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A&S—Religious Studies

*Religious Studies is currently not accepting graduate applications.

The Department of Religious Studies offers the degrees of Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The MA Program in Religious Studies is solely administered by the department; the PhD Program in Religion is in cooperation with the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (Cooperative Program in Religion). The principal purpose of the graduate program is to provide students with the research and teaching tools that may lead to careers in colleges, universities, and other venues in which the academic skills of a religionist are utilized. The department encourages an interdisciplinary approach to the study of religion and works with students to design a course of study to meet intellectual needs within the limits of faculty expertise and available resources.

Major areas of specializations are offered in:

  • Religious Thought and Language: with emphasis on the history of Christianity, and on philosophy of religion.
  • East Asian Religion: religion and culture in East Asia
  • Religion in North America; American religious history and
  • Jewish History: focused on the medieval and modern periods

Students also can focus in three thematic clusters:

  • Religion, Ethnicity, and Culture: Religion and the formation of cultural, social, and political identities and difference; ethnic subcultures and minorities.
  • Text in Context: Interpretative strategies; philosophical, practical, institutional, social and intellectual history; art and architecture.
  • Religion and Modernity: Impact of modernization of traditional cultures; relationships between religion and politics, nationalism, class, and gender; popular religion and ritual studies.

Students further define themselves in historical and methodological perspective:

  • Tradition: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism
  • Region: America, East Asia, Europe
  • Period: classical, medieval, early modern, modern
  • Methodology: anthropology, history, philosophy, sociology

Contact Information

Department Chair: Linda Penkower
Main Office: 2604 Cathedral of Learning
412-624-5990
Fax: 412-624-5994
E-mail: relgst@pitt.edu
www.religiousstudies.pitt.edu

Prospective students should contact Dr. Adam Shear, Director of Graduate Studies, and core graduate faculty in relevant areas of research.

Admissions

Admission to the MA program requires a BA degree. Entrance into the PhD program requires an MA, MDiv, or MTS degree in Religious Studies or a cognate discipline. Students who plan careers in areas in which second language competency is essential should meet minimum language training guidelines at the time of the application. A complete application packet includes an online application form, a career statement, three letters of recommendation from academic referees, a writing sample, transcripts from previously attended institutions, and GRE scores. International applications also include TOEFL or IELST scores and an online international graduate student supplemental application packet. Completed applications must be received by January 15. The department accepts applications for fall matriculation only. Additional information is located in the MA and PhD program sections on the departmental Web site.

Financial Assistance

Teaching assistantships and tuition remission scholarships are available through the department on a competitive basis. Religious studies students are also eligible for fellowships offered through the University, including Provost's Humanities Fellowships for first-year graduate students, Mellon Predoctoral Fellowships, and FLAS and other awards offered through the University Center for International Studies (UCIS). Entering students are nominated directly by the department.

Degree Requirements

Graduate degree requirements established by the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh are described elsewhere in this bulletin and should be read in conjunction with the departmental requirements outlined below. Departmental rules allow no more than two upper-division (1000 level) courses to count toward graduate degrees and no more than 50 percent of graduate courses to be taken as directed or independent study.

Requirements for the Master's Degree

Course Requirements: The MA in Religious Studies requires 27 credits beyond the BA. MA credits are distributed as follows: the core course on "Perspectives on Religion" (REL 2710, 3 credits); one course on theories or methods related to the student's primary methodological focus (3 credits); four courses in the student's area of concentration (12 credits); two courses outside the student's area of concentration (6 credits); three credits devoted to the preparation of the comprehensive examination and research and writing of the Master's thesis.

Language Training: There are no formal, departmental language examinations for the MA. When applicable, an intermediate level of reading competency in a modern and/or classical second language judged necessary for research and standard in a student's area of concentration is required for admission into the program. Additional language study, as appropriate, may be required as part of the student's professional training.

Comprehensive Examination: Students take a comprehensive examination within the first eighteen months (three terms) of entering the program. The examination is typically taken in conjunction with "Perspectives on Religion" and is comprised of a three-member examining committee chaired by the student's advisor. The written examination covers theories and methods in the study of religion and issues relating to the student's area of concentration and is followed by a one-hour oral defense.

Thesis: The thesis is an original, article-length research essay in the student's area of concentration. It may be developed from a seminar paper or as an independent research project under the direction of the student's advisor. The thesis is defended in a one-hour oral examination before a three-member examining committee.

Requirements for the PhD Degree

Course Requirements: The PhD in Religion requires 48 credits beyond the MA (72 credits beyond the BA). Graduate students entering the PhD program from another institution may have up to 24 credit hours at the MA level applied toward the PhD degree. Transfer credits require a grade of B or better (or the equivalent) and must be for work germane to the MA degree in Religious Studies. Students entering the PhD program from another institution meet the distribution requirements as outlined in the departmental requirements for the MA degree (save for the thesis) in the course of earning the PhD degree.

PhD credits are distributed as follows:

  • All graduate students entering from another institution take "Perspectives on Religion" (REL 2710, 3 credits)
  • Two courses on theories or methods related to the student's primary or complementary methodological focus (6 credits). One of these courses (3 credits) is earned at the MA level.
  • Ten courses within the student's areas of specialization (30 credits). Four of these courses (12 credits) are earned at the MA level.
  • Two courses in each of two religious traditions or contexts other than the student's area of specialization (12 credits). Two of these courses (6 credits) are earned at the MA level.
  • Twenty-one elective credits, including courses devoted to the preparation of qualifying examinations, advanced language training, the preparation of the dissertation prospectus, and the research and writing of the dissertation (21 credits).

Preliminary Examination: The preliminary examination is required of students who enter the PhD Program with a Master's Degree from another institution. See the "Comprehensive Examination" in the MA Program.

Language Examinations: Verification of reading knowledge of two modern second languages is required. Determination of the two required modern languages is made on the basis of research needs and professional expectations in the student's area of specialization. Students whose research primarily involves English-language sources or one language of research still satisfy the two modern languages requirement. Students pass one of the language requirements prior to sitting for the comprehensive examination.

When applicable, an intermediate or advanced level of competency in modern and/or classical second languages judged necessary for research and standard in a student's area of specialization is required for admission into the program. Additional modern and/or classical language study, as appropriate, may be required as part of the student's professional training.

Comprehensive Examination: Students take the comprehensive examination upon completing all required course work (save for a maximum of 6 credits devoted to preparation of the dissertation prospectus and research and writing of the dissertation) and passing the preliminary and language examinations. The examination is designed to test for both breadth and depth in the student's area of specialization and intended area of research by evaluating the student's critical abilities in three fields that impact the dissertation. The examining committee is comprised of three faculty members chaired by the dissertation advisor. Three written field examination are followed by a one-hour oral defense.

Dissertation Prospectus and Overview: Defense of the dissertation prospectus at a two-hour overview meeting is the final stage before application for admission to PhD candidacy (ABD status). The dissertation committee is composed of four faculty members chaired by the dissertation advisor.

Dissertation: The doctoral dissertation is an independent, original, and significant contribution to knowledge, grounded in an appropriate body of primary and secondary sources. Successful completion of the dissertation signifies the preparation of the author to assume a position within the profession. The dissertation is defended at a two-hour oral defense.

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