Student studying on computer.

Student studying on computer.

The religion department has launched an innovative and technology based degree readily accessible to all students, traditional and non-traditional.

The program gives students the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree in comparative studies online for the first time.

Mark Hanshaw, assistant professor and chair of Comparative Religious Studies said the department is excited about the new program. He said the degree program will be in the field of comparative religion studies and is fully online.

“We are really excited about what  opportunities that this program will open up for us in terms of reaching out to students,” Hanshaw said. “Of course we are excited about the sort of resources the online technology gives us to be utilized in the context of educational purposes.”

Hanshaw said the religion department started the comparative studies program two years ago.

“This field of study is really one that has taken shape with a larger discipline within the last couple of decades,” Hanshaw said. Today a large percentage of students engaging in religious studies are in some ways looking at it from a comparative vantage point.”

Hanshaw said the basis of the program is to investigate various religions and how they relate and shape one another.

When launching this program, professors in the religion department realized how many students are actually interested in the comparative religion field of study, Hanshaw said.

“Some of them [students] couldn’t easily make it to Texas Wesleyan but they certainly sought out our courses,” Hanshaw said. “We began offering many of them online and with that sort of foundation with courses being offered online we began to think about really trying to expand the course offerings to flesh out the full degree program and to make it available in an online format.”

Hanshaw said the field of comparative studies originally was either located in the North East and East Coast areas of the United States, leaving the center of the country limited to the options of pursuing the field of comparative studies.

“We saw that certainly as a need [for the program of comparative studies] and also saw it as sort of an opportunity,” Hanshaw said. “So we felt that our program was strong enough that it would be useful to branch out and through an online program and perhaps reach out to a wider range of potential students.”

Hanshaw said it will be interesting to see how the program will develop because other online programs around the country and locally have done will and have gained popularity from this opportunity.

Gladys Childs, assistant professor of religion, said the new program is a great option for students.

“I feel the online comparative studies program provides a great opportunity for students to obtain a degree in this area without having to come to campus,” Childs said.

Childs said it offers great flexibility so individuals can still work and/or take care of their children.

“In light of our complex world culture, is it important for individuals to have a basic understanding of world religions and how they impact humanity,” she said.

Chris Pearson, senior English major, said he has taken all of his comparative religion courses online.

“I liked that I was challenged by Dr. Hanshaw with written assignments instead of tests or quizzes,” Pearson said. “The richness of religion and culture was more prevalent with writing assignments because I had to process information on a deeper intellectual level.”