Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Shelly Hart 02T is our Guest Blogger this week, and offers both a former student as well as a financial aid perspective to life and learning here at Candler. Shelly began working in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid as a Candler student and after graduating continues to work here, now as Associate Director of Admissions and Financial Aid. A native of Oklahoma, she and her husband Mark, along with their son Conner, two cats and a dog, call Atlanta home and are active members of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Grant Park.
A dozen years ago at Christmastime, I was fervently writing my seminary applications. Candler School of Theology, Emory University, which I only knew on paper, was my first choice among the four or five United Methodist schools I was considering. I was looking for a school that would challenge me academically and stretch me personally, spiritually, and socially. Most of all, I wanted to go to seminary in a place that would take seriously the joining of mind and heart, classroom learning and hands on practical experience. I wanted a place to call home for the next three years of my life that would prepare me for the rest of my life. I’d seen the gorgeous Emory campus on a road trip through Atlanta a few years before and I’d read the Candler catalog front to back. On paper, Candler looked like “the one”, but my experience with selecting my undergraduate school told me that you have to spend a bit of time experiencing a place before you can really know if it fits you.
A few months later, I came to Candler in person for a visit. The incarnation of Candler was, for me, even better than the theoretical Candler I knew from reading about it. Students were warm and encouraging. Faculty asked me questions that made me feel like they were genuinely interested in me and in the students they taught (and these were people who had authored some of my undergraduate text books!). The staff directed me to the places and people who would help me find the answers to my personal questions about Candler and about seminary in general. The other prospective students I met were delightful people of all ages, denominations, and backgrounds, and I knew that I would be blessed indeed if they were with me on my seminary journey. Finally, the more I heard about Candler’s focus on integrating practical learning and experience with academic excellence, the more I knew that I had found the place for me.
Candler did not disappoint me. From the day I arrived, I was surrounded by a community of teachers and learners who welcomed me and pushed me to grow. My thirst for hands on learning was fed by my experience in a community agency during my first year, in local church settings, and in classes on urban ministry, women in ministry, pastoral care, and more throughout my time at Candler. My professors were excellent scholars and teachers in their fields. Outside the classroom, I experienced worship and community life that enriched my experience at the time and that continue to inform my life.
Now, over ten years since I came to Candler for my own new student orientation, I am pleased to be part of the team that assists prospective students in moving from that Christmas break filled with application writing to matriculation at Candler School of Theology. The main focus of my own work is to help students find the funding resources needed to make their Candler education affordable. I benefited from these resources when I was a student and now I am able to help others find the opportunities for scholarships, grants, and work that, in partnership with churches, family resources, and others, will pay for a Candler education. I look forward to getting to know you as you plan for funding your future.
If you are considering Candler, I hope you will plan a visit to campus. At this time of year when we celebrate the incarnation of God in Christ, begin planning a spring visit to the schools you are considering. Your seminary education should take place in an incarnation of community that will enfold and welcome you as well as engage and challenge you. Candler was that place for me. If you think it may be that place for you as well, I hope you will come and join us and find out for yourself how rewarding this part of your journey can be.
Please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 404.727.6326, bookmark our website on your computer for further exploration about the seminary. Candler is also on Facebook, and we would love for you to join the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.