Sky-Bridges and Labyrinths: The Long Wait

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HDS Campus 2008

HDS campus after the summer 2008 installation of the campus green and labyrinth. Photo credit to the HDS Office of Communications. Photographer Kristie Welsh.

Our HDS Admissions Blog has served many a prospective student during the application and matriculation process. I’ve compiled an annotated list of the posts that were most helpful to me during the anxious period between submitting my application, hearing back about The Decision in mid-March, and making my decision to matriculate in April. I do hope that these posts will bring comfort and insight to those awaiting decisions, those only beginning to consider HDS, and even those of us already spending evenings in Andover Library, searching for a sense of renewal in a new semester. Continue reading

The Life of a Dual-Degree Student

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RobinElKady1

Robin in Harvard Yard. Photo credit to Pepples G.

Hello everyone! My name is Robin El Kady and I am an international student from Berlin, Germany. I am currently doing a dual Master’s degree at both the Divinity School at Harvard University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The dual-degree program has offered me a unique and incredible opportunity to juxtapose the different fields I am interested in, namely: international relations (with a focus on public international law and conflict resolution) and the interrelationships among religion, ethics and politics. Continue reading

Common Questions about the CSWR (and their answers!)

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While giving tours to prospective HDS students, I am sure to bring them to see the Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR). However, even as a current student and a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Admissions, I felt that I did not know as much about the CSWR as I would have liked, so I arranged to meet with Dorie Goehring, the Staff Assistant at the CSWR. I was surprised to learn that Dorie graduated from HDS with a Master of Divinity in Islamic studies and theology in 2016. It is always great to hear how HDS Alums continue to support and engage the HDS community.

Read our conversation below to learn more about the CSWR! Continue reading

Q+A’s and Application Myths: What you Need to Know

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Hello everyone, we hope you are taking good care of yourselves as you prepare your application materials. As prior applicants, current students, and Graduate Assistants in the Office of Admissions, we know how stressful a time this can be. We’ve gathered quite a bit of behind the scenes information throughout our experiences in each of these roles, so we thought we’d write a blog to help you out. We’ve divided this post into two sections, beginning with a Q+A between Graduate Assistants Emily Rogal and Mikaela Allen and ending with a section featuring Application Myths, also produced by Emily Rogal and Mikaela Allen. Enjoy, and let us set your minds at ease! Continue reading

Applications, tours, class visits, OH MY

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Hello dear, prospective students!

Whether you are applying for this application season, or just beginning to consider your options for graduate study, we would like to introduce you to a few of the many compelling classes offered here at HDS through a series of blog posts that will stretch through this semester and into the next. We hope to bring you beyond the class descriptions given on the website to give you genuine accounts from students enrolled in these courses (though you should still check out the class descriptions for these courses as they are rather informative and thoughtfully constructed). Continue reading

Introduction to the 2017-2018 HDS Admissions Graduate Assistant Team

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HDSGACrew

Pictured from left to right: K.C. Mcconnell, Mikaela Allen, Emily Rogal

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

Quiet Cambridge Summer Days

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In my experiences, college campuses in the summer are equal parts pleasant and eerie. Pleasant, because the hallways, buildings and sidewalks associated with the stress, crowds and busyness of the semester are now ideal places to take a stroll, enjoy the sunshine, or have a long chat with someone you may just wave to and sprint past when there are papers to write. But at the same time, all that emptiness feels a bit strange, like the calm before a storm or the setting of a post-rapture SciFi miniseries where you’ve been left behind.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that we here at the HDS admissions office have been enjoying the low key summer vibe. But with that being said, summer still has its exciting features, some of which I’ll share in this update post.

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First, we have welcomed our newest graduate assistant, K.C. McConnell. K.C. hails from the suburbs of Philly and did her undergrad at Bryn Mawr College where she studied Religion with a focus in Gender and Sexuality. She’s an incoming MTS student interested in South Asian Religion, especially Jainism and will also be a Junior Fellow in HDS’s Science, Religion and Culture Program. She joins me, Keith Esposito (third year MDiv, religion and education), and together we are responsible for giving tours to visiting students and responding to student inquiries. Check out our summer tour schedule if you’re interested in visiting campus, or email us at ask_students@hds.harvard.edu if you’d like an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to study at HDS.

K.C. is also currently studying German with the Summer Language Program (SLP), a unique opportunity for current and incoming HDS students to do an intensive class in one of eight languages ranging from Biblical Hebrew and Latin to French and Pali. SLP classes count towards degree requirements, meaning students can take these language classes over the summer to free up their semester schedule or allow more time for advance study. I also did SLP (in Spanish) as an incoming student, and it was a great way to spend a summer.

Last, we have officially launched the application for our Diversity and Explorations Program (DivEx). DivEx is a three day program in November for prospective masters students that introduces our graduate programs that span religious and cultural divides. DivEx is geared especially towards current college undergraduates with a special commitment to diversity and social justice. Oh, and best of all, it’s completely free! The application deadline is September 12th, so be sure to reach out to us if you have any questions.

That’s all for now! Check back soon for more posts.

Fires of Transformation: The HDS Hindu Studies Colloquium Hosts Noon Service

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Every week, members of the HDS community gather together at noon on Wednesdays in Andover Chapel to participate in a communal moment of reflection, spiritual worship, and religious practice. Wednesday Noon Service is hosted by a different religious community on the HDS campus every week, allowing all in the HDS community to pray in a multireligious environment not bounded by our many respective traditions.

This year’s Noon Service began with an event hosted by the HDS Hindu Studies Colloquium. The HSC is composed of students who are interested in advancing the study of religious and cultural disciplines from the South Asian subcontinent, especially as they relate to Hinduism. Current Office of Admissions GA, Sujay Pandit, MTS’18, had the opportunity to participate in this Noon Service event as an attendee and as a speaker. Then, he sat down for a conversation with Morgan Curtis and Michelle Bentsman, who run the Hindu Studied Colloquium here at HDS. Here is a part of their conversation about the behind-the-scenes process of Noon Service.

Morgan J. Curtis is a M.Div. studying Tamil literature and South Indian Hindu traditions and Michelle Bentsman is a M.Div. ’18 pursuing studies in Comparative Religion, Hinduism, Judaism, Death & Dying.

Sujay:  Last semester, I took a fantastic class called “Hindu Ethics,” taught by Professor Anne Monius at HDS. The class introduced me to the rich, complex and varied world of Hinduism, specifically through ancient Vedic texts from thousands of years ago. One of the great aspects of studying topics that you are passionate about is that you meet fellow scholars/students who are passionate about the same ideas. Thanks to my Hindu Ethics class, I met the two of you. Towards the end of the semester, Michelle, you requested that I speak at the Noon Service event that the HSC would host in January. I enthusiastically accepted. Michelle, could you describe the Hindu Studies Colloquium and your particular role in the organization?

Michelle: The Hindu Studies Colloquium has been an organization devoted to providing a space for students and community members to openly discuss Hindu texts and concepts. I’m currently co-chairing with Morgan Curtis.

Sujay: I think it is really interesting that the HSC has two co-chairs who plan and collaborate on the events like Noon Service. Morgan, would you tell us what events or circumstances prompted you to want to conduct a Noon Service event?

Morgan: We were approached at the end of fall semester by Kerry Maloney, Chaplain and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, because there was an opening for the first noon service of spring semester. We wanted to be able to help them out by hosting and also wanted to be able to offer something to the HDS community as they came back from winter break and also as we were all dealing with the inauguration of a new president.

Sujay: Since this was the first noon service of the semester, and students were on winter break for a month, it certainly must have been challenging to plan your Noon Service event for early January when everyone returns! How did you plan the Noon Service event? What were your intentions while preparing the different types of activities, inviting speakers and preparing the ritual moments?

Morgan: Knowing that this would be the first noon service of the semester and also the first noon service post-inauguration, we wanted to be able to hold a space where people could reflect on how they wanted to move forward in light of both of those circumstances. We wanted to invite people to speak who had moved us with their ideas and who we felt would share words that people needed to hear in these troubling times.

Michelle: Morgan and I had been discussing the fires of Rudra (a name for Shiva, commonly associated with destruction in Hinduism) in regard to the political climate. Transformation was on our minds. We wanted to create a space where people could shed some of the heaviness that was rolling in and get inspired through words, ritual, and song. Including a fire ritual felt necessary — not only on the symbolic level, but also in considering Hindu practice and history. Singing Shiva mantras fit strongly with these themes.

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The light. Photo by Chris Alburger

Sujay: Transformation was certainly a key theme in your Noon Service events! I am so grateful to have been a part of the service and to have the chance to speak. Especially because on the day of the HSC Noon Service, I was thrilled to see so many professors, students and HDS community members gather. I was really struck by the start of your Noon Service, which began with a Hindu chant by the HDS choir. A fellow HSC member and classmate of ours, Sunitha Das, spoke about the power of the female goddess figure in Hindu religion.

Thanks to your invitation, I had the chance to give a brief talk entitled, “Hinduism and the Making of the Incomplete Lover.” It’s interesting that this talk actually grew out of our class together. When you asked me to be a part of Noon Service, I knew that I wanted to share with the participants some of the research I did for our Hindu Ethics class on the 17th century, Indian mystic poet Mirabai. Mirabai was a radical writer and voice. In literary history, she is known as a Rajasthani princess who left her wealth and status to worship the Indian god Krishna, the flute-playing, blue-skinned god who often reappears in Indian mythology. I thought Mirabai would be a perfect representative of the devotion that many Hindus have towards poetry, song and God.

Sujay: By participating in Noon Service, I was able to reflect on how the content I was learning in class affected me as a scholar and a member of the HDS community. How has Noon Service contributed to your educational or social lives at HDS? What do you find most valuable about the experience?

Morgan: Honestly, hosting noon service was the first time I’ve attended a noon service. I’ve had classes that conflicted with the service every other semester of my time at HDS.

Michelle: The second Noon Service I ever attended was the day after the presidential election. The room was packed. Many of us were crying, a few were dressed in black. There was hugging, a tenderness in the air. It was the most powerful expression of solidarity and love I had ever witnessed within the HDS community. And though this was a very particular circumstance, it conveyed the centrality of this space within HDS. Even when earth-shattering historical events are at bay, Noon Service is an illuminating space to learn about the faiths and practices of fellow students, tap into a spiritual mode of being, and find meaning and uplift within the week.

Sujay: Michelle, I really felt the centrality of space that you talk about. I think Noon Service really does a fantastic job at bringing our entire community together. I was honored to have the chance to participate in Noon Service alongside the HSC. It was an enriching experience to be able to speak about my research; to gather with fellow HDS students, faculty and staff; and to understand Hinduism more deeply.

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Sujay Pandit, MTS ’18 in Andover Chapel

As we end our conversation, are there any suggestions you would have for other students (especially entering students) who are interested in hosting or participating in Noon Service?

Morgan: I was daunted by the idea of hosting a Noon Service but am glad we did it.  The ability to share this kind of space with members of our community is part of what makes HDS special. It was such a welcoming and warm environment, and I felt like people were very open to the space we tried to create for them. So, I think the trick is to approach the hosting as an offering to the community and to trust that the community will meet you.

Michelle: Do it! If you’re hosting, arrange early. The challenge is well worth it. You get to choreograph/curate a spiritual experience for your peers, which means you can let your faith-based freak flag fly, or ply your skills in important religious activities like giving sermons and songs.

Sujay: Thanks, Michelle and Morgan. I know I am looking forward to attending more Noon Service events in the future, and I hope to see you there!