Catholic Studies at Emory

Catholic Studies Minor

Emory University hosts and the Aquinas Center supports the first Catholic Studies Minor at a non-Catholic college or university. The Catholic Studies Minor is for students who want to learn about the rich intellectual and cultural traditions of the Roman Catholic Church during the past two millennia. The minor provides an opportunity for anyone interested in the interdisciplinary study of religion, but also for Catholic students who want to learn more about their faith in the broader context of their liberal arts education.

Last year, more than six hundred undergraduate students enrolled in courses focused on the intellectual and cultural traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, such as the foundational class, "Modern Catholicism". 

A related activity is the Catholic Studies Student Discussion Group with its small group sessions facilitated six times a year by the head of the Aquinas Center, Dr. Phillip Thompson, on such topics as "What is Catholicism?', "The Church in the Media", "War, Violence, and the Death Penalty", "What the Pope Has Been Saying" and "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?".

More information on the minor is available at:


Our Students

Our Students

Photo L-R: Emily Mast, Elizabeth Howell, and Berit Reisenauer

Elizabeth Howell: Elizabeth graduated magna cum laude in Religion and History (joint-major) and German Studies. Her senior honors thesis focused on religious toleration in the Habsburg Empire. While at Emory, she was the Managing Editor of the student newspaper, the Emory Wheel, where she also developed an interest in teaching by volunteering for two hundred hours at a pre-school during her sophomore year and interning in an Austrian elementary school while studying abroad. One of the most meaningful aspects of her Catholic Studies concentration was a summer in the Emory in Italy program. She notes that the program was academically (and physically) intense, but it was rewarding to constantly immerse herself in studies. While at Emory she has also learned to constructively engage Catholicism in all of her Catholic Studies classes. She will spend next year working as a teaching assistant in an English classroom in Austria, and then return to the United States to work as a Teach For America corps member in Jacksonville, Florida.

Emily Mast: Emily is a native of Atlanta who was a Religion and Psychology double major. She developed a passion for learning at Emory. She did an independent study research class with Dr. Phillip Thompson on Soren Kierkegaard, Walker Percy, and the Akedah. She developed a passion for learning. During the summer in between her sophomore and junior years, she took the Italian Study Abroad program. What was most valuable was learning about something in the place where it happened. For example, in Pisa, she had class in the fields of the Camposanto Monumentale and discussed Boccaccio’s, “The Decameron,” which explains the affects of the Plague on Europe’s society. Also, she stayed in the area of Italy where Carlo Levi was exiled and had a profound experience meeting the peasants, which he wrote about in his memoir, “Christ Stopped at Eboli.”

Berit Reisenauer: Berit was a long way from home back in Everett, Washington, but Berit fearlessly builds communities wherever she goes. Her volunteer roles on campus included task force chair with the Student Government Association, student ambassador and tour guide, and university chorus member. She earned numerous honors including the College Council Hall of Fame, Residence Life Sophomore Advisor of the Year, Homecoming Court, and 100 Honored Seniors at Emory. This past summer, she served as a human rights intern with the Carter Center. She has been a key leader on new Catholic initiatives at Emory including the resurrection of the Catholic Student Union, the creation of the Catholic Student Discussion Group, and the creation of a Catholic Student Leadership Workshop and hosted Aquinas Center speaker John O’Malley, S.J. at an Interreligious Council student luncheon. A religion and political science double major, her Honor’s thesis was on Flannery O’Connor. You can read a lovely story in the Emory News on Berit at “Reisenauer Motivated by Self-Reflection, Religious Conviction, Intellectual Inquiry”.

Study Abroad

The Aquinas Center believes in helping Emory undergraduate students become the next generation of global leaders. Each year two Emory students can receive an Aquinas Center Travel Scholarship of up to $2,000 towards their study abroad program with significant Catholic content. The Aquinas Center Travel Scholars' Endowment ensures that generations of Emory Catholic students can have this unique experience.

Travel opportunities include but are not limited to the six week intensive study in the Emory in Italy program which exposes students in a special way to the riches of the Church's history and traditions.

Emory Italy Study Abroad Website:

For more information regarding this program, please contact Philip Thompson at

Ryan Stephenson

"The trip was a whirlwind tour of history, art, and religion that engaged and expanded my knowledge in International Studies, Catholic Studies, and Latin. It was a profound experience as a Catholic to explore so many wonderful sites and churches such as the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi."

- Ryan Stevenson