BY HALEY HODGES
While many students choose to take Area of Inquiry (AOI) classes in varying disciplines, the Honors Track serves as an alternative to the traditional AOI route.
The Honors Track still requires students to fulfill three of the AOIs, but offers different interdisciplinary courses for the other general education requirements.
In order to complete the Honors Track, students must also take the Honors 100: Paths to Knowledge course. In the spring 2016 semester, one of the Paths sections was taught by Professor of Philosophy Tim Knepper and focused on exploring religion.
“It looks at where the term religion came from, from the Latin ‘religio,’ and had very different meanings then and it’s had very different meanings over the course of its history,” Knepper said. “It’s only in the last three or four hundred years that it’s come to mean a system of beliefs or different sets of religious beliefs that are mutually exclusive.
“So we trace that history, we look at the current state of the academic study of religion how different scholars theorize religion and study religion,” Knepper continued. “Then we do a role-playing game where the students re-enact the 1893 World Parliament of Religions. It was the first time ever in the history of the world that practitioners and scholars of religion from around the world came together to talk about religion.”
The Paths class also includes a lab where Knepper said he proposed several options for projects. The students decided they wanted to create a booklet on the religions of the Drake neighborhood.
The booklet, which is available for students, showcases 36 religious communities and provides students with information about the community. It also says what to expect and how to act respectfully within each of the communities.
The booklet is published and will soon be distributed throughout residence halls as well as other buildings on campus, such as Meredith and Medbury Halls.
All of the students in the class were responsible for visiting different communities and writing their piece on them. Juniors Mollie Clark and Shea Seiff organized and formatted the booklet as well.
“The rest of the class divided up into groups, so you and another person would then go out into the community and (visit) three or four religious sites with your partner,” said Dominic Adduci, a student who partook in the course. “(We’d) go out, take pictures of the place, talk to the people, talk to the practitioners, talk to the religious leaders and just get a good feel of it and then write a full report of your experience there.”
Adduci, a junior studying English and philosophy, and his partner were responsible for exploring the St. John Basilica, Kyles A.M.E. Zion Church, The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-day Saints, and Ezan Islamic and Education Center.
“I think it’s important based on the fact that we have, and are trying to get, diversity here on campus,” Clark said. “With that diversity comes a lot of varying religious backgrounds, and the book will kind of point individuals who might have different religious backgrounds in the direction that they’re looking for. Also, it would expose students who might want to experiment with different religions or want to experience religions firsthand.”
It can be easier to not explore opportunities throughout the rest of Des Moines, but the course aimed to combat that complacency and introduce potential religious communities to students that would get them involved with more of the outside Des Moines community.
“I think that it’s really hard to get engaged with an outside community when you’re not already connected with them. So coming to college in a place that you don’t know, that’s a scary process and it’s really hard to get out of campus,” Clark said. “So this booklet provides students the opportunity to have a quick reference if they want to get involved in religious organizations or communities.”