Welcome from Joy Bronson, MDiv2

Each year, VDS invites returning students to offer words of advice to the incoming class. We hope these stories and lived wisdom will help you navigate your own path at Vanderbilt!

Joy Bronson and Merry-Reid Shaffer, MDIV2 - #SquadMember
Joy Bronson and Merry-Reid Shaffer, MDIV2 – #SquadMember

As I round the corner into my second year at Vanderbilt Divinity School, I have a few reflections on my past year that I hope will be helpful for first-year students:

  • Do your best to know your “why.” Ask: Why do I believe I am here at VDS? Why am I taking this class? How does this choice fit into and aim me towards the greater narrative that I sense or envision in building my future? We have a limited time to do pretty much everything—including study so it’s crucial and incredibly helpful to be able to identify and prioritize where we focus our heart, spirit, and attention. Reflect on your “why” mid-semester and at the end of the semester, and start over at the beginning of the next. The answers change and evolve just as we will, and following those questions and answers will help us to flow with and follow that evolution. There may still be bumps in the journey, but significantly less than if the journey were just “happening” with us unaware.
  • Seek your #squad. Pretty much everyone at VDS is the nicest person you will ever meet, which makes this difficult for me because I always want to be friends with everyone. That being said, most of us do have specific reasons for being here, and our squads are the folks who will help us to achieve them—either because of their love and support, because we have similar goals and can help one another, or both. I will carry every person in my class with me in my heart and spirit always because just being with one another through our first year we had such profound influences upon one another. But it will be discovering the people who best support and encourage you—who even align with you vocationally—that will enable you to to excel in your time here.
  • There are many people who have gone before you—call on them; lean on them; use ask us for help. There are second- and third-year students in the building or sitting with you in the Common Room or Reading Room. Introduce yourself. Tell us your interests. Ask for #AllOfTheAdvice— about classes, about professors’ teaching styles, about buying books (check the library and with prior students to see if they have them first), about great places to study or chill in Nashville, about where you might move next. Don’t waste time reinventing the wheel when there are people sitting literally next to you who have already done this. And alumni/ae? If you know what you want to experience in Nashville for fun or vocationally, ask advisers, professors, fellow students, Lillian, Niger, or Angela; they’ll know an alum in the area who may be able to help.

Take what you will and are able from this; please share what you are able with fellow travelers. Blessings and love to you on your journey, and I look forward to the time and opportunities that we have to walk together.