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About MarthUser

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    American Religious History

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  1. The benefit of going to Columbia is that it’s also close to Princeton, Yale, and UPenn where other Americanists can assist you/help expand your network. Which century are you working on for American religion?
  2. I wonder if it might be helpful for your to pursue some level of seminary training to see how far your interests go (as opposed to a divinity or theology school, though these are good options as well, a seminary training might be more attentive to the spiritual formation-dimension of your congregation that your theological education can help with). There, you can get basic exposure under the guidance of professors who can help you think of career paths aligned with your interests. For some evangelical churches I've been to, they give paid-internships to folks to teach Sunday School (at both the youth, college, and adult-levels) and play an assistant-ship role to the pastor. As soon as you study at a seminary (or divinity/theology school), you will encounter opportunities to travel to places like the Holy Land with some professors. In addition, having ties to institutions like seminaries means that you will also have access to alumni resources for further education. I know some folks who end up working within the seminary in some administrative capacity, having access to the resources to learn on their own at their own pace but with proximity to professors and the lack of pressure from being a graduate student/professor in training. In short, there are a lot of benefits to becoming affiliated with an institution (assuming you can also afford it) that you would otherwise not have if you pursue it on your own. And it sounds like that might be the best place for you to start.
  3. In the past two years I've been here, everyone usually comes around to post as soon as February/March comes around. People are usually in a scramble inquiring if others got interviews/acceptances/rejections.
  4. I would say it might be to your advantage to pursue a Ph.D. in English instead. Part of this is because from most of what I've observed in most religious studies departments, they've often taken more ethnographic(anthropological or sociological), historical, or philosophical/theological methodologies over literary analysis. On the flip-side, you'll find people in English departments who do religion quite well and are read by people in religious studies departments. Some scholars that do religion and literature in English departments include Emily Ogden at UVA and Sarah Rivett at Princeton. You can also do an English department at a religiously-affiliated school like Baylor where they might want to cultivate your skills/abilities in biblical literary analysis.
  5. So because I do history of religion, it requires familiarity with working in archives, familiarity with historiography (how previous scholars wrote about the subject), and knowing how to use primary sources to build a historical argument. Despite being in a religion department and not having a strong-scholarly argument regarding the category of "religion," my admission into the department revolved around having the tools to do the research required by my sub-field, not necessarily just having a good thesis/proposal. My seminary professors emphasized the importance of languages for Biblical Studies, but I've spoken to PhD students in early Christianity/Temple Judaism who mention that languages actually don't matter too much. With that in mind, it might be helpful to see what other people in other sub-fields/disciplines sense might be their equivalent.
  6. At the base-level, having a strong Master's-level GPA and good GRE scores is important. Undergraduate GPA might not be too important. I had a barely 3.0 undergraduate GPA (granted it was in a completely different discipline and I accounted for this low GPA in my personal statement) and was able to get into a top-tiered PhD program. In my first year of applications, I was rejected from all schools I applied to (even low-tiered seminary PhD programs that offered no funding). Second-round, I got interviews at half the schools I applied to (about 12) and was accepted into four strong programs. One of my advisors at my current program mentioned that she remembered my application from the previous year and said that I was simply lacking the research skills to succeed in the program. And that was me having near-perfect Master's level GPA and strong recommendations from my professors. So from my experience, not even having the research skills already placed me in the "People who have absolutely no business applying to top PhD programs" as exemplified by me not getting any interviews/acceptances, even from no-stipend seminary programs. I want to say most people are probably really qualified by certain metrics (GPA/GRE scores-wise), but the range of "people who have absolutely no business applying to top PhD programs" extends well into how equipped someone is to do PhD-level work in their particular discipline, familiarity with methodology, and their knowledge of the scholarship that's already there.
  7. My sense from other Theology/Philosophy folks (and even some Biblical Studies folks) is that not having languages does not disqualify a candidate. They might expect you to draw up a plan on your personal statement on how you will address the lack of language skills, but having it also doesn't make you a strong candidate either. With regard to your GRE scores, I would say a 164 Verbal is pretty good and should already establish you as a viable candidate. Professors who review your file and select students seem to rely heavily on how a candidate would "fit" into their department, and "fit" seems to come down to 1. how well your research interests align with other professors in the department/area of focus (and not just your advisor) 2. how open do you seem to be molded/challenged by your advisors (or are you already too wedded to your proposed dissertation topic? 3. do you have the basic tools to be a scholar in your field/sub-field (if you're doing history for example, have you worked with primary sources? can you show that you know how to analyze one through a religious-historical lens?) Most programs seem to want students who are already aware of the types of questions scholars are asking and finding ways to contribute to the discussions that are already ongoing within religion departments. If your personal statement doesn't reflect an understanding of the disciplinary tradition you're entering into, then it'll be difficult to make a case for how you might be a strong fit for a religion department. If you really want to prepare for the next round, talk to others who are already in the program. Ask them what they're researching. Attend conferences and get a sense/feel for the types of questions people are asking. And also (this helped me as well), don't be afraid to ask your professors straight up: what's a good thing for me to research if I want to get into a PhD program and am interested in this thing?
  8. I came out of an MDiv program, but it was from a seminary not a divinity school like HDS. Before I was able to get into a program, I had to take that supplementary year of a ThM to better develop my research skills that would better prepare me for a PhD program. Because PhD programs are research-oriented and MDiv programs aren't all structured to produce researchers, it may fall on you to prove that you have the chops to do it well. My sense from having taken classes at HDS is that it doesn't seem like there's much of a difference between the MTS and MDiv programs in the course flexibility it allows. But from the general perception of MDiv vs. MTS, I would suggest going for the latter if you're already set on staying the course towards a PhD program. I'll add that I do know some people who wanted an MDiv for ordination purposes on top of wanting to prepare for a PhD program in the future. I see this as perhaps one of the few advantages of an MDiv over an MTS.
  9. Given the metrics you've shared (GRE and GPA), I would say you're a very competitive candidate. That being said, being competitive does not mean you're a strong candidate for a particular department. As others have already echoed, it all comes down to more subjective factors like "departmental fit" and your research interests. What might help is if you use the SOP as a way to tell your story, incorporating the challenges you've faced along the way (accounting for your undergraduate and graduate shortcomings) with the evolution of your interests over the years, leading up to what you hope to bring to the program you're applying for and the research interventions you will make as a member of that department. As I've heard it said in the business world, show the progress you've made in your weaknesses and it becomes a strength. I share this as someone whose undergraduate GPA wasn't stellar (I was a Finance major in undergrad and wasn't all to interested in it as a subject) and whose GRE scores weren't impressive by any means (averaged around 160 on both), yet was accepted into a top-tier program.
  10. In my own experience, a recommendation from Professor A would go a long way. I’ve had interviews where they asked me about classes I’ve taken with my Professor A recommender, showing that for most programs name recognition gets your application to stand out above the others.
  11. I would say evangelical-seminary professors inhabit the space between “academia” and “ministry” which might be what you’re looking for. Some are in ministry, some are not. Some are pastors while teaching, others are directors of think tanks or of other projects while teaching. They publish but mainly in Christian journals and publications. They teach others in the same faith background without the pressure for interdisciplinary respectability that shapes religion/history/philosophy departments. 1. Pastors positions typically require an M.Div. because it’s a well-rounded degree. It gives the baseline training in all the disciplines you listed (both in your interests and the ones you are not interested in). I’m not sure if a D.Div fulfills that requirement, though I’m seeing less and less D.Divs in general. 2. You will need a Masters degree to pursue any doctoral-level study (at least for the humanities). Part of this is that the Masters degree gives you a flavor of what subjects and discussions scholars are engaged in that would allow you to contribute to the broader scholar community. An M.Div gives you a broad overview of every seminary discipline (biblical studies, church history, ministry, preaching, counseling, etc...). Because it’s so broad, it typically requires you to do a ThM/STM on top of it (an additional one-year) so that you can narrow your interests and find which discipline best fulfills your intellectual curiosities. An MTS (Master of Theological Studies) is generally more flexible than an MDiv and allows for a student to pursue research that an MDiv might not allow. From those I’ve spoken to, MTS CAN allow you to go straight into a PhD once you’ve demonstrated your research chops. 3. The route you laid out might be the best approach if you want the flexibility to teach and maybe be a pastor in the future. On a more practical-level, however, I would say doing a PhD (over a ThD) might dissuade you from being a pastor down the line, or if you end up not liking your PhD push you towards ministry instead. While it’s perhaps overstated in churches that academia might cause someone to lose their faith, there’s definitely some truth to it. For example, my field is in religious history in the U.S. If I was an evangelical and I’m learning a lot about evangelicals and their issues with race, gender, whiteness, etc, I’m often put in an indefensible position about my own religious tradition. Intellectually, I won’t be able to make assertions to a congregation that evangelicals were on the right side of history or that my congregations’ faith-tradition has historically been a force for good. It’s hard for me to preach on what it means to be a good Christian in the workplace if the tangled histories of Christianity and capitalism prevents me from proposing any benign combination of the two. It’ll be hard for me to say that the Bible is infallible if the notion of its infallibility was a historically created claim by fundamentalists to combat what they perceived as the “liberal modernists.” I can’t make any claims about our “modern culture” which congregants might want but my discipline shows that there might not be anything that is “modern culture.” In short, a PhD changes the way you think about particular subjects in a way that might not be the most helpful to your congregation and might actually weaken your ability to meet other people’s needs.
  12. Everyone already mentioned the disadvantages of an MDiv. I want to echo them. However, I also want to highlight a key advantage of an MDiv: you're exposed to the various ways of potentially studying religion within a particular religious context. MDiv classes allowed me to sample all of them and to get a feel for which one I can truly invest time in. I was originally interested in studying either the New Testament or some variation of the sociology of religion. However, I realized that I didn't have too much interest in either the language, ancient history, or archaeology that would help me get through the demands of the discipline. After taking a post-Reformation Church History courses, I realized that I really enjoyed reading through primary sources from the 18th century, more so than translating a text from Koine Greek. And so I ended up pursuing a PhD in American Religious History instead. An MDiv introduces you to the various disciplines that might be of interest to you. While you might be taking courses that won't necessarily interest you (I was not a big fan of ministry-related and ethics-heavy courses), you 're exposed to multiple disciplines so that you can make a more informed decision about which track you'd want to pursue in your PhD. In addition, you pick-up various skill-sets along the way that might help you in the future. I never thought a preaching class would be valuable until I've appreciated developing presentation/public-speaking skills when I'm presenting papers at conferences. Even though I'm studying 18th century U.S. history, the figures I'm studying are well-versed in their Greek and Hebrew, and so I can engage with them in ways other scholars in my field might not be able to. While an MDiv might disadvantage you from entering a PhD program directly, a ThM or STM (one year programs to supplement your PhD) readily provide you the research bulk you'll need to be competitive with PhD programs.
  13. I can only speak from my own field American Religious History. Top history programs rarely (if ever) admit students coming in with a religious studies Masters program. In my own experience, I had two Master's degrees in the study of religion and when I applied to History departments, they almost always recommended I go through their Master's program first and then reapply to their PhD program. However, some history programs in religiously-affiliated schools like Notre Dame and Baylor University are more open to students coming in with an MA in religious studies. Methodologically, scholars in my subfield and historians take similar approaches to their research. Some slight nuances might appear in the particular theories informing their work. While historians might feel comfortable using the term religion, scholars of religion might feel the need to elaborate on their theoretical approach, perhaps sometimes even avoiding the term altogether. One good example might be the Branch Davidians. Historians might not think a "cult" like Branch Davidians falls into the presently-understood category of religion. If it was to be studied, historians might include it in a history of violent government military interventions in civilian activities. However, scholars of religion might find the Branch Davidians' "religion" as worthy strong example of a movement that troubles the boundaries of the category "religion." Religious studies folks are invested in the history of religion as a category constantly constructed, reinvented, re-imagined, and imposed by society and institutions (in the case of the Branch Davidians, government-intervention distinguishes between "appropriate" religion and "cults". This troubling of terms by exploring the periphery, which relies on works by philosophers like Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, is something historians might not be as concerned with.
  14. I know of some people who have finished their generals but not yet finished their language exams. It varies by department/school, but for some programs I'm familiar with, it would seem that the language requirements might simply be a formality with a seemingly strict deadline that's only loosely enforced. Perhaps check with your advisors to see how strictly they hold you to the language-requirement deadline.
  15. I want to echo @xypathos's remarks about BTI and the realities of living in Boston. Given the cost of living, most folks commute into the city so you may want to factor that into your decision-making. One key benefit is that a lot of BU School of Theology folks cross-register with Harvard Divinity School, Boston College's School of Theology and Ministry, and Boston University's religion department. However, it would probably help to look at the strengths of the program. If you're looking for a theology/philosophy emphasis, perhaps you should look into Boston College's program as well. Although it is more Catholic in its orientation, my assessment is that they have a stronger theology and philosophy program with an emphasis on the intersection of the two in the medieval period. I find that Boston University's strength lies more so in social ethics and applied theology. If these are where you want to focus your interest in theology/philosophy, then I would say it is a good fit. If not, then it might help you to look into programs more aligned with your interests.
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