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David Waters, newest graduate assistant for the HDS Office of Admissions, has quite the resume. From his time in the Navy to his participation in our Diversity and Explorations Program (DivEx), David ultimately chose to attend HDS to study the intersection of religion, literature, and culture. David looks forward to talking with prospective students about the DivEx program and about life at HDS!

David Waters, new graduate assistant for the HDS Office of Admissions. Photo by Elias Igue

David Waters, new graduate assistant for the HDS Office of Admissions. Photo by Elias Igue

HDS Office of Admissions (HDS): So, David, where are you from?

David Waters (DW): I am from New York and Illinois originally. I spent a little time in Texas, and my heart’s in Seattle—so there you go! I also served 13 years of active duty in the Navy…there’s nothing like being on a ship at sea. I spent a lot of time in Japan and the Western Pacific—Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, Thailand, Indonesia. It was just a great, great adventure. I’m a traveler…I enjoy traveling and encountering new places and new people.

Certainly, if I could show up here, anyone could show up here.

HDS: How did you first learn about HDS?

DW: I came to Harvard Summer School in 2014 with zero idea that I would ever study more permanently at Harvard. I took “Literature of Journey and Quest” with Stephanie Paulsell (HDS professor), and it was awesome. We basically started with Gilgamesh and worked our way through the New Testament. We read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Lots of different books from lots of different traditions, and we encountered them in a way that was informed by theological study but not overtly religious. The diversity of the class was great—we had everybody from high school students to retirees. It was a really terrific experience, and perhaps a microcosm of the HDS experience.

The sense I got from both [Dr. Paulsell] and Maritza Hernandez (Associate Dean for Enrollment and Student Services) that summer was that this was a place that was, to use the buzzword, intentional: Intentional about being a place for all kinds of people, intentional about reaching out to all kinds of people, and intentional about…finding the relevancy in [what we do in the classroom] and then making that part of our practice in the street. And that appealed to me. That resonated with me. My whole experience that summer defied the stereotype of Harvard as this unapproachable gated community. Certainly, if I could show up here, anyone could show up here.

HDS: As an incoming first-year student, I’m sure you remember your own application process well. What is your top advice for anyone considering applying to HDS?

DW: Give yourself time. Give yourself time for discernment, give yourself time to write your personal statement. Look at the application process as part of your larger discernment process.

And then, imagine yourself in this community. In order to do that, you need to know about the community. Do your research, go to the website—there is a 99% chance that the answer to your question will be on the website. Then come here, visit the campus. Look around in person. Talk to current students. Do the work of getting the sense of the place. Do your work getting to know other places! There are places with different kinds of ethos. [Understanding them] will better equip you to figure out if HDS is the place that combines scholarship and engagement in the way that’s right for you.

Apply to DivEx! What do you have to lose, really? And what you have to gain is three fabulous days in Cambridge discovering a premiere place to study religion and culture.

HDS: As an alumnus of DivEx 2014, how would you sum up the DivEx experience?

DW: DivEx is basically three days of discovering HDS. For me, DivEx confirmed what I knew from my summer here in 2014, which is that these are people who are passionately committed to both scholarship and practice. That is to say, we engage not only with texts, but with the people that we find when we close the book. [DivEx] is a great, structured way to experience the classroom. It’s a great way to encounter current students. There are great talks and panel discussions on everything from financial aid to the different programs of study that [HDS] offers.

HDS: What would you say to prospective students considering applying to the DivEx program?

DW: You should absolutely apply to DivEx. Apply to DivEx! What do you have to lose, really? And what you have to gain is three fabulous days in Cambridge discovering a premiere place to study religion and culture. It’s a fantastic experience… You will meet great professors, you will meet great people…and you might even discover a little bit about yourself that you didn’t know before.

The Application for DivEx 2015 is now available! Apply by September 15, 2015 to experience 3 days at HDS, with all expenses paid. DivEx 2015 will take place from November 3-5, 2015, on Harvard University’s campus. Learn more on our website. Apply here!

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