The School of Religion at USC announced that they will be offering a doctoral program for students to receive their Ph.D. in religion beginning in fall 2015.
The five-year program, which begins accepting applications this fall, will allow graduate students to pursue a particular concentration within religion. There are three tracks for students to choose from: Comparative Christianities, Global Islam and Asian Pacific Religions.
The application process for the program includes submitting scores from the Graduate Record Examination, an academic writing sample, a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. Students will also be expected to be proficient in their track's respective language. For example, students studying Global Islam should be capable of reading primary sources in Arabic.
Sherman Jackson, a professor of religion and American studies and ethnicity, has been named the new Director of Graduate Studies and was part of the effort to start this Ph.D. program at USC.
"There has been a very keen interest among students to have a graduate program at USC," Jackson said. "Part of that has to do with the quality of our faculty and what they've achieved and what their national and international reputations are, and part of it has to do with the very diverse population we have in Southern California."
Though students will focus primarily on their respective tracks within the program, they will also have the opportunity to take classes in other departments and programs in the university. This will allow for a broader context of the issues affecting global religion, as well as to be able to put what they learn into practice.
"We have a very interdisciplinary focus as well, and that's one of the things that really enhances our students' ability to place their training into conversation within the real-world reality," Jackson said.
Associate Professor Lori Meeks was appointed the chair of religion in August, a position through which she oversees both the undergraduate and graduate programs in religion at USC.
"Even though this is a graduate program, we believe that it will add a lot of vitality to our undergraduate program, as well," she said. "We think it will help us create even more enthusiasm around the study of religion at USC."
Along with the new doctoral program, the School of Religion will be starting a lunch series on Wednesdays where students will have the opportunity to learn about ongoing faculty research.
Like many other doctoral programs throughout the country, the program at USC will be fully funded by the university. Tuition will be covered for students, and they will receive health insurance and a stipend for housing and living expenses.
Several faculty members said they are excited to begin the program next fall. Their focus will be on ensuring a welcoming environment for students to share ideas and beliefs, allowing them to learn not only from faculty, but also from each other. Eventually, students will be prepared to pursue careers in fields such as academia, religious institutions and community activism.
"Here at USC, our focus is on ensuring that students have mastered the textual traditions of the respective religions," Jackson said. "But at the same time, that they're able to place all of that erudite knowledge into conversation with the real-life comings and goings of religious communities in the world."