Graduate Studies | M.A. Program | Funding | Admissions

The Master’s program is designed to prepare students to participate fully in the academic study of religion, including the continuation of their education at the doctoral level and teaching at a community college. As a department within a major public research university, we are dedicated to the cultivation of a humanistic understanding of a wide range of religious traditions. Given our location in the Pacific and the multicultural environment we enjoy in Hawai‘i, our Graduate program takes the religious traditions of Asia and the Pacific as its special focus. Our expert faculty offers a unique set of research strengths, including: Buddhism in Japan and the West, Japanese religions, Daoism in China, Islam in China, Hawaiian and Polynesian religions, Christianity in Asia, and Indian religions. Students with advanced levels of language skills will also have the opportunity to translate and work with primary sources in Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Polynesian languages.

The Department of Religion provides two options for graduate students leading to an M.A. degree in Asian and Polynesian religions: a thesis-based M.A. program (Plan A) and a non-thesis track (Plan B). Both plans entail two years of coursework; however, prospective students should be aware that thesis-based M.A. generally requires more than two years because of the timely demands of acquiring language skills. Theses concentrated upon Asian or Polynesian religions require a strong command of the respective language. Students admitted to the program with no Asian or Polynesian language skills are required to take two years of course work simultaneously along with their courses in religion. Generally, two years is not satisfactory for thesis work in Asian or Polynesian religions, nor is it satisfactory for an attractive Ph.D. application, for those who wish to continue in their chosen field. Therefore, students may choose to travel abroad to study language for one to two years, in between their two years of course work. It is highly recommended that students enter the Department with intermediate to advanced language skills or make plans to travel abroad (funding opportunities are available) if they wish to pursue the thesis-based M.A. and/or plan to continue their education in the field of Asian and Polynesian religions.

We encourage graduate students in the Department to become actively engaged as scholars. Our graduate students host weekly Papers in Progress Sessions as a forum to share their work and receive feedback from their peers. In the last three years, our graduate students have also presented papers at professional and graduate conferences, including the national conference for the American Academy of Religion, regional conferences for the American Academy of Religion and the Association for Asian Studies, and graduate conferences at the University of Hawai‘i, Columbia University, and Harvard University. In 2007, two of our graduate students published papers in professional, peer-reviewed journals.

Our graduate students come to us from universities and colleges from throughout the United States and abroad. Most of our students majored or minored in religious studies as undergraduates, but we also welcome students with backgrounds in related fields such as philosophy, history and anthropology.

We welcome prospective students to learn more about the details of our Master's program by exploring the links above. We appreciate your interest in pursuing your graduate education with us, and we encourage you to contact our Graduate Chair with any questions.

Image to the right: Zeng Chunshou 曾椿壽 (1913-92), the last scion of the Zeng family of Daoist priests in Tainan, Taiwan, performing as an assistant priest during a great Offering, jiao , ceremony in 1986. Photography: Poul Andersen

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Department of Religion | College of Arts and Humanities | Sakamaki Hall A311, 2530 Dole St., Honolulu, HI 96822
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