Favorite Classes at HDS: Part 2

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Editor’s Note: This post is the final post of our two-part series highlighting some of the wonderful courses that HDS has to offer. Be sure to take a look at part one of the Favorite Classes at HDS series. If you are interested in exploring more of the course offerings at HDS, please note that the course catalog is public! You can check it out here.  

Alex Jensen MDiv’21 He/Him/His 

I would say, for me, Field Education is some of the most enriching coursework I’ve done at HDS each year of my program. Even though it’s a broader class and so site-specific, I would say it’s helpful in integrating thoughts and ideas from other classes into ministry and service in ways I might not otherwise see. 

Jessica Young Chang MDiv’22 She/Her/Hers 

Theories and Methods of the Study of Religion, surprisingly! While it’s an incredibly challenging class, David Holland and the graduate teacher fellows are accessible, thoughtful, and responsive. Also, the content and theory in the class continue to reflect into other work I’m doing in ways that are consistently useful and surprising. It took a lot of effort, but I’m so glad that I took it. 

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Favorite Classes at HDS: Part 1

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Editor’s Note: With so many course options, it can be difficult for students to narrow down which classes to take during their short time in graduate school. This blog post part one of a two-part series highlighting some of our current student’s favorite HDS classes. You can read part 2 here. Please note that these are just a few of the great courses HDS offers! The HDS Course Catalog is public, you can check out the other courses offered here. 

Reem Shaikh MTS ’21 She/Her/Hers 

Hadith Jibril: An introduction to the theological, legal, and spiritual dimensions of Islam. I really enjoyed this class because it allowed me to take a break from academia and rather approach religion from a spiritual perspective, which kept me rooted to my love for what I study.” 

Rebecca Mendoza Nunziato MTS’22 She/Her/Ella 

Moctezuma’s Mexico is an incredible course that has helped me connect to my own heritage while also clarifying my research interests. It has been especially interesting to discuss the differences of social stratification, gender, and pandemics then and now.” 

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What’s at Stake? Important Questions to Consider at DivEx, HDS, and Beyond

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Post by Nathan Samayo

Editor’s Note: This week at HDS we are hosting our annual Diversity and Explorations (DivEx) event, which is a 3-day introduction to Harvard Divinity School and the programs we offer. DivEx is geared towards current undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in exploring divinity school. In this post, former DivEx participant and current HDS student, Nathan Samayo, reflects on his personal and academic background and how participating in the DivEx program has impacted his journey at HDS. 

What a critical time it is to be applying to Harvard Divinity School. A contentious election creeps around the corner whose result could either continue America’s dissonance to its long history of anti-Black racism and xenophobia, or a result that will, as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “let our democracy live another day.” We see on our local and social medias the uprisings from marginal communities and allies who denounce state-sanctioned violence, white supremacy that has seeped into every facet of public life, and the legacy of colonialism that altered the land that white America now occupies. We are becoming products of a historical moment where a pandemic has and continues to alter our ordinary lives, bringing to light how broken America’s systems of education, economy, and healthcare have been operating. All these issues and realities ask a similar question—what is at stake? What values and ethics guide us as we advocate and protest for new tangible conditions in hopes of a reconciled world? These questions will be asked to you if you decide to come to Harvard Divinity School, a community committed to transforming you into the change agent you want to be. 

Photo Courtesy of Nathan Samayo
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Curious About Entrepreneurship? Meet the Harvard Innovation Labs

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Editor’s Note: Our students have access to a variety of resources at HDS and across Harvard. Here, we’re spotlighting one of those resources, with an interview with Alexa Barry, the Harvard Innovation Labs Community Coordinator. 

What are the Harvard Innovation Labs? 

First, thank you for interviewing me! I’m excited to connect with prospective Harvard Divinity School students! Harvard Innovation Labs (the “i-lab” for short) is a hub for innovation that connects, supports, and inspires the next generation of leaders, and is a fantastic resource for any full-time, degree-seeking Harvard student. We are actually three distinct labs: The i-lab is open to students at any Harvard school, at any stage of the entrepreneurial journey; Launch Lab X GEO is our accelerator for alumni-led, early-stage venture teams anywhere in the world; and the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab supports students, faculty, and alumni working on high-potential life sciences and biotech startups. Whether you have a startup or just want to start thinking like an entrepreneur, we can help. We’re also an incredibly diverse community, and we’re proud to have hosted venture teams with founders from more than 120 countries. 

Photo Courtesy of Alexa Barry

Why is the i-lab’s primary goal? 

Our purpose is to inspire cross-disciplinary connection and venture creation amongst all Harvard students, as well as alumni and faculty. We do this three ways: 

  • Diverse Connections: We aim to create a cross-disciplinary community of innovators and entrepreneurs from all 13 Harvard schools, with a focus on bringing together undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni from a wide variety of backgrounds, life experiences, and areas of expertise. 
  • Experiential Learning: We connect students and alumni with people and resources that can help them move their ideas and ventures forward. 
  • Psychological Safety: We work hard to create a supportive environment that truly nurtures entrepreneurs and innovative ideas. We help students think like entrepreneurs, and we strive to create a sense of connection and belonging.  

Another thing that I’d offer is that being a founder can get lonely! But by creating new points of access to thinkers and founders from many communities and areas of expertise, the i-lab community acts as a kind of beehive for collaboration.  

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Reflections on Applying to HDS: Surrender

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Post by Patrick Downes, MDiv ‘23 

Editor’s Note: For students who have been out of school for a few years or are well into their careers, applying to divinity school can be an especially difficult decision. Here is a piece from one of our current MDiv students, Patrick Downes, about his experience deciding to apply to HDS. For a more directed approach to the application process, including a suggested timeline, please see this earlier post from July 2020. 

Forest Park in Queens // Photo Courtesy of Patrick Downes

What becomes of a person who flees a call to vocation, flees the Divine, forever fights and retreats? For me, it felt like an endless winter, an overexposure to cold. I wrestled in snow and ice. The moment I turned in my application to HDS, a moment when my acceptance seemed remote, turned into a moment of quiet. I had stopped fighting, for a little while, with God, and began to suffer less. The discernment that became my statement of purpose, my application, belongs to a surrender. 

Last November, fifty-years-old, I attended the Theological Education Day at HDS, or how it is currently known, Open House for Prospective Students.  I walked from my hotel in Back Bay to the Academy of Arts and Sciences, three miles more or less. I chanced the unfamiliar roads, feeling out Cambridge on a weekday morning. I wanted to think and prepare my heart, to cross the Charles on foot. Walking is for me a form of devotion, a time for attentiveness and witness. To attend the day was to advance toward vocation, to situate myself within a scholarly community that embraces exploration of devotion and the future of religion. 

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Introducing the 2020-2021 HDS Admissions Graduate Assistants: Meet Jessica!

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Post by Jessica Cantos 

Hello! I am a new Graduate Assistant (GA) for the HDS Admissions Office. I am a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) pursuing a master’s degree in Higher Education and I am so excited about joining the HDS Admissions team this year. 

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve lived in LA all my life other than the four years I spent in the small town of Hanover, New Hampshire where I attended Dartmouth College. I graduated in 2018 with a degree in Government, however, I have since realized my passion for working in higher education.  

Jessica and Luigi taking a drive // Photo Courtesy of Jessica Cantos
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Introducing the 2020-2021 HDS Admissions Graduate Assistants: Meet Atéha!

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Post by Atéha Bailly 

Hello! My name is Atéha Bailly. I am an incoming MDiv student and I’m happy to be starting work in HDS Admissions!  

Photo Courtesy of Atéha Bailly

Before coming to HDS, I spent a year working in Portland, OR after finishing my undergraduate studies in Religious Studies. During this time, I had the privilege of attending the 2019 Diversity Explorations Program. It was an invaluable opportunity in my discernment process, and it allowed me to spend time with a bunch of brilliant and talented students from universities across the country.  

During my application process, I was definitely not expecting to be attending school in a virtual environment. I have never taken classes online before, so it likely will be a bit of a learning curve. So far, the faculty and staff at HDS have been understanding of the unique challenges this time of pandemic poses which helped alleviate some of my anxiety about this transition.  

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Introducing the 2020-2021 HDS Admissions Graduate Assistants: Meet Kate!

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Post by Kate Hoeting 

Hi everyone! I’m a second year Master in Theological Studies student with an area of focus in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. I’m excited to return to the HDS Office of Admissions for another year of working as a Graduate Assistant! 

Just before coming to HDS, graduated from Carleton College in the great state of Minnesota where I was born and raised. Although I majored in religion, I was surprised by my own path—I grew up non-religious and hadn’t been interested in religion before coming to college. I’m non-religious/unaffiliated/whatever to this day, and I’ve found HDS not only a great place to study religion but also to think about how my own identity relates to my work. 

While in college, a few experiences cemented my path to divinity school. I started the life-changing work of volunteering as an abortion doula through the Carleton Advocacy Network of Doulas (CAN-DO), which I helped co-found in college. As an abortion doula, I supported patients in-clinic during the procedure. This meant showing up for patients however they needed me—I did everything from holding hands and passing tissues to chatting about Netflix. I could see the parallels between doula work and chaplaincy, and I felt excited by the idea of learning more about hands-on spiritual care and counseling at HDS. I was more interested in the MTS than the MDiv, and I loved that HDS allowed MTS students do field education and enroll in chaplaincy-oriented courses. 

Kate moderating a panel of abortion doulas and providers // Photo courtesy of Kate Hoeting
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Interview with HDS Admissions Assistant Director, Sarah Guzy

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Post by Sarah Guzy, Assistant Director 

Editor’s Note: Meet Sarah, the Assistant Director of HDS Admissions! Sarah supports prospective students and applicants in their divinity school search. Check out our upcoming webinars during which you can meet Sarah and other HDS folks virtually!

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Guzy

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you want the HDS community & prospective students to know about you?  

I’m originally from Evanston, just north of Chicago, and attended Kalamazoo College in Michigan for undergrad where I studied art history and religious studies. At Kzoo, my mentor was an HDS alum, and she encouraged me to consider applying to HDS for grad school in the future. I worked in international education for a few years, including a year spent in Costa Rica working at a study abroad program, and then came to HDS to do the MTS program in with an area of focus in Women, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion. I’ve been working in the Office of Admissions since graduating in 2015. I love puns, coffee, dogs, concerts, and reading. 

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Interview with Margaret Okada-Scheck, Associate Director of Admissions

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Post by Margaret Okada-Scheck, Associate Director of Admissions 

Editor’s Note: Meet Margaret, the HDS Associate Director of Admissions! Margaret has a wide range of responsibilities in the office, including leading the planning for our Diversity and Explorations Program, an opportunity for current undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds to learn more about the programs offered at HDS. Below you can read about Margaret’s dedication to supporting students, her professional experiences and about her dog, Bingo!

Photo courtesy of Margaret Okada-Scheck

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you want the HDS community & prospective students to know about you?  

Hello! My name is Margaret Okada-Scheck (she/her/hers) and I’m the Associate Director of Admissions in HDS Admissions. I’m originally from Queens, New York, and got my BA from the State University of New York at Buffalo. I am Asian American (of Japanese descent), married to a German man, and we have a 15-month-old boy whom we adopted last year.  

I’ve been working in graduate admissions for about 12 years and have been in my role at HDS for 2 years. My primary responsibilities include recruiting prospective students, running the communications and marketing for HDS Admissions, and managing the Diversity and Explorations (DivEx) program. 

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