First Things has a list ranking theological gradschools for those having a hard time trying to figure out who they’re looking for. I have some serious misgivings with it (lacunae, passing over cons, etc.), but still, it is something. The top five are:
1. Duke Divinity
2. Notre Dame
3. Princeton and 4. Wycliffe College/Toronto
Unfortunately this list misses a great deal. For instance, it glosses over the fact, that if I hear rightly, Hauerwas is done taking PhD students. And Hays isn’t getting any younger. Duke has made some excellent hires (i.e. Paul Griffiths), but the future is their biggest hurdle. The next five to ten years will tell if they will maintain their current status and perhaps even develop a ‘Duke school’.
The list also misses some of ‘liberal’ protestantism. Yes, I hear Harvard Div is a mess right now, with even faculty rumored to have had shouting matches in the halls, but I know for a fact that Union meets the list maker’s ideals and Fordham is moving up, not back.
The way this list works is simple, if you like First Things, you’ll like this list. But that is nothing new. This is the way lists go today: they point to a persuasion or school of thought. Lists have a bias. They’re supposed to have a bias because there is a telos involved.
So what good is this list, other than the fact that R.R. Reno likes Marquette? This is at best a spring board. Those of you looking for a solid school to match your interests could find much worse lists. Reno certainly takes into account a plurality of factors (but not enough I think, like finances). However, do not let this list be the end of your own list.
Some may find it surprising how much work it will take to apply for a position: a good list of schools, communication with professors, visiting schools, talking to current students in the institution, etc. The application process is indeed daunting, but without a good list that assumes purpose, soul searching, and research among other things, you won’t get anywhere.
How do you begin constructing your own list? Remember, the game has changed: once you get high enough up the academic learning ladder, you match your interests to the interests of an institution. Fit is vital. Of course each institution should have a flourishing and healthy atmosphere that is both financially supportive and has a respected past, these stipulations I cannot stress enough, but ultimately, if there is an institution on your list where you don’t fit, and if you miraculously get in, you’ll wither inside.