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World religion class takes tours of sacred Stillwater buildings

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

For Dr. Ryan M. Armstrong, Oklahoma State University religious studies visiting professor, venturing outside the classroom and into sacred buildings provides vital firsthand experience for his world religion studies students.  

“One thing is seeing the people giving these tours, how passionate they are,” said Armstrong, who takes his classes to two religious sites each semester. “The other thing is the buildings themselves. They take your breath away sometimes. Or it’s the opposite; It feels like home, and there is something familiar here.” 

Armstrong specializes in the Hebrew Bible and teaches Hebrew in the OSU Department of Languages and Literatures. Each semester, he takes his world religion students to tour the campus mosque with the Islamic Society of Stillwater and on a tour of the St. John Catholic Student Center. 

Adam Soltani, Department of Philosophy adjunct professor and Oklahoma Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director, serves as a liaison for Armstrong, setting up tours of the mosque and fielding questions.  

“It is one thing to learn about religion in the classroom, and it is another thing to learn about religion in the real world,” Soltani said. “Students get the unique opportunity to see religion come to life before their very eyes while still being in their guide’s presence on this journey of world religions.  

“Visiting a place of worship you are unfamiliar with and have never been to can be intimidating. Through facilitating these visits for students, I hope this is just the beginning of their exploration of religion in Oklahoma and the world.” 

Soltani did mosque tours before Armstrong got to OSU, and they continue to work together to give students this opportunity. Armstrong said it’s rewarding to witness the students’ reactions every year and see them learn about other religions besides the ones they grew up around.  

“I moved here from New York City, which is a melting pot of religions,” Armstrong said. “You see tons of different religious buildings. But here in Oklahoma, you come from small towns, so you might not have as much opportunity to see these other kinds of people. So, I think that bringing those students in and letting them see that is really important.” 

Soltani said learning about religion is easier than some make it out to be. Having an open mind and curiosity about religion will help in a student’s journey to broaden their horizons. He said the faculty at OSU provide a safe place to get started.  

“While there are great books and documentaries on world religions, having someone you can speak to, explore ideas with and find further credible sources of information from is crucial,” he said. “This is where the fantastic religious studies faculty at OSU play a role. I genuinely believe we all appreciate learning about and teaching about religion so much that we would love nothing more than to help educate students both in and out of the classroom whenever possible.” 

Armstrong’s advises students wanting to learn about different religions to get involved with the opportunities Stillwater and Oklahoma have to offer, such as religious services, student groups, festivals and building tours.  

His students also attend events with Hillel, a Jewish student organization on campus, and with the Buddhist Student Association of OSU. Armstrong emphasized the history of artistic and architectural influences in religion, which is one of his favorite things to watch his students discover.  

“Every little thing that we do in religion has this artistry of it that really communicates something,” Armstrong said. “To see these things, and then also understand students’ own religious traditions and what those things communicate as well, is eye-opening.”  

For more information about opportunities to get involved with religious studies, please visit the religious studies website 

Story By: Mallory Pool, CAS Intern |

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