Distance Learning Program

Distance Learning Program

The Women's Spirituality Program recognizes that many qualified prospective students who might wish to earn a graduate degree cannot uproot from their homes and jobs to move to San Francisco. To support people in that situation, we offer our semi-distance learning option. This option is called "semi-distance" because students can live outside the Bay Area and still complete the MA in WGS (or PhD in WSE) by taking a combination of online and face-to-face courses.  

Students opting for Distance Learning must complete a minimum of 19 units face-to-face and a maximum of 17 units online to complete their degree. 

It is possible for students taking this option to complete their degree in 2-3 academic years by combining the following:

  • Completing 3-unit intensives every fall and spring semester
  • Attending additional weekend courses
  • Independent Studies courses
  • Public Programs workshops elligible for academic credit 

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Flexible Formats:

More about WS Intensive Courses

  • Our intensives are designed for our Distance Learning students (although these courses are open to all students) can take up to 3 units face-to-face over a 6-day period to minimize the amount and cost of travel per visit to San Francisco.  These intensives are only offered in the Fall and Spring. Our program does not usually offer courses over the Summer semester, however, students may register for Independent Studies, Public Programs or elective units offered through other programs at CIIS. 
  • In addition to our intensives, we generally offer additional weekend courses every semester. 
  • Students may take up to 6 units of Independent Study courses, including those taken as Women's Spirituality Journeys* with WSE core and adjunct faculty. They may also bring in 6 units of courses taken at another accredited graduate university provided that these have not been used towards the earning of another degree.
  • CIIS Public Programs offers a number of workshops every semester that students may take for academic credit.  These may be applied towards the fullfillment of the curricular requirements in WGS or WSE with the approval of a student's academic advisor. 
  • *To learn more about Women's Spirituality Journeys, please inquire with a member of our faculty or staff. 
  • Courses in the WS Intensive (four 1-unit courses offered sequentially over nine days in mid-August) are offered on a three-year rotation schedule. Two WS Intensives are offered each academic year. The WS Intensive offers courses in all three of our areas of study.
  • Orientation and community-building for our semi-distance students take place during the WS Fall Retreat and Intensive each year.

More about Length of Study

  • It is possible to finish the 36 units of course work for either the M.A. or the PhD in four or five semesters (that is, 2 or 2.5 years) if a student takes several of the courses offered in the WS Intensive for two years and 6-9 units per semester (such as 3 units every summer and 8 units some semesters).
  • However, semi-distance students who work full-time while attending CIIS often take six semesters to finish their 36 units of course work.
  • PhD students require additional semesters for their Comprehensive Examinations, the Proposal Writing course and possibly the Proposal Completion seminar, and the research and writing of their PhD dissertation. WS students work out an individualized plan with their Advisor in keeping with the program's degree requirements.


  • The curriculum for WS semi-distance students is the same as for WS residential students.