Major program: Our pioneering Introduction to Religion is no grand tour of world religions; it wrestles with what is religious about rituals, spirituality, sacred traditions, stories, and societies. Besides the Introduction, three of our general courses—on Buddhism, Judaism, and the New Testament, respectively—all seek to integrate the interdisciplinary study of religion. Such study, sometimes uncomfortably critical, is the first distinctive feature of our department. The second feature is the emphasis we place on the study of thematic approach. We seek to figure out religion when and where it takes place, whether it is subversive or transformative. The department's thematic approach component enhances our long-standing cross-cultural approach and highlights how thoroughly international our program has become.

Sample Courses:  Politics and Piety in Early Christianities; Jewish History: From Spanish Expulsion to Jon Stewart; Religious Worlds of New York; Buddhism: An Introduction; Islam and Muslim Cultures; Christianity and Sexuality

Number of Professors: 12

Religion Building
Title: Faculty Spotlight
Religion Building

Jan Willis

Professor of Religion, Professor of East Asian Studies


Bio: One of the earliest American scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, Willis has published numerous essays and articles on Buddhist meditation, hagiography, women and Buddhism, and Buddhism and race. She has studied with Tibetan Buddhists in India, Nepal, Switzerland and the U.S. for four decades, and has taught courses in Buddhism for 32 years. In December 2000, “Time” magazine named Willis one of six “spiritual innovators for the new millennium.” In 2003, she was a recipient of Wesleyan University’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and she was profiled in a 2005 “Newsweek” article about “Spirituality in America.”