Harvard Divinity School

“To educate scholars, teachers, ministers, and other professionals for leadership and service both nationally and internationally.”
Description of PhD Program
With a focus on global religions, religion and culture, and forces that shape religious traditions and thought, the PhD prepares students for advanced research and scholarship in religion and theological studies. This is a joint degree program offered by the HDS and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, administered by the Committee on the Study of Religion.

Resources for the study of religion at Harvard are vast. We offer courses in the whole range of religious traditions from the ancient Zoroastrian tradition to modern Christian liberation movements, Islamic and Jewish philosophies, Buddhist social movements, and Hindu arts and culture. Some of us work primarily as historians, others as scholars of texts, others as anthropologists, although the boundaries of these methodologies are never firm. Some of us are adherents of a religious tradition; others are not at all religious. The Study of Religion is exciting and challenging precisely because of the conversations that take place across the complexities of disciplines, traditions, and intellectual commitments.

Tuition & Housing Costs


Reduced Tuition:  TBD
Facilities Fee:   TBD
Active File Fee: $300 per semester
Activities Fee:   $70
University Health Services Fee:  $1,240
Blue Cross/Blue Shield:  $3,922
Total Tuition and Fees 3rd and 4th year: TBD
5th year and beyond: TBD

2020–21 Standard living budget

Estimating expenses and formulating realistic budgets are important tasks. A careful assessment of total resources measured against total costs is the cornerstone of sound financial planning. Although actual living expenses will depend on lifestyles, standardized budgets are used to determine aid eligibility.

The following budget represents average expenses of a master’s student for the 2020–21 academic year (September–May). This budget is based on a moderate cost of living in the Cambridge area. The housing portion of the budget assumes shared occupancy of a two-bedroom unit in the surrounding community. Married students and students with dependents should anticipate higher living expenses.

Housing: $13,973
Food: $4,802
Books and Supplies: $1,000
Personal: $5,024
Total Living Expenses:  $24,799

Tuition Assistance
Standard Funding Package

Harvard guarantees full financial support to PhD students—including tuition, health fees, and basic living expenses—for a minimum of five years (typically the first four years of study and the completion year). This multi-year funding package includes a combination of tuition grants, stipends, traineeships, teaching fellowships, research assistantships, and other academic appointments. In addition, GSAS students are particularly successful in securing grants, fellowships, and other sources of external funding as part of their professional development.

The standard funding package includes:

  • Grant toward tuition and fees—paid in full for years 1 through 4, plus the dissertation completion year
  • Living expense stipend during years 1 and 2
  • A combination of stipend, teaching fellowships, and/or research assistantships during years 3 and 4
  • If noted in your Notice of Financial Support, summer research funding following the first four academic years from GSAS or faculty grants
  • Up to $2,500 of support for professional development (students entering in 2015 or later)
  • Stipend and/or research support during the completion year.
Neighboring Institutions or Programs
Harvard Divinity School welcomes students from other schools to cross-register into courses and HDS students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich offerings across the University, at MIT, the Fletcher School at Tufts, and throughout the Boston Theological Institute. Cross-registration is available between PHD students in Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the following schools:

Harvard University 

  • Harvard Business School (HBS)
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE)
  • Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)
  • Harvard Law School (HLS)
  • Harvard Medical School (HMS)
  • Harvard School of Dental Medicine (SDM)
  • Harvard School of Public Health (SPH)

Other Schools

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Brown University
  • The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (Fletch)

 Although PhD students cannot cross-register with Boston Theological Insitute schools, students are encouraged to work with the faculty of the BTI on their general examinations and dissertations. 

 Boston Theological Institute

  • Andover Newton Theological School (ANTS)
  • Boston College (BC) Theology Department
  • Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (BCSTM)
  • Boston University School of Theology (BU)
  • Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS)
  • Hebrew College (HEBC)
  • Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HC)
  • John’s Seminary
Hispanic Centers and Programs
Hispanic Summer Program – member school

The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies

Yearly Events
Theological Education Day, the school’s day-long open house event for prospective students usually held in November each year, is an exciting opportunity to directly connect with Harvard Divinity School’s faculty, students, staff, and denominational counselors.  Participants learn about academic and community life, financial aid, and the admission process.
Hispanic/Latina/o Faculty

Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús
Assistant Professor of African American Religions

David Carrasco
Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, with a joint appointment with the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Andrew W. Mellon
Professor of Religion and Latinx Studies

Mayra Rivera
Associate Professor of Theology and Latina/o Studies

Mayra Rivera is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Religion and Latinx Studies at Harvard University. She is also chair of the standing Committee on Ethnicity Migration Rights and a faculty member in Harvard’s doctoral program in American Studies. She is vice president of the American Academy of Religion.

Rivera works at the intersections between continental philosophy of religion, literature, and theories of coloniality, race and gender—with particular attention to Caribbean postcolonial thought. Her research explores the relationship between discursive and material dimensions in shaping human embodiment. Her book, The Touch of Transcendence: A Postcolonial Theology of God (2007), explores the relationship between models of divine otherness and ideas about interhuman difference.

She is also co-editor, with Stephen Moore, of Planetary Loves: Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology (2010) and, with Catherine Keller and Michael Nausner, of Postcolonial Theologies: Divinity and Empire (2004). Her most recent book, Poetics of the Flesh (2015), analyzes theological, philosophical, and political descriptions of “flesh” as metaphors for understanding how social discourses materialize in human bodies.

Rivera is currently developing a project that explores narratives of catastrophe and/as Genesis in twentieth-century Caribbean writing. She is also at work on a book examining the role of religion in the constitution of the human in the works of Caribbean writer and theorist Sylvia Wynter.

Library Resources-Special Collections
Andover-Harvard holds about 30,000 volumes of rare books, tracts and other rare materials. Most were printed before 1851. The collection includes 23 incunabula or books printed during the earliest period of printing with movable type, roughly from the time of the printing of the Gutenberg Bible to the early 16th-century. The oldest is a book on virtues by Guillelmus Paraldus printed “not after 1475.” The Andover-Harvard collection is often complementary and supplementary to the half million volume collection at the Houghton Library, Harvard’s main rare book repository, and rare book researchers will often need to consult both collections.

Andover-Harvard’s holdings include early Hebrew, Latin and Greek bibles as well as many bibles in vernacular languages printed on missionary presses. There are first editions of Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, Zwingli, and other reformers, including a large collection of 16th- and 17th-century Dutch and Latin tracts by Jacobus Arminius and his followers who were early opponents of strict Calvinist theology. There is an excellent collection of materials concerning the 18th-century Salzburg Protestants, a Lutheran refugee group expelled from Salzburg, Austria in 1731 and 1732. One will also find early editions of the works of the New England Puritans and first editions of most of the works of important 19th-century Unitarians and Universalists, such as Channing, Parker, Ballou, and Emerson. Included also are the libraries of such notables as Bishop John Codman of Dorchester (1,250 vols.).

Other Resources
The Center for the Study of World Religions

The mission of the Center at Harvard Divinity School is:

  • to advance interdisciplinary, international, and interreligious exchange, learning, and research on the world’s religions;
  • to bring together the rich intellectual resources of faculty and students at Harvard Divinity School and at other Schools and departments of Harvard University with an international scholarly network to explore issues of religion in today’s complex, globalizing, and changing world; and
  • to build a deeper and broader understanding of the histories and contemporary patterns of the world’s religious communities by hosting scholars and practitioners at the Center as residents and program participants.

The study of the world’s major religious and spiritual traditions at Harvard, especially at the Divinity School, has been guided by the CSWR since it opened its doors in the fall of 1960, funded initially by a group of anonymous donors in 1957. Over 600 graduate students, CSWR fellows, and visiting professors representing the world’s major religious traditions have been affiliated with the Center, many of them as residents.

Women’s Studies in Religion Program

The Women’s Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) was founded to explore the fundamental role played by religious traditions in defining roles for women and men. Research on religion and gender sheds light on questions about the changing roles of women both inside religious communities and in broader public spheres. It examines the sources of cultural beliefs about leadership, authority, and values, and offers resources to change them. Because religion is so often offered as a rationale for proposals regarding women and the family, critical scholarship in this area is essential to women’s welfare and to the formation of public policies. Feminist criticism has affected every field of religious and theological studies, calling for a rethinking of basic assumptions in view of women’s presence and full humanity. The Program’s goal is the production of new primary research addressing these issues and the dispersal of that information through courses, publications, and public programs.

Religious Literacy Project

The Religious Literacy Project, headed by Diane Moore, is a new initiative begun in 2011 that will enable Harvard Divinity School to continue its nearly four decades of leadership in religious studies and education in the United States.

As a successor to the Program in Religious Studies and Education (a ground-breaking teacher-education program within HDS, founded in 1972), the Religious Literacy Project (RLP) will be a virtual resource and research center housed at the Center for the Study of World Religions. Its primary aim will be to create and maintain resources designed primarily for public-school teachers and their students that will promote a better understanding of the religious dimensions of multiculturalism in civic life.

Science, Religion, and Culture (SRC) at Harvard Divinity School conducts interdisciplinary research and convenes forums to inform public and scholarly conversations on the interaction of scientific, religious, and cultural constructs around the world. Focusing on the anthropological, historical, philosophical, and theological dimensions, SRC investigates science and religion beyond given categories, carefully unpacking the production and consumption of these discourses and their interactions in many different socio-historical contexts.

Religions and the Practice of Peace

The initiative on Religions and the Practice of Peace (RPP), led by Dean David N. Hempton seeks to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversation and scholarship to explore how individuals and communities worldwide have drawn on religious and spiritual resources to foster mutual understanding, harmonious relations, cooperation, well-being, justice, and peace across differences of religion, sect, nationality, race, ethnicity, and culture and how such efforts can inform contemporary peacebuilding theory and practice.

HTI Scholars
Daniel Alvarez
Instructor and Fellow of the Honors College at Florida International University Religious Studies Department

Adrián Emmanuel Hernández-Acosta (2015-2016)

Roberto Mata
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Santa Clara University

Mayra Rivera 
Associate Professor of Theology and Latina/o Studies

Christopher Tirres
Associate Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University

Contact Information

The HTI person to contact for information on PhD studies at Harvard Divinity School is:

Name:     Tim Whelsky
Title:        Associate Dean for Enrollment and Student Services
Phone:    617-496-8641
Email:     twhelsky@hds.harvard.edu

Person in Charge of Enrollment:

Name:     Dr. Timothy Whelsky
Title:        Associate Dean for Enrollment and Student Services
Phone:    (617) 496-8641
Email:     twhelsky@hds.harvard.edu