Hi, my name is Emily Rogal, and if you’ve called or emailed the Office of Admissions, I’m one of the three Graduate Assistants you’ve probably talked to. A few weeks ago, the HDS Admissions Graduate Assistants hosted a webinar specifically for those awaiting decisions for this application cycle. What follows is a condensed, blog-friendly version of the webinar with a cute, furry surprise at the end. Unlike the original webinar, this post is intended to provide food for thought for all audiences, whether you have already submitted your application or are still discerning which graduate schools you might like to attend in the future. Continue reading
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
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
If I had to describe my journey to Harvard Divinity School, I would refer to the words of Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, in which he states: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Over time, I’ve adopted this understanding of my calling to the world and weaved Buechner’s words through my narrative.
As a high school student, while working at a local non-profit interfaith coffee shop, I remember thriving in an environment that encouraged musings, followed wanderings, and above all, valued global social justice. After graduation, I began to work my way through my undergraduate program, where I brought my musings to a campus that allowed me to grow in my passion for social justice. Eventually, I followed my wanderings to Limpopo, South Africa, where I was able to actively collaborate with local community members in working towards community social justice goals. Near the end of my undergraduate career, my musings and wanderings combined with my passion for social justice, led me to consider the intersection of my deep gladness and the world’s hunger. With these questions, I began to consider continuing my education through the means of Divinity School or seminary, but not without question… lots and lots of questions.
I struggled to decide if my desires were best fit for a traditional seminary or a Divinity School. My hyper-Type A personality had me buried in pro-con lists, researching schools around the country, while continuing to ask where I wanted my theological education to lead me. Last November, in the midst of these lists and research, I found myself as a participant in HDS’ Diversity and Explorations Program (DivEx). I approached DivEx with the same explorative attitude, passion, and flexibility that I carried from my previous experiences and here, I discovered the welcoming community, innovative thinking, and tremendous resources that HDS has to offer.
During DivEx, the time I spent in conversation with professors, administrators, current and prospective students, and various other leaders, guided my search for a theological education. It was here that I had the opportunity to sit with other DivEx participants to discern my direction in the world. DixEx has so much to offer: class visits, admissions and financial aid information sessions, and community events that provide an authentic sense of the atmosphere at HDS. In my DivEx experience, my most valuable conversations happened naturally, such as over a cup of coffee, or around the dinner table, where professors and students truly embodied the openness of the HDS community.
These colorful conversations are what I continued to think about months later; I still carry these conversations to my classes today. The direction of my education developed from these friendships. In this space of people devoted to social-justice, myself and my fellow DivEx participants come willing to cultivate conversation, explore musings, and embrace wanderings.
As you embark on the journey of considering theological education, I urge you to nurture your musings, follow your wanderings, and let your ‘deep gladness’ lead you. I invite you to listen as you share a meal with those around you, and use conversations as guideposts in your discernment as you continue to ask where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet. If you are participating in DivEx this year, or thinking about applying to DivEx next year, I hope that you find value beyond the surface, and your conversations lead you to clarity in your discernment.
All the best on your journey,
Samantha Melton, M.Div. ’19
At HDS, we understand faith to mean engagement with the future. From the first day of classes, HDS has drilled one question into my soul: how can my lifetime offer something to the future? How can reading this book, writing this paper, learning this ancient language, and taking on this field education placement offer something to the future? How can encounters with suffering and possibility offer something to the future? Here’s a little story.
Exactly a year ago, I received an email from one of my little brothers of choice. His twin sister had just died after a long battle against a complex medical condition. She was 26. The news of her passing was my first encounter with a peculiar kind of suffering: the oceanic, inexplicable, unspeakable kind that just does not make sense. She was too young, too loving, too special. Their dad kept repeating: “No, she’s not dead. My daughter is not dead.”
It didn’t help that I was in the throes of my own transition to HDS. The insights we kept unearthing from reflecting and writing about learned ministry and many faces of religious experience were beginning to shake my core. HDS’s safe and diverse community of learning and transformation had already ushered me into the humbling and undeniable limits of what I can comprehend or change. Here was yet another encounter that beckoned me to humility.
I did not have a plan. I had no idea what to say to my little brother. What I did know was what I did not want to say: platitudes. “Things happen for a reason.” Yeah, right. That clearly helps when you don’t know why something has happened to you or someone you love, or how you are going to be the new person your new circumstances are challenging you to become. Here’s another one: “Better days are to come.” Uh huh? That clearly helps when someone feels they are drowning in the 12-foot end of the pool, and there is no one around. Thank you, but no thank you. I’ll take some calming silence instead.
My little brother had told me to ring him an hour after our Theories & Methods class—a required course for all M.Div. and MTS students. Theories & Methods introduced me to a professor whose generosity of heart has sustained me at HDS: Charles Hallisey. I went up to him after lecture to seek his counsel regarding my anxieties about the dreaded phone call.
“I don’t know what to say to him. And I don’t want to whip out the usual, useless platitudes,” I said.
“That’s precisely where you’ll find your voice,” he said. “In that silence. In that inability to say anything.”
“So, I’m supposed to tell him that I don’t know what to say?”
That was not exactly the counsel I had expected to receive. I still had no plan. The clock kept ticking. Ten minutes before I had to call, I sat on a bench outside the Law School Library to reflect and pray. I prayed to make peace with saying to someone I love that I did not know what to say.
My prayer was fairly orderly and coherent at the beginning:
“Lord, please use my voice to radiate some light and warmth in this dark time.”
As the time drew near, my prayer came down to fewer and fewer words until only one word came to mind:
“Please. Please. Please. Pretty please, Lord. Have mercy. Please. Please. Please.”
I took a deep breath. I called. I heard his voice. And I began to utter the words I had dreaded: “I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say. And I’m here. You can yell. You can hang up. You can weep. You can do whatever you want. I’m sorry, and I’m here.”
My heart rate slowed down. Being true-true—no matter how incompetent it made me feel—was easier than I had thought. Next thing I knew, we had been talking for 45 minutes.
I cherish the memory of that phone call. What makes its memory worth cherishing is not just Professor Hallisey’s intentional and gentle challenge. He had sent me away with a religious question, a very HDS question: how can acknowledging that I do not know what to say offer something to the future? It’s also what the phone call became: a song of joy.
The wound was too fresh, the grief too acute to ignore, dismiss, or wish away.
And yet, neither of us could take our eyes off the future we share.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” my little brother said.
He is not wrong.
He and I are where we are thanks to sisters like his and many others who had embraced and unleashed us back when we were still buried deep inside the closet. He and I are who we are thanks to sisters like his and many others who chose to have faith in the stories they saw in us.
Our time with his sister was over. Our story wasn’t. We renewed our commitment to keep writing it. Yes, things can and will inevitably fall apart along the way. And yes, we can and must pick up the pieces for the future—intentionally and joyfully. We owe it to the audacity of our sisters. We owe it to the future. Many more notes of joy filled the song my little brother and I sang in that dark hour.
I do not know what seasons of struggles and moments of glory await as my second year at HDS starts. And I am prepared. HDS has impressed upon my soul the disciplined practice of transforming each and every paragraph of my story into an offering for our future. That is our story. That is our song. Please join us in singing it with humble notes of intense joy.
This is the fourth post in our Neighborhood Spotlight series. To catch up on earlier installments in this series, read Part I, A Love Song to Davis Square, Part II, An Ode to Union Square, and Part III, A Tribute to Harvard Square.
For those of you who consistently hunger for a beautiful view of the Charles, let’s start at the Smoot bridge before we head to Central Square. With the Boston skyline on either side and Cambridge straight ahead, even the crankiest New Englanders find it hard not to enjoy the views on this bridge.
This is the second post in our Neighborhood Spotlight series. To start at the beginning, read Part I, A Love Song to Davis Square.
I actually live solidly between Union Square and Porter Square, so I’d like to briefly nod to Porter—it’s a great area with a convenient T stop, Christopher’s bar and restaurant (come for the nachos, stay for the fireplace, but be sure to eat a lot of nachos while you’re there), and Newtowne Grille (their PBR pitcher and cheese pizza special is basically the only affordable meal on a student budget in the greater Boston area). There’s also Café Zing, inside Porter Square Books, which is my idea of heaven: a coffee shop IN a bookstore?!
But mostly, when I want to go out, I head to Union Square. Union Square has an eclectic feel. It doesn’t have a T stop, which is part of the appeal—it has more of a neighborhood vibe because most of the people who spend time there actually live in the area. It’s about a 25 minute walk from Union Square proper to HDS, but I promise that it’s worth the trek!
As you deliberate on your plans for the upcoming academic year, you might be curious about how our current students decided to commit to HDS. Below, second year MTS student Cody Musselman reflects on how her experience at our Admitted Students Open House confirmed that she would thrive here at HDS.
In the spring of 2013, I arrived in Boston for the Admitted Students Open House at Harvard Divinity School. I was nervous and still unsure about whether or not I should attend in the fall. I was fortunate to have other offers and to be in the position of finding the best fit for my ambitions, interests, lifestyle, and personality. It was a wonderful, yet overwhelming position to be in. Visiting the schools in person, I had decided, was the best way to determine the proper fit.
Oh, the uncertainty! As I enter the second (and final–how bittersweet!) term of my master’s degree here at HDS I am particularly reminded of the anxieties, hopes, and expectations of the “waiting game” that occupied my senior year of college because, in the oddly cyclical nature of things, I am in it once again!
Applying to graduate school can bring many new things to light: Is my application process something I want to discuss with everybody, with nobody, or with a few trusted confidants? How well can I juggle my everyday commitments with this extra task? What is it that is truly driving me to apply for graduate study, and how can I best translate that into my statement of purpose?
As application season rapidly draws to a close, current HDS students stopped to reflect on what surprised them most during their own application processes…