“HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL’S work has never been more vital to our understanding of a complex world, to the well-being of our planet, and to the purpose of Harvard University. As it enters its third century, it is clear that, now more than ever, we need HDS and the extraordinary community of scholars and leaders that it creates.” Drew Gilpin Faust President of Harvard University, 2007–18 Lincoln Professor of History
A MESSAGE FROM
Dean David N. Hempton Harvard Divinity School is the hub of the study of global religion at Harvard University. Our students develop a deep and intellectually rigorous understanding of the world’s religious traditions and the ways in which they shape the lives of people everywhere. They learn to bridge divides of faith, culture, gender, and more by participating authentically in a close-knit community of extraordinary diversity. Perhaps most importantly, they cultivate the inner resources and critical frameworks of meaning necessary for effective lifelong leadership. Out of this extraordinarily generative environment come preeminent scholars and religious leaders— as they have for more than 200 years. Now more than ever, though, our graduates are also presidents of global NGOs, crusaders for social justice, and leaders in business, law, journalism, and many other professions who bring religious resources to bear on the challenges of our time. I invite you to learn more about the School and its mission in the pages that follow. I hope to see you on campus! David N. Hempton Dean of the Faculty of Divinity Alonzo L. McDonald Family Professor of Evangelical Theological Studies John Lord O’Brian Professor of Divinity
Scholars and leaders making The promise of the twenty-first century study of religion is to bring people together across cultural divides to work more effectively on the unprecedented challenges facing humanity. Because we live in an increasingly pluralistic world, HDS engages both with those who may study and with those who practice one or more of the major traditions. The most religiously diverse divinity school in the United States, HDS’s student body includes more than 30 different faiths and denominations. The School is a model for the kind of informed pluralism that will be increasingly important to the United States and the wider world in the decades to come. The HDS faculty includes some of the world’s top scholars of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and many smaller traditions. The School’s doctoral program is one of the main sources of faculty for religious studies departments at top
institutions throughout the country. And because religion is deeply intertwined with virtually every area of knowledge, its study at HDS is inherently interdisciplinary. The School’s master of theological studies program, for instance, includes 18 different areas of focus, including politics and ethics, social science, and literature and culture, to name just a few. At the same time, the preparation of religious leaders is also central to this endeavor—as it has been at HDS for 200 years, and at Harvard for nearly four centuries. The most direct and effective way to encourage interfaith understanding and cooperation—and to counter extremism—is to produce a new generation of leaders not only educated but also formed together with their counterparts in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism, and with humanists as well.
40% of HDS courses have an international focus—the most at Harvard.
Faculty stength in
major religious traditions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
a world of difference Finally, HDS is a training ground for ethical, religiously literate leaders in all fields who work for a better world. Whether by improving the health of inner-city children in Boston; securing the freedom of those tossed in prison without a trial in Burundi; or working at the highest levels of government to eliminate extreme poverty, promote human rights, and mitigate conflict, the School’s alumni bring the study of religion to bear on real problems in diverse communities.
The world has never needed these kinds of scholars and leaders more than it does now, when the twenty-first century’s unprecedented amalgamation of differences lies side by side with new opportunities for—and new challenges to—human flourishing. We invite you to join the Harvard Divinity School community and to take part in the effort to make a world of difference in all we do.
Each academic year HDS hosts
50+ visiting scholars from around the world.
30 More than
different faith traditions represented.
Our Faculty Harvard Divinity School faculty are global leaders in advancing understanding of religion and its influence on politics, culture, art, health, science, history, philosophy, and countless other areas of study. They include a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, several Luce Fellows, and winners of the prestigious Outler Prize and Grawemeyer Award, to name only a few honors. These scholars are as noteworthy for their diversity as for their brilliance. HDS has one of the highest minority representations among tenured professors (19 percent) of any faculty at Harvard, and the highest percentage (37 percent) of tenured women professors of any school at Harvard except the School of Education. Moreover, minority faculty represent 75Â percent of the Schoolâ€™s tenure-track professorsâ€”
the next generation of HDS senior faculty. Hailing from Europe, Central America, Africa, and the United States, the Faculty of Divinity represent a range of international perspectives that is unrivaled in religious education. As a student, you will work closely with them to cultivate intellectual rigor and to integrate critical thinking with compassionate practice. To learn more about our faculty, visit hds.harvard. edu/faculty-research.
37% Portion of full-time faculty specializing in the study of non-Christian traditions.
FACULTY OF DIVINITY
• Leila Ahmed
• David Lamberth
• John Braisted Carman
• Giovanni Bazzana
• Jon Levenson
• Harvey G. Cox, Jr.
• Aisha Beliso-De Jesús
• Kevin Madigan
• Arthur J. Dyck
• Ann Braude
• Dan McKanan
• David D. Hall
• Catherine Brekus
• Anne Monius
• Paul D. Hanson
• Davíd Carrasco
• Diane L. Moore
• Ralph Benajah Potter, Jr.
• Emily Click
• Laura Nasrallah
• Preston N. Williams
• Francis X. Clooney
• Jacob K. Olupona
• Diana Eck
• Kimberley Patton
• Francis Fiorenza
• Stephanie Paulsell
• Cheryl Giles
• Matthew L. Potts
• William Graham
• Ahmed Ragab
• Janet Gyatso
• Mayra Rivera Rivera
• Charles Hallisey
• Dudley Rose
• David N. Hempton
• Michelle Sanchez
• David F. Holland
• Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
• Amy Hollywood
• Charles Marshall Stang
• Michael Jackson
• D. Andrew Teeter
• Baber Johansen
• Todne Thomas
• Mark D. Jordan
• Jonathan Walton
• Ousmane Kane
• Cornel West
• Karen King
And if that weren’t enough, we also have
research professors, visiting faculty, others offering instruction, and denominational counselors.
Cornel West PROFESSOR OF THE PRACTICE OF PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY A prominent and provocative democratic intellectual, Cornel West has taught at Yale, Harvard, the University of Paris, Princeton, and, most recently, Union Theological Seminary. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his MA and PhD in philosophy from Princeton. The author of 20 books and editor of 13, West is best known for his classics Race Matters and Democracy Matters and his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.
“The goal is always to try to unsettle students. You want critical engagement. You want to un-house them. You want to get them to undergo Socratic self-examination.”
“How do you take seriously what the texts are saying, but also discern that other things are going on under the surface that, for particular reasons, the authors are not mentioning? . . . This is what we try to teach our students, how to do a so-called ‘close reading.’ When you practice this skill, you start to pick up that what you’re seeing on the surface is just the beginning, and your task is to figure out all the things that have contributed to that surface view.”
Janet Gyatso HERSHEY PROFESSOR OF BUDDHIST STUDIES ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR FACULTY AND ACADEMIC AFFAIRS Janet Gyatso is an internationally renowned specialist in Buddhist studies who focuses on Tibetan and South Asian cultural and intellectual history. She was president of the International Association of Tibetan Studies from 2000 to 2006 and co-chair of the Buddhism Section of the American Academy of Religion from 2004 to 2010. Her books include Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary; In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism; and Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet. In 2017, she was part of a class of national and international leaders elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“If religion is to be of help in our world, it has to be able to locate goodness in the here and now. Our task, as persons religious or not, should be to give attention to the world as it is, even if it’s broken, dying, or violent.”
Matthew Potts ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MINISTRY STUDIES One of a new generation of HDS scholars of religion and literature, Matthew Potts’s first book, Cormac McCarthy and the Signs of Sacrament: Literature, Theology, and the Moral of Stories, uncovers in contemporary fiction a moral framework that is deeply indebted to traditions of Christian sacramental theology. An Episcopal priest and theological scholar, Potts, MDiv ’08, also works at the intersection of the practices of Christian worship, among which he includes the practice of preaching and the ethics of Christian communities. He received a BA from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD from Harvard University. Potts served in the U.S. Navy from 1999 to 2001 as the main propulsion division officer onboard the USS Vincennes in Yokosuka, Japan.
Laura Nasrallah PROFESSOR OF NEW TESTAMENT AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY Laura Nasrallah’s research and teaching bring together New Testament and early Christian literature with the archaeological remains of the Mediterranean world, and often engage issues of colonialism, gender, status, and power. Her 2014 online course, “Early Christianity: The Letters of Paul,” enrolled over 32,000 students from 169 countries and was dubbed “the world’s biggest ever Bible course.”
“We developed online tools with maps and photographs that allowed students to ‘visit’ the cities of Paul and see the ways in which theological ideas—whether those were Jewish or GrecoRoman—were active in the ancient world.”
“The interreligious issues we face here are not just Harvard’s issues or America’s issues. They have become our own distinctive recasting of the world’s issues. . . . Will all of these differences of race, culture, ethnicity, and religion fracture our communities, or will they lead us toward the common purpose of an informed, energetic, and even joyous pluralism?”
Diana Eck PROFESSOR OF COMPARATIVE RELIGION AND INDIAN STUDIES FREDRIC WERTHAM PROFESSOR OF LAW AND PSYCHIATRY IN SOCIETY IN THE FACULTY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES Diana Eck is a world-renowned authority on Indian popular religion. Her work includes the books Banaras, City of Light (1983) and Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India (1982). The director of Harvard’s groundbreaking Pluralism Project, Eck’s other focus has been on the challenges of pluralism in a multireligious society. Her book Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (1993) explores issues of Christian faith in a world of many faiths and, more broadly, the issues of religious diversity that challenge people of every faith. Eck has been honored with the 1995 Louisville Grawemeyer Book Award in Religion, the 1998 National Humanities Medal, and the American Academy of Religion’s Martin Marty Award for Public Understanding of Religion.
“I want to give people a better understanding of the tradition to show that Islam is compatible with democracy and tolerance, that Muslim immigrants can integrate into Western societies, and that Westerners and Muslims can collaborate in a way that is mutually beneficial.”
Ousmane Oumar Kane PRINCE ALWALEED BIN TALAL PROFESSOR OF CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC RELIGION AND SOCIETY PROFESSOR OF NEAR EASTERN LANGUAGES AND CIVILIZATIONS IN THE FACULTY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES COUNSELOR TO MUSLIM STUDENTS
Ousmane Kane wants to paint a much broader and more accurate picture of Islam. A leader among a burgeoning group of scholars in the field, Kane works to bring the Muslim heritage of Africa to light. To address a critical gap in religious knowledge, Kane in June 2016 published the breakthrough work Beyond Timbuktu. The product of 20 years of scholarship, the book is the first true overview of intellectual history in Muslim West Africa. Kane says that his goal was to tell the story of the process through which Africa was Islamized.
â€œFor some Christian and Jewish students at HDS, ministry is more biblically based. For Hindu and Buddhist students, the theology that emerges from their traditions is a different kind of call. Providing a space for people to begin talking about that in a small class gives them the opportunity to think about it from outside of their own tradition, and it also gives them the experience of articulating their tradition to people outside it.â€?
Cheryl A. Giles FRANCIS GREENWOOD PEABODY SENIOR LECTURER ON PASTORAL CARE AND COUNSELING Cheryl Giles is a licensed clinical psychologist and a core faculty member of the Buddhist Ministry Initiative. She has extensive experience in the treatment of children and adolescents, and their families, with significant mental illness, high-risk behaviors, and traumatic stress. Prior to coming to HDS, Giles was director of the Lighthouse Program, a residential facility in Brighton, Massachusetts, that treated adolescents who were newly discharged from psychiatric hospitals and needed time for stabilization before returning home. Her primary research interests are identifying the role of risk and resilience in developing healthy adolescents, exploring the impact of contemplative care for the dying, and increasing awareness of health care disparities of African Americans.
Davíd Carrasco NEIL L. RUDENSTINE PROFESSOR OF THE STUDY OF LATIN AMERICA Davíd Carrasco is inspired by the question, “Where is your sacred place?” A Mexican American historian of religions with particular interest in Mesoamerican cities as symbols, he has carried out research in the excavations and archives associated with the sites of Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan. His books include Religions of Mesoamerica, City of Sacrifice; Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire; and Breaking through Mexico’s Past: Digging the Aztecs with Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. An award-winning teacher, Carrasco has participated in spirited debates at Harvard with Cornel West and Samuel Huntington on the topics of race, culture, and religion in the Americas. In 2004 he received the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor the Mexican government gives to a foreign national.
“At HDS, the combination of profound interests in textual analysis, the nature of religious community, and comparative studies enriches teaching and research in many ways.”
Four Degrees, Infinite Pathways With its multireligious, interdisciplinary approach and global scope—40 percent of courses have an international focus—HDS offers an unparalleled depth and breadth of learning. All degree programs give students the flexibility to tap the resources of one of the world’s great universities and tailor a program of study that meets their academic and professional goals.
Our Four Degree Programs master of divinity (mdiv) The three-year MDiv is ideal for students in many religious traditions preparing for ordained or lay ministry in settings ranging from church congregations to college campuses, hospitals, and prisons. Many MDiv students choose to go into teaching or scholarship. Students learn the Arts of Ministry (such as preaching, pastoral care, and community organizing), and link theory to practice with fieldwork placements in settings around the globe.
master of theological studies (mts) Knowledge of religion and its profound influence is an asset in a wide range of fields. The versatile two-year MTS offers broad study in religion with opportunities to explore any of 18 areas of focus. It prepares graduates for doctoral study and for work in public policy, social justice, international affairs, law, journalism, education, and other fields.
master of theology (thm) The one-year ThM is for those who already have a master of divinity or its equivalent and who seek to pursue a new direction or advance their understanding of a particular area of study.
doctor of philosophy (phd) With a focus on global religions, religion and culture, and forces that shape religious traditions and thought, the PhD prepares students for advanced research and scholarship in religion and theological studies. This is a joint degree program between HDS and the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, administered by the Committee on the Study of Religion.
200 courses offered every year.
100 field education sites.
Programs and Centers Bringing distinguished scholars and leaders to engage on vital topics Harvard Divinity Schoolâ€™s academic and teaching resources are enhanced and its spiritual and community life enriched by the programs and special projects that are an integral part of the School.
The Pluralism Project seeks to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity through research, outreach, and the active dissemination of resources.
The Center for the Study of World Religions fosters the development and growth of scholars by providing a space to examine the historical and contemporary interrelationships among religions.
The mission of the Science, Religion, and Culture program at HDS is to open space for the study of how science and religion become enmeshed with, distinct from, and implicated in broader social, political, and cultural structures.
The Womenâ€™s Studies in Religion Program produces new primary research and explores the fundamental role played by religious traditions in defining roles for women and men. The Religions and the Practice of Peace initiative seeks to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversation and scholarship to explore how individuals and communities worldwide have drawn on religious and spiritual resources to foster mutual understanding and peace.
The Religious Literacy Project provides resources and training opportunities for educators, journalists, public health workers, interfaith/multifaith groups, and others wishing to better understand the complex roles that religions play in contemporary contexts.
18 Areas of focus for MTS and ThM students.
Harvard HDS students can take courses at any of Harvardâ€™s other schools.
David Price MDIV ’17 David Price was 18 years old when he accepted the call to ministry and 19 when he preached his first sermon at Los Angeles’s Mt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church. After graduating from Georgetown with a BA in government, theology, and African American studies, Price decided to come to HDS because of its multireligious student body and its critical approach to the study of religion. After receiving his MDiv, he returned to ministry in L.A. as a youth pastor.
“As a Baptist, I think that evangelism is extremely important. Being in a multireligious environment at HDS challenged that, which I’m grateful for. Now I know what my evangelical framework is meant to do: to show people the love and the justice of Jesus Christ.”
Mafaz Al-Suwaidan MTS ’18 Mafaz Al-Suwaidan grew up in Kuwait, but she came to HDS to study Islam. A creative writer and journalist, she explores texts that were either expanded upon or produced during colonial times in the Middle East. After HDS, she plans to continue her studies in a doctoral program in religion.
“I’m taking classes in race and gender, politics, and metaphysics in Islam from Leila Ahmed and Baber Johansen—giants in the field. I love it. I don’t think I could have found a program better tailored for me and my interests.”
Nestor Pimienta MDIV ’17 An immigrant rights organizer from Los Angeles, Nestor Pimienta arrived at HDS and started his own organization, Tutoring Tomorrow Today, which connects Harvard students with Harvard workers’ children for weekly tutoring and community-building meals. After tinkering with the project at Harvard Innovation Labs’ Venture Incubation Program, he relaunched it in the spring of 2015 and was awarded the HDS SPARK Social Justice Award.
“I thought I knew the ins and outs of immigration issues because I had worked on them for years, but coming to HDS helped me realize how much I don’t know. I saw the many sides of people at the U.S.Mexico border, and I learned about all the practical work that’s being done and how to engage with difficult perspectives—to really try to listen and understand all the ways to look at an issue.”
Kathy Lin MTS ’17 After four years in investment banking and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Kathy Lin found that she had some fundamental questions. What were the limits of growth? Were people really “rational actors”? What was the price of environmental degradation? She came to HDS to explore these questions and others with Charlie Hallisey, a scholar of Theravada Buddhism and of ethics. She is continuing her inquiry at Georgetown’s PhD program in East Asian Buddhist studies.
“HDS gave me time and space to think about what I was doing, in a community of people who are thinking at the deepest level we can about existence.”
Margaux Fitoussi MTS ’17 Margaux Fitoussi helped expand an earlywarning network to isolated communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, enabling first responders to work more effectively in the midst of conflict. Her interest in religion and media led her to HDS and to make El Hara, a film about a Jewish community in Tunisia that is now screening at festivals across the country. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in anthropology at Columbia University.
“I always knew I wanted to do a PhD in anthropology, but I wanted the background in religious studies. What’s been so invigorating about HDS is this ability to take half your classes and to explore in other departments. That’s a great benefit of the master’s programs.”
“HDS is a supportive space for me to explore what it means to be authentically who I am (queer/trans), which I wasn’t able to do until I came here. And the thing that’s always been surprising to me is that I didn’t know that was going to happen at all before I came.”
River Olsen MDIV ’17 River Olsen came to HDS from Flagstaff, Arizona, with her wife, Katie, and daughter, Lisbeth. She graduated with a BA in religious studies from Northern Arizona University, where she studied gender, sexuality, and transgression in South Asian religions. River has worked variously as a radio broadcaster, landscaper, AmeriCorps volunteer, camp counselor, massage therapist, chaplain intern, and, most recently, in LGBTQIA advocacy and education.
Applying to Harvard Divinity School: Some Helpful Tips HDS uses an online application for the MDiv, MTS, ThM, Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Scholars, and Special Student programs. You can find it—and complete information about how to apply—at hds. harvard.edu/admissions-aid/apply-for-admission/ how-to-apply. In the meantime, here’s some helpful information to keep in mind.
Timeline: There is one application cycle each year. The application is available online in September, and is due in January, for enrollment in the fall. Keep this timeline in mind when you speak with your recommenders, and be sure to take the GRE and TOEFL or IELTS (if needed) by the end of December, at the latest. We encourage you to prepare for these tests, and to take them early. We recommend taking the GRE just once, but if you take it multiple times, we will look at the highest score in each category. Statement of Purpose: We take a holistic approach to reading applications. Therefore, your Statement of Purpose is your chance to present us with a personal narrative and academic interests, and your other application materials work together to add details. In your statement, tell us who you are, why you want to attend HDS, what resources you hope to engage here, and your long-term goals. Don’t reiterate your resume or transcript, but do highlight a few things and expand upon them. Recommendations: You need three recommendations. We recommend at least one to two faculty who know your work well (and one faith-based leader or mentor, if you are applying to the MDiv program).
Be sure to find people who can speak to your ability to do well in an academically rigorous graduate program. Recommenders who know you well, or who have taught you in multiple classes and can speak to your academic growth and potential, are the most helpful to the admissions committee. Think about what story the three recommendations will tell about you when put together with your other application materials, and have thoughtful conversations with your recommenders before they write on your behalf. Give them lots of information about you as a student, your academic performance, why you want to attend HDS, and your future goals.
Transcripts: Review your transcripts, and be sure to explain any dips in performance on the application. We accept unofficial transcripts for the application—you can scan and upload them directly to your application. Be sure that your transcript has all the required information, though—we often receive transcripts that don’t have the applicant name, the name of the institution, dates attended, name of courses, or grades received, and we do require that information. If you are admitted, please note you will have to provide official transcripts as a part of your final verification. If you have questions about this information or any aspect of the application process, please don’t hesitate to contact the HDS Admissions Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.495.5796. You can also connect with current students by emailing email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Financial Aid: A Commitment to Access If you’re interested in applying to HDS you may be wondering, “Can I afford it?” Harvard Divinity shares Harvard University’s commitment to ensuring broader access to its educational resources and to providing financial assistance to all students who demonstrate need. In that spirit, HDS awards grant aid to 90 percent of MTS and MDiv students. All applications to the MTS and MDiv programs are automatically considered for merit scholarships. A separate financial aid application is required to be considered for need-based aid (in addition to the completion of FAFSA, for all U.S. citizens). In addition to HDS, students are encouraged to seek support from outside funding sources, including traditional civic and community organizations and faith-based institutions. Workstudy funding is also available to eligible HDS students, most of whom work part time at jobs across Harvard University while they are enrolled. To learn more about the financial aid process and for up-to-date information about tuition and fees, visit hds.harvard.edu/financial-aid.
90 % of MTS and MDiv students receive institutional grant support.
Take the Next Step Learn More. Schedule a Visit. Apply. We encourage you to schedule a visit, register to attend an information session online or in a city near you, or apply for admission. Join our mailing list to receive updates about events, deadlines, and the application process, all at: hds.harvard.edu/admissions-aid. Questions? Our admissions staff would be glad to answer them. Office of Admissions Phone: 617.495.5796 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: hds.harvard.edu/admissions-aid
FOUNDED TWO CENTURIES AGO as the nationâ€™s first nonsectarian school of divinity, Harvard Divinity School today is an incredibly diverse and vibrant academic community where religions of the world and religion as a phenomenon in the world are explored at the highest level of critical inquiry, empowering students in ways that become vital to their lives and careers. Students come here to engage questions of paramount importance, to explore them deeply and broadly, and to go on to work across religious and cultural divides to create a better world.
“What am I? and What is? asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched. . . . I would study, I would know, I would admire forever. These works of thought have been the entertainments of the human spirit in all ages.” RALPH WALDO EMERSON, HDS 1827 DIVINITY SCHOOL ADDRESS (1838)
An introduction to Harvard Divinity School