Program Requirements

The Ph.D. in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion at CIIS requires a minimum of 36 units of coursework, which is followed by two comprehensive exams (six units), a dissertation proposal, and original research to write a dissertation reviewed by a committee of three experts (0.2-0.5 units).

Doctoral students are expected to publicly present their research findings at least twice during the course of their studies at relevant conferences at CIIS and nationally.

Coursework addresses religions and spiritualities; ecology and environmentalism; cosmology; the philosophy of religion; and transdisciplinary thinking. All doctoral students take at least two courses in research theory and method, including Theory and Method in the Integrative Study of Religion and Ecology.  

Most courses are between one and three units; course offerings vary from year to year. Additional language or methodology courses may be required by the student's advisor. 

Students admitted with a master of arts in a field other than philosophy, religion, or environmental humanities may need to take up to 18 supplemental units of philosophy and religion courses.

Course of Study

Year One (18 units) 

Two core classes (6 units)
  • PAR 6078 Theory and Method in the Integrative Study of Religion and Ecology
  • PAR 6079 Ecology in a Time of Planetary Crisis

ESR Electives (9 units) - Options may include:

  • PARP 6522: Science, Ecology and Contested Knowledge(s)
  • PARP 6532 Christianity and Ecology
  • PARP 6563 Buddhism and Ecology
  • PARP 6278 Integral Ecologies
  • PARP 6161 Universe Story & Earth Community: The Cosmology of Thomas Berry
  • PAR 6292: Next of Kin: Perspectives on Animal Ethics and Biodiversity 

One General Elective (3 units) - Students may choose from any course in the School of Consciousness and Transformation

Year Two (18 units)

One additional SCT Research Methods course (3 units)

ESR Electives (12 units) - Options may include:

  • PARP 6523 Environmental Ethics
  • PARP 6525 Toward an Integral Ecological Consciousness
  • PARP 6163 Collapse and Regeneration
  • PARW 6428 Ecological Consciousness and Climate Justice
  • PARW 7002 Ecofeminist Philosophy and Activism
  • PARP 6392: Plants & People: Understanding the Plant World through Relationships

One General Elective (3 units) - Students may choose from any course in the School of Consciousness and Transformation

Year Three (6 units)
Comprehensive Exams (6 units)
  • Comprehensive Exam: Literature Review (3 units)
  • Comprehensive Exam: Advanced Research Methods (3 units)

Years Four to Seven (varies by student)

Dissertation (0.1 units each)

  • Dissertation Proposal Writing (0.1 units). This course may be taken a maximum of three times.
  • Dissertation Seminar (0.1 units)

Curriculum Highlights 

Theory and Method in the Integrative Study of Religion and Ecology (3 units)
Scholarship that crosses disciplinary boundaries requires a unique set of tools and strategies. This course is devoted to exploring theoretical and methodological lenses that allow rigorous, imaginative, and sympathetic engagement with interlocutors from the diverse fields represented in the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion concentration. Following a historical and critical introduction to the fields of religion and ecology, we investigate a range of methodological approaches and conclude with the application of these approaches to specific ecological case studies.

Ecology in a Time of Planetary Crisis (3 units) 
Ecology is the study of oikos, Greek for "household" or "home." What does it mean, existentially, to find that our home, Earth, is under threat as a result of human actions? This course provides a broad overview of the human imbrication in planetary systems. Beginning with an exploration of the patterns and processes identified by ecological science, such as emergence, chaos, competition, cooperation, and self-organization, we broaden into an examination of critical planetary issues, including climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, fresh water depletion, agriculture, fisheries collapse, and globalization. Framings of ecological issues are placed in dialogue with religious and spiritual views, allowing students to discuss the complex interconnected ways that worldviews, biophysical science, institutions, ethics and justice have shaped the current state of Earth.

Hinduism and Ecology (3 units)
Indian tradition preserves cultural features that sometimes date back to the Neolithic. As a result, though India in modernity may often succumb to destructive views toward the Earth that belong to industrialized modernity, it also preserves rich strands of culture and tradition with strong resonances of much earlier ecological views that emphasize human embeddedness in nature and a holistic sense of existence in the cosmic and earthly context. This course will survey both folk and classical traditions, as well as elements of literature, art, and culture from 3600 BCE to the present, in order to show the presence of powerful ecological views at the core of Indian culture. These perspectives can be a rich resource for reimagining ecological understandings in the face of the world’s modern ecological crisis.

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