The Transformative Studies program is offered in an online format. Students work in the online environment of the CIIS virtual classroom. During the two years of coursework, the students meet twice a year in the Bay Area for five- to seven-day residential intensives.

Because intensives are an essential aspect of the learning experience, participation in the intensives is mandatory.


The doctoral program in Transformative Studies consists of a minimum of 36 semester units (two years of full-time coursework) plus a dissertation. It will include 18 units of foundations courses, 6 units of research courses, and 12 units of electives, which may be taken from both Transformative Leadership and TSD.

Coursework concludes with two comprehensive exams in essay form: One addresses the knowledge base of the student's area of inquiry; the other addresses the chosen research methodology for the student's dissertation.

Required Courses

  • TSD 6500 Residential Intensive (Required at the start of each semester. 0 Units)
  • TSD 8005 Introduction to Transformative Studies (3 Units)
  • TSD 8125 Creative Inquiry: Scholarship for the 21st Century (3 Units)
  • TSD 8130 Transdisciplinarity: Complex Thought and the Pattern That Connects (3 Units)
  • TSD 8210 Self, Society, and Transformation (3 Units)
  • TSD 8215 Varieties of Scholarly Experience (3 Units)
  • TSD 6526 The Ecology of Ideas (3 Units)
  • TSD 8120, Learning Community (0 units, four-semester sequence)
    8220, 8320, 8420

Comprehensive Exams

  • TSD 9610 Dissertation Literature Review (3 Units)
  • TSD 9611 Dissertation Research Methodology (3 Units)


  • Research Elective (3 Units)
  • Electives (9 Units, Four courses)

Total units for the degree: 36

Course Descriptions

Required Courses

  • TSD 8005: Introduction to Transformative Studies (3 Units)

    This course introduces the fundamentals of distinguishing, knowing, communicating, and facilitating transformative process. In this course spanning individual, relational, organizational, and cultural perspectives of transformation, students will explore how change may be understood and practiced.

    Particular emphasis will be placed on the development of transdisciplinary views of systemic complexity, higher-order processes of change, and the ways in which academic inquiry itself can become a self-organizing, transformative process.

  • TSD 8125: Creative Inquiry: Scholarship for the 21st Century (3 Units)

This course provides an introduction to research as a creative and transformative process. It will address issues such the relationship between the academic and the transformative; what it means to be a scholar in the 21st century; how to get in touch with one's research passion and integrate it into one's coursework; how to think about research in a way that integrates personal reflection and personal growth with solid, grounded scholarship in an academic context; what the role of the literature review is and how to approach it; and how to develop one's academic voice.

The knowledge base is drawn from the philosophy of social science, educational and developmental psychology, creativity research, complexity, and inter- and transdisciplinarity theories and research.

  • TSD 8130: Transdisciplinarity: Complex Thought and the Pattern That Connects (3 Units)

    It is becoming increasingly clear that complex issues often cannot be addressed from the perspective of a single discipline. This course focuses on how research is conducted across disciplines. We will briefly explore the history of disciplines and inter- and transdisciplinarity, and study a number of exemplars that draw from disparate disciplines to assess a variety of possible strategies.

    Transdisciplinarity will be presented as an approach that is driven by inquiry rather than discipline; is meta-paradigmatic rather than intra-paradigmatic; requires a form of complex thought to organize knowledge in a way that connects and contextualizes, rather than separates and reduces; and acknowledges the central role of the knower in all-knowing.

    How can we learn to think across disciplines in a way that is inquiry based, when we have been taught to think inside our disciplinary silos? The work of a number of transdisciplinary exemplars will be studied in depth.

    Topics include how to develop a knowledge base in a multidisciplinary approach; how to research, review, and integrate perspectives from different sources relevant for the student's research topic; how to develop a solid understanding of the dominant discourse(s) in one's area of inquiry and address its limitations; and how to develop a theoretical framework for inquiry.

    The course will also cover how to integrate the knower in the known-how to reflect on how who we are and our values, assumptions, and blind spots play a role in our inquiry. Students will be able to ground all the work in this class in their chosen areas of inquiry.

  • TSD 8210: Self, Society, and Transformation (3 Units)

    This course examines the relationship between self and society in a planetary context. It will address the nature of interconnectedness, examine new ways of understanding our planetary predicament, and introduce interpretive frameworks from the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of social change, and the study of cultures.

    Throughout the course, students will be invited to look at their own research inquiry through these particular lenses.

  • TSD 8215: Varieties of Scholarly Experience (3 Units)

    This course provides a general introduction to research methods, models of research, and research design. It includes an overview of the epistemological and ontological foundations of research, a survey of research methods, and the basics of research design.

    Students will reflect on the ways in which the human sciences have addressed very basic philosophical questions that have a profound influence on our research and our everyday existence. Students will learn how inquiry questions and values are related to specific methods and research designs.

  • TSD 6526 The Ecology of Ideas (3 Units)

All inquiry is situated in an ecology of ideas. This course will help students identify, siituate and orient themselves in their ecology. The course will also address the role of theory in inquiry, and prepare students to develop their own theoretical orientation.

Comprehensive Exams

  • TSD 9610: Comprehensive Exam: Dissertation Literature Review (3 Units)

This course will focus on writing a literature review for the student's dissertation. This literature must be written in such a way that it can be submitted as a publishable article to a journal relevant to the student's interest area.

  • TSD 9611: Comprehensive Exam: Dissertation Research Methodology (3 Units)

The second comprehensive exam outlines and articulates the methodology that the student will use for the dissertation or equivalent.

As well as showing how the student intends to apply the methodology, the paper must, among other things, explain why this particular methodology was chosen, where it is situated in the broad spectrum of available methodologies, and what its limitations are.

Sample Electives

  • TSD 6303: Art, Science, and the Sacred (3 Units)

    This course will explore the universal nature of the sacred and the sense of wonder, awe, and respect in the face of the cosmos that is experienced even by those who could call themselves agnostics. Instruction will include a visit to Siena, Italy, to see the Duccio altarpiece The Virgin Enthroned and discuss symbolism in religious art.

  • TSD 7027: Working with Your Dreams (3 Units)

    Richard Grossinger, a seminal writer on dreams, wrote: "In a certain sense, dreams are realer than life. That is, they are closer to the roots of our being than daily waking events.

    If we exist in some ultimate terms, it is beyond the senses and beyond consciousness." In this course, we are going to explore how to work with dreams, sometimes to interpret them but always to honor them.

    When we do so, we open a gateway to a source of information and support deeper than consciousness. Everyone taking this course will need to keep a dream journal and be prepared to share some of his or her own dreams with the class.

  • TSD 7028: Cultural Change in the 21st Century (3 Units)

    In this course, we will examine the major cultural patterns that are in transition today. We will take up questions such as the following: how cultures change and the patterns of resistance to change; the historical origins of the cultural conflicts alive in the United States today; which kinds of values are most resistant to change; and the link between personal and political cultural attitudes.

  • TSD 7046: Goodness, Evil, Politics, and Change (3 Units)

    Current political rhetoric seeks to mobilize constituents against "evil" others. In this course, while reflecting on readings related to the diversity of cultural understandings of morality, students critically explore how social psychology and depth psychology each frame good and evil.

    Through this transdisciplinary approach, students critically assess their own relationship to a good-evil duality and their susceptibility to ideological and political rhetoric that dehumanizes the other and constructs the enemy.

  • TSD 8012: Heuristic Inquiry and J. Krishnamurti (3 Units)

    This class is an exploration into the self as researcher using the heuristic method of qualitative inquiry and the ideas of J. Krishnamurti. This class will work as a whole to examine the theory and application of Krishnamurti's perspective to heuristic inquiry.

    Small groups will work toward conducting a complete heuristic inquiry around specific topics. The goal is growth in personal awareness and a deeper understanding of integral consciousness, as well as an increased capacity in the method of heuristic inquiry.

Focus on Integral Studies

The focus on Integral Studies has the same TSD requirements, but also requires three specific courses designed to provide the conceptual foundation for an understanding of integral scholarship and action. These are easily taken as electives within the TSD degree.

  • TSD 6640 Integral Growth and Development: Individual Growth and the Evolution of Consciousness (3 Units)
  • TSD 8003 The Grand Integral Vision: An Introduction to Integral Thought and Action (3 Units)
  • TSD 8015 Integral Methodology: Integral Methodological Pluralism (3 Units)

The focus on Integral Studies also requires that the student's dissertation be developed from an integral perspective. This requirement is flexible, but in general terms it means that dissertation research and scholarship takes some account of first-, second-, and third-person perspectives.

Electives are offered regularly; though not required, these enrich the student's experience. Examples include the following:

  • TSD 6302 Art as a Mirror of Evolving Consciousness (3 Units)
  • TSD 7047 Integral Sustainability: Personal and Social Transformation in a World on the Brink (3 Units)
  • TSD 8225 Evolution of Consciousness (3 Units)

Focus on Integral Studies Course Descriptions

  • TSD 6302: Art as a Mirror of Evolving Consciousness (3 Units)

    Art tells us what we were, what we are, and what we are becoming. Explore the superstructure of expanding consciousness through the lens of art and artifacts shaped by the magical, mystical, modern, and postmodern mind. Wilber, Combs, Gebser, and others create compelling frameworks from which to interpret the meaning of mankind's works of art.

    Students will use these frameworks to arrive at a deep understandingof the consciousness of the artisans that created these works and the times in which they lived.

    Utilizing the learning domains of both cognitive understanding and affective feeling the class will enter the worldview of other stages of consciousness to develop a new sense of appreciation and wonderment for what has gone before, and a hopeful anticipation for where the path of expanding consciousness is leading.

  • TSD 6640: Integral Growth and Development: Individual Growth and the Evolution of Consciousness (3 Units)

    This course explores basic ideas about spiritual and psychological growth and development from childhood through advanced stages of adult maturation. It will give special attention to personal growth beyond the ordinary ("conventional") level of adult functioning. The course will be centered in, but not limited to, the integral philosophies of Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber.

  • TSD 7047: Integral Sustainability: Personal and Social Transformation in a World on the Brink (3 Units)

    Students will engage in readings and dialogue about sustainability while engaging in personal and community projects that promote sustainability at personal, social, and global levels.

    At the same time, through readings and discussions, students will be introduced to ecophilosophy and green psychology while exploring lifestyles that integrate body, mind, and spirit in a sustainable whole.

  • TSD 8003: The Grand Integral Vision: An Introduction to Integral Thought and Action (3 Units)

    Integral visionaries and practitioners from Sri Aurobindo to Ken Wilber have provided the most comprehensive, relevant, controversial, and practical attempts to synthesize ancient, modern, and even postmodern understandings of the kosmos.

    This course examines the deep thought and practices of the most important of these with an emphasis on coming to a full appreciation of the radically new kosmos disclosed by the Grand Integral Vision. We examine this great vision while at the same time exploring its implications for spiritually informed personal growth and effective action in the world.

  • TSD 8015: Integral Methodology: Integral Methodological Pluralism (3 Units)

    This course begins with a survey of the wide range of research methodologies, or approaches to knowledge, suggested by Wilber's AQAL model. In particular, it will examine methodologies from all four quadrants and in each case from both inner and outer perspectives.

    For example, the upper left (UL) quadrant concerns the inner life and can be seen from its own inner perspective (heuristic inquiry, phenomenology), or it can be seen objectively from an outer perspective ("structural" approaches such as Piaget's developmental psychology, and Loevinger's ego development). Likewise, the lower left (LL) quadrant can be studied in its own interior (Socratic dialogue, Buber's "I and thou," hermeneutics) or objectively from outside (Spiral Dynamics' "value memes," linguistics, European structuralism). Similarly, a range of different methodologies appears in the right two quadrants, including systems theory and objective behavioristic observation.

  • TSD 8225: Evolution of Consciousness (3 Units)

    Through art, literature, archaeology, and history, this course explores the evolution of human consciousness from its pre-human origins through the Neolithic and Paleolithic periods, through ancient history, and on down through the Renaissance to modernity and postmodernity.

    It will begin with the origins of the human mind as depicted in the writings of Merlin Donald and David Lewis-Williams, and continue with an inquiry into cultural and historical structures of consciousness with Jean Gebser, Ken Wilber, and Allan Combs. The course will be based in an ongoing dialogue and exploration of these topics on the web, as well as requiring midterm and end-of-term papers.

Total units for the Focus on Integral Studies: 36

Stay Connected