New Student Profile - Melanie C. Jones
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Degree Program at Vanderbilt: master of divinity
College Attended: Howard University
Undergraduate Major: economics and political science
What led you to choose Vanderbilt Divinity School?
Vanderbilt Divinity School would have never been a part of my original life course. I recognize that my place here is merely an expression of divine assignment. When applying for divinity school, there were a few targets that I saw necessary to consider in order to begin successfully my theological education:
- Academic Program-I appreciate the liberal academic atmosphere that VDS offers. I find it interesting to engage meaningful precepts outside of my own faith tradition. Additionally, the dual programs that enable interested students to receive degree opportunities from other graduate and professional disciplines are certainly an asset to the program.
- Location- Nashville is a historically-rich city. Given the historicity, the area itself presents several issues with which seminarians are concerned: social justice, politics, poverty, education, healthcare, and environment. In my opinion, this is a great time to be in Nashville as a seminarian learning to address and tackle these issues.
- Affordability- Vanderbilt is certainly more concerned about giving the best education to the most qualified individuals rather than the ability to pay. This motto is certainly reflected in the scholarships and financial aid given to assist VDS students in this academic journey.
- Student Life and Community- From initial correspondence with VDS Admissions to student orientation, I felt a sense of unity and community at VDS. At the end of my first semester, I can respond to those feelings of being “dead on.” No program is perfect, but I know that at VDS faculty, staff, and students have a genuine concern about one another’s growth, advancement, and overall livelihood.
In my search for the best institution, Vanderbilt unequivocally came out on top!
Favorite course your first semester and why?
Introduction to Black Church Studies by Juan Floyd-Thomas
Growing up in the Black Church tradition and now as an African American seminarian, I have a unique responsibility to analyze my cultural experiences because they have influenced my existence and will ultimately shape my destiny. I found this course to be engaging, mentally stimulating, and extremely resourceful. The critical pedagogy introduced by Professor Floyd-Thomas allowed students to address the historical trail as well as fundamental strengths and weaknesses of the Black Church. Moving from orthodoxy to orthopraxy, this course helped me to address my personal agency and responsibility to empower the tradition as a result of the education that I receive at this institution.
Any advice for those considering theological education?
Theological education is critical to spiritual formation and development. For those with vocational interests in ordained leadership and public service, theological education is definitely for you. For those not exactly sure of what your vocational interests may be, theological education is still for you. Theology is an open discipline that people of all color, age, backgrounds, and prior disciplines can find meaningful and enriching; the requirements include a genuine interest, strong academic commitment, and sincerity.
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