A Diverse Student Body Enlivens the Wesley Campus

Dec 12

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012 9:43 AM  RssIcon


The fall of 2012 brought with it cooler weather, football games, festive holidays, and a diverse entering class of students to Wesley Theological Seminary. The great multiplicity of the seminary’s entering student body will continue to enhance an already eclectic, flourishing and robust campus community.

445 students began their education at Wesley in August, and of that number, 315 are studying for the Master of Divinity degree. The new 36-hour Master of Arts degree brought an additional 49 students to Wesley. Women make up 57% of the entering class, and 77% of new entrants are under the age of 40.

Denominationally, the bulk of new students, 236 of the 445, identify themselves as members of The United Methodist Church, but Wesley continues to attract students from many other denominations as well. 18 students come to us from the American Methodist Episcopal Church, 17 are Baptists, 15 are Korean Methodist while another 15 come from the Presbyterian Church, and 26, or 6%, identify as non-denominational.

“We gained international students this fall, especially those coming from Korea. We have nine entering students from South Korea this year. Kyunglim Shin Lee is helping us to organize a recruitment event in Korea. A similar event last year was one factor in the tremendous improvement in this area,” said Chip Aldridge, Director of Admissions at Wesley.

Students who identify themselves as non-denominational or members of a church other than The United Methodist Church have a myriad of reasons for choosing Wesley as their seminary.

Femrono Wood is originally from Jamaica and is a member of the Baptist church. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from University of Maryland University College, she is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Urban Ministry at Wesley. “I chose to come to Wesley because of the Urban Ministry program and the diversity Wesley offers,” Femrono said. “My goal is to develop a faith-based non-profit organization that will help the marginalized and disadvantaged community move from dependency to self-sufficiency.”

Emerson Zora Hamsa would like to teach the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible at a seminary or university in the future. An English Literature and Language graduate of Marymount University, Emerson taught English at a Fairfax County high school before coming to Wesley. “I appreciate Wesley’s comprehensive approach to theological studies and its ability to maintain an atmosphere of academic rigor without sacrificing its emphasis on the pastoral. I am attracted to the theological diversity of the Wesley community and to the ways in which such diversity is allowed space for full expression in the private and public spaces of the Wesley community,” Emerson said. A Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies student at Wesley, Emerson is in the ordination process for Unitarian Universalist ministry.

Maynardville, Tennessee is a small town northeast of Knoxville and the place Hannah Niday calls home. She attended Lincoln Memorial University with a major in Religion and Philosophy and is pursuing the Master of Divinity degree at Wesley. “My greatest desire is to work as a spiritual caregiver in a recovery center for substance abuse,” Hannah said. A member of the Assemblies of God church, Hannah has always been very open about where God is calling her and very in tune with discerning God's call for her life. “When I visited Wesley I felt that this place is where God was calling me to work through my call and grow, especially since it was incredibly different from any place I had known. I knew I would face many challenges being here that would teach me how to show God's unconditional love to everyone I would have the opportunity to minister to in the future,” Hannah said.

Nicole Pyles grew up locally in Owings Mills, Maryland. She stayed local to complete a B.A. in Business Administration at American University, and an M.S. in Planning at Morgan State University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Wesley. “I currently serve on the ministerial staff of Empowerment Temple AME Church and am the founder of Eve's Dynasty, a dialogue to celebrate, inspire, and sharpen the inner and outer beauty of a woman. I have a passion for women's ministry, mentoring and leadership development, and look forward to empowering women’s lives,” Nicole said. “The commonality of having a Methodist base, a focus on community, and a genuine love for doing due diligence in exegetical study attracted me to Wesley.”

Easten Law is confident in his vocation. “I don't know about a career, but I'm confident in my vocation. I want to help build the Kingdom of God by teaching, organizing, and reconciling. I love to facilitate learning, I am learning how to bring people together for justice, and I desire to reach across divisions to embody God's power and grace. Not so sure what job will fit all those things, but I'll find something,” Easten said. An Urban Fellow, Easten is pursuing a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Urban Ministry at Wesley. He completed an undergraduate degree at Wheaton College in Communication Studies and Spiritual Formation, as well as a Master’s degree in Intercultural Studies. “I was attracted to the diversity of theological and ethnic backgrounds at Wesley in addition to the seminary’s growing commitment to experiential learning, especially in relation to urban ministry and public policy.”

“My primary attraction to Wesley was very practical. I am married and have a school-aged daughter, so I needed a seminary I could commute to and where I could study part-time. I am Presbyterian and our closest seminary, Union in Richmond, was not a viable option,” said Megan Klose, a Master of Divinity student at Wesley who moved to the D.C. area from Indiana in 1987. “I felt that Wesley would be a better fit for me than other local seminaries. I share Wesley's commitment to social justice and value field education beyond classroom walls. My politics and theology are fairly left-leaning. I felt Wesley would be a place where I could express my values authentically, but would still have solid center and right-leaning Christian partners to be in conversation with. I also value Wesley's arts program. Arts programs are unusual in seminaries, but the arts are critical to our ability to fully express and incarnate our faith.”

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