PhD Program FAQ

Is there a sample program of study for the PhD program? 

Typically, PhD students complete two to three years of coursework, take Qualifying Examinations in the third or fourth year, complete a dissertation proposal colloquium in their fourth or fifth year, and then write their dissertation. Many factors influence this timeline, including prior preparation, familial obligations, language learning needs, and the nature of one’s research (e.g. fieldwork, archival research, etc.). Students should meet at least annually with their faculty adviser to discuss degree milestones, research timeline, and progress to completion. 

What kind of advising do PhD students receive?

PhD students develop a close relationship with their primary faculty adviser, who generally guides them through the process of Qualifying Examinations and frequently–though not always–serves as chair of their dissertation committee. Students also develop relationships with their Qualifying Examinations committee and their dissertation readers, as well as other Divinity School faculty through cross-disciplinary workshops and seminars. Students frequently include at least one faculty member from another Division of the University (e.g. Social Sciences or Humanities) and/or from outside the University as a member of their dissertation committee.

I have interests in more than one area of study, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to do the kind of interdisciplinary work that I imagine. What should I know?

Interdisciplinarity is a central feature of life and work in the Divinity School. While most students specify one area of study, student may work with faculty to pursue an interdisciplinary course of study across areas. All doctoral students are required to take at least one Qualifying Examination outside of their area. PhD students may take courses in other graduate divisions at the University, and may consult faculty in other divisions and at other universities as dissertation readers. Informally, students participate in interdisciplinary workshops that convene students and faculty from the Divinity School, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Will I engage students in other areas of the Divinity School, and of the University, or will my area of study be a silo?

It is the rare PhD student who completes their degree without meaningful dialogue and work across areas of study, degree programs, divisions, and schools. There are many opportunities for wide-ranging conversation and collegiality through coursework, workshops, and co-curricular offerings around the Divinity School, the University, and the city of Chicago. 

I’m interested in a joint PhD with another department. Is that possible?

Yes. Divinity students can petition to do a joint PhD in another division of the University, and students from other Divisions can petition to do a joint PhD in the Divinity School. Coursework and exam requirements for both departments or divisions must be completed, though only one dissertation need be written. For more information on joint PhD degrees, please contact the Dean of Students.