History of Religious Studies

The Religious Studies Program at Cal Poly originates with Dr. Judy Saltzman (Ph.D. Religious Studies, UC Santa Barbara) who received a lectureship to teach religion and philosophy at Cal Poly in 1975. Originally, there was only a World Religions course, which got sub - titled, "Its Tuesday, this must be Buddhism!" After a year, the course was split into Asian Religions and Judeo - Christian Religions. Philosophy of Religion was introduced in 1978. Subsequently, new courses in Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism were added. In the early 1990s, a dedicated prefix, Religious Studies, was created to distinguish these courses from philosophy. 

In addition to Dr. Saltzman who directed the program, Religious Studies at Cal Poly has drawn a number of talented lecturers from the UCSB graduate program in Religious Studies, one of the best in the country. Over the years these have Tomoko Mazuzawa, Lloyd Pfleuger, Rabbi Harry Manhoff, Katherine Komenda - Poole, Marie Pagliarini , Beth Currens, and Stephanie Stillman. 

Due to the hard work of Dr. Saltzman and the advisory panel, the first minor in Religious Studies was approved in 2001. The first recipient of the minor was Jordan Beck, who is currently a linebacker with the Denver Broncos. Dr. Saltzman continued to direct the program until she chose to retire in June, 2004, precipitated by a nearly - fatal brain hemorrhage in November 2003. 

In the spring of 2005, Dr. Stephen Lloyd - Moffett (Ph.D. UCSB, 2005) was hired to develop the minor program. Upon his arrival, he discovered just two students signed up for the program. Dr. Lloyd - Moffett revamped the program, eventually adding ten new courses and expanding the offerings, especially in the area of contemporary offerings.  The program grew to approximately 30 students.

In 2012, Religious Studies began a collaboration with the Esalen Institute on the Big Sur Coast for students to intern there as part of their Integral Leadership Program and receive Cal Poly Religious Studies credit.

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