Department of Religious Studies History

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Religious Studies Faculty – 2022


The Department of Religious Studies is among the earliest programs in the academic study of religion to develop at urban and metropolitan universities, including Georgia State, Missouri State, Temple University, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, and University of South Florida. IU School of Liberal Art’s Religious Studies Department reflects a blend of urban engagement with traditional scholarship which has brought IU Indianapolis nationwide name recognition within the field of religious studies.

The Department’s founding began soon after the campus’s creation in 1969. A working group of Professors Paul Nagy, Gerald Hartdagen, and William May (chair of Religious Studies, IUB) secured a startup grant from the Lilly Endowment, which led to the hiring of Professor James Smurl of Oklahoma State University as the program’s founding director. The new program officially became the Department of Religious Studies by vote of the Indiana University Trustees on December 5, 1975. The first faculty consisted of three members: Prof. Smurl, Professor Rowland Sherrill, and Professor Jan Shipps. The first graduate of the program was Ted Michael McQuade, a double major in English and Religious Studies, in 1976.

The Religious Studies department maintains an active focus on urban engagement with close relationships with many community partners.