SHU Introduces Catholic Studies Minor

News Story: May 23, 2007

A growing demand for courses emphasizing Catholic Studies has led Sacred Heart University officials to provide students with an opportunity to pursue a minor in that field of study.

Building on an existing Catholic Studies Certificate program, which requires four courses or 12 credits, students pursuing the new minor will take six courses -- a universal introductory course, four courses from a specific list of offerings that integrate Catholic Studies into other disciplines, and a capstone.

“We began with Catholic Studies courses and as interest mounted we put together a Catholic Studies certificate. Because of student demand, we were able to expand that into a Catholic Studies minor. This is a wonderful addition to our list of minors, especially at a school like Sacred Heart University,” said Dr. Claire Paolini, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students have already expressed an interest in the new minor and are pursuing it, she said.

The Catholic Studies minor is not just about religion as one might suspect, said Dr. June-Ann Greeley, a professor of religious studies who helped design the new minor. “It’s an understanding that learning has a moral foundation. That’s at the heart of the Catholic intellectual tradition,” she said. “It asks students to explore, in a unique way, their readings, their texts, their understanding of history, their way of looking at media or art or politics or social groups or literature. It’s looking through a very particular lens,” Greeley said.

Through the new minor, students will explore the Catholic intellectual tradition across several disciplines, discover the rich cultural and intellectual heritage of Catholicism, and study the influence of Catholic thought and belief on art, literature, music, scientific inquiry, historical perspective, political understanding and all manner of media.

Within the four core course requirements, students will be asked to take one course in religion and one in philosophy. “In order to get the theoretical background, we thought that having a certain number of courses in religious studies and philosophy was a vital foundation for students to have,” Paolini said.

The remaining two can be in whatever field they prefer, whether within their major or not, from the specific list, which will grow each year.

Faculty members, particularly those who attend the Presidential Seminar, have been creating courses in their respective disciplines that include a Catholic Studies component, leading the way for the development of the new minor.

“Since these courses were being created and we already had the certificate, we thought the next logical step would be to offer a minor,” Greeley said.

As an example of the kinds of courses that would fulfill the Catholic Studies minor requirements, Greeley mentioned several current offerings, including Dr. Robin McAllister’s course on Dante, which approaches the material from the perspective of a piece of literature that does more than just excite with its poetry. It teaches and prompts moral questioning, she said.

“Dr. John Roney teaches a course in medieval history, and he has developed it so that a student would get credit for it not just as a history course but also as a Catholic Studies course,” she said.

Until the introductory course is offered in the Fall 2008 semester, students minoring in Catholic Studies will be able to engage instead in an independent study project, Greeley said.

For further information about the new Catholic Studies minor, contact June-Ann Greeley at 203-371-7713 or email greeleyj@sacredheart.edu, or visit our website.