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Butler University Bulletin

Philosophy, Religion, and Classics


Tiberiu Popa, PhD, Department Chair


  • Chad Bauman, PhD
  • Christopher Bungard, PhD
  • Stuart Glennan, PhD
  • James F. McGrath, PhD
  • Tiberiu Popa, PhD

Associate Professor

  • Lynne Kvapil, PhD

Assistant Professors

  • Nermeen Mouftah, PhD
  • Ezgi Sertler, PhD

Instructors and Lecturers

  • Brent Hege, PhD
  • Deborah Saxon, PhD

Department Website

Why Study Classics?

The culture, history, and literature of ancient Greece and Rome have long captivated the imagination of people throughout history and across the globe, from the Renaissance to the founding fathers of America, to modern writers from the Caribbean. We continue to live in a world of classical roots, whether it be the Athenian roots of democracy or the Roman origins of our republic, the Greek love for the beauty of athletics, or an enthusiasm for theatre that moved from Greece to Rome to Shakespeare and beyond. The Greeks and the Romans helped articulate the liberal arts that are at the heart of a Butler education. As we engage with the thinking and the art of the ancients, we aim to develop an understanding, enjoyment, and critical appreciation of some abiding principles of our world. We enter into dialogue with minds of the past in order to understand ourselves better now. Studying the Greeks and Romans, we become part of our larger family over time. We enrich our minds and our imaginations, and we sharpen our skills for work and life today.

Why Study Classics at Butler?

Intimate and vibrant learning community: Students in the Classics Program at Butler have the opportunity to work closely with a small but dedicated faculty. Smaller classes give students a greater opportunity to engage directly with faculty and with each other. As part of a smaller major, students develop a stronger sense of being part of a community of thinkers engaging in a subject they are passionate about.

Building on past knowledge: Our program recognizes the quality of work many students have done before arriving on our campus. Students placing into the second or third year of Latin and completing at least 6 hours of study in Latin are eligible for 3–9 advanced placement credit hours, which may count toward the major or the minor.

Real engagement with the ancient world: Students are encouraged to immerse themselves in the environments that inspired the ancient Greeks and Romans. Our program offers the opportunity to study the culture and literature of the Romans while traveling to important sites in Rome and Italy, or to participate in an archaeological field school in Greece. Our program is also supportive of students who wish to study abroad in programs in Greece and Italy specifically focused around classics.

Practical experience: Our students are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities to work with faculty on research of their own, whether in the form of a Butler Summer Institute project or a senior thesis. Students who have done quality research have presented their work at undergraduate conferences and regional classics conferences.

Making your education your own: Thanks to generous support from the Georgia Watkins Fund, our program provides funds to help students participate in archaeological digs, select summer study programs, or conferences in classics. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis.

Embracing the liberal arts: Since the field of classics embraces a wide variety of approaches to the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans, our program encourages students who wish to relate their interest in classics with work in other disciplines. Our students often take courses in English, history, philosophy, religion, political science, and modern languages.

Classics Student Learning Outcomes

Students majoring in classics are expected to gain factual knowledge about key figures, historical events, and concepts from Greek and Roman antiquity. They will interpret and analyze significant works from antiquity, and at the same time gain a better understanding of cultural diversity by comparing current values and practices to those of the Greeks and Romans. They will become proficient in reading Latin or Ancient Greek texts and discover how knowledge of Latin or Ancient Greek helps in the understanding of modern languages.

Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy can help you hone some very practical skills. As a philosopher, you learn to distinguish between sound reasoning and empty rhetoric. Philosophy majors learn how to communicate clearly both in speech and in writing. Philosophy helps you to think carefully about ethical decisions. Collectively, these are skills that will help you in future graduate and professional education. They will also help you to live your life well, and what could be a more practical skill than that?

Philosophy majors regularly outscore other majors on standardized tests such as the LSAT and MCAT, because they do equally well on both the verbal and analytic/quantitative sections. Philosophy is the only liberal arts major that specifically teaches both verbal and logic skills. In addition, the most basic assumptions in law, the sciences, and other disciplines are studied not in those disciplines but in the philosophy of law, philosophy of science, etc.

Why Study Philosophy at Butler?

Our philosophy classes are fairly small, which further encourages students to participate in class discussion and allows the faculty to devote considerable attention to each of our students. The enrollment limit in our introductory classes is generally 25, and the number of students enrolled in our upper-level classes is between 10 and 20. Professors teach all courses; there are no teaching assistants at Butler. Many students engage in independent study and write honors theses under the supervision of professors. Additional learning opportunities include the Philosophy Club, which meets regularly for discussion, film viewing, speakers, and social activities. The reasoning skills of our majors are valued by graduate and professional schools as well as by employers. For example, a growing number of our majors have been accepted into reputable medical schools and prestigious law schools.

Philosophy Student Learning Outcomes

Students majoring in philosophy at Butler University will learn about a wide range of philosophical ideas and outlooks, and will become acquainted with some of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy. Besides exploring fundamental questions pertaining to knowledge and reality, students will be able to discern and respond to philosophical issues that arise in areas as diverse as religion, science, politics, the arts, and the law. While critical thinking is encouraged and emphasized throughout the liberal arts, it is especially at home in philosophy; our majors are able to read and write clearly, to critically evaluate evidence and arguments, and to determine the quality of their sources of information.

Philosophical training helps deepen our students’ reflection on issues in the here and now. Our professors encourage engagement in the community, including internships or research projects in which students’ work can inform and be informed by their philosophical study.

More generally, philosophy majors’ ability to examine and question their own and others’ values and convictions puts them in a position to make wise choices that will affect the quality and course of their lives and those of the people with whom they interact.

Why Study Religion?

For some, the academic study of religion is a way of exploring their own commitment to a particular religious tradition. For others, it is a way of trying to learn about and understand the perspectives, values, and traditions of others. Whatever the student’s motivation, the religion major offers the opportunity to engage in a critical and sympathetic study of various religious traditions; to study religious literatures, practices, and beliefs; and to investigate general questions regarding the nature of religion and the scholarly study thereof. A major in religion is a liberal arts major, and as such, exposes students to a wide spectrum of subjects and skills to produce broadly educated, sophisticated, and flexible leaders. What can one do with a religion major? Just about anything. Recent graduates of the program have gone on to study religion, law, public policy, medicine, and creative writing at the graduate level. Others have entered the nonprofit sector or religious ministries. Still others have found employment in a range of professions, like teaching, acting, and politics.

Why Study Religion at Butler?

  • Vocational discernment: Butler’s religion program offers a close mentoring process designed—through careful advising, experiential learning, and internship opportunities, and in collaboration with Butler’s Center for Faith and Vocation—to connect theory and practice and help students discern their vocational direction, integrating who they are (in terms of the values they hold most dear) and what they want to do.
  • A big “backyard”: Within a few minutes of the campus are numerous churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and meditation centers representing all of the world’s largest religious traditions. Butler’s urban location therefore allows students to explore both traditional and emerging American religious phenomena and the ways in which these are increasingly intertwined with and inseparable from global religious trends. Butler religion majors also often study abroad, sometimes with support from departmental awards.
  • Close contact with top-notch faculty: Butler’s religion program offers small classes and boasts an unparalleled faculty-to-student ratio. Students therefore get to work closely (whether in class, through independent studies, or as research assistants) with professors who are active and widely recognized scholars.
  • Empathetic approach: Whereas religion programs in religiously affiliated colleges and universities sometimes teach religion from a specific doctrinal perspective, Butler’s religion major is designed to expose students more broadly to the world’s major religious traditions. This approach challenges students to hone their skills of critical thinking, develops the ability to appreciate multiple religious perspectives, and provides an excellent preparation for many professions, including for those who intend to enter seminary or graduate work in religious ministry.
  • An education both sound and savvy: The religion program at Butler University grounds its students in the classically broad tradition of the liberal arts, while at the same time providing them with the skills that are most crucial in the digital age.

Religion Student Learning Outcomes

Students majoring in religion are expected to gain a basic core of factual knowledge about the world’s major religious traditions, acquire skills in critical thinking and textual analysis, develop the ability to identify and deploy credible sources of information (digital, print, or otherwise), cultivate understanding of and empathy for people of other faiths (in Indianapolis and beyond), and nurture a collaborative and civil disposition, that is, to work critically, openly, and with humility in the context of academic discussion and dispute.

Degree Programs

  • Major in Classics—Ancient Languages (BA)
  • Major in Classics—Greek and Roman Culture (BA)
  • Minor in Classics
  • Major in Philosophy (BA)
  • Combined Major in Philosophy and Religion (BA)
  • Combined Major in Philosophy and Psychology (BA)
  • Minor in Ethics
  • Minor in Philosophy
  • Major in Religion – Religious Studies (BA)
  • Major in Religion – Religious Leadership (BA)
  • Combined Major in Anthropology and Religion
  • Combined Major in Philosophy and Religion (BA)
  • Minor in Religion