904, most of them, including theology majors, were enrolled in the arts and sciences school.

STRS is one of three schools with ecclesiastical faculties that teach in the name of the Church at CUA, which is a pontifical university. Along with the School of Canon Law and the School of Philosophy, STRS confers ecclesiastical degrees, which are accredited and certified by the Holy See.

Of the approximately 10 pontifical universities in the United States that have ecclesiastical faculties, CUA is the only one that offers a bachelor’s degree to undergraduates in theology and religious studies, Mattison notes. While undergraduates at STRS will not earn an ecclesiastical degree, their affiliation with the school will offer them “a closer connection to the faculty [of STRS] and the life of the Church,” he adds.

Carani has a few months to go before he can frame and hang his diploma. In the meantime, he says he’ll wear the next best thing — a grey fleece sweatshirt that bears the name of his university and his school.



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