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The Graduate Program in Religious Studies

QUESTION: Can you write something about the background of your PhD students, how you selected them, what makes a prospective doctoral candidate stand out against the pack, whether there is a huge academic gulf between knowledge and argumentative skills of your undergraduates and research students.

RESPONSE:  Ah, this is an interesting question, and as I’ve thought about it I’ve realized that there are lots of things that I take for granted about the process of admitting students into our graduate program what would not be “common sense” at all to someone who is not deeply involved in the process.   I’ve been admitting graduate students for 25 years now.   (Occasionally I realize that I’ve never been out of school.   After high school I went straight to college, which took me five full years; after college – in fact the next month, because I had to finish courses over the summer – I went into my MDiv program; after my MDiv program I went directly into my PhD program; and I started teaching at Rutgers while I was still finishing my PhD; I came to UNC four years after that, and have been here twenty-six years.   So, well, I’ve been in school for the past 55 years…. Since school is so much of who I am and how I look at the world, I sometimes forget that that is, well, a bit unusual.)

To make sense of what we’re looking for in graduate students, I need to say a few words about our graduate program.   When I first came to UNC in 1988, the PhD program had only been in place for a couple of years.   They had had a Master’s program for some years before that, but the PhD – which is a *completely* different kettle of fish – had only just started.   And the faculty was still in the process of working out exactly how it would be set up.

That in fact is why I wanted to come to UNC.  It was known as…


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Departments of Religious Studies
My Forgery Seminar (Syllabus)



  1. Avatar
    toejam  January 12, 2015

    I had always assumed Princeton Seminary was a part of Princeton University. I wonder how many prospective employers make the same assumption haha! “Oh, look, this guy studied at Princeton!”

    • Avatar
      toejam  January 14, 2015

      Ooops! When I posted this, I didn’t realise you went to Princeton Seminary – Just letting you know it wasn’t intended as a slur!

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    Daniel Gullotta  January 12, 2015

    *takes notes… lots of notes*

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    RonaldTaska  January 13, 2015

    Interesting. I did not know the difference between seminaries and divinity schools. Anyway, you should feel very good about your role in the development of the UNC program. I think it’s very important to have people studying Christianity who are somewhat outside a given theological viewpoint otherwise the given enterprise becomes just an endorsement of a given viewpoint.

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    nsnyder  January 13, 2015

    I just noticed there’s a bug on the site where on every post the “next post” button always points to “Response to Carrier” instead of the actual next post.

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    curious  January 14, 2015

    I am sixty years old and have been a social worker(MSW) for the past 15 years or so. I have a BA in Philosophy with a minor in classical history and have studied Classical Latin and Greek. I would very much like to enter your PHD program in the near future. What are my chances of being accepted. given my age?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 14, 2015

      In a couple of days I’ll be explaining the kinds of high standards we have for admission into our program. Stay tuned!

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    gabilaranjeira  January 17, 2015

    Very interesting turning point… I had taken for granted the fact that religion can be studied in a non-religious context. This is possibly revolutionary…

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