Dec 10, 2018  
Graduate Record 2015-2016 
Graduate Record 2015-2016 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Religious Studies

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323 Gibson Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400126
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4126
(434) 924-3741

Degree Requirements

Master of Arts

The M.A. in Religious Studies, which may be elected either as preparation for more advanced study or as a terminal degree, requires:

  1. either: the successful completion of 30 credit hours, of which 24 credit hours comes of course work, of which at least 9 hours must be taken in a single religious tradition or cultural area and of which at least 6 hours must be taken in courses with a strong emphasis on method; and the preparation and successful defense of a thesis, which counts for the remaining 6 credit hours represented by at least six credit hours of non-topical research with the student’s advisor and which exhibits competence in the area of specialization, skill in a given method of study, and an ability to employ resources in the relevant foreign language(s);
  2. or: the successful completion of 30 credits of course work, of which at least 12 credits are taken in a single religious tradition or cultural area and at least 6 are taken in courses with a strong emphasis on method; and satisfactory performance in a comprehensive examination based on a reading list approved by the relevant field committee. The choice between these options is determined in consultation with faculty advisors, and with a view to the student’s objective in graduate study. (When M.A./Ph.D. program students successfully complete their comprehensive doctoral examinations, they have also completed the master’s examination requirement and may elect to receive the M.A. degree);
  3. and: a reading knowledge of one research language demonstrated by examination Within these general requirements, the M.A. Program remains flexible and can be closely tailored to the interests and aims of the individual student. Normally the M.A. program can be completed in three semesters, but very rarely in fewer.
  4. and: Must be completed with at least one full academic year’s enrollment in residence.

Doctor of Philosophy

The following requirements pertain generally to all Ph.D. programs in the department: students admitted to the M.A./Ph.D. (i.e., students without prior graduate work in religious studies or related fields) must complete a minimum of 54 credits in courses at the 5000 level and above, plus 18 credits in other courses (may be non-topical research) for a total of 72 credits.

Students admitted directly to the Ph.D. program (i.e., who already hold a graduate degree in religious studies, such as the M.A., M.Div., or some equivalent) may petition the Graduate Committee for advanced standing at the end of their first year of residence and may be allowed to transfer up to 24 credits toward the course work requirement.  These students will need 30 credits of course work plus 18 other credits (e.g., non-topical research) for a total of 48 credits.

As doctoral students (M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D.) proceed through their programs of study, their progress is charted according to “milestones” measuring: acquisition of research languages, annual progress reports and a post-coursework conference, anticipation and successful completion of comprehensive exams, acceptance of a dissertation proposal, and the successful completion and oral defense of the dissertation.  The completion of each milestone must be reported to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies, who records them in SIS. While the specific contents of the milestones vary according to areas and fields of study, they are summarized below:

Annual reviews and progress reports. At the end of each academic year, until the dissertation proposal is accepted, students meet with appropriate faculty members to review their progress. Students are expected to submit a summary progress report to the Graduate Studies Coordinator at the end of years one through four, even if due to some contingency the meeting has not yet occurred.  The form and content of the report are determined by the areas and fields, but in all cases the report and the review meeting track progress through program requirements.

Language plan. At the end of their first semester, in consultation with their advisors, students are expected to file a plan for language acquisition (subject to revision) with the Graduate Studies Coordinator.  Students must demonstrate, by examination, a reading knowledge of at least one modern research language and any additional languages as might be specified in each student’s language plan.  In addition, specific levels of competency may also be required in particular fields and in accord with particular research programs. Language competencies must be certified before a student may proceed to comprehensive examinations.

Comprehensive exam plan. At the end of their first semester, in consultation with their faculty advisor, students are expected to file a plan (subject to revision) anticipating what comprehensive exams they will likely be taking.  This plan may be reported in conjunction with their annual review.

Completion of coursework. M.A./Ph.D. students are expected to complete required coursework by the end of their sixth semester, while Ph.D. students should complete required coursework by the end of their fourth semester.  All doctoral students must take RELG 7360: The Study of Religion, normally during their first semester.

Area or field requirements.  Some areas or fields, as in the History of Religions, specify requirements in addition to courses, such as field work or additional language study.  Normally, these requirements should be completed before qualifying exams.

Research conference.  Upon finishing coursework (and perhaps in conjunction with the annual review), students meet with their likely dissertation advisor and two other faculty members in their area to discuss dissertation ideas and a timetable for taking comprehensive exams.

Comprehensive exams and doctoral candidacy. Students must successfully complete comprehensive examinations in their field of specialization within six months after finishing required courses and language examinations. When all comprehensive exams are completed, the student is admitted to doctoral candidacy.

Candidacy deadline.  All pre-dissertation requirements, including coursework, language examinations and comprehensive examinations, are expected to be completed by the seventh term of study.

Dissertation proposal, dissertation, and defense. Within six months of the completion of comprehensive examinations, students are expected to present a proposal before their faculty dissertation committee (chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor).  With the approval of the dissertation proposal, students proceed to the writing of a dissertation that demonstrates a high level of research skills, sophistication of method, originality of insight, and specialized knowledge. Dissertations must be defended in oral examination before the student’s dissertation committee and a University of Virginia Arts and Sciences graduate faculty member from outside the department.

Areas of Specialization

The Department offers four major areas of specialization in doctoral studies. They are Historical Studies; Theology, Ethics, and Culture; History of Religions; and Scripture, Interpretation and Practice

Course Descriptions

Note: Twelve credits in religious studies or instructor permission is prerequisite for the following courses.

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