"Transformative and Enriching": Why I Chose Yale - Matt Butler, MAR '14

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

Today’s comes from Matt Butler, MAR in Ethics ’14.  Matt came to YDS from Medfield, Massachusetts, by way of Princeton University.  His ever-present good cheer and positive attitude never fail to brighten our hallways.  Thanks, Matt!

Matt Butler

When asked to write this reflection, I hesitated at first. Several of my classmates have already posted about the many opportunities for academic, spiritual, and pastoral development at Yale Divinity School, and I wholeheartedly second their thoughts. After becoming fascinated by the intersection of politics and religion in college, I chose to pursue the M.A.R. Concentrated program in Ethics in order to prepare myself for future doctoral work, and I have not been disappointed by my decision. Studying with world-class faculty, like Jennifer Herdt and Kathryn Tanner, I have engaged in deep philosophical and theological reflection on the roots of our moral systems. Beyond the Sterling Divinity Quad, I have had the opportunity to examine the impact of religion on law and modern politics at Yale Law School and to serve as the Divinity School’s liaison to the Debating Law and Religion Series.

No, my hesitation did not come from having a lack of things to say about why I chose YDS but from a desire to focus instead on why one should choose YDS and on why I have continued to engage with this community over the past two years. 

First, the resources and educators at Yale University will continuously open your eyes to new fields of study and new perspectives. Since arriving on the Quad, I have discovered the works of Jonathan Edwards—even examining some of his handwritten sermons, which are collected in the Beinecke Library—and the place of Judaism and Christianity in the Hellenistic world. Although these new interests might not define my career, they have enriched both my education and my time at YDS.

Second, whether one wishes to become a professor or a chaplain, a poet or a lawyer, a journalist or just a more informed individual, graduate school can prove challenging, yet because of the support of my teachers and classmates, the struggles I have faced at YDS have enabled me to grow as both a student and a person. The past two years have made clear to me the value of community not only to enhance life, but also to ground it.  I can honestly say that the friendships I have formed here have been some of the most transformative and enriching of my life.

This point can often be overlooked when comparing faculty listings and aid packages. It’s not that those factors shouldn’t be crucial to one’s decision about where to go to graduate school; indeed, they must play a central role. Once shoptalk is done and the numbers are compared, I would encourage you to think about where you’ll be happy in your day-to-day life and where new interests and passions can be fostered. I would urge you to think about where you can make a home, even if only for two or three years. and I would suggest you make that home in New Haven.