In 2008, the departments of history, philosophy and religious studies joined together to create the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS), an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

As the largest humanities-based trans-disciplinary research and teaching school at ASU, SHPRS produces innovative and distinguished research on subjects such as morality, rationality and ethics; race, citizenship and immigration; and the role of religion in public life. Faculty educate thousands of students every year and share knowledge with millions of people beyond the university through accessible media. The school enables students and the public to make sense of complex issues that are of critical importance to Arizona, the United States and the world.

SHPRS Director Tracy FessendenUnder the leadership of Tracy Fessenden, the current interim director of the school, SHPRS continues to advance the university’s goals of excellence, access and impact.

Professor Fessenden holds the Steve and Margaret Forster Professorship on the faculty of religious studies. Prior to receiving her doctorate in religious studies from the University of Virginia, she studied literature at Yale University. She writes and teaches about religion in American literature, law, politics, and the arts, with a special interest in the history of the idea of the secular. 

She is the author of Religion Around Billie Holiday and Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature, co-editor of Religion, the Secular, and the Politics of Sexual Difference, and general editor of the North American Religions series at New York University Press.

“As historians, philosophers, and scholars of religion, we pursue the big questions that matter to people in Arizona, the United States, and globally,” Fessenden says. “In the classroom, on the page, and in public forums worldwide, our faculty focus on the complex ways that people shape and sustain the worlds we share, perceive and respond to challenges over time, and bring our past to bear on our present and future. We teach thousands of students at ASU and share our knowledge with millions of people beyond the university. We help students and the public understand endeavors and navigate perplexities that are local, national, and international in scope, that are topical and of enduring consequence.”