Interdepartmental Major in AAAD and REL B.A.

Are you curious about why people are religious? Have you ever wondered how religion has influenced the African American Community, both politically and socially? Do you have a desire to understand religion and how it relates to and shapes the rest of human life? Are you interested in ethical questions and seeking answers to them?If so, an interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies may be right for you. Both the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS) and the Department of Religious Studies are part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The African American and African Diaspora Studies faculty and Religious Studies faculty represent a wide variety of interests, disciplines, and research, allowing you to customize your degree in a way that is valuable to your own research areas.

Interdepartmental majors give you the opportunity to combine two majors of related interest to complete a degree focused on aspects of each. Advanced coursework enables you to develop a depth of knowledge about African American and African Diaspora social, historical and cultural topics, as well as a background in American religious studies.

Each department offers additional degrees and minors. The Department of Religious Studies offers a Religious Studies B.A., as well as a second interdepartmental major with Philosophy

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies offers a B.A. major in African American and African Diaspora Studies. Other interdepartmental options include AAADS/English, AAADS/History, and AAADS/Sociology

Check your bulletin for information about the minor in Religious Studies or the minor in African American and African Diaspora Studies.


Getting started

The coursework for the interdepartmental program is divided evenly between Religious Studies and African American and African Diaspora Studies.

Students are encouraged to take AAAD-A 150 Survey of the Culture of Black Americans and a 100 or 200 level Religious Studies course within their first two semesters at IU. For your other course selections in the AAADS/Religious Studies interdepartmental degree, you will want to meet with your academic advisor.

Tracks and concentrations

The goal of the interdepartmental major is to allow students to develop a broad understanding of religion and culture, and specifically, the role religion has played in the African American community. You will have the chance to focus on your areas of interest as you progress through the degree. Your academic advisor will assist you with course selection as you go.

The AAADS side of the major has three concentration areas. Of these, you will select one area of focus.

  • The Arts concentration encompasses dance, music, film, and the fine arts. In this track, you can participate in ensembles offered through the African American Arts Institute

  • The Literature concentration explores the history of over 300 years of African American writings. Classes examine historical, cultural and social change through the reading and analysis of poetry, novels, rhetoric, and narratives. 

  • The History, Culture, and Social Issues track offers courses in history, cultural studies, and political, social, and legal issues. Students focus on broad subjects such as African American History, specific topics such as protest strategies within Civil Rights movements, or cultural identity perspectives involving race, class, and gender.

The Religious Studies side of the major has four different subfields of interest (marked by the letters A, B, C, and D).

  • Area A: African, Europe and West Asia

  • Area B: South and East Asia

  • Area C: The Americas

  • Area D: Theory, Ethics, Comparison

Between the two majors, you have about 30 credit hours to dedicate to your concentration and subfield studies.

Upper level coursework

The African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies interdepartmental major allows you to customize your upper-level courses based on the concentration and subfields of your interest.

All students are required to take one upper-level AAADS history course and one upper-level AAADS literature course, in addition to the courses selected for their area of interest. It is recommended that these two courses be taken during the second and third year.

Majors are also required to take REL-R 389 Majors Seminar in Religion, recommended for the junior or senior year.

AAAD-A 493 Senior Seminar in AAADS is strongly suggested for students considering graduate school. The department recommends that students take this course in their junior or senior year.

Additional upper-level coursework (300 and 400 level) is chosen based on your particular interests. Commonly selected courses include:

  • African American Religions
  • Black Religious Music
  • Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, 1954-1974
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in American Religion
  • Race, Religion, and Ethnicity in the United States
  • The Political Impact of Black Religion

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your major represents about one third of your degree requirements. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates. Students pursuing the AAADS/Religious Studies interdepartmental major often study other subjects while completing their bachelor's degree. 

AAADS/Religious Studies majors frequently choose to focus their coursework through a second major in History, Political Science, Psychology, Philosophy, English, Sociology, or Criminal Justice.

Frequently completed minors include: Spanish, History, Sociology, Social Welfare Advocacy, Anthropology, and Gender Studies. Check your bulletin for more information about these minors.

AAADS/Religious Studies students may wish to pursue these certificates:

Your academic advisor can help you find a second major, minor or certificate that supports your interests. 

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing the interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in many fields. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

You can get involved in research as early as your freshman year. Many incoming freshmen apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker. 

Students interested in a topic not covered through standard coursework or who want to go into greater depth in a subject should consider enrolling in REL-X 498 Individual Research in Religious Studies or AAAD-X 490 Individual Readings in African American Studies. REL-X 370 Service Learning in Religious Studies involves work in a communal or public setting and academic study related to the project.

Advanced juniors and seniors with an interest in becoming educators might inquire about REL-X 371 Teaching Internship with instructor permission. This option enables you to learn about the art of teaching in an applied setting.

Your academic advisor can help you explore your independent study options.


Outstanding students may wish to pursue departmental honors for their AAADS/REL major. Students interested in departmental honors select to take either AAAD-A 499 Senior Honors Thesis or the sequence of REL-R 399 and REL-R 499. The topic chosen should integrate Religious studies and African American and African Diaspora Studies. This is an extra course beyond the 21 hours in each department.

High-achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

The Religious Studies Department offers several scholarships and awards open to majors:

  • The Mary Jo Weaver Scholarship, awarded annually, supports one to two Religious Studies majors with $500 per year for up to two years.
  • The Bill Gallagher Essay Contest offers three cash prizes, recognizing high-quality undergraduate papers pertaining to the study of religion. If you are writing an honors thesis, you can also submit your work for the undergraduate honors essay contest.

The Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies offers rotating awards to:

  • Candidates who make the Executive Dean's list
  • A student nominated for an outstanding independent research project
  • Students who complete an outstanding AAAD-A 493 senior seminar project

Options for pursuing scholarships and awards related to AAADS and Religious Studies include:

The IU Foundation offers a large number of scholarships to IU students based a variety of criteria; check to see if you qualify.

Hutton Honors College maintains an extensive list of scholarships and grants. These support international travel, enable thesis work, and help alleviate financial or other areas of need.

Religious organizations sometimes offer undergraduate scholarships or other forms of student support. 


Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.

You might want to participate in a local internship with the Boys and Girls Club and the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Organizations offering internships relevant to AAADS/Religious Studies include:

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through The Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you’ll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.

Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages. Students are encouraged to find a language that interests them. Talk to your academic advisor about your language study options.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in an increasingly interconnected world. Students pursuing the African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:

  • United Kingdom (Kent), South Africa (Cape Town),
  • Denmark (Copenhagen),
  • Senegal (Dakar),
  • Germany (Freiburg),
  • France (Aix-an-Provence), 
  • Israel (Jerusalem).
  • Many others programs may benefit you as well.

The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Participating in students groups gives you a chance to make friends, take on leadership responsibilities and build connections between coursework and other activities.

The Undergraduate Religious Studies Association, affiliated with the Religious Studies Department, organizes a variety of events throughout the year. Joining is a great way to get to know your professors, fellow students, and become more involved in the life of the department.

You might want to participate in one of the three ensembles offered through the African American Arts Institute. While these ensembles are offered as IU courses, students in them travel, perform and host workshops like many clubs do.

The Global Living Learning Center, Collins Living Learning Center and Atkins Living Learning Center are campus housing options that are often of interest to Religious Studies and African American and African Diaspora Studies majors.

Other groups that can enrich your AAAD/Religious Studies experience include:

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement that allow you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Professional associations of interest to AAADS/Religious Studies majors include:

Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, and nonprofit organizations.

Build your skills

Through the major

The interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferrable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Expertise in religion and culture: understand and describe several features of religion as manifested in multiple traditions; evaluate the category of religion; and develop a depth of expertise in ethics and one or two religious traditions
  • Global and regional cultural competence: utilize knowledge of religions and various perspectives to analyze how race functions both globally and regionally
  • Research synthesis: gain skills to develop evidence-based arguments, assess the strengths of the arguments of others, and defend your position
  • Communication: communicate knowledge, facts, concepts, arguments about religion, race and culture, both orally and in writing, with experts and non-specialists
  • Methods of analysis: interpret information about religion and race through multiple disciplinary lenses; identify diverse ethical and moral positions and be able to critique and engage those positions

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:  

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take Initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career coach.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume,  ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

Maximize your career preparation with a career course. African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies interdepartmental majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to [name divisional Arts and Humanities provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!

The job market

An interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies prepares students for careers in a variety of industries and work environments, making the outlook promising due to the diversity it allows. Students take their broad set of knowledge and skills into hundreds of different fields and career paths.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: business, cultural exchange, education, government, healthcare, international relations, nonprofit organizations, nongovernmental organizations, politics, research and academia, among many other options.

Graduates have become artists, attorneys, community developers, consultants, diplomats, doctors, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, fundraisers, educators, human resources specialists, ethics experts, international security personnel, librarians, lobbyists, marketers, musicians, policy developers, nonprofit directors, public relations professionals, publishers and editors, social workers, student affairs professionals, and much more.

Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!

Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Talk with AAADS faculty, the Religious Studies faculty, the academic advisor, the career coach and other students to gain insights into the vast variety of career paths taken by graduates of the African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies interdepartmental B.A. and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you will need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

An interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as business and consulting, education, non-profit management, politics, research and social work, among many other options.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.

Students who pursue graduate studies have gone into careers in business and entrepreneurship, top academic and research institutions, higher education and student affairs, law, local, state, and federal government, nonprofit organizations, pharmacies, and much more.

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

Stay current with other alumni through the African American and African Diaspora Studies alumni page and annual newsletter and the Religious Studies alumni page and annual newsletter

Talk with faculty, your academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of this degree.

The College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.

Is it for you?

The interdepartmental major in African American and African Diaspora Studies and Religious Studies attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically possess some of the following qualities:

  • Desire to learn and critically think about religious traditions
  • An interest in African American public figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Zora Neale Hurston, Malcolm X, and historical time periods such as the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement
  • Fascination with religious practices, movements, and ideas, especially as they relate to minority studies
  • Awareness of current social and political movements
  • Interest in wrestling with ethical questions covering medical practices, the environment, and other issues related to public life
  • Motivation to participate and engage in social movements and be a catalyst for change
  • Willingness to ask probing questions and be challenged intellectually

Learn more

Contact the African American and African Diaspora Studies or Religious Studies academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address