Yale’s Old Campus
I just completed my third week of classes at Yale Divinity School. Because of Labor Day last week, this was the first full week of classes and the first week of what will be my regular schedule going forward.
As I previously mentioned, one of my lesser motivations in joining the military was to be able to use the GI Bill for graduate school. And, in fact, if I couldn’t use the GI Bill for graduate school, I doubt that I could afford to be here. This week, I learned some more about the process of using the GI Bill for graduate school that I will share below.
In the third week, I also started settling back into the routine of being a student. I graduated from law school nine years ago, so it feels like a long time since I have been in this position. It is a tremendous transition from the military. Fifteen hours of classes have replaced strict scheduling, and long hours of private study have replaced long hours in the office.
This life hardly resembles my previous one. Other than the lack of a paycheck, I can’t think of a single bad thing about the change.
Using the GI Bill for Graduate School at Yale
Before I get into describing the week, I want to take a moment to explain how using the GI Bill for graduate school works, at least how it has worked for me here at Yale. Financing graduate school can be tricky, particularly for those who are returning to school later in life. (Note that a lot of what I describe below could just as easily apply to those seeking to use the GI Bill for college.)
The GI Bill is paying my way through Yale and providing me with some breathing room with living expenses. I don’t know that I could afford to be here, particularly not with a family, had Congress not allowed veterans to use the GI Bill for graduate school.
Utilizing the GI Bill for Graduate School Tuition
The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay tuition up to 100% for a public school for an in-state student. So, if you are going to a state school in your resident state, the GI Bill will cover all tuition. If you attend a private school or foreign school, however, the GI Bill will only pay up to $24,476.79 per year as of 2020. (My understanding is that this number changes annually.) The GI Bill also provides a $500 per semester payment to cover books and supplies.
So, if you are attempting to use the GI Bill for graduate school, this limitation is something to keep in mind. Tuition at Yale, for example, exceeds $24,476.79 annually, even at the Divinity School, which is cheapest among the professional schools at Yale.
The GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program
If you are attempting to use the GI Bill for graduate school, however, you don’t necessarily have to limit your choices to those schools that charge less than the annual limitation. If your school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, the VA will match any additional scholarship money your school provides.
So, for example, if you use the GI Bill for graduate school at a private institution participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program that charges $50,000 per year in tuition, the GI Bill will pay $24,476.79. That still leaves $25,523.21 in tuition due. If your institution provides you with a scholarship of $12,761.61, however, the GI Bill will cover the remaining $12,761.60. That’s how the Yellow Ribbon program works. (This is particularly helpful at places like Yale Law School, whose annual tuition exceeds $60,000.)
Fortunately, Yale Divinity School participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Using the GI Bill for graduate school, therefore, has yielded, in effect, a full-tuition scholarship for me. A large number of the Yale graduate school programs participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program—and I believe Yale College may as well—so I’d encourage veterans to do some research and apply here. (Some of the other Yale schools I understand limit the number of students who may participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, though I believe that the Divinity School currently has no cap.)
Using the GI Bill for Graduate School Housing
Another advantage of using the GI Bill for graduate school is access to a housing allowance. As part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, full-time students receive a housing allowance equivalent to the E-5 with dependents rate. (You can find a calculator for the rate here.) Just like in the active-duty military, this allowance varies by location. Those going to school in New York City, for example, will receive a lot more than those going to school in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Without this benefit, I doubt I could afford to be here, even with full-tuition covered.
Active duty service members may utilize the GI Bill, which many do to help pay for graduate degrees going part-time. Those on active duty, however, are not eligible to receive the housing allowance because they are already receiving their active-duty housing allowance.
Eligibility for the GI Bill for Graduate School
There are several benefits of using the GI Bill for graduate school. However, eligibility for the program will vary. To be eligible for the GI Bill, you have to serve on active duty for ninety days, with some exceptions. You do not, however, become eligible for full benefits until serving for at least three years on active duty. Your benefits will, therefore, be prorated for any time between ninety days and three years. (There’s a chart available online.) You must also receive an honorable discharge or still be on active duty. So, most individuals serving one active duty tour will be eligible.
Using My GI Bill for Graduate School
This week, I had my first direct interaction with the VA to discuss using the GI Bill for graduate school. I wanted to share my experience for anyone else who may come from a similar background.
This week, I logged into my VA account to check on the status of the processing of my GI Bill claim. The school processes the request and certifies my attendance at Yale with the VA. The website showed that the VA had received the registrar’s submission confirming my participation in the program. However, I noticed the VA’s website still indicated that I was on active duty. This is significant because active-duty members using the GI Bill for graduate school cannot receive the housing allowance or Yellow Ribbon funds.
So, I called the VA helpline.
I learned from the VA representative that their systems do not talk to each other. (This is very similar to the active-duty military.) So, even though I was able to download letters from the VA website indicating my date of discharge, my disability rating, and was even able to access my DD214, the VA education system still thought I was on active duty.
Consequently, the VA had to open a case to correct my records. Had I not called, I simply would never have received my housing allowance and Yellow Ribbon funds, as far as I can tell. So, I had to upload my DD214 to a system on the VA website.
Concluding Advice on Using the GI Bill for Graduate School
If you’ll be using the GI Bill for graduate school, as I am, this is something you should monitor. The VA Representative was very accommodating and resolved the issue for me quickly, but I had to catch it. You are responsible for ensuring that you receive the benefits due to you. So, I recommend being vigilant to ensure there are no mistakes in the system.
Preparing for the Week
Now, getting back to my actual week at Yale.
Just like last week, I spent my weekend getting ready for the beginning of this week. I probably put in a good eight hours of homework on Saturday. Even still, I was only able to finish my readings for Monday.
Now, this is not as bad as it sounds. The readings in my History of Early Christianity class are quite heavy, but the professor gives the class assignments by the week rather than by the class period. So, I have all my reading done for that class for the entire week.
It also appears that in New Testament Interpretation I, the bulk of the reading assignment is assigned for Monday. The reading for Wednesday this week—which includes reading for class and our section meeting—is significantly lighter than the reading for Monday. (Though, I still wouldn’t call it light reading.)
The Berkeley Time Commitment
Yale’s Master of Divinity Program is a significant time commitment all by itself. Participating in the Berkeley Program, however, comes with significant additional demands.
I very much enjoy the Anglican experience at Berkeley, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stick with it. The time commitment is extreme. In addition to the Colloquium and daily morning prayer, there is evening prayer on Monday and Thursday and a full evening Eucharist service on Wednesday.
The Berkeley deans have excused me from the Eucharist services on Wednesday nights during football season. (I officiate football and have mandatory meetings on Wednesday nights.) They also excused me from Thursday evening prayer because I have to take care of my children that night.
When football season ends, however, I will begin attending Wednesday night Eucharist. The service starts at 6:00 and is followed by a community meal at 7:00.
The Berkeley Program is a seminary, and the curriculum is wholly immersive. The number of events students are expected to attend is extraordinary. This is both understandable and desirable. The program trains priests. I am one of the few people in the program not seeking ordination.
However, those with outside commitments—particularly those with families—may find this challenging to accomplish. This is something to keep in mind. If you’re training for the priesthood, it’s a no-brainer. If not, however, weighing the time commitment is essential, particularly if you have other outside responsibilities.
I have two section meetings this semester. As I mentioned in my previous post, my History of Early Christianity section began last week. This week, I had my first section meeting for New Testament. These sections meet on Wednesdays at 4:30 and 3:30 respectfully.
The way that teaching fellows are assigned is a mystery to me. Not all the teaching fellows teach within their direct expertise. For example, my teaching fellow in Early Christianity specializes in medieval history. My teaching fellow in New Testament focuses on rabbinic literature. The Ph.D. program seems to require its students to teach somewhat outside their focus. (The fields are related, though. Ph.D. candidates from the physics department, for example, won’t be teaching any of my courses.)
This seems like a good time to bring up the parameters of this blog. My goal in writing these posts is to provide information for those who may be interested in attending seminary or a graduate religious studies program. I remember when I was applying, there did not seem to be a significant amount of material on the subject. (Gradcafe.com was the best source I could find.) I, therefore, hope that by writing these posts, I can provide something of value. I’m also happy to answer questions from those who have them. You can email me at [email protected].
Still, there is a limit to the amount of information that I will share. For example, I think that posting the syllabi from my classes would help explain the nature and amount of the workload involved with attending Yale Divinity School. I don’t, however, think the professors would appreciate that.
I keep this in mind as I write my entries. I share as much as I feel like I can ethically, but the information is, for the most part, pretty broad. I generally eschew using names, and I avoid sharing what people—including the instructors—share in class, at least not in any kind of identifiable way.
There’s an understanding of confidentiality about some things, and I don’t want to betray that. So, while I’m happy to answer any questions that people may have about Yale or about the program, I won’t provide any information that I think may violate anyone’s expectation of privacy.
The Yale Library
This week, I started to do some initial research for a paper I’m writing on the Council of Chalcedon for my History of Early Christianity class. The resources here at Yale are really quite extraordinary. It is effortless to obtain necessary study material.
I was able to search the entire catalog encompassing all of Yale’s libraries through the Yale Library website. I could then request that any material I desired be delivered for me to pick up at the Divinity School Library’s circulation desk, no matter where it was located. Perhaps I’m just behind the times, but I thought this was really cool.
Some books were even available online in a digital copy, so I was able to download the pdf to my computer. There’s also the option to request that individual pages of a book be photocopied and digitally sent to you. The limit for this was one-hundred pages. I didn’t do this, but it seems like a great option to have.
I picked the books I wanted, and they were checked out to me for a year. I don’t really know if that means I get to keep them that long. There is an option on the website when you see a book that is already checked out to recall it, but I’m not yet sure how that works.
This week, the Divinity School library put out several carts of books that it was giving away. I guess it culled through its stacks and selected books it no longer wanted to maintain. I collect as many books as I can, so this was an excellent find for me. It took a lot of self-control not to roll full carts of books out to my car. But I was able to make off with a few select volumes. Overall, that made for a pretty good day.
I’m developing the routine of attempting to get my classwork done two days out and then spending any additional time I have working on papers. I have a paper due the second week of October. I would like to have it done at least two weeks prior so that I have time to edit and perfect it before I turn it in. It’s a book review (see below), and I’m still working my way through the book. So, I feel the need to get it done as quickly as possible to ensure that I can turn in a quality piece of work.
Writing papers has always been the most enjoyable aspect of academics for me. (The only thing I enjoyed about law school was writing on the law review.) I feel like that’s where I learn the most and am able really to appreciate what I’m doing and why. I wrote a couple of research memorandums on my own prerogative while I was in the military because I enjoyed coming to understand and helping others understand an issue.
I enjoy research and writing. I really enjoy the feeling when I complete what I believe to be a high-quality work.
I love this field, and I love what I am doing. My primary source of stress is lacking sufficient time to do everything that I want to do well. But that’s not a horrible place to be. It is indeed a change from six months ago when I was in the military and struggled to pull myself out of bed every morning.
My Book Review
I devoted a significant amount of time this week toward working on the first paper that I have due for the semester: a book review for my World Christianity class. I spent that time reading the book I selected from the options the professor provided.
I could have probably come close to reading through the whole book during that time were I just reading for pleasure. Since, however, I have to write a book review on it, I took copious notes as I went along. I hope to have a first draft done by the end of next weekend, but that may be unrealistic. I’m only about half-way through the book, so it’s slow going.
The book is Disciples of All Nations by Lamin Sanneh. Dr. Sanneh was a well-known expert in Christian-Muslim relations—he was a Christian convert from Islam—and wrote extensively on the spread of Christianity. (There is a photograph on Yale’s website of Dr. Sanneh’s presenting the Pope with one of his books.) The class I am taking was his class, but he passed away unexpectedly in January of this year.
It’s an extraordinarily well-written and insightful book. It helps provide understanding into the rapid expansion of Christianity in the Roman Empire, its failure to gain any kind of foothold among the Arabs, and the reasons for its fits and starts in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Glories of EndNote
I would like to take an opportunity to state how glad I am that I found EndNote, a citation software program that integrates with Microsoft Word. It usually costs about $250, but it’s available for free for Yale students. The program manages all your citations for a paper, allowing you to enter bibliographical information and then drop in citations in the format you want throughout your paper.
If you change something in your preferences—preferred short title, for example—or change bibliographical information, EndNote will automatically update everything in the paper. As you move citations around, it will also automatically adjust the citation to the most appropriate form.
So, for example, if two citations that come from the same page from the same source come right after the other, the program will automatically put the second citation as “ibid.” If you later add a citation from a separate source between the two, it will automatically change the “ibid” to the short form citation.
Similarly, if you enter another citation between the two from the same source but a different page location, it will automatically add page numbers to the “ibid” citation. If you have only one source from an author, the short citations will just have the author’s name. If, however, you add a second source from the same author, it will automatically add the short title to all citations. (All this can be changed in preferences. I’m just describing how it works for the settings I’ve entered using the Chicago Style citation system.)
Easy and Accurate Bibliography
Then, of course, at the end, it will drop down your bibliography in the right order and format. I think this program is just extraordinary. I wish I had it when I was writing my college thesis. I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time changing citations from their short forms to “ibid,” or making sure that the long-form appears in the source’s first footnote citation. This became an issue when I would edit out the first appearance of the citation, losing the long-form but maintaining the short form throughout. It would also ensure that all cited sources appeared in the bibliography and any sources I deleted from the citations did not.
I know it’s perhaps strange to gush over a software program, but I love it. I think it’s just the best thing. I understand that there are other software programs that people like better, but I’ve already learned this one and don’t see a reason to change to something else.
Reflections on the Current State of the Church
Every week, amid the intense academic environment that defines life here, I try to take some time to reflect on the implications of what I am learning and experiencing at Yale Divinity School.
This week, I’ve had some time to think about the current state of the church, at least as I have experienced it. My thoughts this week have revolved particularly around the Episcopal Church of the United States.
The Episcopal Church
I am a student at Berkeley Divinity School, which is the Episcopal Seminary attached to Yale. I enjoy the Anglican liturgy, and I enjoy attending morning prayer every morning and partaking of the Eucharist on a near-daily basis.
I am not, however, completely comfortable in this environment. I don’t write that as a complaint; I find the discomfort challenging. The challenge forces me to think about how I see things, my worldview, my culture. Discomfort is necessary for growth.
Sometimes, though, there is a need for spiritual rest, and I recognize that it will be some time before I can get that kind of rest in the Episcopal Church.
Conservatives in the Episcopal Church
I am a conservative, and I still consider myself an evangelical. The Episcopal Church, however, is pretty progressive, as is Yale. The culture here reminds me of the—probably apocryphal—Pauline Kael quote after the 1972 Presidential election. “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”
That was the year Nixon won forty-nine states.
This place has the feel that that quote conveys. The church has segregated itself into cliques that exclude a diversity of viewpoints, turning denominations into echo chambers, where one side cannot begin to understand how anyone could hold a different point of view because they never interact with anyone who does. They are other, people “out there,” in the South, in the rural areas, racists, rednecks, whatever.
The vitriol and bafflement regarding Donald Trump are telling. I did not vote for Donald Trump, but I certainly understand why people did. Here, however, I encounter so many people who seem utterly perplexed by the Trump phenomenon. They can, therefore, respond only with polemics against those who voted for him.
That is a problem.
The Other Side of the Evangelical Coin
What I have experienced of the Episcopal Church so far reminds me of what I saw in the Southern Baptist Church growing up. The Episcopal Church went so far to the left so quickly, that the conservative remnants, once a sizable minority, started abandoning the church in droves. For years this meant fleeing to Catholicism or evangelicalism. Eventually, it culminated in the fracturing of the church with the creation of the Anglican Church in North America and the refusal of other Anglican provinces to maintain communion with the Episcopal Church. Now, I cannot seem to find conservative voices in the church, though I believe they must still exist somewhere.
Similar things happened within the Southern Baptist Church with the conservative resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s. Moderates were marginalized, and the careful deliberation that comes from the interaction of various points of view was lost.
This is a difficult issue, and I will continue to ponder it over throughout my next three years here, I’m sure.
Support Yale Divinity School
I hope that this post has been helpful, particularly for those considering seminary or those veterans hoping to use the GI Bill for graduate school.
If you’re interested in applying to Yale Divinity School, I encourage you to begin your application here. You can also request additional information from the YDS website.
If you would like to support the work of Yale Divinity School, please consider making a donation to Yale here.
If you have any questions about Yale Divinity School, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I obviously speak for myself, not for Yale, but I would be happy to assist however I can.
 I know very little about the Montgomery GI Bill, so I, unfortunately, cannot provide any advice regarding using the Montgomery GI Bill for graduate school.
 I wonder if the often-hypocritical support for Donald Trump at all costs would have arisen within evangelicalism had the Southern Baptist conservative resurgence never occurred. I don’t mean to say that evangelicals would not have supported him. I suspect they would have, and understandably so. (Anyone who can’t understand why evangelicals would support a candidate promising to respect religious freedom over someone who said religious beliefs must change and who was part of an administration that went after Catholic charities for refusing to provide abortifacients is being willfully obstinate.) Rather, I wonder if they would have moderated their support, presenting him as the best of the two bad options, rather than as an upstanding example of morality.