The University of Vermont is hosting a series of speakers and events during Religious Literacy Month which kicks off Thursday, September 26 with Simran Jeet Singh, Ph.D. He presents “Turbans, Beards & Hate: How Experiencing Racism Made me a Scholar Activist” at 4:30 p.m. in Carpenter Auditorium, Given Building.

Associate Professor of Religion Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst, principal organizer of the series, says while some of the speakers have advanced degrees in religion, all have encountered core religious questions in the course of their work.

"Liz Kineke, our guest on October 28, is a journalist who didn’t major in religion. But she’s very knowledgeable about religious issues through her work as a producer on religion and culture for CBS,” she said. “People like Liz, who has really grappled with religious questions throughout her professional life, have a lot to tell us.”

Certificate in Religious Literacy in Professions

The series coincides with the launch of a new certificate program offered by the religion department. The new Certificate in Religious Literacy in Professions is aimed at all UVM students, particularly those seeking careers in education, journalism, social services, business, and health.

Morgenstein Fuerst describes the certificate as a way for students to develop the knowledge and sensibility to “do a better job at their jobs.”

“In looking at the student body in our religion courses, it was clear that many students in CESS, in nursing, and many in the Rubenstein School see religion as absolutely integral to work they are doing, but they don’t have space to major or minor in religion across colleges,” she explains.

Instead of the typical senior seminar, the capstone course for the certificate links each student’s intended profession with a knowledge of religious diversity. Morgenstein Fuerst uses the nursing profession as an example. “What types of medical outcomes might we expect for patients with different world view, what type of bedside manners and what set of facts would you need in treating a Muslim woman as opposed to a Sikh man or an agnostic person?” 

The certificate requires a total of 13 credits including Religion 105 (Religious Literacy), the one-credit Religious Literacy Practicum, and three additional courses.  

Religious Literacy Month

September 26: Simran Jeet Singh, Ph.D.: “Turbans, Beards & Hate: How experiencing racism made me a scholar activist,” 4:30 p.m. Carpenter Auditorium, Given.

October 15: “Abenaki Spirituality & Religion Panel,” 3-4:30 p.m. John Dewey Lounge

October 22: Tia Pratt: “Catholic Young Adults and Pro Life Teachings-A Bellweather for the US Catholic Church,” 4:30 p.m. 

October 28: Liz Kineke: “Religion is Always in the Room,” 5 p.m. Mildred Livak Ballroom, Davis 413

November 4: Religion Faculty Forum “Studying Religion, Religious Literacy and the Age of Trump,” 5 p.m., Memorial Lounge, Waterman

All events are free and open to the public. The series is sponsored by the Department of Religion, Humanities Center, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Department of Sociology, Interfaith Center, Center for Cultural Pluralism and the Office of the Provost.




Kevin Coburn