Master of Divinity Degree
Starr King’s M.Div. degree prepares people for vocations in:
- Congregational ministry
- Community ministry
- Religious education ministry
- Related forms of religious leadership in diverse religious traditions
The M.Div. degree meets the graduate-level educational requirements for fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist minister, certification as a Chaplain (see the Association of Professional Chaplains at www.professionalchaplains.org), as a Pastoral Counselor (see the American Association of Pastoral Counselors at www.aapc.org) and ordination in a variety of other religious traditions and interfaith contexts (as determined by the relevant bodies in any given religious tradition or context). Starr King’s M.Div. program welcomes Unitarian Universalists, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Religious Humanists, practitioners of Indigenous Spiritual traditions, Quakers, spiritual seekers, and people with multiple religious belongings and hybrid religious identities. Each M.Div. candidate meets the learning outcomes and degree requirements through a personalized educational plan, designed in consultation with your faculty advisor in response to your gifts, challenges, life experiences, religious tradition(s), communities of accountability, and vocational calling. You can complete the M.Div. degree in three to four years of full-time study, or up to six or seven years of part-time study.
Starr King’s M.Div. degree program aims to prepare spiritual leaders with the knowledge, professional skill, and personal capacities to:
- Counter oppressions
- Create just and sustainable communities
- Call forth compassion, wholeness, and liberation
- Cultivate multi-religious life and learning
- A minimum of 90 units of credit (no residency requirements)
- Three required core courses:
- The Educating to Counter Oppressions (ECO) Intensive (this course needs to be taken within the first six months of the student’s program).
- The Multi-Religious Core Course
- An Intensive in Unitarian Universalist Ministry for candidates to UU ministry; or one of the following three courses for students with different vocational goals and/or from different spiritual traditions: Spiritual Leadership, Leadership Along the Way or Organizational Management.
- Participation in two Symposia (including remote participation)
- A Threshold Assessment after matriculating
- A mid-term portfolio conference
- A petition to graduate
- A combination of coursework, fieldwork, independent study, experiential learning and special projects to achieve competency in Eight Threshold areas:
- Life in Religious Community and Interfaith Engagement
- Prophetic Witness and Work
- Sacred Text and Interpretation
- History of Dissenting Traditions and the Thea/ological Quest
- Spiritual Practice and the Care of the Soul
- Thea/ology in Culture and Context
- Educating for Wholeness and Liberation
- Embodied Wisdom and Beauty
THE PERSONALIZED EDUCATIONAL PLAN
Active and sustained consultation between advisor and candidate is necessary for the depth and breadth of a Starr King M.Div. degree to be achieved. With the guidance and approval your advisor, as a Starr King degree candidate you develop and complete a personalized educational plan that engages you in relational/constructive learning, drawing on multiple modes of teaching and learning. The plan achieves structure through the flow of the academic year, with its rhythm of in-person intensive periods in Oakland in January and August, and flexible options during the fall, spring, and June-July summer periods during which time you may be studying in or beyond Oakland—in your home community or in a site around the globe. The plan achieves educational coherence through the framework of three required Core Intensives, the annual Symposia, and the Eight Thresholds in which you must acquire competency. The plan adapts to your specific gifts, challenges, culture, context, religious tradition(s), communities of accountability, and vocational calling as you chart a personalized course of study, making use of diverse modes of teaching and learning, including learning from life experience integrated with theological studies.
REQUIRED CORE INTENSIVES
M.Div. candidates are required to complete three core intensives. The required core intensives provide a foundational engagement with the degree program’s learning goals, introduce approaches to relational/constructive learning, offer ways to integrate spiritual practice and professional development with the scholarly study of religion and build a community of learning. The core intensives are offered as week-long intensives in August and January, with advance and follow-up work:
- The ECO Intensive introduces students to “educating to create just and sustainable communities that counter oppressions”
- The Multi-Religious Intensive introduces students to “multi-religious life and learning.”
- The Ministry/Spiritual Leadership requirement can be taken in one of two modes: the UU Ministry Intensive is specifically for candidates for UU ministry; the Spiritual Leadership Intensive, Ministry Along the Way, and Organizational Management are oriented to diverse forms of religious leadership in a variety of religious and spiritual traditions. M.Div. students may take both modes if desired.
THE EIGHT THRESHOLDS
Starr King’s Eight Thresholds engage M.Div. candidates in developing their abilities to perform the classic roles of ministry and religious leadership (such as ritual and worship leader, preacher, teacher, prophetic activist, spiritual care giver, congregational leader, religious scholar and thea/ologian) as reflective practitioners who integrate into their work the knowledge and skills gained through the classic disciplines and fields of theological and religious studies (such as study of sacred scriptures, history of global religious traditions, theological methods and approaches, social ethics, psychology of religion, ritual and liturgical studies, spirituality studies, organization theory and systems theory, educational philosophies, and more). Starr King emphasizes engagement with the Thresholds through a multi-religious, counter-oppressive lens, inspiring new insights and generating new forms of ministry and spiritual leadership. Engaging with each threshold also requires you to deepen personal qualities and habits for successful spiritual leadership and/or ministry, such as mature judgment, self-awareness, spiritual practice, integrity, responsibility, sensitivity and ethical discernment. The Thresholds overlap and intersect with one another in multiple ways. As you work with them, in dynamic interaction with one another, you develop a matrix of knowledge and skill that will enable you to move forward in the world equipped to offer ministry, serve as a chaplain or spiritual leader in ways that will
- Create just and sustainable communities that counter oppressions
- Call forth healing, wholeness, compassion and liberation
- Cultivate multi-religious life and learning
MULTI-RELIGIOUS, COUNTER OPPRESSIVE THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION
Through the Starr King M.Div. program people of diverse faiths are formed for ministry and religious leadership in a community of multi-religious life and learning. Starr King students are called to become ministers, scholars, and religious leaders who can proactively offer life-giving alternatives to conflict among global religious traditions, and who can lead people of diverse religious perspectives and traditions to work together to build just and sustainable communities that address critical issues facing the world: global climate change, morphing forms of racism, legacies of violence and economic injustice. In fulfilling this calling, Starr King invites attention to counter-oppressive practices and approaches. The School lifts up under-represented voices and topics in multi-religious work, such as religious and ethnic minorities within traditions, as well as transgender, queer, and feminist and womanist perspectives. While attending to critical points of under-representation, the accent is on creative and joyful expressions of multi-religious interchange and community. Teaching and learning at Starr King foster understanding of how the world’s religious traditions have always been interacting with one another — influencing and shaping one another. Starr King will engage you in forming a deeper understanding of these histories of relationship, and will empower imagination and creativity in response to present day challenges and opportunities. Starr King’s distinctive emphasis on multi-religious, counter-oppressive education embodies Unitarian Universalist principles and sources, which include:
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person
- Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations,
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life
- Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life
MULTIPLE MODES OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
Your personalized educational plan enables you to achieve competency in the Eight Threshold areas through multiple modes of teaching and learning:
- Starr King online (asynchronous) and hybrid (synchronous) courses in fall and spring semesters
- Starr King Symposia in January and intensives in August and January
- Starr King immersions offered on occasion in sites around the globe
Field Education, Practice Teaching, and Internships
- Parish internships in Unitarian Universalist congregations
- Field Education in religious communities, youth work, justice, and educational organizations, and community sites
- Clinical Pastoral Education in hospitals, prisons, and social service institutions
- Practice Teaching as a Hilda Mason Teaching Fellow—designing an offering a course through Starr King, a congregation, or a community organization
- Field education and internship experiences are enhanced by required participation in theological reflection
Independent Study and Advance Research Projects
- Starr King Individualized Learning
- Research Projects under the direction of SKSM core faculty
ONLINE AND HYBRID COURSES
M.Div. candidates currently can complete the entire degree online (at a distance) via asynchronous and synchronous courses, enabling you to pursue an SKSM M.Div. while remaining in your home community. Students living in the greater San Francisco Bay Area also can integrate online and hybrid courses into their personal educational plan (when available), maximizing flexibility to combine graduate study with work schedules and family needs.
FIELD WORK, INTERNSHIPS, AND OTHER MODES OF LEARNING
In addition to course work (in diverse modes—online, hybrid, intensive, and semester-long residential options), your M.Div. educational plan may include study through fieldwork, internships, Clinical Pastoral Education, practice teaching, independent projects, and experiential learning. Fieldwork becomes field education through participation in group reflection on experience in the field. Fieldwork reflection groups convene each semester in hybrid modes (Z participation allowed). Full and part-time parish internships are arranged with congregations across the continent and are augmented by a Parish Intern Reflection Group and a January Parish Internship Conference in Oakland which brings interns, teaching ministers, and Starr King faculty together for two days of conversation and learning. Formal Clinical Pastoral Education opportunities are an option for M.Div. candidates and a requirement of preparation for Unitarian Universalist ministry.
Starr King School evaluates M.Div. students through written evaluations rather than letter grades. Instead of ranking students in comparison with one another in a mode of competition, instructors assess instructors will evaluate you on your individual merit, and your achievements in relationship to the stated learning goals of the course or learning experience, your contribution to a relational learning environment and to “education that builds just and sustainable community that counters oppressions and cultivates multi-religious life and learning.” Faculty and field work supervisors will give you critical feedback and guidance on areas of needed improvement, as well as praise and affirmation for significant strengths and accomplishments. Students, in consultation with their advisor, may request a letter grade for a course in addition to a written evaluation. When a letter grade is requested, the instructor has discretion to establish the basis on which a letter grade will be determined.
MIDTERM PORTFOLIO CONFERENCE
Over the course of your study, you will assemble a portfolio of representative work and evaluations. Midway through your degree program, you and your advisor will plan a Portfolio Conference. You will invite two faculty members (one of whom is your advisor), a peer and a community representative (generally this will be a practitioner of the mode of religious leadership or ministry you are preparing for). Your portfolio conference participants review the portfolio in advance, and then meet together for an hour with you to offer feedback and guidance on your preparation for ministry and/or religious leadership. The Portfolio Conference embodies the School’s understanding that every M.Div. candidate is accountable to a larger public and to the people with whom they will serve.
Entrance to the M.Div. program normally requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university or an equivalent degree from a non-U.S. school. The School may occasionally offer admission to a well-qualified applicant who has not completed a B.A. if the applicant shows evidence of capacity for graduate-level work. The School limits such admissions to no more than 15% of the student body.
READINESS TO GRADUATE
Readiness is assessed through conversation with your advisor, who will determine if all your degree requirements have been met and the learning outcomes achieved, and will review your written request to graduate. In your request to graduate you will narrate and assess your learning achievements in each of the Eight Thresholds. Assessment of readiness to graduate involves thoughtful discernment in consultation with your advisor, not only of your completion of explicit requirements but of your personal readiness—intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, professionally, and practically—for the form of ministry, chaplaincy, or religious leadership for which you are preparing. Upon approval of your advisor, your request to graduate is submitted to the core faculty for a vote. The core faculty will act on your request, and if approved will forward your name to the Board of Trustees. The M.Div. degree is awarded by vote of the Board of Trustees.
SEEKING FELLOWSHIP AND ORDINATION AS A UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST MINISTER
There are parallel tracks to becoming a fellowshipped or ordained ministry. The M.Div. degree is one track. The fellowshipping process, under the auspices of the Unitarian Universalist Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) is a parallel track which you must pursue in addition to your M.Div. degree. For information on the fellowship and ordination process of becoming a Unitarian Universalist ministers, contact:
Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong
Ministerial Credentialing Director
Unitarian Universalist Association Ministries and Faith Development
See Fellowshipping Advice for a description of the requirements for ministerial fellowshipping in the UUA. Visit the UUA credentialing page for more information.