College to offer new religion minor

Marlboro+Institute+for+Liberal+Arts+and+Interdisciplinary+Studies.

Photo: Hongyu Liu

Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

By Jonathan Yao, Staff Writer

In a bid to expand its interdisciplinary offerings, the college will offer a new minor focusing on religious studies, starting in the Spring 2022 semester.

The new minor, offered as part of the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies, combines several existing courses with new ones. The decision to create the minor was made collectively by Marlboro faculty, according to Dean of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies Amy Ansell.

“We found that the existing courses combined with our new perspectives was sufficient to create this new minor,” she said. 

Ansell said the groundwork for the minor had already been laid within the Marlboro Institute. Courses like Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Ways of Life existed as a sort of “hidden curriculum,” before the department introduced new material, such as Living in a Broken World: The Power of Ritual Imagination, to make a fully-realized program. 

“This merely serves as the means to make it visible to the students,” Ansell said. “It’s appropriate for a liberal arts curriculum to have a religion minor.”

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Amer Latif, a longtime professor at Marlboro College who came to Emerson in 2020 as a part of the Marlboro merger, will help teach and develop new classes for the minor. Specializing in Islamic Studies with a focus in Sufism, he said he hoped to bring his experience to a new generation of students. 

“I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to refine courses and revise them by teaching them multiple times,” Latif said. “It’s an opportunity that Emerson really gives [us].”

Latif already teaches courses that touch variously on different aspects of Islam, Buddhism, and religious mythology. He said he plans to introduce new courses to the curriculum as soon as the 2022-23 academic year—namely Islam Through the Arts and Art as a Spiritual Discipline. 

As of publication, no students have enrolled in the minor, according to Latif. 

Nevertheless, he said many students may have already taken some of the courses required for the minor. He said the minor also appealed to those students “interested in the larger picture, who want to see how a small part connects to the larger whole.” 

While Latif acknowledged that many Emerson students are irreligious, he argued that the mannerisms and aspects of religion remain present in everyday life.