What do students actually learn and retain from their undergraduate study of religion? The modern field of religious studies is largely a phenomenon of the last fifty years, with rapid growth after 9/11, and yet there has never been a national study of the impact of the academic study of religion on religious studies majors after they graduate. There is a growing national consensus that learning outcome assessments in post-secondary education need to extend beyond the point of graduation and examine the impact of college-level learning on experiences later in life.
With the collaboration of the American Academy of Religion and the support of the Teagle Foundation, a survey that Dr. Renick is developing with the help of a committee of experts from across the nation will give scholars and administrators of religious studies valuable data on what their students have learned and what they have made use of after graduation. The survey will allow scholars and administrators to revise curricula and to advise current students in response to concrete data rather than speculation. Since the results of the survey will be circulated and published widely by the American Academy of Religion, individuals taking the survey will gain the benefit of learning of career paths and possibilities, as well as the other experiences, of students who pursued the same academic course of study that they did in college. The survey results will allow students of religious studies (current, prospective and past) to understand what other individuals have done with their degree in religious studies—not just in their careers but in their lives. Because this is one of the first surveys of its kind in any discipline, the data collected and the lessons learned have the potential to inspire and to inform like studies of majors post-graduation in academic disciplines beyond religious studies.
The survey will be piloted this fall when it is sent out to graduates of undergraduate religious studies programs at Georgia State, Emory, St. Olaf College, Stonehill College, and Spelman College. Since Dr. Renick is principal investigator for the project, Georgia State University will become the permanent repository for data collected nationally.