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.
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 skils training, visit ASPIRE: https://students.wlu.ca/work-leadership-and-volunteering/graduate-student-development/professional-development/index.html
For more information, please see the official PhD Green Book: https://uwaterloo.ca/religious-studies-phd/sites/ca.religious-studies-phd/files/uploads/files/green_bookjun2015.pdf
The minimum degree requirements for the Laurier-Waterloo PhD in religious studies are as follows:
The PhD is designed to take four years for completion. Students must enroll in the program full-time, be available for classes and regular on-campus consultation for at least the first two calendar years, and complete a minimum of six terms beyond the MA.
Students are expected to proceed through the program in a timely fashion. Normally, students must complete the course work and finish their proposal in the first year; comprehensive exams in the second year; and the dissertation project in the third and fourth years. The responsibilities of the supervisor and the supervisory committee notwithstanding, the candidate is responsible for ensuring that program requirements and deadlines are met in a timely fashion.
The degree requires a minimum of four courses beyond the MA. Students are required to take RE 700 and RE 710, both doctoral-level research seminars, as well as two electives. Depending on a student’s goals and admission assessment, additional course work may be required. Doctoral students must achieve at least a B in each course.
There are two examinations, each based on a bibliography constructed by faculty in consultation with the student. The purpose of the general exam is to ensure breadth and to assess competence in the religious diversity of North America and in religious studies. The purpose of the field exam is to focus an area of specialization containing the dissertation project. The general exam is conducted by the joint committee; whereas the field exam is conducted by the student's supervisory committee. A candidate has only two opportunities to complete each of the examinations successfully. These examinations should take place by the end of the candidate's second year in the doctoral program. To be permitted to take the examinations at a later time, a candidate must petition the director for an extension. Extensions are normally granted only once and then, only for one term.
Students must demonstrate reading knowledge of a second language relevant to the field and/or the dissertation. If the topic of the dissertation makes knowledge of a third language essential, the candidate must demonstrate competence in this language as well. Students are not permitted to begin their dissertation until all language requirements are met.
The proposal is a written document outlining the dissertation project. The proposal must be formally accepted by both the student’s supervisory committee and the joint PhD committee before proceeding to the dissertation project. Subsequent, substantive changes in the proposal must be approved by the supervisory committee and the program director.
The dissertation project consists of three required, closely related parts: the dissertation, the public presentation, and the dissertation defense. Students must pass all three. Evaluations, carried out by the supervisory committee, take into consideration the mastery of both style and content.
The doctoral dissertation is an piece of research (approximately 50,000-90,000 words in length) aimed at making an original contribution to the study of religion. The dissertation must be crafted for publication as a book, although actual publication is not a degree requirement. This way of fulfilling the dissertation requirement is a distinctive feature of the program, and guidelines are available from the director. The dissertation is prepared in consultation with the supervisory committee, which includes the candidate's supervisor acting as chair, along with two other faculty members, one of whom may be a member of a non-religious studies department.
The public presentation is a second distinctive feature of the Laurier-Waterloo PhD in religious studies. The presentation must be accessible to the public, open to questioning and debate, and subject to faculty evaluation. This presentation may take various formats and must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to make the results of research publicly intelligible and engaging for a diverse, educated but non-specialist audience. The public presentation is held in a venue and at a time different from that of the dissertation defense. Holding it in an off-campus location is preferable. Evaluation is on a pass/fail basis, and a pass is required to complete the degree. Evaluation of such presentations is by the supervisory committee on the basis of a set of criteria available from the program director. A candidate who fails may attempt the presentation only one additional time.
The dissertation defense, which is distinct from the public presentation, is an oral review and evaluation of the dissertation. Prior to the defense, an examining committee is established. It includes the supervisory committee plus an internal examiner from another department at either university. A chair (from the university in which the student is registered) and an external examiner (from another university) are appointed by the appropriate dean of graduate studies. The supervisory committee recommends external examiners to the dean of graduate studies. The decision of the examining committee is based on the dissertation and the candidate's ability to defend it orally. A candidate who fails may attempt the presentation only one additional time.
Four decisions are open to the examining committee:
Accepted. The thesis is accepted with only typographical and/or minor editorial corrections to be made to the satisfaction of the supervisor. Such a decision can be rendered only if there is no more than one dissenting vote.
Accepted with major revisions. The thesis is accepted subject to substantive changes in its content or major editorial changes carried out to the satisfaction of specified members of the examining committee. The examining committee's report must include a summary of changes required and must indicate the time by which the changes must be completed. Such changes must be completed within four weeks of the date of the examination.
Decision deferred. The thesis requires modifications of such an extensive nature that the acceptability of the thesis is questionable. The examining committee's report must contain a description of the modifications expected and indicate the time by which the changes must be completed. The revised thesis must be submitted for re-examination. The re-examination will follow the same procedures as for the initial submission and the same examining committee will serve. A decision to defer is open only once for each candidate.
Rejected. The thesis and/or defense are not acceptable. The examining committee must report the reasons for rejection. A student whose doctoral thesis has been rejected is required to withdraw from the PhD program.
If the examining committee is unable to reach a decision at the time of the thesis defense, it is the responsibility of the chair to determine what additional information is required by the committee to reach a decision, to obtain this information for the committee, and to call another meeting of the committee as soon as the required information is available.
For all forms related to PhD Progression and dissertations: https://students.wlu.ca/academics/graduate-and-postdoctoral-studies/managing-your-program/index.html
The two universities attempt to provide equal funding for students regardless of which university they enter. Full-time graduate students at both universities are automatically considered for teaching assistantships and scholarships, both of which may be held concurrently. Scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis, taking into account grade-point averages, recommendations, and other indicators of academic performance and promise. A student’s financial assistance package may be adjusted to take into account external awards such as Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowships and Ontario Graduate Scholarships. Candidates hired to teach undergraduate courses will be paid the standard rate for part-time faculty. Students presenting papers at academic conferences may apply to one of the graduate studies offices for assistance with travel expenses.
Laurier also offers travel funding for conferences and research. More information can be found here: https://students.wlu.ca/registration-and-finances/graduate-funding-and-awards/internal-scholarships.html
Graduate Faculty and Research Interests
Carol Duncan - Religions of the Caribbean and the African Diaspora
Paul Freston - Christianity in the Global South
Ashley Lebner - Christianity in the Global South
Jason Neelis - South Asian Religions
Meena Sharify-Funk - Islam
Michel Desjardins - Early Christianity/Religion and Food
Erich Fox Tree - Indigenous Religions
Janet McLellan - Buddhism
Chris Ross - Psychology and Religion