Formally Informal: On Community Tea and HDS Student Life

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Working for Student Life as a Graduate Assistant has a lot of perks. My office is right near the candy bowl and upstairs from the coffee and tea room; I also get to be one of the first ones to know about upcoming programs. However, my favorite part of working for the Office of Student Life is helping to plan and attending Community Tea every Tuesday at 4pm. Community Tea is a 30-year-old tradition. Each week a different office or organization hosts, and as part of my job I get to work with them to plan their tea.

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Diving Into the Wreck: How an HDS Course Inspired My Tattoo

Diving Into the Wreck (Photo by Caroline Matas)

Diving Into the Wreck (Photo by Caroline Matas)

This semester I began working as a Graduate Assistant in the HDS Office of Admissions. Since I’ve started working here, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and articulating why I love HDS, and how I’ve changed since coming here. This blog post arose from a discussion I had with my fellow Graduate Assistant here, Carly, about how my academic explorations have influenced my personal life.

Last year, during my first semester at Harvard Divinity School, I took a class called Piety and Protest: Women and Religion in Contemporary America with Ann Braude. In this class, we examined case studies of women’s protests within, and against, their religious faiths. Through the various books we read, I became very interested in the ways that women used their bodies to register and enact protest. I was intrigued by the ways that women’s clothing and bodies have been re-signified and re-marked to critique and fight back against various forms of gender discrimination. This interest led to my final paper, which was about the potentiality of tattoos to interrupt patriarchal body projects. This line of inquiry has informed much of the work I’ve done since, which has focused on what bodies mean, how bodies move through space, and how bodies and subjects are discursively produced in different contexts.

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Uprooting and Ice Cream: My First Month at HDS

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Photo by Caroline Matas

Photo by Caroline Matas

After a four-hour block of classes, we were all feeling like we needed some ice cream.

A few of my fellow incoming MDiv and MTS students and I walked over to JP Licks in Harvard Square. We flopped down onto the metal seats, savoring that end-of-summer, last-moments-of-freedom, coffee-cookies-and-cream feeling.

I looked around at my new classmates and asked, “So…what’s new?”

They laughed, and one of them said, “Basically, everything.”

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Dual Degree: Living in the World of Divinity and the World of Public Policy

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Harvard Yard in Autumn. Photo by Chris Alburger

Harvard Yard in Autumn. Photo by Chris Alburger

When I was applying for schools, I knew I wanted to work on issues of social justice and self-determination, and that I would need to know something about public policy to do that. I also articulate that passion as a spiritual calling. I wanted to be able to speak both languages: law and love, policy and divinity. Continue reading

10 Tips for Muslim Prospective Students

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Harvard Divinity School students come from an array of different ages, ethnicities, and religious and secular backgrounds. When I first visited HDS on Admitted Students Day, I was delighted to find a diverse student body and especially excited to find a Muslim community here, to call my spiritual home.

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The HDS Choir

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Photo by Chris Alburger

Organ. Photo by Chris Alburger

I have always found strong community in singing groups. In high school, I sang with the same women’s choir for all four years, and some of those ladies are still my best friends. In both high school and college, I sang in church choirs, and even though I wasn’t sure I believed every word of every song we sang, I loved it. I love the feeling of singing in harmony with other voices, loved holding down the alto (and sometimes tenor!) part and hearing how it blended with other parts to create an amazing piece of music. I love how easily I feel comfortable around other singers, how quickly I can bond over yet another boring alto part or the excitement of how rumblingly low the bass part gets.

When coming to HDS, I had high hopes of finding a singing group I would love. Maybe I would join a community church choir! Maybe a Harvard choral society! Maybe both! As the realities of the time commitments of grad school set in, however, I have been very grateful for the HDS Noon Service Choir and the opportunity it has provided me to join a wonderful community of singers.

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The Billings Preaching Competition

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The annual Billings Preaching Competition is a long-standing tradition at Harvard Divinity School. Every spring, second and third year Master of Divinity students have the opportunity to preach from a text, and on a topic, of their choice from the historic pulpit in Emerson Chapel. From those who enter, one is chosen to receive the Massachusetts Bible Society award for the best reading of a scripture, and four finalists are chosen to preach to the larger HDS community in Andover Chapel. Continue reading

Doctoral life at Harvard

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The Harvard Divinity School shield. Photo by Chris Alburger

The Harvard Divinity School shield. Photo by Chris Alburger

What image comes to mind when you think of doctoral life at Harvard?

For many people, this question likely conjures images of cutthroat competition, hostile debates, and interpersonal disputes. Such is the image I often carried with me as an undergraduate and even as an MTS student at Harvard Divinity School. Much to my relief, when I entered the ThD program last year, I found the opposite to be true. Contrary to the apocalyptic scenes that I had envisioned, life as a doctoral student at Harvard is one of immense intellectual growth, supported by intelligent, compassionate faculty mentors and a fantastic group of peers and colleagues. Continue reading

Multireligious Service

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Over the entire course of my first year at HDS, I would say that the Multireligious Service of Thanksgiving was the event that captured HDS in a nutshell. Yes, the invocations, readings, and benedictions from varied religious and spiritual traditions contributed to that feel of HDS—a reading from the Lotus Sutra followed immediately by one from the Qur’an, a benediction from the Humanist tradition followed by a prayer by Thomas Merton. HDS is a place where people of multiple traditions not only exist alongside each other, but also interact with one another on a regular basis. But those varied readings alone were not what made the service seem exquisitely HDS. It was also many other, perhaps less obvious things—like the streamers. Continue reading

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