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Explore our Social Innovation Initiatives

CertificateofSpiritualityandSocialChange
MasterofArtsinSocialTransformation
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Ignite Institute
Orange tree in a circle.

Orange tree in a circle.

Pacific School of Religion has been designated as a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka U for being a leader in social innovation education. Pacific School of Religion will join the Changemaker Campus Network—a dynamic, global network of students, faculty, and fellows who share inspiration, connections and support.

Since 2008, around 40 colleges and universities from around the world have become Changemaker Campuses including Brown University, Duke University, Dublin City University, and the University of Maryland.

Pacific School of Religion (PSR) is a progressive, multidenominational seminary and center for social justice located in Berkeley, California.  Drawing on the strength of wisdom traditions, the prophetic voice of social movements, and Bay Area innovation, PSR prepares a diverse cadre of spiritually rooted leaders with the skills to envision and bring about a more just and compassionate world.

Borders and Identity

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas (center) recently spoke at our Borders and Identity conference.

“We are delighted to become the first seminary to be designated a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka U,” said David Vásquez-Levy, President of PSR.  “The rigorous selection process has itself already strengthened our ability to make our education more of a world-changing experience for our students, and brought us into partnerships with leading educational institutions around the world.  This process has also affirmed the critical contribution our spiritually rooted leadership formation can offer the network and the world, by preparing leaders with the capacity to reframe the issues of our day, sustain themselves and their communities, and effectively bring about meaningful change.”

For more than 150 years, Pacific School of Religion has been committed to the goal of social transformation. PSR students and faculty members have been David giving a speech at a table with three people watching.leaders in many movements for social change, from organizing against Japanese American internment camps, to participating in the civil rights movement, to taking a moral stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline. PSR founded the first center for the study of LGBTQ issues in religion at a seminary in 2000 and recently launched the Ignite Institute, which is a hub for innovation at the intersection of spirituality and social justice.

Three conference attendees smiling for a group photoEducation at PSR prepares students to make deep systems and framework change in the world.  This is because the big questions of the meaning of existence – what has ultimate value, what gives our lives meaning, and how we choose to move in the world – is the fundamental underpinning of work, engagement with national policies, and our daily lives.

PSR students are trained to be innovative social entrepreneurs and intra-preneurs – some are creating new organizations and scholarship in the world that focuses on social justice, and some are learning the skills to lead change within the 2000-year-old institution of the church, to support thriving for all.

Two women holding up immigration justice signs.According to the Ashoka U selection report:  “PSR is at the forefront of redefining the seminary experience in the 21st century and shaping the intersection of religion and social innovation. Realizing the importance of religion and spirituality in shaping public life, PSR views itself in a powerful role to empower its community to drive systems and framework change.”

Ashoka U catalyzes social innovation and changemaking in higher education through a global network of entrepreneurial students, faculty and community leaders. Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where “Everyone is a Changemaker,” Ashoka U takes an institutional change approach to ultimately impact the education of millions of students. Ashoka U collaborates with colleges and universities to break down barriers to institutional change and foster a campus-wide culture of social innovation.

Certificates and Degrees focused on Social Innovation

View all our certificates and degrees here

CertificateofSpiritualityandSocialChange

Pacific School of Religion’s Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change offers specialized training for the work of social changemaking. Participants come from and prepare for a wide range of socially innovative vocational paths, whether social justice advocacy, community organizing, the visual and performing arts, or congregational leadership. In each of these arenas, effective efforts for social change rely on ongoing personal change and transformation rooted in a practice of spiritual formation.

MasterofArtsinSocialTransformationThe 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.


Centers

CLGS Logo

The first center at a seminary dedicated to advancing the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender people, the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies (CLGS) offers students the possibility to learn about and discuss issues of religion and sexuality through the Certificate of Sexuality and Religion and to participate in immersive experiences, including “Engaging Communities of Liberation” in Cuernavaca, Mexico. CLGS is invested in fostering community building across and within religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender, race and class.

The Ignite Institute was founded in 2014 by Pacific School of Religion as a hub for innovative new programs connecting spirituality, leadership, and social changemaking. The Ignite Institute has hosted webinars on spiritually rooted responses to Standing Rock, Sanctuary, and #BlackLivesMatter. Ignite also offers a range of co-curricular programming for PSR students and those in the broader community around active empathy; constructive dialogue around contentious topics; and spiritual practice for social change, with audiences ranging from high school students to recent retirees.


Community Engaged Learning

In our multicultural and multireligious world, effective leadership requires knowledge, perspective and skill that comes from engagement with diverse communities and contexts. Community Engaged Learning (CEL) links theological education with local and international communities.  CEL courses and programs create experiences to foster the reciprocal ways that self and culture, social forces, and institutions shape and give meaning to  life and work.  CEL provides immersive education including year-long internships, semester-long immersions in change work and social entrepreneurship, and local, global, sustainable cross-cultural immersions from two weeks to three months. Through online Theological Education for Leadership CEL also makes progressive and critical Christian theological education accessible and off “Holy Hill” in Berkeley to communities, churches and individuals around the world.