"A Whole New World of Opportunity": Why I Chose Yale - Herron Gaston, MDiv '14

Greetings!  Every year we feature short essays from YDS students explaining why they chose to attend Yale.

Today’s comes from Herron Gaston, MDiv ’14.  Herron is a proud graduate of the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical Univeristy, the nation's largest HBCU, and is both a star student at YDS and a key member of our Admissions Team.  

Herron Gaston

                                                                      Above: Herron Gaston, MDiv '14

If you have visited campus in the last year, you probably have met Herron, and had your visit made all the better for it. He is off to law school in Washington, DC after graduation this May.  Thanks, Herron!


Before applying to Yale Divinity School, I applied to a dozen law school programs after graduating from college and didn’t get into any of them.  It wasn’t the end of the world, but actually led to a whole new world of opportunity. I did a lot of soul searching. I soon discovered that there was a theological underpinning for that to which I was journeying towards.  It was clear that Yale Divinity School was not necessarily of my own doing, but that God was steering the wheel in preparing me for ministry, which allowed me to finally embrace the calling on my life, one I had at an early age. Three years later, with graduation looming just around the corner, I am glad I was rejected from all those schools; otherwise, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

As I learned about YDS through the website and prepared my application, I imagined what it would be like to actually be here. If you’ve applied for the fall, I bet you’ve wondered that, too. And, if you’re anything like me, you were probably anxious to hear back from Admissions in mid-March and wondered what to do with yourself until then. The anxiety was nightmarish for me, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming about the possibility of interacting and engaging with brilliant minds.

After learning that I had been admitted to YDS, I was both ecstatic and overjoyed.  Later in March I had an opportunity to visit the campus.  As I look back upon that moment in history, I recognize that was unknowingly the first moment of instruction I had at YDS. However, it was the first of many.

Jan Holton taught me how to theologically reflect and to engage critically with the text in a pastorally-sensitive way; It was Dale Peterson who exposed me to Christ’s personality, by demonstrating compassion, empathy, and love through his infectious smile and warm disposition towards each and every person he meets; Diana Swancutt taught me how to engage in public discourse and to delicately unpack loaded theological arguments and positions; Thomas Troeger and Nora Tisdale helped me discover and claim my prophetic voice, and encouraged me to use my prophetic voice as an instrument for God’s justice in the world; Vernice “Hopie” Randall encouraged me to pursue my M.Div. and helped nurture and water my spiritual garden during times of doubt and confusion. And my peers, friends, and colleagues taught me more through their own passionate commitment to academic and ministerial pursuits than mere words are capable of articulating.

While I experienced the hospitable nature of YDS upon engaging with the faculty, staff, and students, what really drew me to this place was its rigorous theological education and rich cultivation of the intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral capacities of its students, enabling YDS alums to move with skill, confidence, generosity, and grace across modern society. YDS students are unmatched in their ability to use fundamental intellectual and practical tools in the study of religion to transform the world and the lives of those whom they passionately intend to serve.

Though I’ve been exposed to a number of collegiate environments during my academic tenure, all pale in comparison to the experience I’ve enjoyed in this space. Like any other place, we have our share of challenges; however, the faculty, staff, and students work tirelessly to build and foster community across lines of difference, and are very intentional about reflecting God’s beloved community through our actions towards each other and our posture towards the world.

If you are interested in a community that genuinely cares about your personal growth and development and are interested in the ways in which the academic and the spiritual can converge together to enrich your total person, YDS is the place for you. I am certain that if you decide to make YDS your home, you will not leave the same as you entered, but you will leave better prepared to effectively engage your vocation, from one of the world’s greatest institutions of higher learning.