Which will you pick

Bachelor of Arts

  • Religious Studies major


  • Religious Studies
  • Islamic Studies

Graduate Programs

  • Master of Arts (religious studies major)

Why Study Religion?

  • It's an important part of our human experience
  • It shapes our global world
  • It configures our moral values
  • It defines our spirituality

Religion is a topic that is often talked about but very misunderstood. Conversations among different faith traditions become very difficult. Studying religions at University of Detroit Mercy provides many opportunities to explore many facets of this dynamic aspect of human life.

Program Highlights

The department of religious studies at University of Detroit Mercy, rooted in the context of Jesuit and Mercy traditions, encourages the academic study of religious in a spirit of free intellectual inquiry.

The department offers a wide variety of courses on topics including:

  • Contemporary Issues in Religion
  • World Religions
  • Biblical Studies
  • Christian Theology and Spirituality
  • Ethics

From doctors to lawyers, teachers to entrepreneurs Religious Studies students have found their coursework to be invaluable to them in a variety of careers and professional endeavors.

Religious Studies Major

The study of religion is an important branch of the humanities and an essential component in any well-grounded program of higher education. It is crucial for the understanding of any culture. The Religious Studies Department offers programs designed to explore the variety of religious meanings which human beings have expressed in the past, as well as those which continue to be expressed in the present.

Because of its roots in the Catholic tradition, this department offers a wide variety of courses on Christian themes and developments. It also offers students broad exposure to other traditions such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Hoping to be a place where the best in contemporary Catholic thinking can encounter and exist in dialogue with other sources of contemporary thinking, the University regards the Religious Studies Department as a special focus of this encounter.

Degree Requirements

To obtain this undergraduate degree, the student must fulfill the requirements of the University core curriculum, the requirements for the program major and have completed a minimum of 126 credit hours.

Requirements for the major

30 credit hours

  • One course in each concentration area:
    • World Religions (other than Christianity)
    • Biblical Studies
    • Christian Theology and Spirituality
    • Contemporary Issues in Religion
    • Ethics
  • Five additional RELS electives
  • At least 15 credit hours in upper-level courses (3000 and 4000 level)
  • Portfolio of exams and papers*

View Catalog for Additional Information

*Near the end of their senior year, majors are also required to submit a portfolio of exams and papers which, in their judgment, give evidence of their knowledge of the field, their skills of research and expression, and their personal appropriation of the materials they have covered. No additional grades are given for the portfolios. Their purpose is to assist the department in advising students and assessing the overall effectiveness of the program.

Religious Studies Minor

Religions are at the core of cultures and the study of religions is integral to the understanding of any human society. A deeper understanding of religious phenomena is thus a useful and enabling complement to any course of study or career path. The minor in Religious Studies consists of 18 credits, some of which are already required as part of the Core Curriculum.

Given the multi-disciplinary and multicultural nature of Religious Studies, students who minor in Religious Studies enjoy flexibility regarding their course selection. The minor does not consist of one specific set of required courses, and students can easily tailor the minor program to suit their individual interests and to complement their majors.

Minor Requirements

18 credit hours

  • One of the following courses:
RELS 2001 The Study of Religion 3 credits
RELS 2020 Asian Religions 3 credits
RELS 2030 Western Religions 3 credits
  • Five electives from at least three different areas of concentration:
    • World Religions (other than Christianity)
    • Biblical Studies
    • Christian Theology and Spirituality
    • Contemporary Issues in Religion
    • Ethics
  • At least 9 credit hours in upper-level courses (3000 and 4000 level)

View Additional Information in Catalog

Islamic Studies Minor

Explore the passions,purposes and ultimate priorities of a living faith and cultural tradition. The Islamic Studies minor offers an approach to the focused study of Islam and Muslims that examines principal beliefs, core values, practices and cultural expressions.

Courses provide in-depth analyses of key themes employing the five C's for foreign faith learning (communication, cultures, communities, comparisons and connections). The program surveys insider as well as outsider views of Islam, creatively engages students in communications about cross-disciplinary topics, connects Islam with the sciences, identifies commonalities and distinct viewpoints, occasionally compares Islam with other monotheistic as well as monistic traditions and participates in diverse communities that are multi-ethnic, multi-vocal, multi-linguistic, and transnational. Courses will examine creative Islam, controversial Islam, classical Islam and contemporary Islam.

Visit our Islamic Studies page for more information.

The Master of Arts with a major in religious studies program offers graduate education that develops personal insight, intercultural literacy, scholarly research and critical analysis in areas of religious and theological inquiry. Our graduates include physicians, lawyers, business owners and community activists as well as teacher, university professors, priests and ministers.

Each student will work with a faculty advisor to design a plan of study which best meets his or her interests. In some cases, the student may take graduate courses in other disciplines (e.g. Psychology, Liberal Studies) which will allow for a more individualized program.

Program Requirements | Admission Requirements

What will you study?

We anticipate that our students will achieve advanced knowledge and related skills in the following areas:

  • Religious texts
  • The historical development of religious traditions
  • Christian theology, its historical development and current issues
  • The relationship between religion and its social and cultural contexts
  • The relationship between religion and the individual's search for meaning
  • The moral teachings of religious traditions as they influence their followers and interact with other moral systems
  • The contemporary global religious context of interconnection and interdependence
  • Various theories, methodologies, perspectives, and issues related to the study of religion

How does this translate into skills that will advance your career?

We expect that our students will develop the following skills:

  • Critical thinking - analysis, comparison, reflection, evaluation, synthesis
  • Research and writing competence - working knowledge of resources, including electronic
  • Oral communication - clear presentation of ideas, skillful listening
  • Effective independent and collaborative work habits

Program Requirements

30 Credit Hours

  • RELS 5000 "The Academic Study of Religion" - within first 9 hours of  coursework
  • One course in each concentration area:
    • Biblical Studies
    • Theology and Spirituality
    • Comparative Religions
    • Religion and Culture/Ethics
  • Select five additional courses from one of the concentrations above

View Catalog for Additional Information

Plans of Study

Plan A

  • 24 or 27 credit hours according to above requirements
  • 3 or 6 credit hours of thesis research (RELS 5990)
  • Completion and defense of a Masters Thesis

Plan B

  • 30 credit hours according to above requirements
  • Successful completion of comprehensive exams based on the four areas of the program concentration and the student's individualized focus of concentration

The Master of Arts with a major in religious studies also participates in the interdisciplinary Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

In addition, the University of Detroit Mercy's participation in the Michigan Intercollegiate Graduate Studies Program permits students to take courses in area programs which offer training for church ministries, such as those offered by the Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) and the Manresa Center's internship in Ignatian Spirituality. A Consortium between the MARS program and ETS allows students to register for ETS classes directly as MARS classes.

Non-Degree Study Option

Students may register for up to 12 credit hours of coursework without formally entering the degree program.

Inquiring or exploratory students, or religious and other educators who want to update their knowledge and skills, may be especially interested in this opportunity.

Admission Requirements

  • Completion of at least 30 hours of undergraduate work in Religious Studies, Philosophy, or related humanities with a grade of B or above,
  • Overall 3.0 undergraduate grade point average
  • Admissions essay in which s/he discusses her/his background preparation for this program and goals in choosing to pursue the MARS degree

Applicants lacking in any of the background requirements may be subject to the following:

  • GRE or the MAT,
  • Complete further specified undergraduate courses in Religious Studies, and/or
  • Granted probationary standing in the department after evaluation by members of the faculty and consultation with the departmental representative. After satisfactory completion of 12 hours of coursework, those student will be admitted to degree candidacy.

Full-Time Faculty

James Tubbs

James B. Tubbs Jr.
Professor and Chair of Religious Studies

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J. Todd Hibbard
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

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Hsiao-Lan Hu
Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Women's & Gender Studies

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Justin J. Kelly, S.J.
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

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Jennifer Rike
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

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Religious Tuition Discount

Persons serving in ministerial capacities, whether ordained or laity, may be eligible for the 50% UDM Religious Tuition Discount. Students wishing consideration for this discount must contact the College of Liberal Arts & Education office located on the McNichols Campus, 108 Briggs Building.

Call 313-993-3250 for more information.

Financial Aid

Visit our Financial Aid site for more information on additional tuition discounts, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities.

Need more information before you apply?

Use the form below or contact the department chair: James Tubbs 313-993-3309 | tubbsjb@udmercy.edu

Admissions Information

Domestic Students

Theresa Carson: 313-993-3309 or carsonta@udmercy.edu

International Students

Weihong Sun:313-993-3323 sunwe@udmercy.edu

Are you ready to apply?

To apply for any of our programs, please visit the University of Detroit Mercy Admissions page here:


Because our apply page needs to accommodate all of our applicants in the disciplines that University of Detroit Mercy offers, it may seem a bit confusing at first. To help you navigate the admissions process, we encourage you to communicate with an admissions counselor by phone at 800-635-5020 or by email at admissions@udmercy.edu.