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Master of Arts in Religious Traditions of Asia and the Pacific
Graduate Program Overview

Aloha! We are delighted that you are interested in our M.A. program in the Religious Traditions of Asia and the Pacific! We believe that we offer one of the best opportunities in the United States (and the world) for in-depth graduate study in the religions of South Asia, China, Japan, Hawai’i, and the Pacific.

As an M.A. student, you will work closely with experts in the field as you gain skills in the study of religion, specific religious traditions, as well as language proficiency in your chosen field. Completion of a traditional thesis (Plan A) or creative project (Plan B) represents the culmination of your academic experience. In both cases, you will engage in original research under the close supervision of a faculty member.

Our graduates emerge well-prepared for future academic study at the Ph.D. level, or for careers in a range of fields including pastoral work, social work, politics, and cultural/creative fields.

Religion Graduate Chair





Marie Alohalani Brown (

Graduate Curriculum in Detail

The department has two graduate program plans leading to the MA degree: a thesis-based track (Plan A) and a project-based track (Plan B). Both plans are designed as two-year programs.

Required Courses

Under both plans, students will have an opportunity to carry out in-depth research in Asian and/or Pacific religions. 30 credits are required (excluding courses used to fulfill language requirements), including the following six courses (18 credits):

●        REL 600 History and Theory of the Study of Religion (3)

●        REL 601 Sacred Space (3)

●        REL 602 The Study of the Ways Religion is Practiced (3)

●        REL 603 The Study of New Religious Movements (3)

●        REL 604 Indigenous Religions & Decolonial Theories and Methods (3)

●        REL 605 Healing in the Religious Traditions of Asia and the Pacific (3)


Electives consist of any course in the department (400-level and above, excluding 499). Two complementary graduate courses (3 credits each) from other disciplines may be accepted at the discretion of the thesis advisor and graduate chair. No more than two 400-level courses may be used to satisfy this requirement. Any courses from outside the department must be approved by the graduate advisor or committee chair.


Students are required to complete two years of an Asian or Pacific language closely connected to their research. The choice must be approved by the thesis advisor and graduate chair. The grade for the fourth semester of language study must be a B-minus or better.

This language requirement will be waived for students demonstrating language proficiency by an equivalency exam. An exam will be set by the student’s advisor and assessed by two faculty readers (one from within the department and one from a department in which the language is taught).

Upper-division language courses must be approved by the graduate chair in order to count towards the 30 credits required for an MA in Religion. Students cannot use any language course to satisfy both graduate credit and language requirements.

Graduate Plans Overview

Master's Plan A (Thesis)

Students choosing Plan A will complete an original thesis, demonstrating a mastery of advanced research, analytic, and discursive skills. Plan A students must complete six units of REL 700 (thesis research). A maximum of 3 credits per semester for a total of 6 credits of REL 700, usually taken over two semesters is required. Students must be admitted to candidacy and must complete 12 credits before they can register for REL 700.

Candidates who accumulate the maximum number of thesis research credit hours but fail to complete the thesis must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour of thesis research at the beginning of the term in which all requirements for the degree will be completed.

Advancement to Candidacy: Candidacy may be granted after completing 12 credits toward the degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and the completion of the language requirement. Each candidate must form a committee of three members of the graduate faculty, one of whom is from outside the department. Faculty members reserve the right not to serve on a thesis committee.

After submission of a completed thesis to the committee for its consideration, a candidate must undergo an oral examination on the subject of the thesis. Once the final revisions have been submitted, the majority vote of the committee members, including the chairperson, must approve the thesis.  A candidate whose thesis does not pass may be re-examined once, provided the thesis passes committee review within one calendar year of the initial examination.

Master's Plan A (Thesis)

The Plan B degree program provides students with a non-thesis opportunity for graduate research and study in Asian or Pacific religions. Plan B is designed for students who wish to articulate the results of their research in innovative ways using various available technologies. In place of a thesis, the culminating requirement is an original research project (see below).


Master’s Plan B Procedures

  1. Preliminary conference with the graduate chair for the purpose of determining an advisor, proposed courses to fulfill the requirements, and the foreign language for the degree.
  2. Plan B students must complete three units of REL 688 (Plan B research).
  3. Candidacy for Plan B students requires a memo from the graduate chair indicating that 12 graduate credits have been taken with a GPA of 3.0 or better and that the student has prepared a preliminary proposal and secured the support of two graduate faculty members from the department to serve on their committee. Committee members will approve, supervise, and evaluate the project as completed in REL 688 (Plan B Research).
  4.  Completion of a research project demonstrating a critical understanding of religion in a particular area of Asia or the Pacific or of a topic within the overall region. The project should reveal original insights into selected religious phenomena or areas of concentration. Students will be expected to present the results of their research in innovative ways that utilize the arts, various media, or developing technologies and thereby show their relevance to scholarly discourse. Research projects will be presented in a public forum during the student’s final semester.

Department of Religions & Ancient Civilizations Sakamaki Hall, Room A311
2530 Dole Street, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822
Office Hours M-F  8:00 AM – 4 PM
(808) 956-8299 /

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