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Theology & Religious Studies Major

Gain the tools to understand and effectively respond to the religious forces that shape contemporary businesses, international events, and interpersonal relationships. When you study the world's religions, you get to ask big questions that cut across the entire human experience, preparing you for any career that involves understanding and interacting with people. In learning about religion, you learn about others...and you learn about yourself.

Theology & Religious Studies at John Carroll

At John Carroll, you will see strength in the way in which we embrace and engage religious pluralism, providing you with those marketable and useful skills needed for engaging diversity, equity, and inclusion more broadly. You can choose from a wide variety of courses designed to develop an engaged understanding of faith — your own and the faiths of others.

Coursework in theology and religious studies provides a solid foundation for work in any field that involves cross-cultural communication, empathetic client relationships, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, careful writing, group collaboration, or social action. It makes great preparation for graduate programs in law, journalism, medicine, political science, sociology, and many other fields. A major in Theology and Religious Studies integrates well with any other humanities or social science major; a minor complements any John Carroll major.

As a Theology & Religious Studies student, you will learn to:

  • Understand the Jesuit tradition, the Catholic faith, and the core values and beliefs of the world's religions
  • Engage in critical analysis and the asking of hard questions
  • Cultivate skills in effective written and oral communication
  • Gain an appreciation for diverse perspectives and worldviews, and the ability to understand and engage difference

When you study the world’s religions, you will make an impact in more than just the classroom, the church, the mosque, the synagogue, or the temple. The Theology and Religious Studies major features the ability to focus on your area of interest. In addition to Catholic Studies, you can self-design your program around Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Asian Religions, or interfaith dialogue.

A minor in Theology and Religious Studies complements a wide variety of majors. You’ll have the opportunity to choose from courses in Scripture, the history of Christianity, theology, world religions, and religious ethics, among many other areas of study. If you plan ahead, you can earn the Theology & Religious Studies minor with only one course beyond the University's Core requirements.

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BA in Theology & Religious Studies Program Highlights

Experiential learning is paramount to the study of theology and religion, and John Carroll provides significant opportunities to do so. Interdisciplinary courses like Silk Road Religions, that combine religion and Art History to explore the religious, political, and cultural exchange that took place along ancient trading routes, including an immersive trip through China. During the Jewish festival of Succot [Tabernacles], Dr. Noah Bickart’s class met in the sukkah [booth] in Dr. Bickart's backyard. While analyzing the ways Jews and Christians relate to a shared scriptural tradition, you can experience the ritual meaning making of another religious group. Several courses partner with CSSA to provide service-based learning experiences. For example, students work with Cleveland, Ohio environmental non-profits in TRS 263: Ecology, Religion, and Justice.

TRS’s diverse faculty and course offerings provide you with both a solid foundation in the Catholic tradition and serious engagement with other religious perspectives and worldviews. John Carroll offers particularly strong preparation if you are interested in going into high school teaching, campus ministry, or youth ministry. Faculty within the TRS program teach you to think critically, communicate cogently, reflect thoughtfully, and engage passionately to address the needs of our contemporary world.

All of our courses train you to become a critical thinker and clear communicator, offering regular practice in analyzing information from a variety of different perspectives. Specific courses address relevant questions, like “Catholic Social Teaching in Business” which examines ethical dilemmas surrounding data collection. The course “Faith & Science” considers the implications of changing technological paradigms and “Catholicism in a Digital Age” explores how rapid development of network computing, social media, and artificial intelligence challenges traditional assumptions about the human person, community, and moral decision making.

Many jobs in demand today did not exist a decade ago. How do you prepare for careers driven by technologies not yet invented? A Jesuit education provides the intellectual skills and mental agility to give you the leading edge in a wide variety of careers and entrepreneurial activities. In addition to teaching theology at various Catholic schools and other programs as well as ministry and lay leadership roles, Theology and Religious Studies students have pursued careers in business, communication, health care, public administration, for faith-based non-profits and more. Graduates have gone on to graduate and professional programs in doctoral programs, law school, and other professional graduate programs. Recent graduates have been accepted to graduate programs at Harvard Divinity School, Boston College, St. Patrick’s College (Maynooth, Ireland), Florida State University, University of Dayton, University of Notre Dame, and others.

John Carroll is home to a number of Centers of Excellence, focused on interfaith dialogue and helping others better understand their faiths. The national office for the Catholic Theological Society of America, the world’s largest professional organization of theologians, is located in Cleveland, on the campus of John Carroll, providing Theology and Religious Studies students with opportunities for participating in annual conventions and professional networking. The Bediuzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies aims to provide both the John Carroll community and the general public with balanced and responsible, academically rigorous, and theologically sound information about Islam. The Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Chair in Jewish Studies promotes greater understanding of Judaism by engaging both ancient texts and contemporary concerns. The Jack and Mary Jane Breen Chair in Catholic Theology seeks to foster a better understanding of the contemporary relevance and global dimension of Catholic theology. And more.

John Carroll offers many student organizations and events aimed at helping you express your faith and grow your understanding. A few include: Agape, a Catholic devotional group; Daughters of Isabella, a Catholic women’s charitable organization; Hillel, a student group seeking to connect Jewish students at John Carroll with one another; Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s group for prayer, study, and devotions; Muslim Student Society (MSS); Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF); or the Theology and Religious Studies honor society Theta Alpha Kappa. Faculty collaborate with Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, and student groups to support the Interfaith Prayer Room, Friday Prayer sponsored by the Muslim Student Society, the EXPLORE group visits to area places of worship, Hillel activities such as the model Sedar, and a monthly faculty and student lunch co-sponsored by the Hillel and the Muslim Student Association.

“The more we understand the beliefs and perspectives of others, the more we understand our own beliefs and perspectives. We have to know ourselves and we have to know others if we are ever going to work together for the common good.”

—Dr. Edward Hahnenberg, Department Chair

Notable Alum


Maggie Hutchison, ’14

has honed her skills for creating opportunity and equity for under-resourced people across many perspectives. Her view has stretched as wide as the United Nations response to global surges in migration, and as focussed as how residents of Queensbridge, the largest housing project in North America, access jobs. As a Project Manager for Urban Upbound, she tracks and translates data to support funding for job training, youth development, college access and wealth building programs among the nearly 7,000 residents of Queensbridge, a community hit hard by everything from hurricane Sandy to the covid pandemic.

JCU Northeast Map

Theology & Religious Studies Alumni Across the Region

John Carroll University alumni live, work, teach and support communities throughout the region from Northeast Ohio to Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Columbus, Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsburgh, New York City, Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.