In 1941 the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities of the Apostolic See designated the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies an Ecclesiastical Faculty of Theology with authorization to confer ecclesiastical degrees; this was only the second such faculty in the United States (after The Catholic University of America). Presently operating under the provisions of the apostolic constitution Sapienta Christiana (1979), the House of Studies is authorized to grant the degrees Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.), Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) and Doctor of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.).
The Dominican House of Studies is heir to a long-standing tradition of theological excellence and preaching, and is linked to other Dominican centers of study throughout the world. A center for theological studies was established in 1834 in Somerset, Ohio, as the first studium generale of the Dominican Order in the United States. At the end of the nineteenth century, discussions began about moving the studium from Ohio to a location on the East Coast; the provincial chapter of 1892 ordained that the studium be located in New Haven, Connecticut near Yale University. In 1902, the new provincial, Fr. Lawrence Kearney, determined that Washington, D.C. would be the site for the institution, now called the Dominican House of Studies, preferably near the newly-established Catholic University of America, thus conforming to the historic Dominican practice of establishing studia in major university settings. The groundbreaking for the new building on Bunker Hill Road (now Michigan Avenue) took place on 23 April 1903, with James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia and Father Kearney officiating.