New ESR degree focuses on social transformation

The Earlham School of Religion has formed the first class of a new master’s degree program designed for students pursuing ministries of social change.

Nine students, including two recent graduates from Earlham’s undergraduate college, have enrolled in the launch of the Master of Arts in Peace and Social Transformation degree. The 12-month, 36-credit residential program combines coursework and a culminating practicum or internship based on the student’s interests in the areas of social justice, public service or interfaith work. The program will use a cohort model, in which a group of students will take the same sequence of classes together throughout their studies.  

“We see this program as an important outgrowth of our mission that will broaden our appeal to students who are seeking a seminary education but not necessarily looking to become a pastor or pursue vocations in academic ministry,” said Matt Hisrich, dean of the Earlham School of Religion. 

“We have designed this program with these students in mind,” he notes. “Earning a master’s degree in one year is an attractive option.”

The program shares several courses with ESR’s Master of Divinity program. Courses in theology, Biblical studies, and interfaith dialogue or contextual theology provide grounding in the religious heritage and critical tools for understanding and compassionately engaging a complex, often oppressive society. Students will have the opportunity to develop peace and justice skills and to specialize their ministry through out-of-the-classroom experiences with partnering organizations in the local community or with an organization identified by students elsewhere in the world.

“This professional master’s degree provides a unique and focused opportunity for our students to explore the connection between spirituality, justice and peacemaking,” said ESR Professor of Peace and Justice Studies Lonnie Valentine, who is leading the program. “Graduates will have a foundation of spiritual self-understanding to ground their justice work so that they may help heal the world that so needs our care.”

Students enrolled in the inaugural cohort are from five states — Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York – and three countries — Kenya, Congo and Mexico. They bring extensive experience with activism, service and interfaith work at organizations like the Friends Committee on National Legislation and Quaker Voluntary Service. 

“When we announced the new degree program last fall we had a strong response from prospective students,” said Julie Dishman, ESR’s director of recruitment and admissions. “Little did we know the uncertainty and turmoil 2020 would bring, but now this program feels even more relevant as we prepare for the arrival of the first cohort.”

Dishman is especially pleased with the “array of gifts and experiences” these students are bringing and their expected contributions to a program focused on social transformation. “It feels like the right time and the right place,” she said. 

ESR is offering full-tuition scholarships to all enrollees in the first cohort. Scholarships for future cohorts will be determined based on interest.

Enrollment for the program’s second cohort begins spring 2021. For more information about this degree program, please contact Julie Dishman at [email protected].

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We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.