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Department of Philosophy and Religion

Our philosophy program exposes students to multiple disciplines including bioethics, ethical theory, feminist philosophy, and phenomenology, while religious studies allows students to explore and critique areas in Eastern and Western religions

If you’d like to learn more about philosophy or religion, majors, minors, or the graduate program, please contact:

Time to Think, Time to Re-Think

As we face unprecedented situations in our personal lives and our society, we ponder: What are the important things in life? How do we know what is the right thing to do? How do we achieve justice, equality, and freedom? How do we define values and for whom those values are valuable?

The Department of Philosophy and Religion at American University offers unique undergraduate and graduate programs in which students navigate these questions and explore their futures while deeply engaging with the issues in our lives.

Our curriculum enables students to learn from diverse thought traditions from around the world, enriching their understanding of people and society. This curriculum equips students with tools to analyze diverse aspects of human existence and helps them get ready for the challenges of the global community as well as local ones. Our faculty is made up of dedicated educators and leading scholars in the field, and our faculty members challenge students with questions about life and work with them to explore possible answers.

Located in the capital of the United States, the Department of Philosophy and Religion at American University offers students opportunities to witness political life and history as it enfolds in the real world. Easy access to the Smithsonian Institution, museums, national monuments, and the Library of Congress provides a wealth of varied and diverse internship and service opportunities with the federal government and non-profit organizations.

In our program, the world and ideas come together. Join us in your journey to find your future.

Announcements

Professor Onaje Woodbine received a $40,000 First Book Grant for Scholars of Color from the Louisville Institute for his book, Take Back What the Devil Stole: An African American Prophet's Encounters in the Spirit World (Columbia University Press).

Professor Perry Zurn has published a new book, Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry, available on Amazon.

Philosophy and Religion Club

Join Professors Perry Zurn and Joel Daniels the first and third Wednesdays of every month at 7 PM to discuss pressing issues with your colleagues. Email philrel@american.edu for more information. 

Class of 2021

Alumni from the Department of Philosophy and Religion have written letters to the classes of 2020 and 2021 to celebrate their accomplishments in the midst of the pandemic.

2021 Bishop Hurst Lecture
Dr. Peter Hershock: “Caring not Counting: A Relational Reimagining of Diversity, Equity and Just Inclusion.” Watch the 2021 Bishop Hurst Lecture.

2021 Durfee Lecture
Father Columba Stewart: "The Pre-Monastic Ascetic Landscape of Mesopotamia: Marcionites, Manichaeans, and Other Conversation Partners." Watch the 2021 Durfee lecture.

News & Notes

AU Changemaker

Our MA of Philosophy graduate student Julie Williams-Reyes (they/them) was recently recognized as a featured changemaker in AU’s weekly bulletin. Julie has spent their time at American University studying, writing, grassroot organizing, and advocating for populations who need help most. 

Podcast: Women & Buddhist Philosophy

Hear Professor Jin Y. Park discuss Kim Iryŏp’s life and philosophy on the New Books podcast: Women and Buddhist Philosophy.

White Hauntings, Black Hoops:
The Ghosts of Kyrie Irving

Faculty member Onaje Woodbine wrote  “White Hauntings, Black Hoops: The Ghosts of Kyrie Irving” in Religion & Politics.

Choose to be Curious

As part of Dr. Perry Zurn's "Curiosity, Politics, and the Public Realm" graduate seminar, students pitched episode ideas to Lynn Borton, executive producer of the Choose to be Curious podcast. Now those episodes are being released! Check out Matt Ferguson's “Curiosity & The Digital Transgender Archive with KJ Rawson” and Julie Williams-Reyes' "Imagining Worlds Otherwise: Learning from Black Feminist Curiosity, with Ayanna Spencer." Hear Dr. Zurn discuss his newest work on the New Books podcast: Curiosity and Power.

Sacred Tools of Resistance

Onaje Woodbine hosted the first two workshops in the Sacred Tools of Resistance series on September 30 with Ifa Chief, Awodele Ifayemi who discussed cowrie shell divination and October 14 with Dr. Yang who taught embryonic breathing.

Black Lives Matter

At virtual Black Lives Matter rally, alumni share thoughts and experiences with racism and activism.

Alumni Spotlight

In Memoriam

Andrea Tschemplik

Andrea Tschemplik.

The “Andrea Tschemplik Prize for Philosophy and Religion Students” has now been established. When sufficient monies are collected, the fund will convert from a prize to a scholarship intended for first-generation college students in Professor Tschemplik’s memory.

Your donation will help us keep Professor Tschempliks' memory alive. You can donate here or mail your gift to the address below. Checks can be made to American University with “Andrea Tschemplik Prize for Philosophy and Religion Students” in the memo.

American University
Office of Development
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

We encourage you to visit her virtual memorial page and post a memory. You can also donate to Second Chance Wildlife Center in memory of Andrea Tschemplik.

The memorial service program, remarks, slideshow, and audio recordings from the AU Chamber Singers and arranged by Dan Abraham, Professor and Department Chair, Department of Performing Arts are available.

Filosofía en Español

Bienvenidos!

Para más información, visite nuestra página en español.

Julie Williams-Reyes

MA, Social Policy & Philosophy
Julie Williams-Reyes.

Julie Williams-Reyes (they/them) has spent their time at American University studying, writing, grassroot organizing, and advocating for populations who need help most.

Last fall, while working towards an MA in Philosophy and Social Policy, Julie interned for DC’s Public Defender Service Mental Health Division. They are also a member of the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance, where they lead political education workshops, campaigns, and mutual aid projects, including Write Them All, letters to every person currently incarcerated in Oregon. Julie’s latest writing project is titled: "Abolition Feminism: Practical Sketches for Disrupting the Spacetime of Domination.”

After earning their MA, Julie is planning on pursuing a PhD in Philosophy. “Meanwhile, and for the many lifetimes to pass, I will work toward the liberation of all peoples, spending my time grassroots organizing. Study, love, struggle,” Julie says.

The Philosophy Department has been indispensable to my growth at AU. The professors and staff care a great deal about their students and the world they come from and the world as it is constantly being made and remade. I am grateful to Ellen Feder, Andrea Tschemplik, Amy Oliver, Jin Y. Park, Anika Simpson, Ian Rhoad, Asia Ferrin, Perry Zurn, and Rebecca Carr. And of course, my love for philosophy, the dimensions it challenges and dreams, would not have been possible without Martina Ferrari.

Haley Stevens

MA '07Haley Stevens, US Congress

After graduation, Haley Stevens worked on the Obama presidential campaign and the Presidential Transition Team. She was chief of staff for the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and a special advisor to the Department of Commerce. A former digital manufacturing executive, she was elected to Congress representing Michigan’s 11th district in the House of Representatives in 2018 and re-elected in 2020.

Inspiring material that I continue to draw from to this day.