UC Davis introduced its newest graduate program in Fall 2013 with the goal of adding fresh intellectual strength to traditional religious studies training. As the only major religious studies program configured in the 21st century, the Graduate Group in Religious Studies is designed to give students the deep skills of a specialist while making those skills relevant in new ways by fostering collaboration across the university and beyond it.
Graduate students in our program receive two kinds of training: classical research in the corpus of a particular religious tradition, and theoretical training to place this tradition at the center of broader concerns, in contemporary and regional context. We offer distinctive research strengths in three regions: American religious cultures, ancient Mediterranean religions, and Asian religions. A second regional specialization gives students an in-depth comparative basis. Students focus their scholarship through one of the following thematic lenses: Values, Ethics, and Human Rights; Modernity, Science, and Secularism; Visual Culture, Media and Technology; Language, Rhetoric, and Performance; Body and Praxis; Theory and Method. This curriculum provides the depth to produce rigorous scholarship that is on the cutting edge, redefining what religious studies has to say to the academy and public.
A second distinctive strength of our program is how we train students for successful careers. We see the PhD as intense, rigorous preparation for the life of the mind, developing valuable new ideas and sharing them. Our research workshops encourage students and faculty to create and share new work in a collaborative setting, together with scholars of all levels. And public scholarship is built into our graduate training. The deep research, analytical sophistication, and communication skills we teach translate to life in the larger world, preparing scholars to thrive in the public and private sectors as well as in the academy.
Our energetic program of building research power has put Davis in the top 3 West Coast Religious Studies PhD programs in terms of faculty, alongside Stanford and UC Santa Barbara. In 2015 we gained the greatest West Coast depth in ancient Judaism, moving from 1 to 3 faculty. Our new hire of the University of Chicago's Jamal Jones in Hinduism alongside our recently endowed chair in Jain Studies will provide remarkable range and depth in South Asian religions alongside our existing great strengths in Islam as well as modern Christian and esoteric traditions.
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