The studies of philosophy and religion both pose inquires into the meaningfulness of life, justice, truth and ideals, emphasizing the development of schools of thought on these questions. Both encourage students to think systematically and to question the nature of social power - where it comes from and how it is applied. Both develop highly useful critical thinking and reading skills.
Philosophy uses logic and rational argument to judge the value of ideas. "I try to instill in students the appropriate level of philosophical discomfort about things," says Dr. Laura Bernhardt, associate professor of philosophy. "It's the first step we need to take toward proper inquiry -- overcoming, at least to some small degree, our complacency about our own assumptions. This is the old Socratic lesson about confronting one's own mistaken certainty, and I think it's the best lesson a person can learn."
The academic study of religion looks at the practice as a phenomenon, as a set of ideas worth considering for their consistency. Studying religion at a university is not the same as studying religion the way you would with a church group; it does strengthen your understanding and can deepen your appreciation of your faith. It can also help prepare you for further religious studies or seminary.
BVU's generalist program offers a single degree in both philosophy and religion, allowing you to specialize in one while taking a minimum of three classes in the other discipline. The program is highly flexible and welcomes students with diverse interests: no single course, aside from the capstone, is required for a major or minor. The flexibility of the program allows professors to help students specialize in their own interests. Philosophy & religion also makes an ideal degree to combine with other academic programs. Past combinations have included social work, business, art, chemistry, and history.
Topics in philosophy courses taught by Dr. Laura Bernhardt have included the relationships between humans and animals - the "human self and animal other" - and the philosophy of music. "When I taught a course on popular culture and philosophy, we looked at fun stuff like symbolic creativity in fan communities, economics and cultural consumption and production, and pop culture and identity construction," says Bernhardt. "We'd look at things like how anglo-mutant Barbie gets marketed in India, how Tommy Hilfiger's brand name becomes coded for purposes beyond marketing, and how race and gender are at play in popular representations."
Bhattacharyya routinely offers course elements on environmental and biological ethics, addressing issues such as stem cell research, cloning, genetic research, end of life issues and reproductive technology.
The city of Storm Lake is home to large ethnic populations from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. The city has a Buddhist temple and numerous Christian denominations, including two Spanish-language churches. World religions courses have included trips to the Masjid Darul Arqum Islamic Center in Ames and the Hindu Temple of Nebraska. Buena Vista University's own heritage is in the Presbyterian tradition.
At Philosophy Teas - which convene several times per semester - students and faculty gather to talk about issues pertinent to campus, the nation, and the world. Recent discussion topics have included environmental ethics, genocide, GLBT issues, and the addition of the ROTC program to campus.
I'm interested in helping students to better understand the thoughts that construct their worlds. If students come out of my course on ethics – for example – more conscious of how they make decisions, then I would consider that class a success. When I'm teaching, I'm thinking ahead. I'm thinking, 'what will students remember 20 years later?'
A new program at BVU enables area teachers to check out a select number of artifacts from the Keith Carter Middle Eastern Collection. The collection includes over 200 artifacts from the Middle East and around the world. Read more...