Reflecting on My Last Year at HDS

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Editor’s Note: Tessa Steinert Evoy is graduating today, May 28th, 2020, with a Master of Theological Studies. The Office of Admissions is grateful to Tessa for all her hard work over these past two years serving as an Admissions Graduate Assistant, and we wish Tessa the best of luck on her post-HDS adventures! 

Post by Tessa Steinert Evoy, MTS ‘20 and Admissions Graduate Assistant   

I certainly would not have expected to be ending my MTS degree this way; however, these past few months have only made me appreciate the people of HDS who I have spent the last two years getting to know more. It all began in a classroom that slowly cooled as the sun dipped behind the clouds on a June night in the French course for Summer Language Program. Our classroom was often filled with laughter and the sound of rustling wrappers as we passed around packages of cookies. For me, transitioning from teaching eighth and ninth graders, SLP was a perfect bridge to the full HDS experience, a bit like dipping your toe into the HDS pond. On those sweltering days of orientation I saw the familiar faces of my SLP summer nights as we met the other students we would get to spend the next two years learning from. It is these people that I miss the most during our virtual learning.  

Tessa walks past Divinity Hall with fellow student  
Alex Jensen MDiv ‘21 // photo courtesy of HDS COMMUNICATIONS 
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Reflecting on My First Year at HDS

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Post by: Julia Reimann, MDiv ‘22 and Graduate Assistant 

As the year comes to a close, I find myself feeling immense gratitude for the classmates and courses of the first year of divinity school in all its complexity and challenge. This year has been a particularly unconventional first year: moving across the country, joining a new campus community, returning to school, completing the first semester and launching into second, and then returning home and completing the first-year virtually due to COVID-19. This year has been characterized by significant change and frequent transitions, a constant cycle of readjusting. Amidst all the change, my relationships with classmates in our MDiv cohort and throughout the HDS community have been vital to maintaining connection to my educational journey and community amidst the chaos. The small class sizes at HDS and our required first-year courses in the first semester helped to foster close relationships with peers, which have only grown throughout the year. 

Weekly events with community members became even more important to my schedule during second semester as the members of our first-year cohort moved to independently study our particular research interests. The food and time we shared outside of the classroom during Community Tea was a meaningful space to share our experiences with each other, maintain connection to deepen relationships, and grow together.  

Julia and friends perform at HDS’ annual mult-religious
Seasons of Light service //photo courtesy of HDS COMMUNICATIONS 
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Featured Article: On- and Off-Campus Housing

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Post by: Kate Hoeting, MTS ‘21, Graduate Assistant 

Photo courtesy of RICK BERK, Wikimedia Commons

Since incoming students are starting to think about housing, we thought it would be helpful to run two articles from last year about housing options in the Boston area: 

Please note that these articles were published last year, so the deadlines have changed. Because of COVID-19, the Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) is not open for summer lodging this year. Applications for CSWR housing during the 2020-21 academic year are due May 29, 2020. To participate in the Harvard University Housing lottery, apply by May 15, 2020. 

We wish you the best of luck with finding your new home! 

HDS Students “Closing the Distance” through New Podcast

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Editor’s Note: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, HDS students Molly Silverstein (MDiv ‘22) and Joe Welker (MDiv ‘22) decided to create a resource for HDS community members to talk about how they’re getting through it. Please enjoy this interview with the creators of Closing the Distance! 

Post by: Molly Silverstein (MDiv ‘22) and Joe Welker (MDiv ‘22) 

Can you tell us about Closing the Distance?  

Closing the Distance is a platform for students at HDS and the surrounding community to share their experience during this time of crisis. This includes spiritual resources we’re drawing upon, how we’re supporting others and ourselves, and the wide range of thoughts and feelings this moment is bringing up for all of us. It’s an attempt to create a robust virtual community in which we can all share our gifts at a time where physical community is necessarily prevented.  

Photo courtesy of Molly Silverstein (MDiv ‘22) and Joe Welker (MDiv ‘22) 
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Coming to HDS as a Mid-Career Student

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Editor’s Note: As admitted students discern whether HDS is right for them, it can be helpful to hear why current students decided to come here! Please enjoy this short piece by Sally Hammel, a secondcareer MDiv student planning to work in hospital or hospice chaplaincy. 

Post by: Sally Hammel, MDiv ‘21 

When I meet people and I tell them I’m at Harvard Divinity School, they politely ask how I decided to come here. The question always surprises me—until I remember that I’m sixty-one years old, so not your typical graduate student.  

Photo courtesy of SALLY HAMMEL

I am an almost native New Yorker, having lived my whole adult life on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Employed by the same company for about thirty years, I’ve had a robust career in advertising. While I enjoyed the benefits of my demanding career, I wanted more balance in my life and found myself signing up for various retreats, workshops, and online courses to help fill a spiritual need. In 2014, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma—breast cancer. Following treatment, I took a thirty-day sabbatical and walked the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile walk across Spain. During this trip, I connected with many other seekers, and realized I really wanted to explore and grow my spiritual connection.  

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Working at the Pluralism Project

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Editor’s Note: At HDS, many students work in on-campus, part-time jobs, some of which are research positions. In this article MTS student Margaret Hamm talks about her job as a Research Associate for The Pluralism Project. 

Post by: Margaret Hamm, MTS ‘21 

Since September, I’ve worked as a student Research Associate at The Pluralism Project. For those not already familiar with its mission, The Pluralism Project is a Harvard Divinity School initiative that strives to explore the constantly changing religious landscape of the United States through educational tools and resources. As a first-year MTS student with research interests in the history of religious freedom in America and First Amendment law, I was immediately drawn to The Pluralism Project and its initiatives, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to deepen my own understanding of religious pluralism in America. 

Photo courtesy of STEPHANIE MITCHELL and the HDS Office of Communications
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J-Term Course: The Right to Land in Israel and the Occupied Territories

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Editor’s Note: For most of January, HDS students do not have regular classes and instead have the opportunity to take an intensive “J-Term” course. These courses typically run for 1-2 weeks, meeting for many hours each day. Like in the regular term, HDS students have the opportunity to take classes at other Harvard schools, and some courses involve international travel. In this blog post, HDS student Kaitlin Wheeler talks about her experience in a J-Term course in Israel/Palestine. We also want to note that this article represents the views and experience of one student at HDS—our campus houses students with a variety of perspectives on this complicated issue. 

Post by: Kaitlin Wheeler, MTS ‘21 

The taxi rumbled along the highway through the dark land, as the dimly lit lights shined onto the highway sign pointing to Jerusalem. I looked out of the window of the taxi and saw the desert palms and scraggly bushes. The landscape quickly changed as we drove through sweeping hills and valleys, tall mountainous walls on either side of road. This was my first glimpse into the landscape of Israel on a 1.5-hour taxi ride at 2:00 a.m. 

As a Harvard Divinity School (HDS) student, I enrolled in the J-Term course Learning in Context: Narratives of Displacement in Israel and the West Bank, co-hosted by HDS and the Harvard Kennedy School. I was required to take the Fall semester class, “Religion, Conflict, and Peace in the Middle East” with Professor Moore. From here, I went through an application process for the J-Term course and was interviewed by Professor Moore and leaders of the Religion, Conflict, and Peace initiative, along with a fellow from the program. Before leaving, we had pre-trip meetings and a workshop with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Marshall Ganz on Public Narrative. The accepted group of 15 students were from all different schools, some of which included the Harvard Business, Kennedy, and Divinity schools.  

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Q&A with the Office of Career Services

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Editor’s Note: One of the advantages of going to HDS is the ability to access the resources and guidance of our Office of Career Services! Please enjoy this Q&A with Laurie Sedgwick, Coordinator at the Office of Career Services. 

Post by: Laurie Sedgwick, MDiv ‘22 and Coordinator at the Office of Career Services

We are excited that you’re thinking about Harvard Divinity School! The Office of Career Services is committed to helping HDS students along their career journey. We hope this Q&A format addresses some of the questions you might have as a prospective student considering attending HDS.   

What is the value of a degree from HDS? Can you provide some examples of career paths of graduates? 

The HDS degree equips you with a range of skills beyond the academic curriculum that can benefit you for many career paths. Some of these skills include a facility with engaging in a pluralistic environment, multi-disciplinary thinking, analytical skills grounded in theory, competence in written and oral communication, and language proficiency.  

As far as career paths go, HDS graduates find meaningful work in a variety of career fields, from ministry (across religious faiths), to work in non-profit, education, law, public policy, the arts, writing careers, and many go on to pursue a PhD or other advanced degree field.   

Photo courtesy of TONY RINALDO, HDS Office of Communications 

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What to Do While You Wait to Hear Back

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Post by: Kate Hoeting, MTS ‘21 and Graduate Assistant in the Office of Admissions 

We’ve come to that much anticipated time of the year! You’ve finally submitted that application that you worked so hard on, and now you’re sitting here thinking, “Now what?” It might help you to know a bit about what we’re doing on the other end: helping recommenders get their letters in, clarifying transcript details like transfer credits, and making sure all the uploaded documents are legible. We go through each application page by page to ensure that it follows the requirements, and we follow up with applicants if we need more information. Our Admissions Committee takes a holistic approach, which means that we consider all aspects of every application in our decision-making process. Because we receive hundreds of applications, we need time from early January to mid-March to review them in a way that honors your hard work! 

Even though we’re busier than ever, we know that this time can be a stressful waiting period for applicants. Here are 12 tips to help you be relaxed and ready for mid-March: 

Photo courtesy of JONATHAN BEASLEY, HDS Office of Communications 
  1. Celebrate that you turned in your application! You finally finished your application, and that’s nothing to sneeze at! Let’s be honest: writing about yourself in your statement of purpose can be a daunting task. Well, now you’re done with it! 
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Featured Article: Last Minute Application Tips

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Post by: Kate Hoeting, MTS ‘21, Graduate Assistant in the HDS Office of Admissions

A snowy scene outside 60 Oxford Street on HDS’ campus
Photo courtesy of KATE HOETING

Hi everyone! We hope you’re already having a great start to the year 2020. Since many of you are wrapping up your applications for the January 8, 2020 deadline, we thought it would be helpful to re-post an article from last year called “Last Minute Application Tips.” The article answers some questions you may have about the application as the deadline approaches. 

As always, please email our office at admissions@hds.harvard.edu if you have any last minute questions or concerns. We’re excited to get to know you all through your applications!