Religious Studies, PhD

The academic study of religion is a central component of the humanities and has become increasingly recognized as a critical tool in understanding society and politics in a globalized world. The doctoral program has two main goals: 1) to train graduate students for careers as scholars and teachers in the academic study of religion and 2) to provide supplementary training for graduate students in a range of related programs (including history, anthropology, political science, journalism, secondary education, and justice studies) who would benefit from greater expertise regarding the nature and role of religion around the world.

The doctoral degree is separated into three phases, the first of which is to earn a Masters in Passing in Religious Studies.  Upon admittance, applicants who already have an M.A. degree in Religious Studies or a related discipline enter the Ph.D. program beginning in Phase 2 of the program, and bypass the Masters in Passing.

Religious Studies Graduate Faculty


Faculty Research Areas


Lindsey Plait Jones, Graduate Programs Coordinator,

Religious Studies stands out for its concentration of faculty and resources in several areas that are grouped into doctoral research tracks. Doctoral students choose one of the following tracks:

Religions in the Americas
Students in this track focus on a religious tradition or traditions within one of the regions of the Americas, such as North America, Central America, or South America, as appropriate to the focus of the dissertation project.

Religions in Asia
Students in this track focus on a religious tradition or traditions within one of the regions of Asia, such as South Asia, Southeast Asia, or East Asia, as appropriate to the dissertation project.

Islam in a Global Context
Students in this track will study Islam as a living tradition, and will develop a transdisciplinary approach drawing upon our faculty's expertise in anthropology, sociology, history, and religious studies.

Christianity in a Global Context
Students in this track will critically examine Christianity as a global religion, both in its long historical context and in the contemporary world. Students will also consider the academic, intellectual, theological, and missiological dimensions of Christianity and its global extension. 

Anthropology of Religion
Students in this track will learn to account for and engage in research and teaching about the complex and dynamic roles of religion in the world today and develop mastery in: Social theories, as well as ethnographic methods used in order to understand the religious idioms and cultural practices that underline many contemporary political expressions and ideologies. 

These tracks are additionally complemented by faculty expertise in Jewish Studies, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Religions of Russia.

The PhD Program requires a minimum of 84 credit hours.

Program Milestones

  • Coursework
    • Includes coursework towards MA/MIP
  • Foreign language requirement
  • Comprehensive examination
  • A dissertation prospectus
  • Completion and final defense of a dissertation

Students with a master's in religious studies may apply 30 credit hours towards the 84 credit hours required.

For more information, please review the Religious Studies PhD Handbook, 2017-2018 or the SHPRS Graduate Resources Website

  • When considering the Religious Studies PhD program at ASU, know that in the admissions process we look for students whose research interests can be well served by the members of our Graduate Faculty at ASU.  We have a very diverse faculty with a wide range of interests, which you can explore on our website. Prospective students are encouraged to contact the faculty member(s) they might want to work with while they are at ASU. 
  • Regular acceptance normally requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.5, GRE scores of at least 600.
  • Provisional acceptance may be based on a weak undergraduate record or GRE scores, and require that the student complete 9 graduate hours in religious studies with a B (3.00) or better during the first semester. Students admitted provisionally are generally not eligible for assistantships. For applicants whose background in Religious Studies is weak (fewer than 15 hours of undergraduate course work in Religious Studies), but who have a strong undergraduate record and good GRE scores, the acceptance letter may stipulate deficiencies, which are undergraduate courses to be taken in the first year of the program in addition to the regular M.A. requirements.


  1. Online Electronic Application: Complete Graduate Admissions application.
  2. References: The name, institution/company and exact email addresses of three (3) electronic references from faculty or others qualified to provide an accurate evaluation of your potential as a graduate student
  3. GRE: Official GRE Scores should be sent electronically to ASU code 4007 (leave department code blank). Scores should be no more than five years old.
  4. Statement of Purpose: Upload a statement of purpose that explains why you wish to pursue an advanced degree in religious studies, your academic background, and the area of special emphasis you plan to study in the program.
  5. Writing Sample: Upload a sample of your original scholarly writing. The sample should be between fifteen and thirty pages in length and should represent your best academic writing.
  6. CV: Upload your current curriculum vitae. 
  7. Transcripts: Official transcripts sent to the Graduate Admissions Services
  8. TOEFL: Students applying from outside the U.S. whose native language is not English must follow Graduate Admission guidelines to demonstrate English language proficiency. TOEFL scores should be sent electronically through ETS to ASU. The minimum TOEFL requirement is 550 PBT or 80 iBT. You can find more information about these requirements at Graduate Admissions Services.
All uploads must be in either .doc or .pdf format.

Financial Support is limited and is provided by means of a Graduate Assistantship.  All PhD applicants will be considered and selection will be based on the achievements and qualifications of the applicant as compared with other applicants. There are no additional documents needed for consideration.

Graduate assistants share an office with several other assistants and typically work twenty hours per week. Assistantships provide a stipend in addition to the cost of tuition and student health insurance for the student.

 Additional Financial Assistance

The Jewish Studies Program awards the Rabbi Morris Kertzer Scholarships, the Alpert Scholarships for research projects in Jewish Studies, and Great Student Award.


David S. Walsh
Dissertation: Ticho Dene Foodways: Hunters, Animals, and Ancestors
Advisor: Miguel Aguilera
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Gettysburg College



Ann Wertman 
Dissertation: Polygamy, Prop 8, and the Peculiar People: Sexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Advisor: Tracy Fessenden
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Northern Virginia Community College

Darren Kleinberg
Hybrid Judaism: Irving Greenberg and the Encounter with American Jewish Identity
Advisor: Joel Gereboff
Current Position: Head of School, Kehillah Jewish High School, Palo Alto, CA



Seth Schermerhorn
Dissertation: Walking to Magdalena: Place and Person in Tohono O'odham Songs, Sticks, and Stories
Advisor: Tod Swanson
Current Position: Assistant Professor (Tenure Track), Religious Studies, Hamilton College 

Mariam Cohen
Dissertation: Converts and Controversies -- Becoming an American Jew
Advisor: Joel Gereboff
Current Position: Psychiatrist, Private Practice

Richard Bennett Furlow
Dissertation: The Spectre of Colony: Colonialism, Islamism, and State in Somalia
Advisor: Abdullahi Gallab
Current Position: Adjunct Faculty, Phoenix College, Maricopa Community College System

Semiha Topal
Dissertation: Building a Pious Self in Secular Settings: Pious Women in Modern Turkey
Advisor: Shahla Talebi
Current Position: Assistant Professor (Tenure Track), Sociology, Fatih University (Istanbul, Turkey)



Brandon Cleworth
Dissertation: Ambivalent Blood: Religion, AIDS, and American Culture
Advisor: Tracy Fessenden
Current Position: Faculty (Tenured), Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Glendale Community College

Seth Clippard
Dissertation: Protecting the Spiritual Environment: Rhetoric and Chinese Buddhist Environment
Advisor: Huaiyu Chen
Current Position:  Assistant Professor (Tenure Track), Department of Applied English, and Director, Language Center, Hung Kuang University (Taichung City, Taiwan)

Doe N. Daughtrey
Dissertation: Mormonism and the New Spirituality: LDS Women's Hybrid Spiritualities
Advisor: Linell Cady
Current Position: Instructor, Religious Studies, SHPRS, Arizona State University

Samsul Maarif
Dissertation: Dimensions of Religious Practice: The Ammatoans of Sulawesi, Indonesia
Advisor: Christopher R. Duncan
Current Position: Academic Coordinator and Lecturer at the Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies, Gadjah Mada University (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

Brooke Schedneck
Dissertation: Constructing Religious Modernities : Hybridity, Reinterpretation, and Adaptation
Advisor: Juliane Schober
Current Position: Lecturer, Buddhist Studies, Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs, University of Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

Konden Smith
Dissertation: Mormons and the World’s Fair 1893: A Study of Religious and Cultural Agency and Transformation
Advisor: Moses Moore
Current Positions: Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and the Burns Faculty Fellow for 2014-2015, Religious Studies Program, University of Arizona



Brett Lewis
Dissertation: The Impact of Religious Studies Courses: Measuring Change in Undergraduate Attitudes
Advisor: Joel Gereboff
Current Position: Instructor, Department of Theology, Loyola University of Chicago



Brett Benjamin Hendrickson
Dissertation: Healing Borders : Transcultural Expressions of Mexican-American Folk Healing
Advisor: Tracy Fessenden
Current Position: Assistant Professor (Tenure Track), Religious Studies, Lafayette College

Eiji Suhara
Dissertation: Embodying the Pure Land : A Multidimensional Analysis of Honen's Nembutsu Practice
Advisor: James Foard
Current Position: Visiting Assistant Professor, East Asian Studies, University of Arizona

Elizabeth M. Ursic
Dissertation: Ritualizing Christ Sophia
Advisor:  Linell Cady
Current Position: Professor (Tenured) , Religious Studies, Mesa Community College



Jeffry R. Halverson
Dissertation: Theology and Creed in Sunnī Islam: Kalām, Islamism, and the Postulates of Political Sunnism
Advisors: Mark Woodward and Souad Ali
Current Position:  Assistant Professor (Tenure Track), Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Coastal Carolina University

Degree Offered

Religious Studies, PhD
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of


Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study

Application Deadline

January 15

Financing Your Education

Learn more about the financial support and graduate fellowships available.