Hi everyone! My name is Mikaela and I am both a second year MTS student, and a second year Graduate Assistant in the Office of Admissions. This year, our office is fortunate to welcome two new, wonderful Graduate Assistants, Natalie Solis and Tessa Evoy who are here to help you navigate the application and discernment process. If you call, email, or visit HDS this year, you will likely talk to one or more of us. Because we think it is important for all of you to know who we are, we’ve including short introductions below. Continue reading
Hi everyone! I’m K.C. McConnell, a current MTS student as well as a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Admissions here at HDS. Coming to graduate school, I never imagined that I would be able to participate in student-run clubs and organizations. I thought that most students in graduate school woke up, went to class, went home, and did not interact with their fellow classmates outside of informal gatherings. At HDS, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does our school have dozens of student organizations, but many of our organizations are extremely active in life around campus.
Hello prospective and current HDS Community!
We are K.C. Mcconnell, Mikaela Allen, and Emily Rogal, and we are thrilled to serve as graduate assistants for the Office of Admissions. We work both behind the scenes to prepare for admissions events like DivEx and Theological Education Day, while also serving as student liaisons to answer many of your admissions related questions. If you have time to see the magnificent HDS campus in person, we will also serve as your enthusiastic tour guides. Continue reading
When school begins and classes are in full swing, it can be hard to step, walk, run, bike or bus outside of the Harvard bubble. Most students live within walking distance of campus and find themselves too pressed for time to consider exploring the plethora of other neighborhoods that make up Boston. If they make it beyond Harvard, they most likely constrain themselves to the Cambridge-Somerville hot spots of Davis, Central, Union and Inman Squares. While these areas are wonderful and definitely host some great restaurants, bars, and things to do, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Boston lies across the river on the south side of the city.
Jamaica Plain (JP) is known for its diverse population, history of activism, abundance of artists and beautiful green spaces. Just south of the South end, adjacent to Roxbury and Brookline, JP is easily accessible via bike or T. The neighborhood stretches from Jackson Square in the north to Forest Hills in the south and curves around Jamaica Pond, a serene pond circulated by a running and biking path. Centre St. is the heart of JP and is home to an abundance of good, cheap food, artist studios, coffee shops and thrift stores. Many HDS students choose to live in the area, and if you don’t mind the commute, it’s a wonderful place to live and engage in the Boston community. If you are visiting and have time to explore outside of Harvard and Cambridge, you should consider visiting JP and seeing more of what Boston has to offer.
When I have the time, especially in early fall or late spring, I love to hop on my bike and head over the river, through Brookline, along the Longwood bike path to spend a day exploring in Jamaica Plain. Some of my favorite places and things to do are:
Bike around Jamaica Pond:
If you’re like me and have your own bike or access to one, Jamaica Pond is an easy ride from Harvard Square. It’s 4.7 miles with an extra 1.5 miles all the way around the pond. If you don’t have a bike or are coming to the area by the Orange Line, you can walk or jog around the pond.
Bring a book to the arboretum:
As a child of Wisconsin and Minnesota, I often find myself craving a respite from the city. The Arnold Arboretum is a perfect place to find solitude and spend time in nature. The 281 acre long arboretum boasts an astonishing variety of trees and other plants. It is particularly beautiful when the leaves are turning in the fall and in early spring. I love to bring a book and stroll around the arboretum in the fall. The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is located less than a mile from Jamaica Pond and Centre St., and if you’re taking the T, it is adjacent to the Forest Hills Stop.
Grab Coffee at City Feed (2 locations):
City Feed and Supply is a neighborhood grocery, café, and deli that offers a wide range of delicious sandwiches, Fair Trade and Organic Coffee from Equal Exchange, and groceries. I highly recommend grabbing coffee, perusing the array of local beer and wine on display, and maybe partaking in a baked good for fuel while you explore Centre St.
J.P. Licks: JP is home of the original JP Licks. Whether it’s a hot or cold day, you shouldn’t pass up on stopping by this iconic and scrumptious ice cream parlor. Once you’ve tried the original, don’t forget to stop by the J.P. Licks in Harvard Square across from Harvard Yard!
El Oriental De Cuba: JP is one of the best places to find Cuban food in the city with a large population of Cuban immigrants. El Oriental De Cuba is a must-visit with a cozy, diner feel and wide range of dishes to choose from.
Cafe Beirut: Cafe Beirut is well-known for delicious and cheap Lebanese food. It is one of the few Lebanese restaurants in the city and serves the best shawarma and kibbeh I’ve had in the U.S. Check out their pumpkin kibbeh or battata harra (spicy potatoes)!
Boomerangs: Boomerangs is a popular thrift store with great finds. From furniture to ugly sweaters, it’s the perfect shop to outfit your apartment and wardrobe. If you can’t make it to the one in JP, they have another location in Central Square here in Cambridge.
Papercuts: Papercuts is an independently owned bookstore just off of Centre St. Don’t let the size of the store fool you! They have a great selection of books and the owner is fantastic!
Sam Adams Brewery: For those of you who love beer (or don’t but like free things), Sam Adams Brewery is a lovely way to cap off your tour of JP. The brewery offers free tours everyday that come with a sampling of Sam Adams’ classic and seasonal beers. It is located near the Orange Line Stony Brook T Station.
Meet the 2016-2017 Admissions Office Graduate Assistants:
Greetings from the 2016-2017 HDS Office of Admissions Graduate Assistants! Recently, we had a virtual conversation about HDS, working in the Office of Admissions, and pies. We hope this gives you some insight on how students live and work at HDS; we look forward to interacting with the 2016-2017 applicants this year!
-Brittany Landorf, MTS ‘18, Samantha Melton, MDiv ‘19, Sujay Pandit, MTS ‘18
Who we are:
SP: My name is Sujay Pandit, and I am incoming MTS student here at HDS. My concentration is Religion, Ethics, and Politics and I am interested in exploring the intersections between disaster research and religion in the United States.
BL: My name is Brittany Landorf, and I’m also an incoming MTS student at HDS. I am studying Islamic Studies with a focus on Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Islam. I am interested in studying modern social movements and female spiritual leaders in Islam through the lens of feminist and queer critical theories.
SM: Hi Friends! My name is Samm Melton, and I am currently a first year M.Div. candidate at HDS, currently in the ordination process with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). I am particularly interested in social justice issues within the church the congregational response to these issues and have a passion for mental health advocacy within the church.
Why are you here/what brought you here?
SP: I came to HDS after recently completing my Ph.D. in Performance Studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. As part of my research, I became fascinated with the role that individual and communal religious experiences play in the aftermath of a crisis. I wanted to learn more about how religion and faith correlate to local and global experiences of disaster.
BL: As an undergraduate at Macalester College, I came to Religious Studies while studying International Studies and Arabic Language. I found that Religious Studies offered an interdisciplinary approach that gave me a deeper understanding of Islam. I became interested in the lived experience of piety Muslim people, specifically young Muslim women, performed in their daily lives. After graduating from undergrad, I spent a year in Turkey on a Fulbright English Teaching Fellowship. That experience helped me realize my interest in deepening my understanding of Islam from the intersection of religious studies and feminist and critical gender theories.
SM: Although I have considered ministry since high school, oddly enough, my journey to Divinity School started while I was a barista at a local non-profit coffee shop in high school. An unlikely scene to spark my interests, this coffee shop doubled as an interfaith community that had a passion for social justice and sparked my interest in the intersection of faith and social justice. Throughout undergrad, I spent the majority of my summer in Limpopo, South Africa, learning and working towards a sustainable ministry. As a psychology major, the value of mental health within the church, combined with my passion for social justice, and a call to ministry rooted in an interfaith space, led me to study at a multireligious divinity school.
What do we do as Graduate Assistants at HDS?
SP: As Graduate Assistants, we are in charge of working with the Office of Admissions on a variety of tasks. Each day brings new surprises! For example, in one day, I can be juggling working as a tour guide for prospective students, using my graphic design skills to create flyers or presentations, or answering prospective students’ emails and phone calls to our office. Since no day is typical, I am always eager to learn new skills and add them to my HDS tool belt.
BL: My favorite part of being a Graduate Assistant at HDS is speaking to and meeting prospective students. When I was applying, the GAs offered incredible advice and insight into the academic programs and community at HDS. In addition to helping prospective students, we help host on and off-campus admissions events and facilitate conversations between current and incoming students.
SM: I would agree with Brittany and Sujay. Our typical day can vary pretty drastically. However, nothing brightens my day like meeting and speaking with prospective students. Since I’ve recently been through the admission process, I love hearing about where students are hoping their education can take them, as well as connecting them with the many resources here at HDS.
What is one thing we are excited for this year?
SP: I am excited to experience Theological Education Day 2016 (T.E.D.) and the Diversity and Explorations Program (DivEx) because I was unable to attend those events when I was applying to HDS. Now, I’ll get the chance to see how the Office of Admissions organizes and executes these two exciting events!
BL: I am also very excited for T.E.D. and DivEx. I cannot wait to meet the prospective applicants and help show them around HDS’ campus! In the spring, I am looking forward to organizing our Open House for incoming students.
SM: As a recent DivEx Alum, I am most excited to share in the DivEx experience with prospective students this year, particularly since my DivEx experience became such an integral part of my discernment process. I too am also excited for the Open House for incoming students, as I look forward to campus coming alive as we welcome new students and prepare for a new year.
What do we like about the community?
SP: I enjoy the diversity here at HDS. This diversity extends beyond the classroom walls, and I see it in the Office of Admissions. It is thrilling to work in an office surrounded by people with diverse perspectives on religion, academia, faith and spirituality. Most importantly, I wanted my time at HDS to prepare me with academic and also practical skills, and working as a GA helps me keep some balance to all the theoretical work I do in my coursework.
BL: Working in the Admissions Office has helped me develop a deeper understanding of the HDS community. It is wonderful to see the Divinity School’s emphasis on fostering diverse and intentional spiritual communities extend to all aspects of the school.
SM: The Admissions Office has also helped me to develop a deeper understanding of the community of HDS. The diversity of the community is truly mirrored in the vast array of activities, community events, and students groups that HDS has to offer. Simply by walking around campus, you can truly feel how tight-knit this community is and their commitment to one another.
Favorite moment at HDS, thus far?
SP: Too many to count! One stands out: my supervisor and Assistant Director of Admissions, Sarah Guzy, brought us decadently rich pie to our first GA meeting of the semester!
BL: We went candlestick bowling for our office retreat at my favorite pizza place. It was a great way to bond with everyone and show off our bowling skills!
SM: There so many, but mine would likely have to be meeting with the Innovative Ministries group. It’s incredibly exciting and inspiring to hear the innovative ways in which people are seeking to do ministry!
BL: Apple!!!! Or Rhubarb, it depends on the time of the year.
SM: Nothing beats a homemade pie of any type!
We can’t wait to connect with you as you discern if HDS is the right place for you, and move through the application process. Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 617-495-0639!
What does it mean to pursue the study of religion at a place that isn’t aligned with a particular religious tradition? What does it look like when you engage in this study with students from six continents and more than 35 different religious traditions—plus some who have no particular religious affiliation at all? Seasons of Light, our annual multireligious celebration, is part of the answer. The order of celebration for Seasons of Light situates the celebration in the context of our community:
As the nights lengthen and the darkness grows in the Northern Hemisphere, the Great Wheel of the calendar turns once again, catching us up in its low descent. Together we inhabit the promise of holy darkness and anticipate the light’s return. Many religious traditions honor this sacred interplay of day and night in their respective holy days and seasons; most also observe periods of fasting and feasting, often coinciding with a region’s agricultural rhythms of seedtime and harvest. Tonight, we gather to honor the mystery of the swelling darkness around us by kindling the flames of several traditions represented in the HDS community.
Here, I’ve been able to join that concern for literature with an exploration of religion and culture in an attempt to reach for the divine: that ineffable extraordinary which has sparked our imaginations and given shape to our aspirations from the very beginning.
I’d been looking forward to this celebration for weeks. One of my favorite parts of studying at HDS has been the infusion of that study with a sense of sacred purpose. I came to HDS from a small school in southern Maryland where I was awakened to some of the deeper questions that we attempt to answer with the study of literature. Here, I’ve been able to join that concern for literature with an exploration of religion and culture in an attempt to reach for the divine: that ineffable extraordinary which has sparked our imaginations and given shape to our aspirations from the very beginning.
Doing all this in a space that’s at once deeply concerned with religion and religious practice, yet not itself religious, means asking a whole series of fascinating questions—questions that echo throughout the field of religious studies. Can we study religion from within a religious practice or identity? Must we attempt to get “outside” of religion to view it objectively? Is that objectivity even possible? If we feel passionately about religion, how do we express that passion?
Walking into Andover Chapel last week provided some of those answers. Students, staff, and faculty had been gathered in Rockefeller Café before the ceremony for our last Community Tea. Mixing and mingling around tables filled with all kinds of delectable treats, we took a moment from the hustle and bustle of the end of the semester to simply be with each other. To catch up, trade stories, commiserate over the interminable stream of papers, and to share in that measure of comfort that comes from knowing that we’re in it together.
It’s one thing to read about different traditions, but it’s another to have them made tangible: here was a symbol of faith, being illuminated by my classmate whom I’d spent the semester learning and talking and eating with.
Afterward, in the Chapel, the warmth we felt in the Café was manifest in the candles flickering at the entrance. In the middle of the chapel stood a simple altar with the symbols of the many faith traditions represented here at HDS: a seated Buddha, a hanukkiya, the Ikh Omkar of the Sikh tradition, Unitarian Universalism’s flaming chalice, an Advent wreath, and many more. As we gathered, students from each of these traditions made their way to the table to light the candles of their respective faiths. As I watched my fellow students light their candles, I turned to my order of celebration to read about the signs and symbols that I didn’t recognize. It’s one thing to read about different traditions, but it’s another to have them made tangible: here was a symbol of faith, being illuminated by my classmate whom I’d spent the semester learning and talking and eating with. In this moment, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the Johrei tradition were not abstractions or exotic “others,” but the embodied faiths of people with whom I share a common community. There was the Advent wreath of my Christian faith alongside the Yule Log of Paganism, the Villakku/Diya of Hinduism, and the Arabic Plaque of Islam.
As the evening proceeded, we sang songs, listened to readings from different traditions, and students and faculty from different traditions performed anthems, chants, and music from their respective faiths. Singing the Hebrew of “Hineh mah tov” in the round brought tears to my eyes: “Hineh mah tov umah nayim, shevet achim gam yachad!” Behold what a good and joyful thing it is, when people live together in unity.
We approach this study of the sacred each from our own various locations and identities, sometimes shaped by a religious conviction of our own, sometimes not.
Here’s the thing about HDS, the study of religion, and our nonsectarian space: One of the things we understand here is that there’s no “outside” space from which we can observe and report on religion “objectively.” We approach this study of the sacred each from our own various locations and identities, sometimes shaped by a religious conviction of our own, sometimes not. In her address “Where We Do Stand,” Janet Gyatso, our Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies, invites us to consider “Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s insistence that we must be friends with the people whose religions we study, we must come to know, as he says, ‘those qualities of the believer’s life that can only be known in that personal two-way relationship known as friendship.’” This leads us toward the “ability to abide with other people’s religion—not just to study it but also to inculcate ourselves in a common space so as to inhabit the questions of religion together.”
This is what we do here at HDS. This is the beauty and the magic of Seasons of Light: that it allows us to inhabit the questions of religion together, as friends.
This week, the HDS Office of Admissions caught up with one of our MTS students, Jim Hackett. Known for both his business acumen and for his cheerful and friendly disposition around campus, Jim participated in the Special Students program and is now an incoming MTS student. Below, he shares his reflections on what his HDS experience has meant to him so far.
HDS Office of Admissions (HDS): Can you tell us a little about your background? You’ve been in the workforce for a number of years–how have you spent your pre-HDS years?
Jim Hackett (JH): I was fortunate to be able to spend my career in business, leading several large global enterprises in the energy field. …I taught as an Adjunct Professor at Rice University’s graduate school of business, which re-kindled a continuing interest in teaching. I suspect, any good person who leads others becomes a teacher, no matter what profession they pursue.
“While HDS is rigorous, it is also a special place for reflection, learning, and improving as an individual and a group.”
(JH): Since the Air Force Academy, I have had a strong interest in studying comparative theology, but only as an amateur. What brought me to HDS (and formal theological training) were primarily two events–the failure of a major corporation managed by Midwestern Christians like me (i.e. Enron Corp) and the comments from a successful business man at a Harvard reunion: he told me that he read the Bible every day…but didn’t believe in God. It then struck me that more research and teaching needed to be conducted about integrating spiritual and intellectual values within secular professions.
Working for Student Life as a Graduate Assistant has a lot of perks. My office is right near the candy bowl and upstairs from the coffee and tea room; I also get to be one of the first ones to know about upcoming programs. However, my favorite part of working for the Office of Student Life is helping to plan and attending Community Tea every Tuesday at 4pm. Community Tea is a 30-year-old tradition. Each week a different office or organization hosts, and as part of my job I get to work with them to plan their tea.
I have always found strong community in singing groups. In high school, I sang with the same women’s choir for all four years, and some of those ladies are still my best friends. In both high school and college, I sang in church choirs, and even though I wasn’t sure I believed every word of every song we sang, I loved it. I love the feeling of singing in harmony with other voices, loved holding down the alto (and sometimes tenor!) part and hearing how it blended with other parts to create an amazing piece of music. I love how easily I feel comfortable around other singers, how quickly I can bond over yet another boring alto part or the excitement of how rumblingly low the bass part gets.
When coming to HDS, I had high hopes of finding a singing group I would love. Maybe I would join a community church choir! Maybe a Harvard choral society! Maybe both! As the realities of the time commitments of grad school set in, however, I have been very grateful for the HDS Noon Service Choir and the opportunity it has provided me to join a wonderful community of singers.