By: Mandy Campbell, MTS ‘23
Editor’s Note: Mandy Campbell is a first-year MTS student focusing on the History of Christianity. She is particularly interested in racial justice movements in American Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries. She is from middle Tennessee and studied History and African American Studies as an undergraduate at the University of Memphis.
In the first week of March, we asked Mandy to describe a week in her life as an HDS student. While no two students will have the same experience in graduate school, we hope this snapshot of how Mandy balances her time will be a helpful illustration of graduate student life as you’re considering HDS.
Because of how my schedule worked out this semester, I usually think of the week as starting on Friday instead of Sunday because that’s when I start working on readings and assignments for the following week. I don’t have classes or work on Fridays, so I can usually get a lot of schoolwork done; it’s also nice to have Fridays free for the occasional weekends I’m traveling.
This Friday in Cambridge, we got around a foot of snow, so I stayed in and started my readings for my Martin Luther King Theology class taught by Professor Preston Williams and drank a lot of tea! I had a writing assignment due for my Wednesday class this week, so I started putting down some ideas for that. The assignment was to write an essay exploring the body in religious studies based on these essays that we read from The Immanent Frame, a digital forum that publishes work on secularism, religion, and the public sphere.
I ended the day by making some scones, which my roommate and I shared, and watching a movie.
On Saturday I slept in and did some more reading at home before heading to the library. Lamont Library is my favorite library at Harvard because of its coziness and ample study space. I knocked out a paper and some more reading there before heading over to a friend’s house to watch a movie.
My Sundays are for maximum sleep before the rest of the week, so I slept in and took a nap! Very important. I also spent a few hours on the phone with a friend. My roommate and I split up cleaning duties every Sunday, so we cleaned our apartment, and then I went to the grocery store— just a short bus ride from my house in West Cambridge. I ended the day with some reading for my Monday class before my essential Sunday activity, watching Euphoria.
Mondays start slow, and I typically use them to finish up any readings I have left for my Monday and Tuesday classes. My Monday class, on Martin Luther King, starts at 3:00, but I headed to campus a little early to meet with Clarissa Flores, the field education coordinator to talk about a summer Field Ed placement. After class, I made some dinner and edited my paper before turning it in early.
Tuesday morning my friend and classmate came over to work on our weekly translation assignment for our Biblical Hebrew class. This is one of my favorite times of the week because this kind of work is a nice break from the usual reading and critical analysis we do for most other assignments. Plus, it’s always fun to muddle through the Psalms with a friend! After lunch, we both headed to campus for our classes. In my Tuesday class, Black Church Burning, we talked about white supremacist attacks on Black churches in the 1990s. It’s a heavy topic, but our professor, Dr. Todne Thomas is really intentional about bringing in a wide variety of sources to engage with, and we always have rich discussions. After class, I headed to Widener Library where I work in the Digital Reserves department, scanning book sections and processing books so students can access their course material online. I finish work around 7 pm and head home to have dinner before doing some class reading.
On Wednesday morning, my classmate and I finished up our Hebrew translation. After that, I headed to campus for Noon Service. The HDS Lutheran student organization led the Ash Wednesday service today, and it was a very meaningful way to observe the holiday. After Noon Service, I went to my favorite class of the week, The Body in American Religious History taught by Professor David Holland. In class, we talked in small groups about short essays we had written about the place of the body in religious studies. I work at the library on Wednesday evenings as well.
On Thursday, I slept late and did a workout from home before heading to campus for Biblical Hebrew. After class, I worked at Widener and then picked up some takeout for dinner. I usually take Thursday nights off before diving into readings and assignments again on Fridays. It may seem weird to treat mid-week nights as nights off or sleep in during the week, but the beauty of graduate school is the freedom of really getting to tailor your schedule to your needs and preferences!
We hope that Mandy’s week helped give you a snapshot of what graduate student life looks like. If you’d like to explore any of the courses that Mandy mentioned, check out the Harvard Course Catalog here!