Skip to main content

Religious Diversity in North America

Welcome to the Joint PhD program in Religious Diversity in North America. We are excited to tell you about our innovative program which has three facets:

University of Waterloo Religious Studies Department: https://uwaterloo.ca/religious-studies-phd/


North American Focus

The program concentrates on the diverse nature of, and interactions among, the religious traditions and movements of Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean. The emphasis is largely, although not exclusively, contemporary, in order to understand the religious complexity of the North American continent, essential textual and historical background is provided.


Multidisciplinary Theories and Methods

The program is multidisciplinary in two ways: in its admission of students from a variety of related disciplines and in the faculty, courses, and research that students encounter. Faculty have expertise not only in religious studies but also in related disciplines such as anthropology, history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. In addition, the program utilizes adjunct faculty from related departments at both universities. The program, designed for students with either religious studies or other, closely related backgrounds, employ both fieldwork and textually oriented methods.  


Public Intelligibility

The PhD is designed to meet the needs of individuals who have various professional or vocational objectives. In addition to training those who intend to be scholars in religious studies or related disciplines, the program is designed to attract administrators, artists and media professionals, counselors, journalists, religious officials, social workers, and teachers. Therefore, the program stresses the need for public intelligibility in communicating religious studies scholarship. In addition to emphasizing writing skills, the program cultivated and evaluates speaking as well as other public performance skills. The program fosters in students both a focus and a flexibility that will serve them well in a job market that requires adaptability, creativity, and the ability to be articulate in public situations.

Our program has two main objectives. The traditional objective is to educate students pursuing careers in postsecondary teaching and research. The courses, examinations, and other requirements will provide them with knowledge necessary for doctoral-level research, writing, and teaching in the field of religious studies. The PhD dissertation requires original research that contributes significantly to knowledge in the humanities and social sciences. The program is structured to provide future scholars with the specialized training required for competing successfully in the academic job market. Graduates of the program should have acquired experience in standard academic activities: conducting independent research, preparing scholarly publications, teaching courses in a field of specialization, and contributing to academic and non-academic communities.

The aspirations and tenor of the program also differ from those of traditional, multi-field doctoral programs. Not all graduates of a PhD program aspire to academic careers. Consequently, the program also guides candidates in adapting their skills to non-academic careers for which religious studies training is valuable. Publishing, journalism, the media, the arts, government, social services, and law are areas of public life in which sensitivity to religious, ethnic, and other expressions of human diversity are essential. Analytical, organizational, and communication skills are a prerequisite in these arenas just as they are in academe.

Professional organizations such as the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion (CSSR) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR), along with publishers and funding organizations such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), are actively encouraging scholars to become more explicit and conscientious in communicating the results of their research. In keeping with such an aim, the program prepares scholars who can effectively enter arenas of debate and withstand the heat of public intellectual life. So the PhD emphasizes speaking and writing for interdisciplinary audiences as well as for the educated public. The dissertation must be an exemplary example of research, but it must also be a book crafted for an audience more diverse than the usual small group of specialists.

In addition to emphasizing writing skills, the program cultivates and evaluates speaking as well as other public performance skills. The program fosters in students both a focus and a flexibility that will serve them well in a job market that requires adaptability, creativity, and the ability to be articulate in public situations.

For professional skills training, visit ASPIRE: https://students.wlu.ca/work-leadership-and-volunteering/graduate-student-development/professional-development/index.html

Contact Us:

Department Chair Meena Sharify-Funk (WLU): msharifyfunk@wlu.ca

Undergraduate Co-ordinator Erich Fox Tree (WLU): efoxtree@wlu.ca

Graduate Co-ordinator Ashley Lebner (WLU): alebner@wlu.ca

PhD Program Director Mavis Fenn (UW): mfenn@uwaterloo.ca