Because the department focuses on interdisciplinary study, students are encouraged to study religious phenomena through other disciplines, such as anthropology, history, art, and psychology. Majors expecting to undertake graduate study should study at least one classical or modern foreign language. Religious studies majors culminate their program in the senior seminar, which is a joint faculty-student discussion of contemporary theological issues. Every member of the religious studies department will participate in your senior seminar.
Grinnell offers opportunities for students who want to continue their studies off-campus. Religious studies majors have lived in Hindu communities while studying in India, immersed themselves in the religious culture of Japan, studied with Buddhists scholars, and learned Hebrew in Jerusalem and Arabic in Cairo. Students also have arranged internships at Neighborhood Capital Budget Group and the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services. One student held a summer internship that combined work among Hispanics in inner-city Chicago with the study of Catholic liberation theology. The religious studies department also plans the annual Gates Lecture. The lectureship was established in 1913 by faculty, alumni, and friends of the college, in memory of the college's second president, George A. Gates, "to bring to the campus the very best of modern thought" on religion. Recent speakers have included Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Carter Heyward, Katie Cannon, and Marcia Falk.