MA IIS - Master of Arts in Indigenous & Inter-Religious Studies

Vancouver School of Theology continues its long-standing partnership with First Nations communities and its partnerships with inter-religious communities to make possible an MA in Indigenous and Inter-religious Studies.

The purpose of this degree is to provide students with the opportunity to engage in research and writing in a context where three major monotheistic faith traditions meet North American Indigenous traditions and vice versa. The degree will prepare students to participate in an increasingly pluralistic world and equip them to meet the challenges of religious diversity.

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Program Length
Outcomes
Courses
Admissions
Distance Learning

Length of Program

This degree is a 48-credit hour program and can be completed in the equivalent of two years of full-time study, including participation in Summer School. However, if a student wishes to study part time, all courses required for this degree must be completed in seven years from the date of first registration. Students admitted may be credited for courses of up to 50% of credits already completed elsewhere in satisfaction of the core requirements.

Outcomes

A graduate of the MA IIS program at VST will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate basic knowledge of four traditions (Indigenous traditions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and awareness of commonalities, complexities and varieties of approach among them
  2. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge about the following aspects of particular Indigenous traditions and at least one of Judaism, Islam or Christianity:
    • What is knowledge
    • Definitions of authority
    • Cultural identities
    • Sacred texts or narratives and canon
    • Performative practices
    • Spiritual formation
  1. Describe and demonstrate practices and strategies for intercultural communication, understanding and peacemaking
  2. Demonstrate respectful communication, capacities for inter-religious dialogue, and leadership skills in interactions with communities and organizations related to religious traditions
  3. Demonstrate growing self-awareness and understanding of critical concerns of contemporary communities within the traditions on issues such as identity, authenticity, prejudice, survival, etc.
  4. Demonstrate awareness of tensions between traditions on issues such as power, appropriation, and assimilation

Courses

The program will enable students to study the heretofore largely unexplored interface among Indigenous religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity and their application in the world. A student in the MA IIS program will be able to accomplish appropriate in depth competencies for two of the four traditions of the IIS program and with some degree of familiarity for the other two traditions. Through course work, Supervised Field Experience, and an integrating seminar, students will treat pedagogically matters which cross a number of spiritual and intellectual boundaries. Most courses will engage two or more of the religious traditions. 48 credit hours will be allocated among:

Foundational core courses

Open Electives

  • 9 credits

Supervised field experience in Indigenous, Christian, Jewish or Muslim communities

  • 6 credits

Culminating assignment

Students will have two options for their culminating evaluative exercise:

  • A Directed Studies project and oral examination (6)
  • A 75- to 90-page thesis (6)

Cross-Registration of courses

VST has a relationship with UBC’s Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies (CNRS) Department that allows VST students to take graduate courses offered by that department as electives. For a course listing and detailed descriptions, please see the CNRS Department website (cnrs.ubc.ca). Students are also welcomed to take advantage of course offerings at Regent College and St. Mark’s College, our theological neighbours on the UBC campus. In all cases, the VST Registrar will confirm eligible courses for transfer.

Supervised Field Experience for MA IIS

Normally, a Supervised Field Experience (SFE) for a student in the MA IIS program is set up by VST in conjunction through the Inter-religious Studies Program or the Indigenous Studies Program. The SFE included the following elements:

  • Agreement between VST, the student, and an approved Supervised Field Experience site with appropriate mentorship in an Indigenous, Christian, Jewish or Muslim community or organization, or in an Inter-religious organization.
  • The equivalent of 13-15 hours per week at the field site over one or two semesters or in intensive format, totalling 260 – 300 hours.
  • Naming of a mentor who can appropriately guide and evaluate the experiential and academic aspects of the experience, or naming of two mentors for those components respectively who agree to coordinate their supervision of the student.
  • Establishment and reading of a relevant bibliography, averaging 50 pages/week.
  • Establishment and accomplishment of evaluative exercises—written, oral, or performative, with a guideline of 12-15 pages per semester or the equivalent.
  • Specification of a learning covenant at the beginning of the Field Experience, setting out the learning goals and agreements between the student and the mentor(s).
  • A mid-term evaluation by the student and mentor(s).
  • A final evaluation by the student and mentor(s).

Distinctive Resources

In addition to its own core and adjunct faculty, VST has available a range of resources for the program. The Inter-religious Studies Program offers expertise in the Abrahamic traditions and will bring visiting scholars, post-doctoral fellows and other specialists to the degree courses. VST’s collaboration with Indigenous partners across North America makes available a number of traditional and academic educators in the field of Indigenous knowledge. Proximity to Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia and other Vancouver-area post-secondary institutions affords other research interactions, and appropriate course credits may be accepted from some of these institutions for transfer into the MA IIS, as determined by VST.

Information Literacy and Research Skills

All degree and diploma students are required to complete six hours of non-credit, no-fee research modules in Information Literacy. The modules will engage students in hands-on as well as theoretical work intended to develop knowledgeable, disciplined and critically astute researchers.

See the Research Skills Module Schedule for further information.

Admissions

An undergraduate degree is required, preferably in the humanities.

Distance Learning

MDiv and MA PPL (ministry-oriented programs) require that 1/3 of the degree be completed on-site at VST’s main campus.

MATS and MA IIS (research-orientated programs) require that 25% of the degree be completed on-site.

On-site requirements are fulfilled in 3 ways:

  • Intensive courses offered in the January Interterm or Summer School in which all students are present on campus for the entire course.
  • Hybrid courses in which distance students are present on campus for one intensive 3-day weekend and are connected by Zoom to the rest of the classes spread out over the semester. The intensive weekend falls mid-semester and contains over half the classes of the course (6); the other 5 classes of the course are accomplished through synchronous or asynchronous Zoom connections.
  • Specialized on-site weekend intensive courses in which all students are present for the entire course. These short courses (1 – 1.5 credit hours) are used for particular denominational requirements like polity courses or spiritual retreats. This format used in these courses helps address the needs for denominationally-relevant opportunities for interaction, peer learning, development of pastoral skills, and growth in personal, spiritual formation

Please contact the Registrar for more information, registrar@vst.edu.