The Women's Spirituality program holds diversity as a crucial component to our understanding of integral education. The program acknowledges the power differentials based on the social meanings assigned to gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigration status, colonization, ability, and disability. We are committed to unlearning oppression, building alliances, and unpacking our various privileges. While we are a program that focuses on the roles, activities, and spiritual practices of individuals and groups characterized as "women," the Women's Spirituality program explicitly acknowledges difficulties that arise from heteronormativity in spirituality, and from dual or binary gender systems. We welcome individuals of all sexualities and diverse gender identities.
Faculty and Student Diversity
In its more than 20 years, our program has witnessed a burgeoning expansion in faculty, student, and curriculum diversity which allows us to assert that diversity is one of our most solid strengths.
Our core and adjunct faculty represent diverse spiritual traditions, academic disciplines, artistic practices, ethnic and cultural groups, class perspectives, countries of origin, family composition, and sexual orientations and identities (including lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, queer). The diversity of our faculty and students informs our curriculum.
Our program values ethnic and economic diversity, and we make a concerted effort to recruit and retain students who come from communities that reflect these diversities. We pay particular attention to issues of diversity in our advising and mentoring, by recognizing that ethnic and class background, along with sexual orientation, are often part of what shapes and directs students' academic and career goals.
The diversity of students in our program
- promotes an embodied understanding of disparate worldviews and epistemologies;
- supports a lively exchange of information in which many points of view are represented and discussed;
- facilitates students' ability to effectively participate in the increasingly pluralistic world of the twenty-first century.
In a situation in which all of us are co-learners, new information emerges from our diversity that expands our scope of knowledge. Our collective understanding of the human condition is enhanced by the safe and facilitated sharing of personal reflections and experiences that encourage us to reexamine assumptions of privilege in the dominant paradigm(s).
Our graduates are inspirational trailblazers in diverse fields from spiritual leadership to media production. We are proud and honored by the impact this degree has made on our students and ultimately on the community, as graduates carry learning and passion with them into the world. Below, we highlight a variety of ways in which graduates have used their degrees in their professional lives.
Cecillia Naomi Lipp, Executive Director, International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law.
Lorin Jackson, Public Services Librarian, Scholar and Activist, AIDS Library.
Anna Joyce, Psychotherapist.
Marisa Manriquez, Healer, Yoga Instructor, Artist, Life Coach, Soul Witness.
Nadirah Adeye, Faculty Relations Manager, Shift Network.
Leilani Birely, Priestess and Founder, Daughters of the Goddess.
Chandra Alexandre, Founder and Executive Director, SHARANYA: A Devi Mandir Goddess Temple.
Cristina Rose Smith, Professor, Gender and Ethnic Studies, California State University, Dominquez Hills, CA.
Eahr Joan, Reference Librarian, CIIS.
Marcelle Williams, Co-Chair, The Women's Caucus at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature.
Deborah Santana, Author and CEO Founder, Do A Little Foundation.
Tricia Grame, Visual Artist.
Sandy Miranda, Radio Producer, KPFA.
"I realize that I am capable because of the program. This power helps me set my priorities and goals in a way that puts me first in my professional life. Too often our needs are neglected as women, and more specifically as women of color. I had practice in the program to respectfully disagree and assert my personal values in an academic way that helps me continue to shape my professional identity and energy." —Lorin Jackson
"This degree resulted in enormous changes in the way I felt about my work. Through spending time with the curanderas, the way I worked began to evolve as well.... The fact that all life and growth take place within a spiritual journey was more prominent in my assessment of and solutions to client challenges. I began to view my work as a true healing art." —Anna Joyce
"All I have learned from the classes, my teachers and ancestor spur me forth to share the forgotten and lost knowledge that is so powerful and that can become a vehicle for womyn to move together in sisterhood. Our foremothers left legacies for us to inherit. It is our right and blessing to join together to reclaim, preserve and perpetuate the traditions and ceremonies of our ancestors." —Leilani Birely
"My five years in the program deepened my engagement with caring and abundant epistemologies and ontologies. With mentors and teachers at and connected to CIIS, I was nurtured and encouraged to seek out the gifts of my motherline-women of color who survived and thrived because of their intuitive strength. The ‘mothering' I received at CIIS helped to develop my goals in my own classrooms. I see myself as part of the lineage of women who have come through the program and I am now passing on my own intuitive strength to my students, most of whom are women of color. The knowledge and wisdom of matriarchal and indigenous and POC perspectives is what I share, and it is my responsibility and honor." —Cristina Rose Smith
"I had always had a passion for seeking out the unheard voice and the program gave me the tools and structure to continue the last segment of my graduate career on a path that was not only familiar, but was lacking in my higher ed career. The PhD has supported my exploration of women's voices, but it has also given me the ability to network and find a group of women who support women's words and voices within the academy through the Women's Caucus at AAR/SBL." —Marcelle Williams
"My life has always been about spirituality and social justice. I returned to CIIS to earn my MA to better understand the disparities in the world for women and to be able to articulate women's voices and leadership in my work, which I call spiritual activism." —Deborah Santana