Myra McNeill ’08 M.Div.
B.A. Sarah Lawrence College 2000
What brought me to Yale Divinity School is not quite what I am leaving with; I am leaving with more than I could have imagined. I was working in Westchester County New York in the years before I first ventured onto the YDS Quad, running school-age child care programs, the last of which catered to children in the mental health system.
I began working with children as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College, and for a while it seemed that would be my journey. However, in the fall of 2004 I had begun to feel a different calling, and, surprisingly, it brought me to YDS. Divinity school was never something I had considered. In college my faculty advisor suggested I apply to divinity school, but I brushed him off; I had absolutely no interest. Now, I wonder if he saw something in me that I hadn't yet seen. In the fall of 2004 I had the strange desire to investigate divinity schools, and through that same faculty adviser's suggestion I found myself applying to Yale Divinity School.
From the moment I stepped onto the campus, I felt welcomed. It was in fact the YDS community that helped convince me this was the right move, and it has been the YDS community that has helped sustain me during my time here. I have learned so much from the people that inhabit these halls—not just the professors, but the administrators, staff, and especially the students. Through my peers I have gained a wider perspective and have been challenged in countless ways. There is a warm community at Yale Divinity School, but you must be willing to engage it.
I've been afforded so many opportunities during my time at YDS—from sitting on student council, co-leading a student group, to working with the Development Office on creation of a student and alumni network. I found people open to and excited by new ideas, willing to help in any way possible, while allowing students to develop their own leadership skills. I have been able to learn by doing, with the safety net of a wonderful and talented community.
Our commencement Eucharist this year was called "A Charge To Keep," and that is probably the final and most important thing I have gained while at Yale Divinity School, an understanding of my purpose in the world that is not defined by my career or geographic location. YDS gave me the room and the skills to define whom I want to be and the support I needed to become that person. I am a work in progress—aren't we all? But I can see the progress I've made and am enjoying the journey; I appreciate the perspective I have gained while at YDS.
In college, I traveled to Cuba with a sociology class, and we were all greatly affected by the experience, and vowed to use our relative privilege to do something that brings justice to places of injustice. This semester I traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina with a pastoral care class to study trauma and war. It was a truly powerful experience that I am still reflecting on and will continue to learn from long after I have left this place. In both Cuba and Bosnia-Herzegovina I felt called to some type of action. Silence was an unacceptable response, and I felt called to do something in situations such as these that not only facilitates justice but empowers as well. In the months and years ahead I will have a better idea of exactly what I have to offer. I am confident that everything I learned at Yale Divinity School, through classes, experiences and conversations with my peers, has prepared me for whatever lies ahead.