The Department of Religion is a small, tightly-knit community of faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates. Several graduate students have earned positions as teaching assistants, where they gain valuable career experience through working with undergraduate students. The undergraduate students benefit from the one-on-one personal help of the graduate students, and are also given a chance to ask questions about advancing in the field of religion. With the exception of Introduction to the World’s Major Religions (REL 150), a diversification course taken by most undergraduates of all majors at the university, undergraduate class sizes are usually less than 20 people. Small class sizes create a personal dynamic where students feel comfortable to ask questions and their individual needs can be met more directly.
The sense of community and togetherness is at its strongest at the graduate level. Drawn together by a common interest to explore the various dimensions of the religions of the world, graduate students usually develop strong friendships. Graduate classes are given in seminar form and consist of small groups of students, usually seven or less. This allows students to have free and open discussions with their professors. Outside of the classroom, personal contact with faculty is frequent, and students often gather with their professors at the campus café, carrying on conversation about the most interesting aspects of their seminar discussions.
Graduate students and several faculty members meet once every week for Papers In Progress Sessions (PIPS), an informal event wherein a student presents the progress of his or her academic writing and receives valuable feedback from a designated respondent and the other students and faculty in attendance.