The Master of Arts in Religious Studies is a two-year, full-time degree program that allows students to gain a critical appreciation and understanding of different facets of religion. In close consultation with a faculty advisor, students design a course of study tailored to their own interests and needs. Students may draw on courses offered at UWest to create an emphasis in Buddhist history and texts, comparative religions, Humanistic Buddhism, Chinese religions, South Asian religions, Buddhism and psychology, Buddhism and contemporary culture, Buddhist theology and ministry, or an area central to their particular interests.
Program Learning Outcomes
Wisdom & Skillful Means
Students are thoroughly prepared for academic and professional success.
||Students summarize and explain different facets of religion and religious life.
||Students apply the tools and theories used in the academic study of religion.
||Students identify ethical issues raised by religion(s) and explain their significance.
||Students think critically about specific religious traditions and about the academic study of religion, in general.
||Students engage in scholarly writing and presentation.
Students are prepared to engage in an ongoing process of self-understanding that enables them to lead happy, purposeful lives characterized by healthy relationships to self and others.
||Students critically relate religious teachings to their own self-exploration and character development.
Students recognize the diversity and dignity of all human beings and understand their own role in the pursuit of social justice.
||Students acknowledge the value of religious diversity.
|Liberation from Suffering
||Students critically relate religious teachings to issues of suffering.
Students possess a holistic understanding of global interdependence in order to cultivate compassionate thought, speech, and action in service to themselves, others, and the environment.
||Students critically evaluate the role of religion in human culture and society.
|Religious Diversity Requirement
|Specialization & Electives
Core Courses (6 units): During the first two semesters, all students complete the two core courses below. Students will acquire knowledge of the tools and theories used for the advanced academic study of religion.
|REL 600 History & Theory of the Study of Religion
|REL 607 Research Methods
Religious Diversity Requirement (3 units): In consultation with their faculty advisor, all students select at least one course in comparative religion or a religious tradition outside of their area of focus. Students gain understanding, respect, and appreciation of religious and cultural diversity.
Specialization and Electives (27 units): All students complete nine courses. Students are encouraged to develop an area of emphasis in consultation with their faculty advisor, reflecting a structured approach to the students’ focus and interests.
One course per semester may be taken at an approved collegiate partner, such as the Claremont School of Theology. Students acquire knowledge and research and writing skills in their chosen area of emphasis or focus.
Optional PhD Preparation Track
For students planning to pursue further academic study and apply to a PhD program, the following components are optional, although highly recommended. These courses can be applied toward graduation.
- Language: Students may pursue up to 12 units of language study as part of their overall coursework. Language study is recommended during the first year of coursework or as soon as the relevant courses are offered.
- Thesis Project: Students may enroll in the 3-unit course REL 700 Thesis Project at the outset of the semester in which they intend to write and submit their thesis. They will select a research subject in consultation with the professor supervising the project. The thesis must be at least 50 double-spaced pages in length (excluding the title page, abstract, and bibliography). The master’s candidate must have a thesis committee approved by the department chair prior to the end of the semester during which the thesis class is taken. This committee is composed of three faculty members including the student’s advisor. With the approval of their advisor and the department chair, students may choose to pursue an alternative to the traditional thesis (e.g. publishable article, multimedia projects).
Students may enroll in REL 700 a maximum of two semesters with the approval of the thesis committee chair and the
department chair. The final draft of the thesis or comparable project must be formatted according to university guidelines and submitted to the UWest Library before the end of the term in which the student is graduating.
Students must complete 36 units as designated above with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. No more than 6 units may be fulfilled through the transfer of credit from another institution. All coursework must be at the graduate level.
In addition to these requirements, students must submit a portfolio of their work to the department for assessment and review. (Portfolio guidelines are found in the Religious Studies Graduate Student Handbook.)
Degrees are awarded at the close of the semester in which the portfolio has been accepted as complete, the thesis has successfully been submitted to and approved by the Library (if applicable), the Intent to Graduate form has been filed with the Registrar’s Office, and the graduation fee has been paid.