"A Welcome and Necessary Breath of Fresh, Ecumenical Air": Why I Chose Yale - Andrew Steffan MAR '15

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

Today’s comes from Andrew Steffan MAR '15, who came to us from Fordham University in New York.  Andrew has been a fixture in our community for the past two years, contributing much to the life of our school through co-leading the Roman Catholic Fellowship as well as bringing a kind, caring, and compassionate manner to our everyday life.  We will miss Andy when he graduates this weekend, but we know he's going on to great things.  Thanks Andy!

Andy Steffan


My path to YDS was governed in large part by a search for academic rigor. As an undergrad, my studies had gradually but definitively turned toward historical theology. I wanted to study the New Testament and early Christianity at the master’s level with world-class faculty so as to prepare me for an eventual PhD. I knew that there were only a small handful of universities that could offer the kind of intellectual climate I wanted, and Yale was one of them.

I would by lying, however, if I did not qualify the above statement. As much as I wanted to pursue a PhD, I was equally hesitant to embark on a long and arduous journey. I also intended for my master’s degree to be a test-run into graduate education, discerning if the road of the academy was one I wanted to tread.

Sure enough, my application reflected my state of mind. I had applied as an M.A.R. in History of Christianity, but I received a call from Sean McAvoy telling me that the admissions committee had thought I was a better fit for the M.A.R. Theology.  The difference would be split by my enrolling as an M.A.R. Comprehensive with the option to switch into a concentration after my first semester.

I never switched out.

The M.A.R. Comprehensive gave me the flexibility to take courses in biblical and theological studies – areas that were certainly within the range of my academic repertoire – alongside courses in ministerial and comparative and cultural studies that I never would have otherwise taken yet were demonstrably more engaged with the cultivation of my own self in relation to my religious tradition.

In fact, my coursework in the M.A.R. Comprehensive was very much like peering into a gemstone; my studies approached religion holistically by looking through its different facets, and as such I saw the varying methods of theological study intersect as would light refracted within a ruby. From this vantage point I saw a new perspective of the religious enterprise as a whole, and I leave YDS with a better understanding of how to engage religion.

While what drew me to YDS was its unparalleled academic excellence, there is so much more that this institution can offer, such as the broad spectrum of Christian traditions found here. Before coming to YDS I had been educated in Catholic schools for my entire life. As fond as I am of my tradition and the Jesuits in particular, YDS was a welcome and necessary breath of fresh, ecumenical air. I learned so much more about the diversity of Christianity today (as opposed to my academic interest, the diversity of Christianity centuries ago) through my daily interactions with close friends.

So why did I choose YDS? I was attracted by the academics and found comfort in the community. I saw in YDS a place for me to grow as a person (the Jesuits call this practice cura personalis), and that has always taken precedence in my decision-making processes. And now that I look back, I see that YDS has effected the growth I had hoped to achieve. Going forward, I will bring the lessons learned here to my future work, from nine to five and in all other hours. More importantly, however, I will carry myself at all times as the critical thinker and ecumenically-minded individual that YDS has shaped me to be.