Catholic Studies at Carroll College

Dr. Mark Smillie

Carroll is participating in the burgeoning academic field of Catholic Studies.

Catholic Studies programs have been steadily growing since the 1990s, adding communities of vibrant Catholic intellectual life to campuses throughout the US. This emerging field explores Catholicism’s place in culture and the history of ideas in interdisciplinary and integrative ways. 

Carroll’s Catholic Studies program began in the spring of 2020, and in its first three years has grown to 17 majors and 13 minors. In addition, the program has offered 37 courses and a total of 344 students have taken these courses.

Thanks to a generous gift by Dr. Earl Heller '58 toward Catholic Studies scholarships the program is attracting new students and is one of the fastest growing programs at Carroll. 

The program roots itself in Catholic faith and thought, with introductory courses treating the harmony of faith and reason in the Catholic intellectual tradition, the Catholic vision of the human person, and the unity in diversity of the Catholic Church. This foundation leads to further study of the rich heritage of Catholicism. One series of courses examines manifestations of Catholic culture in art, music, literature, and film. Offerings have included study of Christ in sacred art of the East and West, sacred music in the Catholic tradition, the Catholic imagination of Flannery O’Connor, and Catholicism in contemporary film. Another series of courses focuses on the life and thought of saints in the Catholic tradition. To date, students have studied Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Paul II, and saints of the Mendicant Orders.

Through course offerings, campus-wide lectures, and community gatherings, the program has become a hub of Catholic intellectual life on campus. Next year the program plans to offer a summer travel course that explores the Catholic heritage of the Pacific Northwest. In summer 2025, students will have the opportunity to study in the Holy Land.

The program also hopes to expand collaboration with other departments and programs at Carroll to offer more discipline-specific study of topics touching on Catholic history and culture. While focused broadly on Catholic heritage in its richness and diversity, and animated by a Catholic worldview, the program is open to any student interested in learning about Catholicism.

Quotes from our students

I chose Catholic Studies in order to discover what is true by reason in what I have already found to be true by faith. I have particularly enjoy studying how the Church relates to our current culture. – Jack Snouwaert '24, Communications & Catholic Studies

The Catholic Studies program has helped me to enrich my understanding of my faith, and further appreciate the beauty that is to be found in the world around me by allowing me to see the love of God that holds the universe in existence. – Amy Tekverk '24, Biochemistry & Catholic Studies

In my experience, Catholic Studies has aided me not simply in having a more 'global education' (though it immensely contributes to this as well), but also in the pursuit of truth. The program has challenged me to engage my environment as a means to learn wherever I am. In the Truth and Culture course I was taught to engage the culture, learn from it, and in light of Catholic teaching, engage further understanding in harmony with both faith and reason. – Ariana Collins '24, Philosophy & Catholic Studies

I am a Catholic Studies major because it is not just a major to be fulfilled – it is a fulfilling major. I am taught to think critically through reason and faith, not reason alone, about broad issues in the Catholic tradition. I find unequivocal joy in learning about the things that matter. The Catholic Studies program truly embodies the idea, 'Not for school but for life.' – Marrin Chapman '25, Biology & Catholic Studies

I chose Catholic Studies because I really wanted to understand my faith more and to understand it through tradition. I firmly believe that in order to live my faith I need to understand it and vice versa. The Catholic Studies classes have been such a highlight of my time at Carroll. The smaller class size allows for such an amazing sense of community and it allows for very in-depth, interesting conversations. – Sarah Hiller '26, Psychology & Catholic Studies

I am in Catholic Studies because it enhances all other aspects of my education at Carroll, showing me through the Incarnational reality of the Church how to relate to my courses, life experiences, and understanding of Catholicism. – Luke Ostberg '25, Philosophy & Catholic Studies