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Field Education


Field Education is grounded in an action-reflection model of learning in which the lived experience (praxis) becomes the "text" from which we learn. At VDS, Field Education is the centerpiece of the Master of Divinity curriculum and is consistently the highest-rated component of the degree.

We emphasize three dimensions of the action-reflection learning process:

Field Education is grounded in an action-reflection model of learning in which the lived experience (praxis) becomes the "text" from which we learn. We emphasize three dimensions of this learning process:

We assume that there are particular skills, tasks or competencies in which a student wishes to become proficient, and Field Education offers an arena in which these things can be practiced and honed. For example, a student serving as an intern in a congregation might want to learn how to preach, how to teach, how to visit the sick, how to organize a group of people around an issue, etc. A student doing an internship at a social agency might want to learn how to communicate with a particular constituency, how to liaison with other institutions, how to plan a community event around a particular topic, etc. Each student's goals around the doing of ministry will be shaped by the student's learning agenda as well as the opportunities available at the placement.

Our assumption is that ministry is as much about who we are as it is about what we do. Therefore, we make opportunities for engagement with issues of the self. Without being overly therapeutically focused, our hope is to create opportunities for students to give some attention to personal and/or spiritual concerns that might be present in a student's life. For example, a student might be struggling with the very personal question of vocation. Or with the dilemma of maintaining integrity in an institution around which one feels deeply ambivalent. Or perhaps a student finds that they can't say "no" to others, and therefore they find themselves spread too thinly to be effective. We all have personal and spiritual issues that have an effect on our ministry. Field Education offers a context in which to become aware of those issues and to give them some attention.

At Vanderbilt Divinity School we envision the task of theological education to be preparing women and men to be "Minister as Theologian." We want our students to function well, and we want them to be very self-aware, but we also are very committed to their ability to reflect theologically on the events of life and ministry. We want students to name and wrestle with the theological issues that are unique to their placement. For example, a student who is an intern at a hospital will, no doubt, encounter the theological issues of human suffering, the role of prayer in healing, God's role in tragedy, etc. This represents the heart of our work in Field Education - teaching students to name, unpack and wrestle with the theological issues they encounter in their work.

Who is eligible to participate?

Anyone! While MDiv students are required to complete at least 6 credit hours of Field Education, a great number of our MTS students also take advantage of this experiential learning opportunity. 

Where will I be placed?

Vanderbilt Divinity School's approach to Field Education is unique. Each MDiv student meets during their first year of study with one of the Field Education faculty to discern together the most appropriate learning context for a student, based on previous experience, vocational goals, and hopes for learning. Students have a great deal of autonomy in defining what the learning goals at a placement will be. Oftentimes, the choice of a learning context is made in consideration with one's concentration. 

2019-2020 Field Ed Learning Contexts (Placement Sites)

Because the religious landscape of Nashville is constantly changing and in an attempt to be responsive to students' vocational aspirations, the list of possible field education sites is constantly changing. This list represents where the students served in 2019-20. 

  • Belmont University Religion Department
  • Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
  • Home Church
  • Alive Hospice
  • Second Presbyterian Church
  • Veterans Home, Clarksville
  • Brookemeade United Church of Christ
  • Mt. Zion Church
  • New Covenant Christian Church
  • Open Table Nashville
  • Turner Family Center
  • Eastwood Christian Church
  • Tennessee Higher Education Initiative
  • SE Center for Cooperative Justice
  • Youth Villages
  • Vanderbilt University Student Services
  • McKendree United Methodist Church
  • Belmont University Ministries
  • Priest Lake Community Baptist Church
  • First Unitarian Universalist Church
  • First United Methodist Church, Lebanon
  • Glendale Baptist Church
  • Nashville Korean Presbyterian Church
  • The Temple Church
  • Vanderbilt Office of Religious Life
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • Harriet Tubman House
  • No Exceptions Prison Collective
  • West End United Methodist Church
  • United Methodist Publishing House
  • South End United Methodist Church
  • Andrew Price United Methodist Church
  • Vanderbilt University Wesley Foundation
  • Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital
  • Vine Street Christian Church
  • American Baptist College
  • KC Potter Center
  • Generations of Grace
  • First Christian Church, Chattanooga
  • Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative
  • Conexion Americas
  • Lipscomb University
  • Calvary United Methodist Church
  • Church of Another Chance