New student recruitment effort reaches into the pews
Editor’s note: Even as the Office of Admissions is exploring new and expanded recruitment styles, applications to YDS for the 2009-10 academic year are up 13 percent over last year’s totals. Click here to read stories in Newsweek and the Yale Daily News.
By Janice Fournier ’06 M.A.R.
Administrative Assistant, Office of Admissions
Yale Divinity School’s student recruitment efforts took a new twist this fall by bringing a bit of Sterling Divinity Quadrangle “into the pews” in a four-stop tour of New York and New England churches where alumni and potential students were treated to presentations by two senior YDS faculty.
This fresh initiative was the collaborative brainchild of the School’s Admissions and Alumni Offices, centered on the idea that churches with significant alumni connections are likely to be fertile ground for future YDS students. Each event, titled “An Evening With Yale Divinity School,” was unique and took place in a parish where a Divinity School alumnus or alumna serves as pastor or assistant pastor.
Anna Ramirez ’93 M.Div., associate dean of admissions, and Carmen Germino ’07 M.Div., acting director of alumni affairs, organized the four events featuring presentations by Thomas Troeger, the J.Edward & Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication, and Emilie M. Townes, associate dean of academic affairs and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion & Theology.
Our first event was held on Oct. 21 at The Congregational Church of New Canaan in New Canaan, CT, a quintessential New England meetinghouse on the town green, whose senior minister, the Rev. Harold (“Skip”) Masback, III ’94 M.Div. is a member of the YDS Board of Advisors. Prior to the presentation, Masback gave a tour of the church to Ramirez, Germino and me, calling attention to the listing in the narthex of all the pastors going back to the 17th century, among them many Yale Divinity School graduates. A reception in the Church parlor preceded Troeger’s talk, entitled “The Radical Disruption of Assumed Worlds: theological education as the restoration of our visionary powers.” In the context of his lecture, Troeger played two flute sonatas by Benedetto Marcello accompanied by School of Music pianist Jessica Osborne, and in closing the congregation was invited to sing a hymn composed by Troeger. Troeger’s presentation in the intimate setting of the church’s side chapel was attended by parishioners as well as by several prospective students. A time for conversation with the lecturer elicited a lively exchange about theological education and the mission of Yale Divinity School.
Troeger, a prolific writer of hymns, repeated his presentation in New York on Oct. 30 at Christ Church, Park Avenue, where several YDS graduates are engaged in ministry: the Rev. Stephen Bauman ’79 M.Div., senior minister; the Rev. Javier Viera ’00 S.T.M., minister for outreach and development; and the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli ’96 M.Div., minister for younger adults. Guests were treated to an elegant dinner in the parish upper room before the lecture. Arrangements were facilitated by YDS student Matthew Leaycraft, a parishioner at Christ Church and student assistant in the Admissions Office. Christ Church, a United Methodist congregation in an urban setting, is a diverse community that includes a number of international congregants. The edifice is distinguished by a superb mosaic in the church sanctuary.
The next event, held Nov. 12 at Saint Peter’s Church on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan following the weekly Mass for Peace, featured Townes, who recently completed a one-year term as president of the American Academy of Religion. Townes’s talk on the subject “Does Your House Have Lions?” generated animated discussion. A recent YDS graduate, the Rev. Jared Stahler ’06 M.Div., associate pastor at Saint Peter’s, a Lutheran congregation, was instrumental in preparing a reception after the lecture. He gave us a grand tour of this contemporary sacred space, including the chapel, which contains sculptures by Louise Nevelson. A number of recent YDS alumni came out to greet Townes and each other, and many parishioners enjoyed the evening as well.
Our fourth and final event of the fall took place on Nov. 19 at Boston’s historic Old South Church at Copley Square, whose pastor is the Rev. Nancy Taylor ’81 M.Div. The exquisite gothic chapel of the church served as the location of Townes’s presentation as well as a reception following. Conversation with Townes continued well after her talk as guests enjoyed coffee and dessert
Our visits to congregations in New Canaan, New York and Boston highlighted the sense of loyalty and gratitude experienced by Divinity School graduates and whetted our appetite for more of the same in years to come. Clearly, many YDS alumni who serve churches take delight in introducing their alma mater to parishioners and prospective students.