We welcome students from all religious and theological, philosophical, and ideological persuasions. Our aim is to foster an environment where students feel free to deepen their understanding of their own traditions while engaging alternative perspectives that provide challenges and new insights. Along with various other course offerings, the Religious Studies Department has three fields of concentration: 1) Asian religions and cultures; 2) Bible and culture; and 3) Christian theology and history. These fields correspond with the current strengths and interests of the department.
Why Choose Religious Studies?
Recent Austin College graduates Alexandria Levi and Kishan Kikkeri talk about their experience within the Religious Studies department where they learned how to understand the global flows of meaning and culture, and its application to their life after college.
Meet the Faculty
Ivette Vargas-O'Bryan (department chair) focuses primarily on Indian religions and the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Her current interests lie in the intersection between Asian religions and medicine. Her main research projects in Tibetan communities include the role of spirit diseases in creating connections between Tibetan medical practice and religious traditions and secondly, the legacy of the Indian Buddhist nun Dge slong ma Dpal mo across Asia and the West. Her book, Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Collaborations and Collisions (Routledge 2018) is an edited volume including eminent scholars in the fields of religious studies; Buddhist, Indian and Tibetan Studies; anthropology; and medicine. She is currently completing a book, Falling to Pieces, Emerging Whole: Suffering Illness and Healing Renunciation in the Dge slong ma Dpal mo Tradition, based on ethnographic and textual research concerning the biographies of an Indian Buddhist nun, renowned for her rituals of fasting and experiences with leprosy. She is serving as President of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies Asian and Co-Chair of the Comparative Religions Section of the American Academy of Religion. She is a recent recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies Project Development Grant (2020) for her book project. She has been a recipient of several prestigious grants and awards including a Fulbright Scholars Award (Hong Kong 2009-2010), Mellon Foundation grants, teaching awards, and others. Vargas-O’Bryan is actively delivering papers at regional, national, and international conferences. Her publications deal with the following: the intersection between illness/medicine and religion, female disease deities and spirit diseases, Buddhist monasticism, and Asian religions pedagogy. Alongside these research interests, she also delivers public lectures on Asian themes, is highly active in creating opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges on campus, and organizes venues to increase awareness on mindfulness and Contemplative Studies in higher education. Vargas-O’Bryan is at home in McKinney with her family, in Tibet and Nepal, or some other mountainous, high altitude place.
Jeremy Posadas teaches and researches in the area of critical theological studies, which involves exploring the ultimate commitments and values people live by, but understanding them in relation to structures of social, political, and economic power, difference, and inequality. Originally trained in Christian ministry (and the study of its practices), Posadas now pursues a broader aim of challenging two assumptions that are often made about theology: (1) that theology is mostly about “beliefs,” and (2) that theology only exists in formal, official religions (e.g., Christianity, Islam). Instead, Posadas focuses on theology as a way of living life — how one conducts oneself and how one influences other people’s actions. And he looks for religious values and practices in both formally organized religions and in everyday practices that are usually not thought of in religious terms. For instance, does sex or dieting or playing sports or reality TV qualify as a religious experience, and if so, how (or if not, why not)? Posadas has expertise in feminist, anti-racist, queer, and post-structuralist theories, which he has drawn on for his presentations at the national annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and previous publication. He will defend his dissertation, entitled “Transcarnation: The Body of Christ Worships in the Era of Biopower,” in Spring 2012. His future research will include interpreting the concept of “political spirituality” proposed by post-structuralist thinker Michel Foucault, as well as re-imagining Christology in light of Foucault’s analyses of power.
David Schones, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
ACLS Project Development Grants Awarded
An AC alum and religion major and Religious Studies faculty member both received the American Council of Learned Societies Project Development Grant.
Emily Clark | Abstract
Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University - Spiritual Matters: American Spiritualism and Material Culture
Ivette Vargas-O'Bryan | Abstract
Professor, Religious Studies, Austin College - Resisting Normativity: Overcoming Suffering and Building Traditions in the Gelongma Palmo-Avalokiteśvara Buddhist Legacy
Devin Gonier is the Chief Technology Officer at WageUp, a startup specializing in developing bespoke cutting-edge platforms that leverage machine learning tools to manage performance and gamify the everyday work experience. He is also completing his master’s degree at Columbia University in Machine Learning and has an undergraduate degree from Austin College in Philosophy and… [Read More]
Awarded a prestigious scholarship by Perkins School of Theology, has been involved in justice ministries in Central America, worked with the homeless in New York City, and studied in Cuba. He now is a chaplain for Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Professor in and chair of the Religion Department at Texas Christian University.
Professor of Christian ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary.
After graduating from AC in 1998, I moved to Washington, DC, and worked in the Federal Government for 13 years on Capitol Hill, at the White House, and at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. From 2011-14, I earned a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School as well as an Anglican Diploma and a… [Read More]
Formerly an Interim Associate in the Office of Women’s Advocacy at the Presbyterian Church (USA), is now Development Associate at Temple Israel in Boston.
Rev. Anne Jernberg Scalfaro ’03 received the Presidential Scholarship to attend Harvard Divinity School. She graduated in ‘06 and is now Senior Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado. As Senior Pastor, Anne’s responsibilities include 1) Vision & Leadership, 2) Worship & Preaching, 3) Pastoral Care & Staff, and 4) Stewardship & Finance. That… [Read More]
- Religious Studies Major Checklist
- Religious Studies Minor Checklist
- Religious Studies & Philosophy Major Checklist
- See the Religious Studies Courses
- See the Austin College Bulletin
The Washington Post
October 27, 2017
Lydia Bean '02, executive director of Faith in Texas and author of "The Politics of Evangelic Identity," writes about how voters are learning to make their faith suit their partisanship.