Jessie Light, Winner of The David L. Stitt Fellowship
Is there a particular professor or class at Austin Seminary that has helped shape your understanding of social justice and the gospel? How do you plan to pursue it after your graduate?
Last semester, I was lucky enough to take a Greek exegesis intensive on the Gospel of Matthew with Dr. Margaret Aymer and two other dear classmates. In wrestling with the text, and particularly with Jesus's repeated embracing of those on the margins of society, I found a liberating yet challenging message that was both timely and poignant. The Gospel continues to give us truth to speak, words to comfort and confront, and courage to stand up to injustice in the world as a means of practicing faith. I hope to continue working for justice after graduation by preaching, teaching, and embodying the Gospel in a local congregation.
Ben Masters, Winner of The Pile Morgan Fellowship
You have been involved with the AYAVA House for young adults involved in service in Austin since you started at seminary. How has that shaped your experience here?
The thing I’m most proud of is my work at the AYAVA House. Here we are in seminary and we are talking on a very high level, we are talking about what the world should be, what we imagine God is, what we imagine ourselves to be, and I had the opportunity to not only have those conversations with the young adults who live in AYAVA House, but to practice talking about things like race and racism. In particular I had the opportunity to lead a really meaningful conversation series on essays from poet and essayist Audra Lorde, who has made incredible contributions to the church’s and society's understanding of race and sexuality and gender. Those were really holy times. It was special to hold these stories and accompany the AYAVA House residents as some of them finished the program and then matriculated at the seminary.
Jesse Lee, Winner of The Janie Maxwell Morris Fellowship
The Janie Maxwell Morris Fellowship is awarded to a student who is planning to pursue further graduate work. What sparked that interest for you, and what do you plan to study after you graduate from Austin Seminary?
I hope to pursue a doctorate in American religious history. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly where such an inspiration for research and education began. Though I will say that I am deeply indebted to my various professors at Austin Seminary and the Seminary of the Southwest. Without their guidance and inspiration, I would not have discovered my natural interests nor have developed them further into vocational aspirations.
Evan Solice, Winner of The Alsup-Frierson Fellowship for Excellence in Biblical Studies and Hermeneutics
You have done a significant amount of prison ministry while studying at Austin Seminary. How has Austin Seminary helped support that ministry and how do you see that experience informing your call after you graduate?
I began my work at Travis County Correctional Complex during my SPM internship. Soon after starting there I felt a certainty that my ministerial calling was to chaplaincy—so, I scrambled to enroll in a CPE [Clinical Pastoral Education] program, although the application deadline was two or three months previous. Dr. Hooker encouraged me to submit my application anyway and gave me some advice on filling in the application and on interviewing; luckily, I was accepted. I was very recently accepted into Seton's year-long CPE Residency program, which I begin this fall. My time in jail ministry has been challenging and affirming; it has caused me to bridge the gap between academia and real-world ministry. Yet I know for certain that my academic work here has given me the solid exegetical, theological, and interpersonal skills to excel in both the jail and hospital CPE settings.
Meg Vail, Winner of W.P. Newell Memorial Fellowship
You've had different internships during your time as a student at Austin Seminary. How have those experiences informed your formation at Austin Seminary?
The truth is that although my seminary education has enhanced my congregational internship experiences, my internships have also enhanced my Austin Seminary experience. While serving in congregations these past two years, I often worked hard to learn names and to address people by name, to remember and acknowledge significant days and rites of passage in the lives of members and their families, and to pastorally acknowledge the feelings and experiences of those I served. Although the seminary is not a church, in practicing this intentional presence and awareness in churches, I found myself striving to practice the same skills with peers, colleagues, faculty, and staff at seminary. In engaging interpersonal conflict at seminary, I recalled methods of effective engagement from my internship sites. Both settings challenged me to grow in the area of emotional intelligence and fostered an increased appreciation for process over content in dealing with important ministry matters. I can't imagine how I would have made the most of my seminary or internship experiences without having had the gift and blessing of making the most of the other.