See Program Overview
Program Learning Outcomes
“Expected student learning outcomes specify the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes students are expected to attain in courses or in a program.” Page 69. Resource Manual for the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), 2018. A graduate of the Ph.D. in practical theology program will:
- Employ practical theological scholarship, method, and methodology in ways that engage hermeneutics and the social sciences from an interdisciplinary perspective.
- Develop specialization within one or more areas of original research in practical theology and associated literature in response to contemporary challenges faced by faith communities, the larger society, and the theological enterprise.
- Produce scholarly research, writing, and communication at the highest levels appropriate for practical theological research, teaching, and transformative leadership.
The admission process involves the following steps.
- A period of inquiry and discernment in conversation with the program director.
- Completion of the statement of purpose, resume/curriculum vitae, and writing sample along with the requested submission of all other required materials such as transcripts and recommendations. The deadline is January 31.
- An interview before the doctoral faculty within a few weeks of the deadline for the application materials. The doctoral faculty are responsible for admissions decisions.
- The School of Ministry Dean and the Assistant Dean for the Graduate School of Ministry are informed of the admission decision, as is the Office of Admissions, and the applicant is then informed.
- Formal letters are sent to newly admitted students, potentially including scholarship offers, within approximately three weeks of the admission decision.
- Master’s Degree. Applicants must have at least a master’s degree in theology or a closely related field from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or the recognized equivalent, if the degree is from outside the United States. Applicants without a graduate degree in theology or a closely related field may be considered if they hold a recognized master’s degree and have 15 graduate credits in theology. Applicants in the process of completing the master’s degree at the time of admission will be considered if they can demonstrate the likelihood of completing that degree on or before the start of doctoral study. Official transcripts of all studies in institutions of higher education must be sent directly to the Office of Admissions from the institutions attended by the applicant. The most recent degree is generally the most important to document. Applicants should arrange for transcripts to be sent to Palm Beach Atlantic University, ATTN: ADMISSIONS, 901 South Flagler Drive, PO Box 24708, West Palm Beach, FL 33416. Official electronic transcripts may be sent to Data_Team@pba.edu or Beth_Ross@pba.edu.
Applicants who have completed graduate level coursework at an institution outside of the U.S. that is not accredited by a U.S. regional accrediting organization or the equivalent must have a course-by-course and GPA equivalent evaluation conducted by an accredited member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). PBA is a corporate client of Spantran, a NACES member. PBA can directly provide Spantran copies of the official transcripts received by PBA. Applicants can request a Spantran transcript evaluation form, which includes payment information for Spantran credentials review, and return that form as part of the application process. The typical processing time for credentials review is 10 business days.
- Curriculum Vitae. Applicants are urged to submit an academic-style curriculum vitae following a generally accepted format of their choosing. Such formats ordinarily include a listing of a person’s educational history, experience, and honors or awards. Entries should be given in descending chronological order. Any publications or conference papers presented should also be listed, ideally in a format following the Chicago Manual of Style. A traditional resume is acceptable in lieu of a formal curriculum vitae.
- Writing Sample. The writing sample should demonstrate the applicant’s readiness to embark upon scholarly research and writing. It will ideally be theological in nature and reflect an area of the applicant’s current scholarly interest. It may consist of one or more papers but must include no fewer than twenty pages. Applicants are encouraged but not required to follow the Chicago Manual of Style in their writing sample.
- Applicants should request at least three recommendations that give evidence of scholarly potential as well as personal skills for the applicant as a self-motivated and peer learner within a scholarly community of teachers and learners together. These letters should mention how long and in what capacity the recommender has known the applicant, offer some specific observations about the applicant’s personal qualities and readiness to proceed to a Ph.D. in practical theology, as well as scholarly interests, if known, and potential to learn effectively at a distance, if is something about which the recommender feels competent to comment. At least two of the three letters should be written by a scholar holding the doctoral degree, ideally a theologian, who should specifically attest to the readiness of the applicant for theological scholarship. Recommendations should be in the traditional form of a letter on letterhead and should be sent as scanned attached files to the Program Director directly from the person writing the letter of recommendation.
- English Language Exam (if applicable). Applicants from a country where English is not the primary language of instruction are required to submit the results of an English language proficiency exam, such as the TOEFL (minimum 79), IELTS (minimum 6.5) or Duolingo (minimum 105). This is not required for applicants holding an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution in the U.S. or for applicants who have completed a course of study in the English language outside of the U.S.
- Statement of Purpose. This is a 3-5 page articulation of the applicant’s background and aspirations sufficient to understand why the applicant seeks a Ph.D. in practical theology. The applicant should show understanding of the approach and design of the Ph.D. program, including particular course requirements as appropriate to the applicant’s interests. Specifics regarding an applicant’s intellectual interests, including potential dissertation research, should be included. Headings should be used. Some find it helpful to address three major questions: “Why a Ph.D.?” “Why practical theology?” “Why PBA?” Applicants who desire to participate on a distance basis (synchronous only, courses meet on Mondays and Thursdays from 5-9pm Eastern Time) should include a brief request to pursue pre-candidacy studies on a distance basis, noting sufficient computer equipment, internet access, and online experience to facilitate participation from a distance. They should also note their acceptance of the requirement to participate in person for the opening weekend and end-of-semester academic conference in every fall and spring semester of pre-candidacy.
- Personal Interview. This is the single most important part of the process. It occurs after all other required documentation has been submitted by the deadline, which is ordinarily January 31. Because faculty are collectively responsible for admission decisions, the personal interview is before core doctoral faculty. Interviews are organized and scheduled by the director of the Ph.D. program, ordinarily for late February. They are to take place via videoconference using an Internet-based video connection with the applicant. Applicants are responsible for ensuring the quality of their signal and equipment.
The conferral of the Ph.D. upon the candidate is dependant on:
- Successful completion of the prescribed 54 doctoral credits, of which 42 are pre-candidacy credits and 12 are candidacy credits;
- Successful completion of candidacy examinations;
- Successful completion of all dissertation requirements;
- A minimum final grade of “B” in all courses and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0;
- Discharge of all financial obligations to the university.
In addition, regardless of academic achievement, a student on disciplinary probation may not graduate from PBA until the probation has been removed.
A total of 54 academic credits are required for the degree. Of these, 42 are pre-candidacy credits and 12 are candidacy credits. Pre-candidacy courses are offered on a two-year rotating basis on Mondays and Thursdays from 5-9pm ET. Courses at the 8000 to 8500 level are organized around practical theological theory and method. Courses from 8600 to 8900 level are electives. Courses at the 9000 to 9400 level are organized around the four core areas of Christian practice. Courses at the 9600 to 9900 are candidacy credits. When students pass candidacy examinations to become candidates, they enroll in candidacy seminars that meet on Tuesday evenings from 6-9pm ET.
Pre-candidacy engages the student with the length and breadth of the literature necessary to join the scholarly conversation and commence doctoral dissertation work as fulsomely as possible. Pre-candidacy courses bring the student into conversation with works that help define contemporary practical theology, its engagement with philosophy and the social sciences, and critical methodological issues, including an intradisciplinary dialogue with social science methods. More than simply a skills-building period, pre-candidacy is a “school of the scholarly virtues.” As such, it is designed to offer students and faculty alike an opportunity to deepen virtues such as intellectual humility, discipline, or the attentiveness characteristic of a scholar, particularly a life of theological scholarship. The weekend intensives at the start of each pre-candidacy semester and the end-of-semester scholarly conference are structured so as to advance this formational process.
Pre-candidacy coursework involves 36 credits in prescribed coursework and 6 credits of elective coursework. Pre-candidacy cohorts take courses together, resulting in pre-candidacy courses with two cohorts or more. Full-time students take two courses a semester and part-time students take one course a semester. Half of the required pre-candidacy courses are offered in the fall semester over two years (THL 8114, 9114, 8314, 9314) and the other half are offered in the spring semester over two years (THL 8214, 9214, 8414, 9414). THL 8514 is a capstone seminar designed to reprise critical texts in-depth as preparation for candidacy exams. It is taken in the summer after all other core courses are completed. In addition to the nine required pre-candidacy courses, pre-candidates complete six elective credits chosen for relevance to their interests. These electives could involve tutorial courses in directed doctoral reading or research. Such tutorials are crafted to allow the student an opportunity for a guided exploration within an intended scholarly specialization or intersection of scholarly specializations.
Doctoral students are eligible to take candidacy examinations when they have completed the prescribed program of pre-candidacy coursework with a GPA of 3.0 or above. Pre-candidacy coursework usually includes 42 pre-candidacy credits as prescribed in the full curriculum. Those who have completed the M.A. in Intercultural Studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University with a GPA of 3.0 or above receive advanced standing upon admission to the Ph.D. program. This is because the M.A.I.S. curriculum was specifically designed to overlap with 32 credits of the core pre-candidacy courses for the Ph.D. in practical theology. Graduates of the M.A.I.S. program can complete the Ph.D. in practical theology upon completing 36 doctoral credits. M.A.I.S. graduates qualify to take doctoral candidacy examinations upon completing a total of 24 pre-candidacy credits: THL 8514, Advanced Practical Theology, a four-credit course, and 8 doctoral elective credits of their choosing. In addition, they must take an additional 12 doctoral elective credits prior to completing their doctoral degree. These credits may be taken while still completing the M.A.I.S. degree. Those who have taken other graduate degree programs in the School of Ministry of Palm Beach Atlantic University may transfer up to 10 doctoral credits from their SOM degree programs, six of which count toward doctoral electives.
Candidacy examinations are based on three bibliographies of approximately 25 texts each. The first bibliography focuses on texts related to practical theology and the theological enterprise in general. The second bibliography focuses on texts related to method and methodology. The first and second bibliographies primarily but not necessarily exclusively reflect required reading from pre-candidacy core courses. The third bibliography is compiled by each student under the direction of a faculty mentor, who then presents the bibliography to the entire faculty for review and approval. This bibliography is to reflect the student’s intended specialization or intersection of specializations and as such may be recorded as a notation on the student’s university transcript, curriculum vitae, or faculty letters of recommendation as a recognized area of academic specialization. For this reason, the third bibliography should be titled in such a way as to reflect that chosen specialization or intersection of specializations.
Candidacy examinations include three components. An on-campus written examination of eight hours ordinarily takes place the Saturday after Labor Day weekend, though it may take place at other times should the student so request. Oral exams are scheduled in two-hour time slots for the week immediately following the written examination. six weeks before the written exam, a student is to submit a full course design of an upper level undergraduate or introductory master’s level course. This includes the student’s statement of teaching philosophy, the course name and description, a complete syllabus and course schedule, class meeting notes and materials, course assessments and rubrics, and any other related element that the student deems appropriate. Alternatively, a student may submit a double-blind, peer reviewed journal article that the student has published, or received definitive editorial notice of forthcoming publication, should it be under that student’s sole authorship, written after the student commenced doctoral studies, and published in a journal related to practical theology or allied fields.
The course design or peer reviewed journal article, together with the written examination, is examined by a panel of three doctoral faculty following rubrics established by the program. This same panel conducts the oral examination over a period of two hours. Failure on any one exam results in failure for the entire examination process. Just as admission to the program is a collective act of the core doctoral faculty, admission to candidacy is a collective act of the core doctoral faculty. The results of the exams are shared and discussed among all core doctoral faculty acting together. Students who fail candidacy examinations may be given an opportunity by the faculty to retake the examination, but there is no guarantee. The decision rests entirely with the core doctoral faculty. In any case, candidacy examinations may be retaken no sooner than three months after a failure to achieve candidacy.
Candidates are required to complete 12 candidacy credits, ordinarily over the course of two years of full-time study after achieving candidacy. The first such candidacy seminar is the Prospectus Seminar, followed by Dissertation Seminar I, Dissertation Seminar II, and Dissertation Seminar III. Candidacy seminars meet every other week and provide opportunities for candidates to present their work as well as grow in professional socialization and formation. During the remainder of their time each semester they are to work on their prospectus or dissertation under the direction or their chair and/or other dissertation committee members or members-elect.
Candidacy credits are designed to support candidates in the writing of their dissertations by regularly sharing their work. In addition, they are meant to be opportunities for professional socialization. The following topics are featured in these candidacy seminars together with the flow of work updates, workshops, panels, conversation, and prayer. Sometimes there will be a formal presentation on one or more of these topics or other topics, but more generally there will be an open question and answer session so that candidates can receive guidance on the questions in which they are most interested.
- Scholarly associations: mentoring, networks, collectives, and circles
- Scholarly meetings: themes, proposals, and presentations
- International and national presentation opportunities
- The scholarly curriculum vitae
- Grants and grant-writing
- Dissertation fellowships and post-doctoral opportunities
- Seeking visiting faculty, lecturer, and adjunct opportunities
- Consulting opportunities, as a full-time employment and as a supplement to academic or other employment: marketing, negotiating contracts, reimbursable expenses, and tax implications
- Library research in other academic libraries
- Publishing scholarly articles and books: journals and journal rankings, publishers and process, including both promising possibilities and warning signs or pitfalls in working with publishers, including the importance of indexes, contracts, and other elements common in working with academic publishers
- Publishing popular books and articles: publishers and process
- Teaching undergraduates as an adjunct or in a permanent position, including the construction of syllabi and rubrics as well as seeking mentoring and working with mentoring in one’s first teaching experience(s)
- The art of university teaching in general, particularly in theology and religion
- The academic job search: applications, interviews, job talks, promotion and tenure, including negotiating salary, rank, and relocation expenses
Only candidates may propose to undertake a doctoral dissertation. A dissertation prospectus proposes the study of an aspect of a researchable problem in the field that is understudied or insufficiently studied, and to which the literatures, methods, and methodologies proper to practical theology may be effectively applied. The prospectus offers a roadmap for such a dissertation, including presentation of the research problem, an examination of the literature and research question(s), and presentation of design and relevant method and methodology, together with proposed chapter titles, a detailed timeline of completion, anticipated instruments, and a list of references or bibliography critical to the work.
The dissertation committee consists of a chair and at least two other members. One or more of those members may be designed a “lead reader” should that person have particular expertise and be willing and able to take on such an advisory role. When there is no such “lead reader” designated, the understanding is that this is part of the role of the chair. The task of the “lead reader” is to initially review the candidate’s work, particularly the most specialized portion of the candidate’s work, offering critique and guidance in advance of other members of the committee. The chair must be drawn from faculty within the School of Ministry. It is always the duty of the chair to coordinate institutional relationships and convene the committee. Decision-making by the committee follows a consensus model. Candidates formally defend their dissertation prospectus before their dissertation committee prior to formally commencing dissertation writing. The dissertation committee is formally constituted only upon the successful defense of the prospectus, whereupon the dissertation committee-elect, dissertation committee chair-elect, and dissertation committee members-elect become a fully-established dissertation committee, dissertation committee chair, and dissertation committee members.
Dissertations are defended before the committee members on an in-person or online basis. Committee members are to sign the dissertation title page upon their collective approval of the dissertation. Such a defense must occur before the deadline set by the designated format checker of the dissertation if the dissertation writer is to graduate in that semester. The designated format checker may not be someone with a direct relationship to the dissertation program director or core doctoral faculty. This person is drawn from professional staff outside of the doctoral program and its faculty and may be the university librarian or a designee of the university librarian or some other person. Upon a successful defense, the dissertation is submitted for publication to ProQuest, the dissertation publisher of record for the doctoral program. ProQuest forwards the dissertation to the designated format checker to undertake the final format check. Once the format check is completed and fully approved, the dissertation is officially published by ProQuest and made accessible to libraries and individuals around the world. Conferral of the doctoral degree is contingent on publication of the dissertation. No conferral of the degree may proceed until the Office of the Registrar has been notified of dissertation publication by ProQuest.
The program is designed to take four years, two in pre-candidacy and two in candidacy. However, the program allows for flexibility. While the minimum number of credits to graduate remains 54, those who complete their dissertation sooner may enroll in candidacy credits sooner. Those who continue to work on the dissertation after completion of the THL 9913, Dissertation Seminar III, enroll in THL 9971-THL 9993, Dissertation Writing, for additional candidacy credits each fall or spring semester in which they continue to write the dissertation.
The program prescribes specific courses to be taken in pre-candidacy and candidacy. A total of 54 academic credits are required in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree. Half of the required pre-candidacy courses are offered in the fall semester over two years (THL 8114, 9114, 8314, 9314) and the other half are offered in the spring semester over two years (THL 8214, 9214, 8414, 9414). THL 8514 is a capstone seminar designed to reprise critical texts in preparation for candidacy exams and is offered once a year in the first half of the summer term. Candidacy examinations consistent of three components:
- First Candidacy Exam (course design or journal article publication)
- Second Candidacy Exam (eight-hour written)
- Third Candidacy Exam (two-hour oral)
The written examination is typically conducted the Saturday after Labor Day, with the oral examination scheduled within a week of that exam. The course design or journal article publication is to be submitted approximately six weeks before the written examination. Courses at the 8000 to 8500 level are organized around practical theological theory and method. Courses from 8600 to 8900 level are electives. Courses at the 9000 to 9400 level are organized around the four core areas of Christian practice. Courses at the 9600 to 9900 are candidacy credits.
Ph.D. in Practical Theology - 54 Credit Hours
Core Pre-Candidacy Courses - 36 Credit Hours
Elective Pre-Candidacy Courses - 6 Credit Hours
This requirement may be met by elective courses:
This may also be met by the following independent study courses:
Candidacy Course Sequence - 12 Credits
Sample Degree Plans
Ph.D. in Practical Theology Degree Plan Odd Start
Ph.D. in Practical Theology Degree Plan Even Start
Academic Standing Policy. To remain in good academic standing, students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 and be enrolled in the fall and spring semesters. Those who have completed Dissertation Seminar I but have not successfully defended a prospectus, must enroll for a minimum of one credit while concluding their prospectus work (THL 9951, Prospectus Writing). Those who continue to write their dissertation after completing all 54 credits required for conferral of the degree must enroll for a minimum of one credit while continuing to write their dissertation (THL 9971, Dissertation Writing).
Admissions Deferment Policy. One-year deferments are given by right to those who have been admitted to the program and need to defer their initial start date.
Certification of Continuation as a Full-time Dissertation Writer. Some candidates may need to continue in their dissertation writing past the required three credit course, Dissertation Seminar III. Dissertation research and writing is understood as a fulltime commitment. Three credit courses at this level are recognized by most reporting agencies as fulltime enrollment. After the final required candidacy seminar (THL 9913), a continuing dissertation writer need enroll only in Dissertation Writing for at least one credit in the fall and one credit in the spring, unless the dissertation chair requires otherwise due to unusual extenuating circumstance. In this case, the university may either formally declare that a candidate writing the dissertation is a full-time student or grant a two-credit scholarship so as to ensure that the student is enrolled for three credits, thus demonstrating full-time status for external agencies needing confirmation of full-time dissertation writing status.
Institutional Review Board. All students and candidates for the degree are expected to have Institutional Review Board (IRD) approval for human subjects research, whether on an exempt, expedited, or full review basis, except where exceptions are made according to the law with regard to course-based research or other forms of research that are not required to go before the IRB. In the case of dissertation research, the dissertation chair serves as the principal investigator, functioning in a supervisory role with regard to human subject protections provided by the dissertation writer-researcher.
Leave of Absence Policy. Students or candidates who need to interrupt their program of studies, and thereby suspend active status while remaining in good standing, must seek and obtain written approval in a manner consistent with university policy at the time of the request. Such a leave of absence is given for no more than two semesters in duration, ending at the start of the fall semester, and must be renewed should it be necessary for more than one year.
Length of Program Policy. All requirements for the Ph.D. in Practical Theology must be completed within seven years from the commencement of doctoral studies in the same at Palm Beach Atlantic University. A one-year, one-time extension beyond the seven-year limit, as with any other exception to program policies, may only be granted upon application to, and written approval from, the dean or the dean’s designee. No further extension may be granted. Those considering such a petition should discuss the situation with the program director in advance.
Residential Policy. There is a residential expectation for the pre-candidacy portion of the program, consisting of four semesters of full-time academic work, excluding summer terms. Students holding an F-1 visa are required by virtue of their visa and university policy to reside locally and take courses on-site at the university. All others, however, may submit a petition of exception. Applicants who desire this option should include with their Statement of Purpose a petition requesting permission to pursue pre-candidacy studies on a distance basis, noting sufficient computer equipment, internet access, and experience to facilitate participation from a distance. They should also indicate acceptance of the requirement to participate in person for the weekend intensive and conference at the start and end of every fall and spring semester of pre-candidacy. The petition is reviewed by the faculty upon making an admission decision, and they forward their recommendation to the Dean, who approves or disapproves the petition as part of the admissions process. Such a petition is granted for one year only, though it is renewable by action of the Dean. Such a petition may be submitted by an admitted student at any time, with review and recommendation by the faculty and approval by the Dean. Students who do not have such approval may participate online for a particular course meeting with the approval of their course professor.