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2017 Annual Meeting, Nov 18-21

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AAR Undergraduate Survey - 2000

New Information on the Undergraduate Study of Religion

A PDF Version of the Census is also available

The Survey of Religion and Theology Programs completed its field period in April 2001.  For a special report on its initial findings, see the Fall 2001 issue of Religious Studies News–AAR Edition (excerpt available online), and articles by Jonathan Z Smith and Linell Cady in the March 2002 issue  (excerpt available online).

Having published the initial findings of the Survey, in the spring of 2003, the Academy commissioned a statistical analyst to conduct a second phase of data analysis. In this round of analysis, we sought out various relationships by affiliation (with special attention to information regarding adjunct faculty and women in the profession) and aggregate numbers regarding religion majors, courses, departmental characteristics, and enrollment. The results of this analysis were part of a Special Topics Forum at the 2003 Annual Meeting (Numbers Count: Gathering, Managing, and Using Survey Data in a Program Review and Enhancement) and at a special forum held in Atlanta in October 2003. At this forum, an advisory group of distinguished individuals in the field, as well as in higher education and sociology, met and examined the core questions and issues that are faced by departments and programs and that need to be addressed as they promote and advance the academic study of religion in the U.S. and Canada. The following participants joined in this meeting:

  • Dave Brewington, Emory University
  • Linell Cady, Arizona State University
  • Mark Chaves, University of Arizona
  • Barbara DeConcini, American Academy of Religion
  • Warren G. Frisina, Hofstra University
  • Carey J. Gifford, American Academy of Religion
  • Ray Hart, Boston University
  • Hans J. Hillerbrand, Duke University
  • Wade Clark Roof, University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Richard Rosengarten, University of Chicago
  • Claude Rubinson, Arizona State University
  • Richard Rubinson, Emory University
  • Elizabeth Say, California State University, Northridge
  • Jack Schuster, Claremont Graduate University
  • Jonathan Z. Smith, University of Chicago
  • Terrence Tilley, University of Dayton
  • Steven Wheatley, American Council of Learned Societies

Further information about this meeting can be found in AAR Surveys of Religion and Theology Programs in the U.S.: Numbers Count in the October 2003 issue of Religious Studies News–AAR Edition. An interpretive article on the Survey by Hans J. Hillerbrand, Going Our Way: The 2000 Survey of Departments of Religion, and an article by Carey J. Gifford, They Also Serve: Contingent Faculty in the Academy, were also published in the March 2004 issue of Religious Studies News–AAR Edition.

Further Data Analysis: Summary of Results presents a brief summary of the exhaustive analysis which was performed on the Survey data. Cross Tabulation by AAR Region contains an analysis of faculty, enrollment, number of courses offered, and number of majors by AAR regions. Survey of Undergraduate Religion and Theology Programs Data Analysis contains the complete data analysis.

The survey was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago on behalf of the AAR.

Background

Throughout Fall 2000, department chairs and other program heads received the instrument in a special mailing. Based on many of the data sources in the Annotated Bibliography for the AAR Data Search Project, NORC identified some 1,400 programs at accredited colleges and universities across North America. In an effort to be as comprehensive as possible, the Census questionnaire was translated into French for distribution in Québec.

The questionnaire comprised six pages of carefully crafted questions soliciting some 250 data elements about curricula, faculty, and students in undergraduate departments and programs in which the study of religion, broadly construed, is a central focus. A "technical advisory panel" evaluated the final draft of the questionnaire.

The Census of Religion and Theology Programs seeks to comprehensively map the academic study of religion (religious studies, theology, Bible, and sacred texts) in the U.S. and Canada. (This first iteration of the Census targets undergraduate study; a future effort will map the graduate study of religion). The information collected will allow leaders of the field to make better decisions that will actively help to ensure that the academic study of religion flourishes in its second century. It is the signature program of the Lilly Endowment funded Strengthening College and University Programs in Religion and Theology (SCURT) initiative.

NORC has developed a customized report for all respondents. This report will allow departments to measure themselves alongside field-wide data on departments by Carnegie classification, region, and governance, immediately putting useful information into the hands of cooperating departments.

"Our field has struggled so long under the burden of practically no hard data about the numbers of students taught, hiring and promotion of faculty, and the shape of curricula," according to Rebecca Chopp, Peter Paris, Ninian Smart, and Raymond Williams in a letter to departments urging their prompt cooperation. In lending their support, they said, "We knew we could agree on the importance and urgency of this initiative and urge all chairs to cooperate and cooperate deliberately."


The following organizations are partners in the Census:

Association of Theological Schools
Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education
Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion
Canadian Society for the Study of Religion
Council of Societies for the Study of Religion
Fund for Theological Education
Council on Graduate Studies in Religion
Society of Biblical Literature