Duke Divinity

So, going into my visit there, Duke Divinity School was already at the top of my list, for a few reasons (not all of them having to do with Stanley Hauerwas, believe it or not). I have a lot of personal history there from my time in the 82nd Airborne Division, its not land locked (so I could surf for a few more years before becoming a crusty old scholar-dude), and it just happens to be at the top of the theology game. That last point was not only apparent by some in depth internet research I conducted, but also by (believe it or not) other faculty I spoke with over the course of the summer. All that is to say that I will try to be fair and unbiased in my reflections…

I am already familiar with the campus itself, so I won’t go into too much detail there, but rest assured it is a beautiful, vibrant campus with lots of green space. It also happens to have a 7,000 acre forest and some renowned gardens. Durham is equally as nice, but I didn’t as spend much time there. Before heading there, I arranged visits with professors Mary McClintock-Fulkerson (gender), Ellen Davis (Hebrew Scriptures), and Stanley Hauerwas (Ethics). The only failed attempt was with Lauren Winner (Spirituality), but I made up for that by getting a last minute sit-down with their agrarian theology guy, Norman Wirzba. The Divinity School is right next to the Chapel, which makes it a central fixture on campus, a huge plus for the guy who has been attending a commuter campus and who longs for a more engaged college experience. Plus, all the architecture is gothic, which really made it feel like an Ivy League without the snobbery, and with more minorities (another plus, I like diversity in academic settings).

All of my meetings with the faculty went very well. I have been impressed with all the faculty members I have visited, actually; Stassen and Clayton in CA, and all the folks at Notre Dame. The admissions people were very helpful, even though I visited outside their normal timeframe for prospective students. I also spoke with financial aid and the Dean of Admissions. I learned that Duke University contributes $8,000 toward the Yellow Ribbon Program, which is also a big plus. On the subject of veterans, there is also a VA medical facility bordering the campus, meaning I wouldn’t be far from healthcare should I need it. I have been interested in gauging the ROTC on the campuses I visit, to kind of plug in and maybe challenge some of their assumptions, but I wasn’t able to figure out Duke.

The only thing I was looking for and didn’t get was a residential setting. For some reason, I am very attracted to the idea of living on a campus, to reinforce the community aspect of school. At Duke, most graduate students live off campus, which is not at all shabby, but for some reason I really would love to live with my peers. To find a middle ground, I looked into being a Residential Assistant for the undergrads, but I don’t think it would be the same thing. Also, when set against some of my other college choices, Duke seems a bit conservative. Not in the political sense, but traditional sense. However, I’ll qualify that statement with pointing out that for an M.Div, which is what I would pursue there, I actually want a close connection with the church’s established traditions. I’ll get into the dryer, theologically dense stuff later. Besides, as Hauerwas stated in our meeting, it’s not that Duke is conservative per se, but that the school is “widely conversant with many classical forms of Christianity.” Leave it to him to tweak our biases

Well, I promised myself I would keep each update to about a page in a Word document, so I’ve reached my limit (even after reducing the font just a wee bit). I wanted to share with you a very special picture I took in the student lounge at Duke Divinity…

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