A Message from the Dean

Welcome to the University of Chicago’s School of Divinity. Welcome to one of the most central academic conversations of our time.  We are a place of intensity and rigor and intellectual risk, teaching and researching in our field of religion, the place for the astonishing, difficult and demanding questions of belief, truth, and ethical choice.  Our extraordinary faculty and our University offer a unique form of brilliant scholarly inquiry and forthright freedom of thought.

We are the leading divinity school in the country.  We train the diverse range of scholars who will lead the world in research in the most critical discourses of our time. The University of Chicago Divinity School is, without question, one of the leading institutions in the field of religious studies, an institution that sets the standards for ministerial training and for the education of the next generation of the professoriate.  We attend to an inclusive scholarship that creates academic leaders, who will teach religious studies, theology, and ethics in a global community. We do thoughtful and field-defining research in the history and in the texts and the ideas of religion: an enduring form of every human culture. At Chicago, the Divinity School – the oldest school at the University – is central to our stunningly beautiful campus, and central to the unruly research of science, medicine, law, and public policy. Here in Swift Hall, we explore the nature, goals and meaning of the existential and ethical claims of religious thought across a wide range of methods and scholarly disciplines.

We know that ideas can change the world. Perhaps nowhere is this more striking than in the consideration of the role of religion in public affairs, but this is undoubtedly true for any serious scholar of historical or contemporary thought.  The texts, ritual practices, and ethical claims of religious communities have long been a part of the great conversation that is human civilizations. In the five religious traditions in which our faculty are serious international experts, we know that ideas and concepts that we study have shaped the histories, aesthetics and moral sensibilities that traditions bear within societies. Religion enters the public square in profound ways at this moment in history. Whether as ideology or politics, whether as assertion or spiritual reflection, religion has a renewed status as a reason in public life. It is a privilege to participate in the study of religion at such a moment. I believe that schools of theological and academic education have duties to teach both the canonical texts and traditions of reception communities and the current implementations of such texts and traditions.

To be a scholar of religion is to participate in a critical time for universities, the sites of truthful inquiry.  We understand that the academic field of religion is central to the public discourse about how we create a good and just society as we see religion’s power in public conflicts, war and peace and public policy.

To be a scholar of religion in Chicago is a privilege.  The lifeworld of the city, its beauty and its challenges shape our commitment to teaching and research. Graduate training in our Divinity School means learning to understand our diverse urban world, it means a deep engagement as a scholar in a profoundly American city—diverse, opinionated, deeply engaged in religious practices.  We turn outward both to learn and to take responsibility for the validity of our scholarship. The city we share, Chicago, and the region we share, the Midwest, has a unique place in the American imaginary. It is our contention that in a time when we need thoughtful public conversations about the future, it is the research on source texts and traditions that long predate modernity that can offer resources and languages of collaboration and pragmatic hope. The Divinity School is a place for this creative, honest, and serious scholarship about the imperative of the future. 

Welcome: Join us. Study ideas that matter, study ideas that have changed the world. 

– Laurie Zoloth, Dean


Read the text of Dean Zoloth's first talk at the Divinity School.