For centuries, religious and spiritual leaders have built justice-making communities, rooted in compassion and generosity. To this day, individuals and communities engaged in social transformation embrace multiple, overlapping concerns, from fostering economic and racial justice to promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability.

The social and religious complexities of today’s globalized world demand careful and sustained analysis for social transformation. Effective strategies for social change must rely on an interdisciplinary approach that integrates critical thinking and research with innovative methods for community organizing. Effective leaders will employ these strategies to catalyze collaboration among non-profit organizations, social innovators, and faith communities for a transformed world of social and economic justice, as well as thriving ecosystems, where all can flourish.

PSR’s Master of Arts degree in Social Transformation (MAST) equips students to think critically about socio-political dynamics and reflect constructively on the role played by religion and theological traditions in movements for social change. This academic program combines the tools and methods of social theory and constructive theology for a distinctive blend of spiritual leadership skills in a rapidly changing world.

Each MAST student works closely with a faculty advisor and a social innovation field work supervisor to devise a course of study leading to an applied project in social transformation. The program prepares students for a wide range of vocational paths, whether in social justice advocacy, non-profit organizational leadership, community organizing and education, or congregational development.

PSR offers a unique history in progressive religious leadership and a richly diverse location, both geographically and in a multi-faith consortium, for this specialized field of study and preparation. MAST students will draw on PSR’s resources to integrate and develop three broad skill sets:

• Methods for social theorizing and ethical analysis;
• Tools for constructive theological reflection and spiritual practice;
• Strategies for collaborative community organizing and network building.

MAST students can add PSR certificate programs to the degree, such as the Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change (CSSC) or the Certificate of Sexuality and Religion (CSR). These combinations usually require additional credit hours but many of the courses can be applied across these programs. Flexible learning options (online and hybrid courses, summer and January term intensives, weekend workshops and seminars) enable students to earn this degree part-time and with minimal residency requirements while still participating in a vibrant cohort of colleagues.

Courses for the MAST are offered by regular and adjunct faculty at Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union as well as partner schools and organizations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to regularly offered courses, field work and immersive learning opportunities are designed and arranged through Ignite @ PSR in collaboration with PSR’s Office of Field Education and Contextual Learning.

All of these offerings incorporate the practice of social transformation in the critical analysis of text, tradition, and community. A successful completion of this degree will prepare students to:

• Engage in cultural and political analysis both theologically and ethically, especially for insights into structural inequality, systemic injustice, and institutionalized oppressions;
• Assess, evaluate, and help to prepare faith communities to engage in collaborative partnerships with programs and organizations devoted to systemic social change for the common good;
• Articulate the unique contributions theological and ethical traditions can make to the work of social changemaking in specific sectors, such as economic justice and development, and ecological sustainability;
• Evaluate and appropriate diverse, interdisciplinary strategies for changemaking drawn from the worlds of social innovation, non-profit organizations, and grass-roots community organizing;
• Build and foster communities marked by cross-cultural humility and devoted to collaborative problem solving for transforming social systems of oppressive power.

MAST students complete course work equal to 39.0 credit hours (of these 6.0 credit hours are in field work with a mentor and 3.0 are devoted to a special project). The program can be completed in slightly less than two academic years and participants have a maximum of five years to finish the requirements. Two required seminars, core courses in social theory, ethics, and theology, and social change field work frame the program, which culminates in either a thesis or a portfolio project for social transformation. The student’s faculty advisor, in consultation with the Director of the MAST program, works with each student to devise a plan for completing the program based on the participant’s interests, faculty resources, and available internship sites.

Required Seminars (6.0 credits)

MAST students join with participants in the Certificate in Spirituality and Social Change program and enroll in two required seminars offered each academic year:

1. Spiritual Formation for Leadership (3.0 credits, usually offered in the fall semester), is co-taught by PSR faculty. This seminar introduces a variety of spiritual practices, opportunities to engage in them with colleagues, and relate such spiritual formation to critical social analysis and theological reflection.
2. Transformational Leadership (3.0 credits, usually offered in the spring semester), surveys and develops the knowledge and skills needed to lead organizations, communities, and movements of social change. PSR faculty and social change leaders from the wider community present the diversity of approaches to this kind of leadership and methods for effective social transformation.

Core Courses in Social Theory, Ethics, and Theology (18.0 credits)

MAST students combine courses equally from the fields of social theory, ethics, and theology:

1. Social Theory/Religion & Society (2 courses or 6.0 credit hours; at least one of these courses at the 4000 level or higher. Fields: RS).
2. Religious and Philosophical Ethics (2 courses or 6 credit hours; at least one of these courses at the 4000 level or higher. Fields: CE).
3. Theology (Philosophical, Systematic, Practical) (2 courses or 6 credit hours; at least one of these courses at the 4000 level or higher and at least one in practical theology. Fields for theology: ST, PH, PT; Fields for practical theology: RA, SP, EL, FT,HM, LS, PS, ED). 

For each course used for the core requirement, a MAST Core and Electives Learning Outcomes form must be submitted.

Social Change Electives (6.0 credit hours)

These elective courses may be taken in any field, though they must be approved by the student’s advisor. These electives may also include specialized study with a particular faculty member in the form of a Special Reading Course, or an SRC 9999 (students may not use more than 9.0 SRC 9999 credit hours for the program). For every elective taken, a MAST Core and Electives Learning Outcomes form must be submitted.

Supervised Internship and SAIL Project (9.0 credits)

In consultation with the Director of Field Education, students will begin identifying a social change field work placement in a social venture or social justice organization early on in their program and engage in that work beginning in their second semester (or after completing at least 12 credit hours of course work). Students already working in an area of social change may apply to have that work counted toward this field work requirement. In some cases, a series of “immersive learning” experiences in a particular area of social change can count toward this requirement as well.

1. Social Change Field Work (6.0 credits): Field work in the MAST program provides social-change locations in varying fields (economics, ecology, racial and ethnic justice, among others) in which to test and further hone the academic theorizing of the program’s core courses. The courses associated with the field work will provide opportunities to refine the student’s skills for engaging in theological/ethical reflection with the tools of social analysis.
2. The Social Analysis and Innovative Leadership (SAIL) Project (3.0 credits): The MAST program culminates with either a thesis project (involving research, analysis, and constructive proposals) or a summative and integrative portfolio project. In consultation with the internship supervisor and faculty advisor, the summative project includes elements such as: a detailed social analysis of the sector engaged at the internship placement; an evaluation of the opportunities and challenges for the work to move forward; constructive theological proposals for the role religious/spiritual leadership plays in that sector; and an evaluation of the student’s own vocational path and skills that would contribute to this work. Download a draft of the SAIL syllabus as well as an assessment rubric by which the student’s SAIL capstone will be evaluated.

Program Manual

Student Policies Catalog

Statement of Understanding

MAST Worksheet

MAST Approved List of Courses

MAST Learning Outcomes Form