CofC Department of Religious Studies

CofC Department of Religious Studies


"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

University School of the Lowcountry seeks to develop active and informed citizens of America and our world who can think for themselves, serve the greater community, and successfully chart a path through life. They are steeped in current events, civics, and the peoples, faiths, and cultures in America and across the globe.
While navigating the pandemic over the past 22 months, we've also engaged in the following:

- We've sustained a COVID relief program for students and families associated with our Charleston County School District friends at Midland Park Primary School, Pinehurst Elementary School, Ladson Elementary School, and R.B. Stall High School. This includes school supplies, food, books, toys, cleaning items, and clothes gathered and distributed on Saturdays since March 2020.

- To do our part to help with the 2020 Election, members of our high school created an area Youth Polling Worker Project. We secured 30 youth poll workers for the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration. This is now a permanent facet of USL, and our students served as poll workers across Charleston County on Election Day 2021.

- We've visited and met with leaders of various houses of worship to learn more about their religions and their operating during COVID. This is a long-standing tradition at University School that has taken on heightened significance during the pandemic:
* Dr. Elijah Siegler, College of Charleston CofC Department of Religious Studies - "Why it is important to learn about religions?"
* Chaplain Major Richard O. Schultz (U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School)
* Dr. Jeremy Rutledge (Circular Congregational Church, Charleston)
* Rabbi Stephanie Alexander (Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE) Reform Jewish Congregation of Charleston)
* Father John Cox (Holy Ascension Orthodox Church)
* Imam Abdel Majid & Dr. Ghazala Javed (Central Mosque of Charleston)
* Rev. Dr. Kylon Middleton (Mount Zion AMEC - 5 Glebe Street)
* Pastor Sara White (Hibben UMC)
* Rev. Yhanco Monet (Charleston Interreligious Council)
* Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum (Synagogue Emanu-El)
* And, in December 2021, we took a live virtual tour of the Old City section of Jerusalem to see and ask questions about significant sites to Christians, Jews, and Muslims

- We've role modeled the successful use of outdoor learning as a middle way and safe in-person option so there is not just a choice between remote learning and inside buildings. This has included lobbying local, state, and federal officials to make outdoor learning spaces (tents) legal and easily available for all of South Carolina's students.

- We are a school that explores elections and the democratic process, and this means hearing from candidates/office holders and learning about different political parties in even-numbered years (the 4 major ones in 2020 - Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Green). 2021 was municipal elections which are non-partisan, so our speakers reflected this. To demonstrate substantial civics preparation and civil conversations are possible, we hosted, heard from, and asked questions of the following during the 2021 election cycle:
(1) Mount Pleasant Council Member Howard Chapman
(2) Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie
(3) Mount Pleasant Mayoral candidate Kathy Landing
(4) Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration Director Isaac Cramer
(5) Julie Hussey (League of Women Voters Charleston)

- Students learn to serve others as adults by actively engaging and serving their community as young people. Each student contributes 50+ hours of service through our program that is integrated into our school day. This includes annual participation in the Trident United Way's Days of Caring which is in addition to our whole school weekly COVID relief program for students and families-in-need in North Charleston.

Our students see and experience the world first-hand through regular field trips and many more, and they contribute their time and talents to uplift others and get to know the rich array of people in our community, country, and world.
This #hssfeaturefriday , we salute Dr. Todd LeVasseur ‘97, Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences and Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Director!
Dr. LeVasseur counts learning from the students in his class, often about how to be a better human and to have hope for the future, among his proudest accomplishments.

As CofC Department of Religious Studies major/ Department of Philosophy College of Charleston minor at College of Charleston, he was inspired by Dr. June McDaniel and Dr. Lee Irwin. Before graduating from CofC, Dr. LeVasseur spent his sophomore year at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, where Dr. William Herbrechtsmeier became another powerful mentor.

While there, Dr. LeVasseur encountered old growth redwood forests for the first time and also saw the grand ancient trees being logged. As a result, he fused his environmental activism with his interest in religious studies and ventured to figure out how cosmologies and concepts of the sacred inform the treatment of the natural world. His journey took him to the Univ. of Florida for his Ph.D. in religion and nature, the only Ph.D. program of its kind.

The question that now guides his path is how can the human animal, from individual to global scales, learn to actively generate just, regenerative, and sustainable behaviors and lifeways as we move into the Anthropocene, if at all? The question motivates the courses he teaches in religious studies, environmental and sustainability studies, the First Year Experience First Year Experience at the College of Charleston, College of Charleston Honors College, and as an affiliated faculty member with CofC Women's and Gender Studies. It also motivated research on his new book, Climate Change, Religion, and Our Bodily Future.

He says his favorite memories include seeing students walk across the Cistern at graduation each year, knowing they’re heading out to make the world a better place. He also treasures the friendships he’s made across campus while directing the QEP on sustainability literacy.

Dr. LeVasseur enjoys listening to roots reggae, surfing, reading, and spending time with his family, and he dreams about “a world without racism, sexism, speciesism, queerphobia, and other intersectional oppressions, and that’s gotten off of fossil fuels.”
Congratulations to Kayla Sitton and Morgan Herr, who have been named 2021 HSS Scholars by Gibbs Knotts, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and CofC Department of Religious Studies! ✨
The HSS Scholar Awards are presented annually and celebrate the top one to two students chosen by their departments in each of the 11 undergraduate major programs within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. This year, Scholar profiles will be posted on HSS social media outlets, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, this week as well as on the HSS Scholars page on the College of Charleston website:
Please join faculty, students, family and friends in celebrating our scholars and all of their amazing achievements during their time at the College of Charleston! 👏👏👏
#hssscholars #hssatcofc #collegeofcharleston #COFC
The Bully Pulpit Series announces the four panelists for “The 2020 Presidential Election: Conjectures and Consequences (Part I)” virtual panel on Nov 3!👇

• Dr. Elijah Siegler
• Dr. Karyn Amira
• Dr. Jordan Ragusa
• Dr. Kendra Stewart

Read more on each panelist here:

This panel is open to the College of Charleston community and general public. It is also co-hosted by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Charleston and will be moderated by Dean Gibbs Knotts. 👏

Tune in next Tuesday, November 3rd @ 4PM! Event link here: (Stay tuned for more info on Part II of this panel, scheduled for Nov 10.)

#CougarCampaign2020 #cofcbullypulpit #cofc #presidentialelection #election2020 #collegeofcharleston College of Charleston Department of Political Science CofC Department of Religious Studies The Riley Center for Livable Communities
Meet the faculty. Meet current and prospective majors and minors. Preview the RELS courses for Spring 2021. All students are welcome. Covid capacity for space is 30 people. Come Early! Drinks and light refreshments will be provided. Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 3:30 pm.
CofC religious studies majors enjoy highly personalized educational opportunities in internships, mentoring research projects, career advising, conference support, field visits and study abroad opportunities. Religious Studies faculty have expertise in various religions, including: eastern, western and indigenous, ancient, medieval and modern. Examples include African American and Native American religions, Daoist healing traditions in China, Christian attitudes toward gender and the body, western esotericism, the prophetic traditions of the Ancient Near East, Christian Pentecostalism in Haiti, Tibetan Buddhist monasticism and religion in American popular culture today. Click through our slideshow to see the latest course offerings and more.
Hello all! On Friday, October 20th at 5:30, myself and another Religious Studies student, Luke Shirley, will be gathering under the banner of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry. CAJM is an interreligious organization in Charleston & North Charleston that unites diverse cross-sections of our community to address local social injustices. This is the first step of our model of community organization-- knowing the issues felt on the ground, so that we can tackle those realities in our annual cycle. Location is TBD, but we hope to see you there! And please reach out if you would like more information.

The Department of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston The Department of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston offers both a major and minor degree in religious studies.

With eight full-time faculty members, the department supports a wide-ranging, diverse curriculum and fosters close interaction between students and faculty. Students may choose to specialize in individual religions or subject areas through special topics courses and tutorials. The flexibility of the curriculum gives students the opportunity to explore diverse cultures and religions, while providin

Operating as usual

Photos from Charleston Interreligious Council's post 03/03/2022

Good to see so many RELS students at conversation with the founders of the subfield of Religion & Ecology.


Next week! Our second movie in our RELS Reels Film Series will be right after Spring Break — led by Dr. Siegler in ECTR 118 on 3/15 at 6:30. Can’t wait to see you then!


The Charleston Interreligious Council’s 5th Annual Interfaith Speaker Series is coming to the College! Come enjoy and light snack and conversation on Cosmovision and Ecology this Thursday, 3/3 at 2:00 PM!

Photos from CofC Department of Religious Studies's post 02/24/2022

Swipe to read our featured alumni spotlight, Danielle Huger Lindstrom (‘12)! She’s been doing some great things and offers some much needed advice to our soon-to-be-graduates! ➡️


TOMORROW! (2/15) The Department of Religious Studies and Department of Psychology will present a fantastic panel on Religion and the Brain.

Panelists will be discussing Dr. Modern’s book on Religion and Neuroscience. Zoom link is below and in our bio! Can’t wait to see you there!


Our first film in our Spring series of RELS Reels is going to be next Thursday, 2/17 at 6:30 PM in ECTR 118. Come join us for an enriching experience and learn more about Puritan values and religious life. See you then!

Photos from CofC Department of Religious Studies's post 02/09/2022

Upcoming Events! Swipe to read our Spring 2022 RELS Reels Film Series! Our next one will be at 7:30 on 2/17 in ECTR 118. Time and locations for future films TBD. Can’t wait to see you there.


Religion lives and breathes in every facet of society: capitalism, nationalism, ethnicity, and even environmental issues. The Geography Program welcomes RELS assistant professor Dr. Keegan to discuss conflicts between the United States and five Tribal Nations that call the contested lands of Southern Utah, the Four Corners, and Bear Ears National Monument home. The talk will be on Feb. 22 at 4 pm in ECTR 118.


Meet Dr. John Modern, our keynote speaker for our guest panel on 2/15 in the Wells Fargo Auditorium (5 Liberty St) at 3:30 PM. His work has been published in numerous academic journals, and his book on religion and the brain has captured the attention of scholars across the country. This is an event you don’t want to miss!


We are so excited to announce our amazing panel coming to our campus on 2/15! Panelists will be discussing Dr. Modern’s book on Religion and Neuroscience. Stay tuned to our socials leading up to event to learn more about each of the panelists. Can’t wait to see you there!


Ever considered taking a RELS course at CofC? Here’s a few reasons why you should! Between the professors, the courses, and the knowledge you’ll gain, it’s a no-brainer!


No gift is too small! Every dime helps support RELS students in the form of guest lectures, field trips, stipends and awards for exceptional research projects, and scholarships for study abroad. Thanks to our students, alums, faculty, staff, parents and patrons for you support. day


Take a break from final exams to support and learn from two of our own RELS graduating seniors as they defend their Bachelor Essays.
Kelsey, Sarah, and the RELS department would love for you to join us on 12/7/21 at 2:00 pm in Arnold Hall.


The next installment of RELS REELS will be on 11/11/21 at 6:00 pm in Jewish Studies 233 –– Dr. Bjerken will be on hand to view and discuss the movie “The Cup,” a film inspired by a true story about Buddhist monks and their obsession with World Cup Soccer.


The next installment of RELS REELS will be on 11/11/21 at 6:00 pm in Jewish Studies 233 –– Dr. Bjerken will be on hand to view and discuss the movie “The Cup,” a film inspired by a true story about Buddhist monks and their obsession with World Cup Soccer.


Come and join us right now in Wells Fargo Auditorium for a fascinating lecture and Q&A aboutvtge intersection of Contemporary Art and Faith.


Dr. Keegan will lead an informal discussion group about planning and preparing to study RELS in graduate school. Meet her in the RELS Lounge at 3:15 pm on 10/28/21.


Join us for the first installment of RELS Reels as we watch Wes Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow - s sensationalized horror film inspired by actual research on Haitian Vodou. A discussion of representations of Haitian religion to follow with Dr. Lowe. October, 27, 2021 at 6 pm in Jewish Studies 233.


Religious Studies is so excited to have the Foundation for Spirituality and the Arts at the College to present a dynamic, interdisciplinary collaboration. Dr. Siegler is moderating the panel discussion. November 1, 2021 at 6 pm in Wells Fargo Auditorium.


Meet the faculty. Meet current and prospective majors and minors. Preview the RELS courses for Spring 2022. All students are welcome. Drinks and refreshments will be provided. Tuesday, 10/5/19 at 3:30 pm in Alumni Hall.

Timeline Photos 05/07/2021

Our final graduate spotlight goes to Kayla Sitton. Kayla double majored in Religious Studies and International Studies. She studied abroad in Asia. Kayla is an HSS Scholar, RELS Departmental Honors, Student, and RELS Outstanding Student. Her Bachelor's Essay was on the intersection of Religion and Black Lives Matter movement. After graduation, she will take a gap, year, then pursue a PhD in Religious Studies.

All the best Kay!!!

Photos from CofC Department of Religious Studies's post 05/07/2021

I have been an admin asst in higher ed for 20+ years. Commencement Day is my most favorite day on job. It's awesome to meet the families that have raised and supported such intelligent and wonderful humans. I love hearing my professors share their special student stories and give me a tiny glimpse into the special relationships they form their students. And I love to see the graduates full of pride and confidence over their accomplishments. Congratulations RELS Graduates of 2021. You made through Covid. You can conquer Anything!

Timeline Photos 05/06/2021

Today RELS shines a light on graduating senior and HSS Scholar, Morgan Herr. Morgan double majored in Religious Studies and Anthropology and minored in Spanish. Morgan says she will go to graduate school to continue her studies. But right now, she is focused on enjoying this accomplishment, graduating from CofC.

Proud of you Morgan!!!

Timeline Photos 05/04/2021

Today RELS celebrates graduating senior, Bailey Huttig. Bailey double majored in Religious Studies and Psychology. Bailey was very involved with the RELS program, especially in restarting the Religious Studies Club. After graduation, she plans on obtaining her insurance license and working as an agent. She is considering at tenting graduate school at some point in the future.

Best of luck with all your plans Bailey!!!


We are spotlighting our RELS graduates this week leading up to commencement on May 7th. Our first senior is Jasmine Tindall.

Jasmine will graduate with a double major in Religious Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. The freedom to engage with multiple disciplinary approaches has provided her with an enriching experience that’s shaped her sense of social responsibility. She knows her background in both majors will enhance all potential work experiences which she plans to translate to life beyond college by finding employment in the areas of policy-making and lobbying on behalf of human rights, gender and sexual equity. After graduation, Jasmine hopes to gain networking opportunities with local NGOs who focus their missions around making a difference on issues related to pregnancy, childbirth and reproductive justice.

Congratulations Jasmine!!!

Timeline Photos 04/16/2021

Look who is featured this week by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Charleston . It's our very own, newly tenured, Dr. Matthew Cressler!!! Congrats Dr. C!!!
This we profile amazing teacher-scholar Matthew Cressler! You may have heard about a recent research project he spearheaded, working with students Allen Duggar and A.J. Williamson, which revealed the influence of religion in the College’s history. “My hope was that it would awaken for students the inseparability of religion and race in the making of the College,” said Dr. Cressler in The College Today.

He came both to teaching and to Religious Studies. naturally. “My dad is a professor of electrical engineering and my mom is a Catholic spiritual director, so in some senses you could say I've managed to follow in both my parents' footsteps,” he says. What he loves most about his calling, however, is the opportunity to invite students to think more deeply about the things they take for granted. He challenges them to imagine diverse ways of understanding what it means to be human.

He also challenges people to think more deeply through his writings, including his book, Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migration ( and a recent article, “Real, Good and Sincere Catholics”. As someone who teaches religion and race in the U.S., Dr. Cressler says he is always proud when former students reach out to share how classes have helped them understand ongoing struggles for racial justice.

A study-away course called "Interfaith Atlanta: Across the Color Line" created lasting memories. “We didn't just discuss the relationship between interfaith and racial justice activism,” he says, “We piled into a van and drove to Atlanta to learn firsthand. We stayed at Koinonia Farm, visited various religious communities, made pilgrimage to Martin Luther King's church, and bonded over inside jokes, great food, and good tunes on the road.”

As the father of three daughters, Dr. Cressler spends most of his spare time living that life. He’s a big fan of comic books and speculative fiction, and he’ll take soccer in any form he can get

Our Story

he Department of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston offers both a major and minor degree in religious studies. With eight full-time faculty members, the department supports a wide-ranging, diverse curriculum and fosters close interaction between students and faculty. Students may choose to specialize in individual religions or subject areas through special topics courses and tutorials. The flexibility of the curriculum gives students the opportunity to explore diverse cultures and religions, while providing them with important tools to understand and interpret these worldviews critically.

The religious studies department introduces students to the academic study of religion, which engages in the descriptive and cross-cultural analysis of religious beliefs, practices and institutions, both past and present. The teaching orientation is comparative and non-sectarian in that it does not promote any specific religious tradition to the exclusion of others. The department offers a broad range of courses in religious traditions from around the world. It encourages students to complete courses in the areas of western traditions (such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), eastern traditions (such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese and Japanese religions) and American religions (such as Native American, African American, and many New Religious Movements). Students become more deeply aware of their own cultural traditions by studying those of others, and will approach other religions with greater empathy and sensitivity to their respective complexity.

Religious studies at the College of Charleston is both a comparative and interdisciplinary enterprise. It serves as a bridge between various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, particularly those of history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy and literature, as well as various language programs. Courses explore various religions through a variety of dimensions and themes – ritual, myth, symbol, mystical experience, cognitive patterns, gender, ethnicity, identity – and they also consider the role played by political, economic and social factors on the development of religions in their global context. Religious studies thus provides a coherent disciplinary context where students can engage in a holistic and sustained examination of the history, diversity and ingenuity of human belief and behavior, one of the hallmarks of a liberal arts and sciences education.

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RELS 115 - Religion and Society Spring 2019




An introduction to new cultures and a chance to see the world :)




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