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Students discuss sense of community at YDS

By Leslie Brown ’09 MAR, Ethics

A panel of five Yale Divinity School students described contemporary life on Sterling Divinity Quadrangle for alumni who returned to campus for Convocation and Reunions 2008.

During the session, held over lunch in Niebuhr Hall on the second day of the Oct. 13-16 gathering, students spoke about the sense of community on the Quad, YDS support of student vocational goals, YDS’s increasingly international outreach, and their “heroes in faith.”

Because the renovated Quad has no space for student dormitories, alumni frequently question whether the sense of community is as vibrant now as it was when they were students living in rooms on the Quad.  Indeed, that may have prompted questions about community that came up during the Oct. 14 breakout session. Delfin Bautista ’10 M.Div. responded by describing some of the ongoing activities that imbue the Quad with a feeling of community, even though students no longer live there.

CommunityActivities by many groups are coordinated under the umbrella of the Community Life Committee, which Bautista highlighted.   The CLC is responsible for recognizing student groups that are members of the Student Council.  Currently, 23 different groups are recognized, including, among others, the Black Seminarians, The Women’s Center, the Evangelical Fellowship, the Yale Committee for Social Justice, the Sacramental Winers and six denominationally oriented student groups.

In Bautista’s view, activities sponsored by groups like those contribute to the feeling of community on campus, as do many ongoing activities such as community dinners and Friday fellowship.

But students noted that, in a globlized world, the idea of “community” is beginning to take on a more international scope at YDS as the school expands its footprint beyond the contours of the Quad.  They highlighted initiatives such as the Faith and Globalization seminar co-taught by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Professor Miroslav Volf, as well as the Spring 2008 travel seminar to Bosnia and Croatia focused on war, genocide and sexualized violence, and an anticipated course to Brazil in spring 2009. [just flagging I don’t know what the actual aim of the Brazil trip is, may be best to just end at “2009.”].

On the question of vocational goals, student panelists observed that YDS’s association with the broader University is particularly valuable in providing instruction for a diverse range of vocational interests.  Students are able to register for courses in the University’s 11 other graduate and professional schools, and there are ongoing joint degree programs with a half-dozen of those schools.

Also discussed were the increased visibility and accessibility of YDS faculty on the Quad and the enriching influence of Berkeley Divinity School (BDS) and the Institute of Sacred Music (ISM) on social, curricular and interdepartmental engagement at YDS.

In response to an inquiry about student “heroes in the faith,” Grace Han ’09, M.Div. commented that the Divinity school “allows us to develop a wide range of witnesses to our faith.”  From parents and grandparents, to Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, to Ghandi, to Paul Tillich, students cited a wide range of heroes.

Other student panelists were Gabriel Hornung ’09 M.A.R.; Jake Erickson ’09 M.Div.; and Donna Batchelor ’11 M.Div.  Students’ background experience ranged from entering YDS straight from undergraduate studies to entering YDS following nearly 25 years of teaching.

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