Doctoral Program Vision

The Ph.D. in practical theology emphasizes sound theological research, the skills of social analysis, and lived experience. It employs a collaborative educational approach among a community of learners engaging theological and allied disciplines in critical conversation. Students are expected to produce original research both creative and liberative. The program provides a unique opportunity for scholarly formation that is deeply rooted in Scripture and Tradition and critically engages contemporary experience and pastoral reality, prophetic and liberating activity, cultural diversity and contextual sensitivity, critical and constructive approaches, and imaginative and artistic spiritual engagement. 

Ph.D. studies are designed to form those who will produce and reproduce new knowledge and the transmission of existing knowledge, and this program is no exception. Such an orientation is quite distinct from the purpose of master’s level studies, which is oriented toward mastery of a certain area of knowledge, or the purpose of undergraduate studies, which is oriented toward the consumption of knowledge. Ph.D. programs assume that both mastery and an extensive consumption of knowledge, particularly of related or cognate fields within an area of study, have already been accomplished. Doctoral coursework as such is therefore oriented toward an apprenticeship in knowledge production that moves a person from “student” to “candidate,” with the goal of becoming a peer among other practitioners within the discipline. Doctoral coursework is therefore designed so that students might assimilate to a discipline of thought and learning by engaging the length and breadth of the scholarly literature with which they need to be familiar as they prepare to undertake their own scholarship, above all in their doctoral dissertation.

In 2006, St. Thomas University's Ph.D. in Practical Theology was formally approved by its accrediting body (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SACS) and began offering its first courses that fall. The program is one of seven Ph.D. programs in Practical Theology in the United States. The others are at Boston University School of Theology, Claremont School of Theology, Emory University, Garrett-Evangelical School of Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University (http://www.practicaltheology.org).

The Ph.D. program in practical theology at St. Thomas University is the only such program at a Catholic university. It is also the only doctoral specialization offered by St. Thomas University’s School of Theology and Ministry. While other Ph.D. programs offer relatively few of its Ph.D. courses in practical theology, all doctoral coursework and all faculty at St. Thomas University are uniquely focused on practical theology, where practical theology is a point of entry into all theological study.

St. Thomas University’s unique location in South Florida enables students to draw on the rich cultural resources of the Miami area, a meeting point of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. We also offer unique perspectives and approaches from within the Catholic tradition in practical theology, while thoroughly engaging the broader practical theological tradition. The doctoral program and School as a whole is immensely and intentionally enriched by confessional diversity—as well as by racial, ethnic, language, cultural, and all other forms of diversity represented by our students. All are welcome to our Catholic university and our “catholic” approach to advanced, cross-disciplinary practical theological study.