Culminating Experience

The purpose of the Culminating Experience at Dartmouth is to provide an integrative and intensified academic experience in the major, involving substantial independent or collaborative work. In the Religion Department, this requirement is satisfied by either REL 84 (Advanced Independent Study), or REL 85 (Senior Colloquium), or REL 86-87 (Honors Program).


The REL 85 (Senior Colloquium) is a special winter term course convened by two faculty members who will guide the selection of topics and grade the essays. Other faculty members in the department may visit the course during the first five weeks of the term; in addition, the course will feature as a guest speaker, the Hardigg Fellow, an author whose book is being read as part of the course.

The Culminating Experience may also be completed in an Advanced Independent Study course (Religion 84) which can be taken any term senior year. Majors electing this option—like majors participating in the Honors Program—must submit a proposal for their research before the end of the Spring term of their Junior year. This proposal must be approved by the Religion Department.

The proposal should

  • explain the focus of the independent research and its relation to prior course work
  • contain a preliminary bibliography
  • have the approval of the faculty member who will supervise the research and grade the essay at the end of the term

Please note that availability of faculty members varies from year to year, so it is best to make these plans well in advance.

All senior majors, including those writing Honors Theses (REL 86-87) and those in an Advanced Independent Study (REL 84), are normally expected to participate in the "colloquia" constituting Religion 85. Students enrolled in either REL 84 or REL 86-87 do not need to enroll in REL 85 to attend the colloquia portions, and naturally, they are excused from the REL 85 writing assignment.