May 29, 2014
It may be summer "break," but for Candler students, it's a time for immersion into experiences that support their vocational discernment. Many have summer internships and other activities lined up, taking them to sites not just around the Atlanta area but to the edges of the continent, all in the name of contextual education.
"Contextual education really is the heart of our MDiv curriculum," says Thomas Elliott, assistant professor in the practice of practical theology and director of Candler's Contextual Education II program, which places Master of Divinity (MDiv) students in ecclesial settings during their second year. "Through internships, our students are able to tailor their study to explore particular learning goals, enrich their course work, and go deeper into an area of ministry or interest. They can engage in practice and reflection, further clarify their vocational calling, grow ministry skills, and much more."
Summer internship settings vary greatly. For instance, Colin Bagby and Parker Artz, both third-year students, are interning at the 15,000-member Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas; the husband-and-wife team of Leah and Peter Gaughan, also both third-year students, will be at two different United Methodist Churches in Louisiana; and Clayton Farmer, a second-year student, is traveling even farther--to the Birchwood Camp of the Alaska United Methodist Conference.
Janelle Adams, a second-year student, is staying a little closer to Atlanta, working with refugees. For her Contextual Education I assignment, which places students in social service settings, Adams worked at Lutheran Services of Georgia, where she helped refugees with some of life's basics, such as emergency needs and organizing doctor visits. Her interest in this work dates to her undergraduate days when she studied abroad in Senegal.
While in Senegal, she asked her host family why they were so hospitable. "They said, 'if we were in your country, you would do the same for us,'" Adams recalls. "Those words stayed with me, because in a lot of cases we don't invite people from other countries into our homes, especially refugees. That's when I became involved."
This summer, Adams will be at the Clarkston Development Foundation working with refugees who already have some degree of assimilation to the United States but still require a helping hand.
Second-year Ruth Ubaldo isn't interning this summer, but that doesn't mean she'll be idle. She is taking part in the Hispanic Summer Program, a two-week experience in Illinois that trains graduate students to be leaders in the Hispanic church. For Ubaldo, the program hits very close to home.
"Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I didn't have any Latina role models," says Ubaldo, who is the first member of her family to be born in the United States. "The idea that I could be a role model to young Latina girls is new to me, but one that is exciting."