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About MarthUser

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  • Application Season
    2017 Fall
  • Program
    American Religious History
  1. I'm borrowing this from the History forum, but I was wondering if current and aspiring PhD students in religious studies would be willing to share noticeable trends in the focus of studies in their respective sub-fields. I'm asking partially for my own curiosity as to what other fields are doing within religion departments. I'm also asking on behalf of Master's level students who might be interested in pursuing PhDs in religious studies and are looking for some sort of direction on what might be good to study in their respective sub-fields In my sub-field of American Religious History, I've observed the following topics and trends: 1. Historicizing secularism by exploring different dimensions of religious doubt and religious pluralism in American historical context. 2. Challenging conceptions of religious authority at different points of american history by delving into preacher-congregation dynamics or exploring shifting scriptural authority. 3. Relationship between race, gender, sexuality, and religion continue to demand attention in american religious history. 4. Exploring non-Protestant religions in the American context is vogue, especially in studies of religion's role in cultural exchange, assimilation, and empire. Feel free to supplement, revise, or add to each other's lists as well. And if you have any particular programs/professors/books in those fields, feel free to add them as well.
  2. Programs for American Religious History

    As someone looking to get into this field, I would say it depends on the time period and your topic. If you're looking for some key religious historians in this field, I would suggest looking into Baylor's History Department (Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins) and Vanderbilt's Religion Department (James Byrd) since they are scholars whose topics tend to be closer to Hatch, Stout, Marsden, and Noll. PM me if you have any further questions as well since the American Religious History field is rapidly changing and certain departments are shifting faculty focus every year.
  3. Declining offer (masters)

    My general rule of thumb is that if your POI reached out to you congratulating you and inviting you to check the school out/offer to speak/skype with you about the program, then it's common courtesy to send them an email thanking them for taking the time to reach out to you and to kindly reject them. From my experience, they've appreciated an update from their admitted students given that they invested time and energy into marketing their program to you. If you want a general template, I use the following. I also insert some details if I had any other contact with the professor like actually meeting them in person, if they offered me any advice, etc... to make it more personable and to show you really appreciate their investment in you. Dear Professor _______, Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I also want to thank you for extending an offer of admission offer to ________. However, after a long period of deliberation, I regret to inform you that I have accepted an offer of admission to another PhD program (or Master's program). In any event, I want to express my extreme gratitude for the opportunity to attend ________ and your offer to assist me through this process. Thanks, ____________ If the no one from the school has really reached out to you, then feel free to just reject it online via their site.
  4. MDiv after MTS

    I agree that it's helpful to distinguish between admins and professors in general feedback. However, I forgot to mention that I received pretty much the same feedback from speaking with one of the HDS professors and my ThM advisor on the usefulness of doing a second divinity/seminary-type degree. From everyone's feedback, it seems that an MAR or MPhil might be your best option and I would second that option. As @theophany mentioned, an MDiv is a generalist degree and MTS is a specialist degree and this may be the best way to think about it. An MDiv might be more helpful too if you're pursuing something like a DMin (Doctor of Ministry). However, it sounds like you want to do a PhD and not a DMin. To echo @theophany's point: "The movement from specialized to generalist (MAR/MTS --> MDiv) does not make as much sense, and will raise questions. If you are applying to a more top-tier school to balance out what you perceive to be a less rigorous conservative seminary*, then you should apply to the MAR/MTS. " However, I also want to echo @sacklunch's point about funding and course flexibility. MDivs typically get more financial support either from a church/parish and/or are typically less expensive. And as already mentioned, most MDivs have a much more rigid curriculum where you'll HAVE to take church history, Old/New Testament surveys, christian/social ethics, some ministry requirements, etc... because people pursuing MDivs aren't all aspiring to go into academia. So assuming you only get three years for your MDiv, maybe half of your time is spent taking courses you might not even be interested in or help your PhD applications. In terms of increasing your chances to get into a PhD program: The direct feedback I've received from professors is that if you already have an MDiv/MTS, focus on refining your research topic. Also, identify programs/departments and contact professors that would be a good fit for your research interests before you apply to those programs. A common reason why my professors have turned down students who already have a Master's degree are 1. they aren't a good fit for the program and 2. their research topic isn't specific enough to be helpful for the professor to determine whether he/she would want to work with the student.
  5. MDiv after MTS

    So having spoken to an HDS admissions representative when i had inquired about doing an MTS at Harvard after having finished an MDiv at Gordon-Conwell, I received the feedback that it is doable but not advisable. This rep mentioned that admissions folks recognize that MDiv and MTS programs tend to overlap a lot and so it would be redundant to pursue one. She also mentioned that for some admission folks, it would actually raise questions about your decision and it is something you will need to account for in both your Masters application and in your PhD application as well. As for a 2nd Master's degree, it may help if you pursue it outside of the religion department/divinity school. In your field, maybe getting a terminal MA in history or philosophy may demonstrate your awareness of the multidisciplinary demands of doctoral work, at least more so than if you pursued an MDiv. Admissions folks know that certain degrees are more suitable for certain types of careers and an MDiv, from my experience, doesn't really prepare you for doctoral work which is why ThMs are the solution to this problem.
  6. Best Practices and Habits of a PhD Student in Religion

    Healthwise: One that I've heard from my professor is to find time to read something for leisure that you would enjoy like a novel, especially in between assignments. Another advice I've heard is to really take advantage of the summers as an opportunity to take a vacation and travel. Given the job market, a lot of PhD students feel the need to fill their schedules with resume-building activities. While this certainly helps them in the long-run, it's often at the expense of their personal health and relationships. I've heard some instances where over-activity has led to burnout and eventually frustration with their programs. Job Marketwise: So as an aspiring American Religious History scholar, I've also been taking classes in history departments/American Studies departments and one trend that's coming from that field is mastering the art of public speaking and presentation. If you have time, maybe check out toastmasters or attend local TedTalks/public speaking engagements to get a feel for proper public speaking. If other departments are exploring these fields (and my potential advisor and I have also discussed the importance of building this skill), then it would be good to adopt this skillset not just for teaching, but for conference presentations as well, which have historically been hit or miss with people still reading off of their papers (a criticism garnered from both historians and religious scholars I've met). Another one might be to find a creative outlet for the things you're learning. Some helpful ones include creating your own YouTube channel and create content material for the general public or writing your own blog. Part of finding creative outlets for the skills we pickup in our respective programs is that it will help us think in an entrepreneurial manner about our degrees. I'm anticipating a horrible job market but I'm constantly brainstorming ideas for alternative means of generating value for the general public that I could monetize.
  7. On living with your 'second choice'

    I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts. In a way, I'm anticipating feeling what you're feeling sometime in the future. However, knowing myself, a lot of it can be attributed to law of diminishing returns and my own critical view at looking at the world. In terms of law of diminishing returns, one month into being accepted, I've already started to lose some of my enthusiasm with getting into a program. I recognize that it has little to do with the program (which was also not my highest choice) and with more of the fact that it's hard for me to maintain contentedness for any period longer than a few days. I know that for myself, however, my enthusiasm for things wane as time goes on and it doesn't help that being in this good program is on my mind 24/7. Not feeling content with my situation forces me to be much more critical of my current situation that I really should be. And as you highlighted, even after weighing the positives and negatives, we somehow cling to the hypothesis that the grass COULD have been greener on the other side. This is where I've already started to be critical of the program before even entering it: Is this program really going to help me in the job market? Are the professors prestigious enough or is the fact that newer professors in the department means that they're not as established as the other big names like Harvard and Yale? I'm also anticipating problems that graduate students at that program have already expressed to me and I'm sure that I will develop those grievances as well, which I might've avoided had I maybe been accepted to other top schools. In summary, it's nice to know that there are others asking those same questions and going through this process (which I agree is irrational in a sense).
  8. ThM with Funding?

    BC and BU give some funding assistance for ThM/STM programs (I believe it's 40%). Gordon-Conwell (if you're open to an evangelical seminary) has a couple of funding options like their partnership program. For PhD prospects, looking at BC or BU will definitely give you a leg up over the seminaries. Furthermore, if you're in Boston, you also have an opportunity to take classes across schools that participate in the Boston Theological Institute program (Harvard is included), so say you're enrolled at BC, you're also able to take classes at BU and HDS for credit.
  9. The Guardian just released their 2017 global rankings for theology/divinity/religious studies last week. I was curious about people think about these types of rankings and how much stock we should put in these. Even though they're not particular to people's sub-fields, they do give a general sense of these schools' reputation. Do you also think that these rankings inform which schools you would consider applying to (whether for a Masters or PhD?)
  10. PhD Applications Fall '17 Season

    I'm in the same boat. I'm very close to just accepting Princeton's offer (given that it's just a really good offer and the faculty/grad students have been awesome) but I'm also still waiting on Harvard. I'm currently taking currently taking classes there so I'm imagining an awkward scenario where I accepted Princeton's offer only to have my Harvard professor tell me that I've been accepted to Harvard's program, and I tell him/her that I preemptively rejected Harvard's offer because they didn't get back to me as quickly as my other schools... If someone knows, do let us know.
  11. PhD Applications Fall '17 Season

    So was in a similar situation. I got an MDiv from a seminary in Boston and decided to apply to 12 schools last year. I got rejected from all of them except for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School but didn't get any funding. This year, I applied to 12 schools and got into Princeton Religion Dept and Florida State, interviewed with Stanford and Vanderbilt, and Baylor. Over the course of one year, I did a one-year supplementary degree at Boston University and took classes at Harvard. I diversified my recommendations (one from BU prof, one from Harvard, and one from my seminary). In order to get good recommendations and a strong GPA, I had to stand out in all of my classes and made sure that I met with professors (so be intentional/proactive) to build rapport and pick their brains. I also asked them for input on what research is relevant and wrote about it for my class papers because I suspect that I didn't get any interviews last year because my research topic was too broad/vague. If you want more details, PM me. But in short, don't give up and take full advantage of the resources available to you. Talk to professors and ask for their assistance on making your application strong. And name recognition/knowing the experts in your field goes a long way. Hope this helps!
  12. PhD Applications Fall '17 Season

    You should update your acceptances!
  13. PhD Applications Fall '17 Season

    That's through ETS though so I don't think we can get a refund for that one I'm afraid...
  14. PhD Applications Fall '17 Season

    Well, I suppose that's it for us American Religion Historians.....