In this post in my series “God and Man at Yale Divinity,” I discuss the tremendous opportunities at Yale.
Estimated Reading Time: 11 minutes
I just completed the third week of my second semester at Yale Divinity School. The opportunities at Yale are incredible, and I become increasingly aware of this with each passing week.
Below, I discuss some of the opportunities at Yale of which I recently became aware, as well as how I am settling into my new schedule my second semester here.
Opportunities at Yale and Setting Goals
Systematic Theology is my only class on Tuesday. After the lecture, I usually go home. This week, however, the Associate Dean for Student Affairs asked to meet with me. She tries to meet with all first-year students at the beginning of the second semester to see how things are going.
So, I met her after lunch, and we spoke for about thirty minutes. She asked me how my first semester went and about my goals going forward.
I shared with her my desire to pursue a Ph.D. after graduating from the Master of Divinity program. She gave me advice for moving forward—such as how to submit papers to organizations to present or get published—and what professors I should seek out as mentors.
Opportunities at Yale: Study Abroad
She also provided me with advice about studying abroad. She specifically pointed me to the German exchange programs, one of the many exciting opportunities at Yale Divinity School. The one at Tübingen looks particularly attractive.
I hadn’t thought about this as a possibility, but now it’s something I’m seriously considering. I desperately wanted to study abroad in college, but I just never did it, something I regret. Perhaps I will finally have the opportunity to do it now that I’m at Yale.
Opportunities at Yale: Interdepartmental Classes
We also discussed my taking a class downtown. I told her that I was taking the Roman Law course and that I was able to get it cleared to count as an Area II course.
She told me that the Divinity School wants me to take advantage of all of the opportunities at Yale, including those outside the Divinity School. She also told me that if something I want to do doesn’t neatly fit into the degree requirements, I should speak with the administration.
She made it sound like there’s a lot of flexibility and that I may be able to get other courses to count toward meeting the requirements of my degree.
Opportunities at Yale: World-Famous Instructors
I mentioned particularly wanting to take the course that General Stanley McChrystal teaches at Yale. (I intend to apply to be a part of that course next year, though I imagine that it is quite competitive.)
His class is a seminar to which students must apply separately. There are an application and an interview.
It’s a year-long course, so, if I am successful, I am committing to taking the course for the entire year. (The website indicates that taking it for the whole year is required. Your transcript after the first semester simply states, “In Progress.”)
I imagine that it is pretty difficult to get into the class. John Kerry has his own program at Yale, and I knew someone from the Divinity School who unsuccessfully applied. There is no one from the Divinity School among the John Kerry Scholars listed on the website.
I would like to think that my military background would help me, but who knows. I guess we’ll see. I would love to be able to take that course and study under such a prominent individual.
Despite the bad taste my time in uniform left in my mouth, I still love the military, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve.
Opportunities at Yale: Involved Faculty
I appreciate the Associate Dean’s taking the time to meet with me. I know it’s something that she didn’t have to do, so I am incredibly grateful.
It was an enjoyable meeting, and I walked out of it even happier that I decided to come to Yale. The faculty really do seem to care about the students and setting them up for success. I am excited to be a part of the community here, and it still sometimes feels so surreal to be a student at Yale.
More Opportunities at Yale
One of the greatest opportunities at Yale comes through the sheer amount of resources the university has. On Monday of this week, my Roman Law course met in the Yale Law School library.
The library has a rare books section, and the curator showed us some early foundational documents centuries old. We are studying Roman Law, so Justinian’s Institutes was there, as well as a variety of other sources of law in the later Roman period (generally Byzantine).
This class was also the first time that I had ever been inside the law school. Yale Law School is indisputably the best law school in the world. Four of the five current justices of the Supreme Court received their degrees from Yale. (While Harvard has just as many, Harvard graduates significantly more students every year.)
When I was a law student at the University of Arkansas, everyone just knew that Yale was the pinnacle. Only Harvard and Stanford operated in the same orbit, and even they were seen as a cut below (fairly or not).
To be in that building was exciting, and a real privilege. There are likely future Supreme Court justices walking its halls right now, and that in and of itself is fun to think about.
Settling Into My Schedule
With the end of the third week, the semester feels like it is in full swing, and I am starting to settle into a routine.
Roman Law meets on Old Campus, which is right off the New Haven Green in the heart of the city. During the first couple of weeks, I parked in the Divinity School and made the one-and-a-half-mile walk down and then after class, made the one-and-a-half-mile walk back. That walk in the cold got real old, real fast.
Still, I don’t mind the walk all that much, but it’s time-consuming. So, this week, I started parking in the metered parking off Old Campus. It costs me about $6 per week to park, and that’s probably what I’ll do most days from now on.
As a result, it has become easy for me just to go home after class to study. On Monday, I have to be back up at the Divinity School at 3:30 for Hellenistic Philosophy, and on Wednesdays, I have piano lessons at 3:30.
During the first couple of weeks, I just spent the interim time up at the Divinity School, but I would much rather run home and work from there and go back than hang out at the Divinity School during that time. I am much more comfortable studying at home.
The Hellenistic Philosophy class looks like it’s going to be interesting. Dean Sterling is a pretty good teacher, and I am glad to be able to take a class with him.
The amount he teaches is limited since he’s the dean. So, I appreciate having this opportunity. He’s obviously an extraordinary gifted New Testament scholar. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be Dean of Yale Divinity School.
Theologies of Religious Pluralism
My Theologies of Religious Pluralism professor is a great teacher, and I am so glad that I found this course. It didn’t even come up on my radar until the day before its first meeting.
I was doing one last look through the class schedule, saw it, and decided to try it out. I’m happy that I did.
It’s an interesting class, the type that requires you actually to think about things and analyze what you believe. It is not a memorize and regurgitate kind of class. In fact, very few classes are like that here.
Systematic Theology lecture is a low-stress, low-pressure environment. Dr. Volf is a world-renowned theologian and a great professor.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Systematic Theology is an interesting course, but it’s not quite what I expected. There isn’t a whole lot of focus on different theological systems—eschatology, Christology, etc.
Instead, the focus is on exploring how different great theologians from various faith traditions saw theology, its pursuit, and its purpose.
We just finished Joseph Ratzinger. I think Dr. Volf is next.
Dr. Volf is a brilliant man and a great instructor. He’s not very disciplined about getting out of class on time, however, which grates against my military brain.
Prioritizing My Time
At this point in the semester, I’m starting to figure out which classes are going to require substantial time commitments and which are not. Still, I wouldn’t say that I have any blow-off classes this semester by any stretch.
I have noticed that the time commitment for Hellenistic Philosophy is extreme. The weekly readings are probably around two hundred pages, and there’s also a weekly translation assignment.
In addition, the Greek I have to translate is by far the most difficult that I have ever encountered. I suspect it’s heavy Attic Greek, which I have not had. So, I have to spend a lot of time translating these passages.
Still, I hope that this significantly increases my Greek skills. Indeed, the primary reason I took this class was that it had a Greek component, and there were no Greek exegesis classes offered this semester.
I understand that the Divinity School has five New Testament faculty members. One is a visiting scholar, who only teaches one course per semester, and the Dean is another. So, there are really only three full-time New Testament professors, and one of them is on sabbatical this year.
So, the course offerings in New Testament have been a bit scant. I’m hoping that this no longer continues to be an issue in the fall. I would particularly like to be able to take at least one Greek class per semester.
I’m happy that I have been able to pare back my schedule so significantly from last semester. Some of that was the end of the football season, which gave me back a lot of free time. (Of course, football season will resume in the fall, so that’s coming back.)
Much of it, however, was Berkeley and attempting to do more than I possibly could. There is just too much to do here that I want to do. There are just so many opportunities at Yale. It takes almost as much discipline to say, No, to some things as it does to say, Yes.
There is probably about twenty-one hours worth of classes that I would like to take each semester, but I just can’t do that. So, I’ve limited it to twelve. That’s what the registrar recommends, and I think that’s a pretty good recommendation.
Opportunites at Yale: Buckley Program
I had to apply for a seat, so I submitted my application on Monday. I received an email back within a few hours saying that I had been accepted. So, that will fill up a few days during my two-week spring break.
I am grateful that I found the William F. Buckley Program and that I get to be a fellow. I haven’t had the opportunity to participate in any events yet, but I cannot wait until I can. This, to me, is one of the greatest opportunities at Yale that I have discovered to date.
In other news, next week, I have my first Buckley Fellow program. It’s a seminar with Jonathan Wharton on “Backyard Politics: Why State and Local Affairs Matter.” Dr. Wharton is on the faculty at Southern Connecticut University, which is nearby.
I’m not familiar with his work, but I look forward to his presentation.
Local Private Schools
In related news, my wife and I are once again trying to get our children into a local private school. As I wrote a while back, the school situation here in New Haven is kind of a mess, and I wouldn’t recommend that any parents with school-aged children live in New Haven.
We ended up doing ok with our final school assignment for the year, but it’s not really what we want for our kids. So, we’re going to try to make private school work for them.
This week, I have been busy running around working through the application processes for the various local private schools to which we are applying. They require a lot of visits, both by my wife and me and by my children.
This week, my children spent half a day shadowing at Hamden Hall, which is one of the many excellent private schools that are in the area.
They were accepted into Hamden Hall when we first arrived—we applied in September after we became fully aware of the school situation in New Haven—but there wasn’t much financial aid available. So, we just couldn’t afford it.
I look forward to the end of this process. Given the tremendous expense—tuition for each kid exceeds my tuition at Yale—we would require a tremendous amount of financial aid. So, if that’s not there, it may all be for naught.
But we have to try. The local private schools are tremendous, and I hope that I can provide my children with these opportunities. But I guess we’ll see.
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There are so many opportunities at Yale. It really is an incredible place. As a new semester gets started, I continue to appreciate just how lucky I am to be here.
I love Yale, and I encourage anyone interested in pursuing further theological education to apply to YDS.
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