Academic Programs

Progress & Evaluation

Progress Toward a Degree

The M.Div/M.Min. degree program should be completed within eight years when taken in the residential format and within ten years when completed in the ESR Access format. Students who change from one format to the other will be governed by the program they are in at the time they apply for graduation. If additional time is needed, an application for a one-year extension will be considered by faculty. To complete the residential M.Div./M.Min. degree in three years the student must take nine courses each year. Normally, a student will take no more than four courses (12 hours) in a semester, though by petition, a course overload may be taken. Other courses toward the 27 hours may be taken as intensive courses. Students may take only one course per intensive. To complete the degree in its ESR Access version, a student must take 15-18 credit hours each year.

The M.A. program, including the thesis, should be completed within five years from the time the student first matriculates. If added time is needed, an application for a one-year extension will be considered by faculty. To complete the M.A. in two years, it is necessary to take at least eighteen semester hours each year. ESR’s Academic Calendar includes an August Intensive, a Fall Semester, a January Intensive, a Spring Semester, and a May Intensive.

A student who withdraws or who takes a leave of absence from the program for more than two years must reapply and may need to take additional course work to complete the degree. International students are required by U.S. law to be enrolled full time each semester.

Admission to Degree Candidacy

Admission to a program of study does not imply admission to degree candidacy. The faculty reviews each student at the end of his or her first semester, and again at the end of the second semester. If, from these reviews or later ones, the faculty has concerns about the future success of the student in their program of study, the Dean will raise these concerns with the student in a private meeting. The faculty will then review the student each semester until the concerns are resolved.

The most serious review for the M.Div./M.Min. student comes at the point of faculty approval of the student for Supervised Ministry. This usually takes place in the year prior to the student’s beginning Supervised Ministry the next academic year. Approval for Supervised Ministry is simultaneously admission to candidacy for the M.Div./M.Min. degree.

The most serious review for the M.A. student comes at the point of his or her submission of an M.A. thesis proposal to the faculty. The student may not submit this prior to having completed fifteen semester hours of work beyond the prerequisite courses for the M.A., and the student should submit it as soon as possible after completing these fifteen hours. At this time, the faculty does a thorough review of the M.A. student’s academic progress as well as an evaluation of the proposal. Approval of the thesis proposal and the appointment of the student’s M.A. Guidance Committee, also done at this meeting, constitute admission of the student to degree candidacy.

Academic Evaluation

ESR is committed to an educational philosophy suited for adult education. Optimal learning occurs when teacher and students are engaged and motivated, rather than responding to pressures to achieve certain pre-set standards. With this goal in mind, ESR abandoned the traditional letter grading system. Instead, it now employs a credit/no-credit system, with written narrative evaluations. To receive “Credit,” the student’s performance must be at a level that would be equivalent to a B- in another graduate institution. This descriptive method of academic evaluation focuses attention on specific qualities of an individual student’s academic work in specific courses. The aim is to provide assessments that the serious student can use to maximize his or her learning and to provide content descriptions about areas of excellence and needed improvement. This type of learning environment is proving to be superior for ministry preparation.

Evaluation for Graduation

Candidates for both the M.A. and the M.Div./M.Min. degrees are required to meet certain standards of evaluation prior to the student’s graduation.

1) Two required courses in the final year of study of the M.Div./M.Min. degree program contribute greatly to the faculty’s evaluation of students for graduation. Candidates for this degree must successfully complete the requirements of the Comprehensive Seminar (SC 380, see page 43) or take and pass written or oral comprehensive examinations. No course credit will be given for the examination; thus one elective must be added if the exam is taken. M.Div./M.Min. students must also demonstrate ability to perform in a chosen area of ministry through successful completion of Supervised Ministry. (SC 370, see page 44)

2) M.A. students must present an acceptable thesis project and successfully pass a comprehensive oral examination.

3) M.Div./M.Min. candidates must have completed at least twenty-seven semester hours of their work in residence at ESR. M.A. students must have completed at least twelve semester hours in residence.

4) Students who have been placed on academic probation must have improved their performance and have been removed from probation.

5) All candidates must have demonstrated during their experience at ESR personal growth and qualifications fitting to the nature of the work symbolized by the degree to be granted.


Students who do not comply with the standards of the School of Religion, either for academic performance or personal behavior, may be dismissed by the Dean with the approval of the faculty. The faculty may recommend that a student be suspended or placed on probation while determining fitness for remaining in the School. Reasons for dismissal include, but are not limited to, plagiarism, inability to make satisfactory progress toward the degree, failure to maintain a minimum graduate level academic performance, failure to successfully complete Supervised Ministry, nonpayment of tuition, or harassment of students, faculty, or staff.