Religious Studies / Center for Religious Understanding

Varner Hall, Room 217
371 Varner Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2154


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Center for Religious Understanding

Center for Religious Understanding

The Oakland University Center for Religious Understanding (CRU) recognizes the importance of comprehending multiple faith traditions and forging constructive linkages with them. The Center contributes to the distinctive educational experiences of Oakland students, furthers faculty and student research and scholarship and serves as an involved partner with the larger community.

Our mission:

  • Collect and organize resources for the interdisciplinary exploration of religion in society at Oakland University
  • Investigate religious identity and its role in society through inquiry in the humanities, social and natural sciences, and engagement with the creative and performing arts
  • Facilitate dialogue around religion and public issues by establishing associations between CRU and its fellow academic units at Oakland, area collaborators, and individual religious communities
  • Expand religious literacy both on the Oakland University campus and in the wider community.

  Mission Statement


CRU enhances general religious literacy through the examination of historical, social and cultural contexts of each religious tradition. The Center complements Oakland University's academic courses, seminars, student projects, internships and study abroad opportunities. CRU promotes literacy in the wider community by providing speakers, teachers and other resources to facilitate dialogue among those in varying faith traditions.


CRU hosts grant-writing workshops for students and faculty and provides advice on the construction of research programs. The Center particularly promotes collaboration in research, publication and creative endeavors between faculty members and with students across disciplines.

Partner With Us

CRU builds partnerships between Oakland University, donors, public officials, community leaders, religious organizations and faith communities. Also, the Center is in the process of creating an advisory council. The group will organize events to promote dialogue about similarities, differences, and shared challenges among different religions and foster opportunities for cooperative action in the context of the major ethical and political issues of the day.

Media Inquiries

CRU is a resource for media inquiries about religion. Members of the media who are interested in speaking to one of our specialists can contact the OU media relations team at

Christianity Studies: 

Randy Engle — Roman Catholic Church; Christianity in general. 

Charles Mabee — Religion and science; religion and terrorism; religion and politics; church-state relations; interfaith relations; the spiritual but not religious (SBNRs) generation

Islamic Studies:

Malik Balla — Islamic traditions; Islam and politics: Islam and women’s rights; Sufism and the spread of Islam; Islam in Africa; Islamic art.

Aly Lela — Islamic law and jurisprudence; Islamic ethics; contemporary Islamic thought;
Islam in the United States and the modern world.

Judaic Studies:

Ian Greenspan — Antisemitism; history of religious conflict; hate movements and groups. 

Michael Pytlik — Judaism and Jews; Jewish theology; ancient Israel; archaeology of Israel; teaching about Israel.