If I Had Known Then…
I have a confession to make. When I made my decision to apply to and attend Candler School of Theology, it was based on the work of one professor. I read her book, saw where she taught, and decided to apply to that school. I am lucky to have stumbled into one of the most prestigious Hebrew Bible programs in the country, but if I had known then what I know now, I would have chosen the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program at Candler one-thousand times over. Here’s why:
As you already know, I made my decision to attend based on a single member of the faculty, but I am leaving Candler in complete awe of the constellation of faculty and staff at Candler School of Theology. I have had unprecedented access to the world’s foremost scholars across every discipline I have worked in. They are available, helpful, encouraging, and supportive.
Because I am an introvert by nature, the Candler community was not even on my radar when I made my decision. What I had grossly underestimated in my calculations was the effect that moving so far away from my family would have on me. The students at Candler have supported me and challenged me in ways that have made me at least a better scholar, and I like to think a better person. From a friendly face on the first day of orientation, to celebrating admissions decisions over margaritas at noisy restaurants in my last weeks of my degree, my experience at Candler has been bookended by people who have changed my life.
When people ask me why I chose Candler, I largely recount what I have discussed above. I caveat this by saying that if I had known how important that scholar was in her field, or what Candler’s reputation was in the scholarly community, I would have talked myself out of applying. The reputation of Emory University and Candler School of Theology are well earned and far-reaching. Whatever one’s goals happen to be for his or her degree, the outstanding reputation of Candler will help you along your journey.
The flexibility of the MTS program is such that it allows its students the freedom to explore and shape their research interests. I was allowed to pursue a highly specified course load consisting mainly of languages and biblical studies. At the same time, the program is designed to provide the structure and faculty support to make that exploration focused and productive. The fortunate outcome of this dichotomy is a well-rounded training that prepared me thoroughly for doctoral studies.
Eric Jarrard is a second-year Master of Theological Studies student in Hebrew Bible. He will be pursuing a doctorate at Harvard Divinity School this fall.