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Academic Program Overview

The Wisdom School of Graduate Studies is committed to personal and professional renewal. Our highly differentiated pedagogy, learning methods, and curriculum focus on nurturing the whole person. Because the whole person is nurtured, the integration of discernment and compassion is enhanced.

Wisdom degree programs assist you in both your spiritual development and in your professional capacities, and help you to deepen your personal transformation, hone your leadership skills, and prepare you for greater service to your community.

Our programs also invite you to respond to the challenges of our time. We live in a day when modern values of consumption and dualistic relations with nature have led to a degeneration of life for all beings. Nothing less than a change in perspective will enable us to make better choices and shape the future in a way that is sustainable. Wisdom's programs offer a vision and a practice that can awaken your imagination for transformation and assist in your personal renewal.

Distinction Between the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) Degrees

The basic distinction between the two degrees lies in the purpose and function of the degree.

• The DMin degree, much like an M.D. for doctors or a J.D. for lawyers, is a functional degree for people interested in the pastoral or healing professions. Traditionally, a DMin degree is for those who want to enter a religious denomination. More recently, DMin degrees have been sought by those interested in the broader healing and pastoral professions or for a deep inquiry into their own spiritual path.

• A Ph.D. degree is considered a secular research degree and is not necessarily tied to religious affiliation or any other functional area. It must contain a comprehensive literature review and constitute an original piece of work. The Ph.D. is more rigorous than the DMin, requiring twelve Intensives rather than ten, and a formal defense of the dissertation in an Oral Examination at the conclusion of the dissertation process. The Ph.D. degree is generally sought by those who are seeking to reach the highest level of scholarly research in a particular area of interest.

Both head and heart are needed in equal measure for both degrees. This is an important point because the head/heart continuum is a central aspect of The Wisdom School of Graduate Studies. All of our Intensives, like all of our degree programs, challenge the student to balance head, heart, body and soul. We also emphasize the balance between subjective evaluation and objective knowledge in all the papers that students are required to write, including their doctoral dissertations. That is why we balance the seminar in the morning with the transformational art in the afternoon, and begin each day with sacred practice, finishing with an integration session. We seek an integrated learning experience. Both DMin and Ph.D. students choose from the same classes. The distinction between them lies in the nature and purpose of their doctoral dissertations.

Please review the Dissertation Manual for further details on requirements for both the Ph.D. and the DMin degrees. Both the Dean of Students and the Dean of Doctoral Studies will have important perspectives as well and can advise on what degree program might be the most appropriate for you.

Program Prerequisites

All students must have a Bachelor's degree, or life-equivalency, to apply for a Wisdom degree program. Enrolled students are encouraged to take the required core seminar courses as early as they can. Students are also expected to comply with all admissions, degree and registration requirements, as listed in the Academic Programs section for each specific program.

Credit Hours of Instruction

Students are granted four (4) credits for each week-long Intensive (Monday - Friday) and two (2) credits for each weekend Intensive (Friday - Sunday). Each credit unit amounts to roughly 15 hours of instruction. Credits are applied for the Intensive as a whole, rather than to the specific activities within an Intensive. To receive credit for an Intensive, students must participate fully each day of the Intensive in Sacred Practice, Seminar, Transformational Art, and Integration Session.


Our Intensives allow for the intellectual intimacy and deep spiritual work that is the basis of real learning. Our experience is that when faculty and students come together all day every day, especially in a residential retreat setting, the learning is both deeper and more personally transformative. Throughout the intensive, students and faculty work together to integrate “inner work” with “outer work.” In this way, the university reclaims the ancient meaning of a Wisdom School, as it engages the learning community in working together toward personal and social transformation.

A typical five day Intensive schedule includes:

8:45 AM - Students Gather for Announcements

9:00 - 9:30 AM - Sacred Practice

9:30 - 12:30 AM - Seminar

2:00 - 5:00 PM - Transformational Art

5:00 - 5:30 PM - Integration Session

Many of our faculty prefer blended courses, where the Seminar and Transformational Art are integrated into a continuum throughout the day. What remains a constant commitment is a full immersion of inner and outer, left and right hemispheric learning, physical and emotional, intellectual and creative—all these aspects are accentuated at various times during the Intensive so that the over-all learning is deeper, more durable, and more holistically transformational. One or more Intensives are generally held each month year around. Students are referred to the Class Schedule for detailed information about Intensive dates and venues.

Core Courses

Each student at The Wisdom School of Graduate Studies is required to take three “core” courses. Each doctoral student is required to take an additional course in “Doctoral Writing and Research Methods” as they prepare for writing their dissertations. In selecting which courses are required for all students, we use the metaphor of an archer drawing back a bow. The farther the bow is drawn back, the farther the arrow will fly forward. In this spirit, our core courses accentuate the depth of wisdom as it emerged from deep antiquity. We want each student to go back as deeply as they can so that they can interface with the contemporary world from a solid grounding in the ancient traditions and in a manner that is catalytic to personal transformation, which is the goal of all the mystics and the wisdom traditions.

Our core courses required of all students comprise the following:

1. Wisdom and Civilization, which is taught each year. We recommend that students take this course as early in their studies as they can because it provides the overview of the journey of wisdom from ancient times to the present day with an emphasis on the perennial wisdom and wisdom as a way of life.

2. Any course offered in Earth Wisdom and the Primordial Mind. This is important because beneath the wisdom of human civilization is the wisdom of the earth herself and the tellurgic energies of the sacred sites discerned so profoundly by the indigenous peoples around the world.

3. Any course offered in the Mystics and Specific Wisdom Traditions. We offer a range of courses in the ancient mystics and in the world traditions, any one of which will provide you with a deep perspective on the eternal verities and the perennial questions of justice, ethics and how we should understand our place in the cosmic order of life.

In addition to these core courses, ALL DOCTORAL STUDENTS must take the Doctoral Writing and Research Methods course, which is offered annually. This course prepares doctoral students for writing their dissertations.

In the class schedule, the core courses are indicated so that students can have a range of choices while still remaining within the energetic heart of what The Wisdom School of Graduate Studies stands for and what we want to impart to all our students as they sojourn with us. In addition to the core courses, students are encouraged to follow their intuition and take any and all courses that speak to their heart.

Full Spectrum Programming

In addition to our in-person Intensives, The Wisdom School of Graduate Studies offers a range of online opportunities, from courses that are archived and available any time, to courses that are live and involve various media presentations. The university encourages students to experience the full range of our offerings on our class schedule. These include in-person Intensives, live Virtual Retreats, live TeleSeminars, monthly phone calls, and pilgrimages.

Public Auditing

Our alumni, students who have completed their course-work requirements and the general public are welcome to audit our Intensives. Those auditing are expected to:

1. Read the required readings for seminars prior to the class.

2. Attend classes all five days to maintain continuity and integrity of the class.

3. Respect that fully enrolled students in the program have first priority to be in dialogue with faculty.

Cancellation Policy and Refund Provisions

Students have the right to cancel their Enrollment Agreement for the program of instruction, as outlined in the Enrollment Agreement, at any time. Cancellation of the Enrollment Agreement occurs when a student provides written notice of withdrawal to the university.

The written notice of withdrawal, if sent by mail or email, is effective the date it is sent to our office. Withdrawing students will be provided a Notice of Withdrawal form to complete and submit to the Registrar. By completing the Withdrawal Request Form, the student will ensure that they have met all State and University requirements, and will be protected from problems that may arise in the future.

Refunds on tuition for Intensives not completed due to withdrawal, or due to a cancellation for any other reason, will be computed on a pro rata basis based on the number of days completed in the Intensive, after the assessment of a $250 cancellation fee.

International Student Visas

The Wisdom School of Graduate Studies does not pay for or directly obtain Visas for international students. This is because student visas are only issued for schools operating on the semester or quarter system in which foreign students come to the United States for an extended period of time. Wisdom courses are modular, lasting for one week, and thus a student visa is very difficult to obtain. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security extends student visas only to institutions accredited through the U.S. Department of Education. It does not recognize international accreditation. Please contact Jim Garrison in advance if you will be attending a Wisdom School of Graduate Studies course in the US, but live outside of the US.

Protecting Student Privacy

The Wisdom School of Graduate Studies is committed to protecting you from any incursion of your privacy. Information about you is never sold or given at random to outside agencies that wish to solicit your business.

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