Graduation Requirements

Overview

To complete a graduate degree program, students will need to complete the specified coursework and begin an exit option and achieve Advancement to Candidacy status, complete the exit option, and apply for graduation.

Important Deadlines for Graduation

If you plan to graduate in Spring 2014, you need to start working on your Exit Option NOW.
The Office of the Graduate Program in Religion  will strictly adhere to these deadlines. You must let our office know of your intent to graduate in May, 2014.

  • Advancement to Candidacy and Application for Graduation Deadline: Both of these forms must be submitted to the OGPR by January 31st, 2014.
  • Thesis/Project Deadline: Students who are doing the Thesis/Project Exit Option must submit their thesis or project to their committees by April 18th, 2014 in order to graduate in May. Thesis defense must be done by May 30th, 2014.
  • Directed Reading Deadline: Students who are doing the Directed Reading Exit Option must submit their final synthesis paper to their committees for review by April 18th, 2014.

STEP ONE: Coursework

1. Successfully complete the core and elective courses for an approved program.

“Successful completion” means achieving a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for the M.A. degree, or a grade point average of 2.67 for the M.T.S. degree. Also, no more than two course grades of C+ or C can count toward the M.A. degree, and no more than two course grades of C or C- can count toward the M.T.S. degree.

STEP TWO: Advancement to Candidacy

This important step applies to both M.A. and M.T.S. students. Granting candidacy status indicates that the student has satisfactorily completed the coursework (including any deficiencies), has an approved exit option prospectus, and is “cleared” to complete the degree program. M.T.S. students who choose an exit option (not requiring a prospectus) can apply for candidacy status after enrollment in the exit option course. The graduate student must apply for advancement to candidacy–it is not automatically granted. Advancement to Candidacy requirements are:

1. The student must have regular standing (rather than provisional), with all academic deficiencies resolved.

2. Apply for Advancement to Candidacy by the end of the first week of the Semester in which the student plans to Graduate. The Advancement to Candidacy form is available in the OGPR.

3. Achieve a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 (M.A.), or at least 2.67 (M.T.S.) on all graduate work taken toward the degree. The GPA will be confirmed by the Registrar’s signature obtained through the Office of the Registrar.

4. Choose an exit option by which the graduate student will complete the degree with the academic advisor’s approval, and signatures of faculty members who serve on the student’s committee. At that time, the student is ready to begin research on the exit option and write a prospectus (describing exit option and a preliminary bibliography). Finally, obtain approval from the student’s faculty committee and research methodology professor.

5. If the student plans to transfer in one or more graduate courses, the OGPR requires an official transcript from the institution(s) involved. Note that all academic transcripts must be original, and must be accompanied by proper certification.

STEP THREE: Choose Exit Option

The final stage of the degree program is the exit option, which allows the candidate to develop specialized expertise in an area of interest related to the academic program.

M.A. and M.T.S. students may complete the exit option in one of the following ways:

•        Directed Reading. The directed reading option is an opportunity to explore a subject of interest. Often the scope of study is wider than that for the thesis. Research should be supported by at least 4,500 pages of scholarly reading, and the results are expressed by written critiques, oral or written examinations, annotated bibliographies, or other means that the student and faculty advisor have agreed on.

•        Integrative Seminar. The Integrative Seminar is a classroom experience designed to help students reflect theologically on ministry experience by integrating what they have learned in graduate coursework with the practice of ministry.

Guidelines for Thesis Options 

A thesis is an intensive study of a subject relevant to the student’s concentration. The project options allow one to study/survey, and contribute to some aspect of ministerial studies. Research for any option will be: 1. Guided by three professors, 2. formally written and defended, 3. Bound and shelved in the reference section of the library (student pays for binding cost). The average size of a thesis is approximately 100 pages.

To Complete This Exit Option:

1. Register in the appropriate exit option design and proposal course after completing at least 20 units. RELG 790 is the course for those in Biblical Studies; RELG 791 is the course for those in Leadership Studies.

•        M.A.L.S. students should enroll in RELG 791 • Exit Option Design and Proposal: Leadership Studies

•        M.T.S. studentselect either the thesis or project exit option should enroll in either of the above courses, depending upon their research interests.

2. Select a topic. The research methodology professor and/or academic advisor should be consulted as needed.

3. Select a faculty committee chair and clarify the research topic in prospectus form (as instructed in the Exit Option Design and Proposal course).

4. Select a faculty committee in consultation with the committee chair. The committee must consist of at least three faculty members. In rare instances, students may request that scholars other than VU faculty be allowed to serve as readers on their thesis committee.

5. Complete the Advancement to Candidacy form and return it to the OGPR.

6. File a copy of the approved prospectus with the OGPR.

7. Register for appropriate exit option. Credit for the exit option is granted only after a successful defense.

•        Students who choose the thesis option should enroll in RELG 798 Masters Thesis (3 units)

•        Students who choose the project option should enroll in RELG 797 Masters Project (3 units)

8. Submit final draft of thesis/ to the GPR copy editor prior to submission to faculty committee. Please note:

•         It is best if you submit chapter drafts regularly to your chair and committee; do not write the entire thesis before your committee reviews your document!

•         The completed thesis must be submitted at least three months prior to defense date. Deadlines for Defending the Thesis/Project are available from the OGPR.

9. Defend the exit option when the committee agrees that it is complete enough to defend.

10. Finish the thesis in consultation with your committee chair and submit a bound copy to the OGPR to be shelved in the library.

Guidelines for Directed Reading Option (M.A. only)

In general, the directed reading option is an opportunity to explore a subject of interest. Research should be supported by at least 4,500 pages of scholarly reading, and the results are expressed by written critiques, oral or written examinations, annotated bibliographies, or other means that the student and faculty mentor have agreed on.

To complete this exit option:

1. Register in the appropriate exit option design and proposal course approximately half-way through the degree program.

•        M.A.L.S. students should enroll in RELG 791 • Exit Option Design and Proposal: Leadership Studies (3 units)

2. Select a topic. The exit option design and proposal professor and/or academic advisor should be consulted as needed.

3. Select Faculty Committee Chair and begin to describe the research topic in prospectus form (as instructed in the exit option design and proposal course).

4. Select one other faculty reader after consulting with the Chair.

5. Complete the Advancement to Candidacy form and return it to the OGPR.

6. File a copy of the approved prospectus with the OGPR.

7. Register for chosen exit option.

8. Submit the final draft of the synthesis paper to the Faculty reader and Chair. Deadlines for submission of the synthesis paper are available from the OGPR.

9. Complete the directed reading in consultation with the Chair, and file a copy of the final synthesis paper with the OGPR.

Guidelines for Integrative Seminar

The Integrative Seminar option is available to students who are enrolled in the M.T.S. and M.A.L.S. programs.

The Integrative Seminar is designed to help students reflect theologically on ministry experience by integrating what they have learned in graduate coursework with the practice of ministry.

To Complete This Exit Option:

•        Register in RELG 693 Integrative Seminar (3 units).

STEP FOUR: Application for Graduation

Students must file an application for graduation with the Registrar’s Office prior to the semester that the degree will be granted, even if the student does not participate in the commencement ceremony. The Application for Graduation form is available in the OGPR and the Registrar’s Office. The degree is conferred on the last day of the semester in which the student has completed all degree program requirements as described above, and has satisfied the following requirements:

  1. File all the necessary forms in accordance with the timetable provided by the OGPR.
  2. Successfully complete all degree requirements within the “maximum time” limits eight (8) years for M.A.; ten (10) years for M.T.S. degree.
  3. Settle all financial obligations to the University.

Commencement

Commencement is scheduled for the second Saturday of May. Consult the university calendar for the exact date and time.

Hooding Ceremony

This special Hooding Ceremony adds to the graduation experience by making it possible to focus on advanced  degree candidates and their accomplishments.  It allows graduate faculty and staff, family and friends a chance to witness the ceremonial hooding of the graduate student in a more intimate setting.

Continued Registration

Students who require more than one semester to complete the exit option must register for RELG 799 • Continued Registration: Master’s Study (1) unit until the exit option is complete. A tuition fee for one (1) unit is required to maintain active standing in the program, to protect the thesis/project topic, to have access to library privileges, and accessible consultation with faculty.