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Torn: UChicago MDiv vs HDS MTS


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Hey everyone. Currently deciding between these two options that I’m torn between, and wanted to get some general input from others on the forum. A little bit about me:

• UChicago Divinity accepted me into their MDiv program on a 100% tuition + 12K stipend. HDS accepted me into their MTS program w 75% tuition covered

• My main focus is Islamic political thought: specifically studying classical scholarship and how they can help enrich current postmodern questions

• Looking to pursue a PhD in Islamic Thought, though I’m still not fully opposed to the idea of working on cultivating faith-based activism in between or long-term. In either case, I’d like to keep my feet in both worlds 

I suppose Qs: I know MTS in an excellent funnel into PhD programs, and since that is my main goal, kind of concerned if a UChic MDiv (rather than the traditional MA) will raise a few brows on ad comms or prepare me adequately for that path in terms of academic rigor.

At the same time, the UChic offer is incredibly generous, so it’s difficult to turn them down if the dif between a UChic MDiv and HDS MTS degree is marginal. 

Edited by tqrgx341
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I have some other thoughts that I need to think on so I'll likely edit or reply in a another post.

That said, Chicago's MDiv is very much seen as an academic degree. It's not seen in the same light as a MDiv from say Vanderbilt or Duke. Yes, some of Chicago's MDiv students go into traditional ministry but many, if not most, go into academic positions or further studies.

I think the policy is still in place, it was circa 2015 anyway, but MDiv students could take doctoral courses and were expected to produce the same quality and quantity of work. If a MDiv student did this for at least two courses and had a professor willing to recommend them, they could petition internally to just continue straight into the PhD program. When I was corresponding with the dean ~2015, every MDiv student who applied for internal review to roll into PhD studies was accepted. Not all of them opted to stay at Chicago, but they were accepted and offered the same funding package.

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As @runningit noted, Chicago's offer is financially better. Chicago's MDiv is also incredibly flexible.

https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/imce/images/webcopyMinistry Program Handbook.pdf

You likely have already come across this resource. If not, it lays out the required courses, of which there are few, and usual progression of students. Chicago will also let you take every available course in your tradition, rather than say having an Islamic focus and taking 20+ hours in Christianity. You can truly take almost exclusively Islamic-centric courses if they're available.

At the end of the day you simply need to ask where you feel that you belong. Both have exceptional name recognition. Baring you being wealthy, Chicago will significantly reduce the loans you'll need in order to finish your degree.

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Go to Chicago. For what it's worth, Chicago Div has a reputation of being less-seminary-y than all other divinity schools/seminaries in the USA (including HDS), which in your case is a plus. But, really, a full ride + stipend is rare anywhere, and especially so at Chicago, which is notorious for giving less money than the other R1's. 

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Thank you all for the input! It’s good to hear that both programs will be able to be a strong preparation for a PhD. 

@xypathos the internal UChicago PhD recommendation process sounds really intriguing: I knew something like that existed for MA students, but didn’t know the extent/competitiveness of it, or that it was similar for MDiv students as well. Have you heard of anything similar for MTS students at HDS in terms of a PhD program there? And yes, any other insights you had between the two programs would def be appreciated. 

I’ve been advised to and am planning to visit both schools for their Open Houses to get a better understanding of fit as well as talking to current grad students at both schools, so hopefully that can help clarify the decision a bit!

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I would also go with Chicago, but one other factor to consider: UofC has a deserved reputation for being a really intense place, i.e. ultra-competitive and cut-throat.

I'm at Northwestern, and in my first quarter of course work, I took a seminar at Chicago with Kevin Hector. It was mostly M* students all vying for Hector's attention for PhD recommendation letters with 3 or 4 PhD students including me. The seminar conversations were always contentious, and there wasn't a lot of room to just "float" ideas out there (because a M* would cut you off demanding that you define a term, explain more, etc.) I did get a lot out of the seminar (we read the entirety of Schleiermacher's The Christian Faith, which is a feat) but it was a pretty brutal learning environment. I have colleagues at NU who did their M* at Chicago and confirmed that that was their experience as well. I did audit a Hans Joas seminar a couple years ago and it was a different experience--Joas was the one cutting people off, demanding they clarify. ;)

All that to say, some people thrive in that sort of environment, and some find it really challenging.

I'm surprised by xypathos' report that all internal applicants were accepted into the PhD program in 2015. It struck me as much more competitive than that. When you visit, I'd try to find out competitiveness by track if possible. It might be that your specific area doesn't have as many applicants as, say, American Religions or Theology, which could further increase your chances of continuing at Chicago.

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I don't know what it is about philosophy but it brings out the worst in students - really, just the males. Well, I do know what it is and it's a bit of a hyperbole but every philosophy class I've been in has caused me to go drink afterwards.

I should clarify that the dean provided no numbers of those that applied, subfields, etc. The competition to transition from M* to PhD isn't easy or automatic but possible. I know 3-4 Chicago M* graduates in my program that left because of the same reasons that @marXian cited and opted not to apply to UoC for their PhD.

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