Friday, August 21, 2009

What's Next: August '09 to ???

Tomorrow I will begin the first phase of the Ph.D. program in theology in the Religious Studies department of the University of Dayton. UD is a Roman Catholic, Marianist institution, with a well-respected faculty and penchants for attracting a variety of Protestant, Catholic, and Baptist students. (For all the Protestants and Baptists out there, it would be worth your time to take a look at the story of the Marianists. I recommend reading more about them here, here, and here.

Many of my readers will wonder, I'm sure, why I chose the University of Dayton. There are a number of good reasons, but four are primary. First, and most simply, it is the best option for us within the area. Dayton is a reasonable driving distance (45 minutes) and has a reasonable cost of living in the event we decide to relocate there.

Second, they accepted me and offered a generous Graduate Assistantship, which provides tuition remission and a stipend. This means I will work for a professor for the duration of the first phase (assuming I am renewed every year), providing research assistance, teaching assistance, and other duties as assigned. Also, from my second year forward, I will teach two sections of the introductory level Religion course for UD undergraduates (a required class for all degree programs). This kind of responsibility so early in the Ph.D. process is an invaluable experience for those hoping to teach theology in the future.

Third, they are a proudly Catholic institution and I am dreadfully unschooled in US Catholicism and Catholic theology generally. Often, doing theology in conservative evangelicalism (or more narrowly, in the Southern Baptist realm) is a bit like listening to yourself speak. (I hope you know what I mean. Even those who disagree strongly tend to disagree strongly about issues unique to evangelicalism, not engaging the broader Christian traditions, who also have tremendously valuable things to say.) I wanted a more ecumenical and more challenging environment to experience the highest level of my education.

Finally, the Religious Studies department is intentionally interdisciplinary, encouraging the use of a variety of academic disciplines in the pursuit of truth. Thus, we will be expected to engage history and historiography, theology and ethics, biblical studies, philosophy, social sciences, and other areas as they are relevant to our course of study.

As far as the details of the next several years, it is estimated that I will spend three years in the first phase, completing required credit hours, passing a series of three general exams (covering biblical studies, history, and theology and ethics), mastering three research skills (Latin and two other research languages), and passing the final qualifying exam (covering the U.S. Catholic experience, broadly conceived). Then, I will spend about two years in the second phase, completing and defending my dissertation.

I am grateful to the Religious Studies department for their willingness to take on an evangelical like me, with a background so steeped in the Southern Baptist world. So far, as I have attended the department orientations, I have met a variety of interesting people from all sorts of Christian traditions. I look forward to the time I will spend with them and I anticipate with gratitude the way that their presence will form me as a scholar and a person.

By the way, on a more personal note, Ronnie and I will be working it out with his employer so that one of us (or Will's grandmother, my mom) will be taking care of him on a rotating basis throughout my time in school. I have plenty of fears and concerns about my ability to mother and study well, but since we are convinced that UD is the right move for me, then we must trust also that God will show us the way. I have been told on numerous occasions by those who have completed the journey that both parenting and grad school are unpredictable roller-coaster rides, so its perfectly natural to combine the two. We'll see if that proves to be true for us.


Gary Snowden said...


Congratulations on your acceptance into the program. I know you'll be a wonderful addition to their school and am certain that the undergrad students who have the privilege of studying under you will be blessed and challenged by the experience. Blessings!

Lory said...

Awesome. I am so excited about this phase of life for you, Ron and Will. Let me know what texts you use..since I'm a "Bap-thed-iscopal-ic.

Bob Cleveland said...


Congrats. Congrats on being a good wife, mother, and follower of Jesus.

Oh yeah. On the Doctorate thing, too.

The roller-coaster ride? The first three will give you all the ups & downs & thrills you can stand, without the fourth.

Just keep doin' what your blog name says.

Thy Peace said...

Congratulations Emily and God bless you. May you have a productive learning and research experience.

Steve said...

This is so neat!

(You were probably eating too much beef on Fridays anyway!! lol)

Charlie Mac said...

Congratulations. This sound like a wonderful opportunity to expand your knowledge of Christianity and open doors for Christ to use you in the future. May wisdom complete this knowledge.
I hope you will find time to blog every once in a while and promise to remember to pray for you each time I check your blog.

dayana said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Alan Paul said...


Just responded to your email... hope it won't get thrown in the spam folder again! But just in case... thought I would post here.

UnderMidnight said...

catholicism. i like the anchor bible reference books.
i respect catholicism, but have severe issues with some of their doctrines. i recommend studying plato and aristotle as these pagan philosophers are the pillars of christian theology.
my hopes are that recent trends of theology will at last throw out this nonsense and rturn to the non-western roots of our christian faith...if that's even possible.

you're a superpower.