CAS explores religion and society

For the 2009-10 school year, the College of Arts and Sciences asks if religion has gone away and if so, is it making a comeback? The CAS will explore “Religion and Society,” this year’s theme, through specially planned courses and events.

A debate about religion and secularism held Oct. 7 was the first event of the year. Other events include lectures, a panel discussion and trips to Dearborn and Frankenmuth.

The program also features a yearly “community book” that the writing and rhetoric department adds to the required reading list.

This year’s book, “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t,” by Stephen Prothero, is the focus of the Nov. 4 debate. In his book, Prothero says most college students don’t know the basic tenets of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, but should. Prothero, chair of the religion department at Boston University  will be visiting OU Nov. 9 to give a lecture.

The music, theatre and dance department is also hosting a concert Friday, Oct. 16 that connects with this year’s theme.

Professor Shuishan Yu will be joined by two of his music teachers from China in a concert of Chinese guqin music, featuring instruments that date back over 900 years to the Song Dynasty. Professor Yu will also duet with Yin Zheng, assistant professor of piano.  

Beth Talbert, special instructor of communication and journalism and chair of this year’s theme, said classes typically discuss the topic. Some professors even require attendance to certain events and make the community book required reading for students not in the writing and rhetoric department.

“We absolutely try to weave it into the curriculum as many ways as we can,” Talbert said.

The program “Celebrating the Liberal Arts” was created during a 2001 summer retreat taken by CAS chairs  and was designed to coordinate with OU President Gary Russi’s vision of where the school will be in 2010.

“The idea was to identify a theme that could be addressed by any department in the college so we could collaborate creating a series of programs that we united via a common theme,” said Robert Stewart, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Themes are identified based on their ability to be “timely and cross-disciplinary,” Talbert said.

This is the fifth themed year since the program began.

Last year’s theme “Cities” explored recent migration trends to cities. The scheduled theme for the 2010-11 school year is “Frontiers and Borders.”

For a complete list of events and more information about this year’s theme, visit


Friday, October 16

Guqin Concert

8-9:45 p.m., Varner Recital Hall, Varner Hall

Sunday, October 18

Trip to Dearborn (Islamic Center of America and

Arab-American National Museum)

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sign up at the CSA service

window, 49 Oakland Center

Wednesday, November 4

Religious (Il) Literacy: The Stephen Prothero Debate

5-7 p.m., Fireside Lounge, Oakland Center

Monday, November 9

Lecture by Stephen Prothero: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t

2-3 p.m., Banquet rooms, Oakland Center

Saturday, November 14

Trip to Frankenmuth

8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sign up at the CSA service window, 49 Oakland Center

Wednesday, December 2

Science and Religion; Faith and Reason

Noon-1:30 p.m., Oakland Room, Oakland Center