Professional Formation (Non-profit & Justice)

Within the Divinity School curriculum, the internship experience is uniquely situated at the intersection of academic study and the practices of justice work, prepares degree candidates for leadership in the world by engaging them in student-centered experiential learning and theological reflection on the nature, practice and context of work and service. Many students are focusing their purpose and goals for the M.Div degree in social justice and non-profit work, feeling called to do work outside the Church. M.A.R. students who choose to participate in the internship program appreciate the added value of a contextual component to their coursework and the structure of Office of Vocation and Leadership programs.

The programs in YDS Internships help students:

gain professional competencies in the art and practice of social justice/non-profit work,
build frameworks for addressing practical theological issues,
acquire comprehensive and contextualized views of work in the world,
discern and develop professional identities, and
establish a foundation for pursuing lifelong learning individually and among peers.

Components of Internships:

As a course in the YDS curriculum that is required for the M.Div. degree but also open to students in the M.A.R. degree program, YDS Internship Program has four basic components that support student-directed learning..

The student is always at the center of the learning process, which is self-directed yet structured by a Learning Covenant with the supervisor/mentor and the Director of Professional Formation (DPF). The DPF helps students negotiate the internship experience at a site and with a supervisor/mentor that will develop or enhance the skills and practical wisdom required for the work they expect to pursue. A weekly practicum with other interns and facilitated by an experienced practitioner extends the feedback and support students receive as they engage the significant individual reflection that is fundamental to transformative learning. These components are described in greater detail below and on additional pages.
Goals of Internships:

to allow students to test directly their vocational commitments;
to bring together theological thinking and action (theory and praxis);
to enable students to gain personal confidence, identity, and authority;
to broaden the base of empirical knowledge and to encourage students in their critical reflection;
to stimulate the discovery and the lifelong cultivation of competencies requisite for social justice work in varying situations;
to provide a competent supervision process which will support personal and spiritual formation, critical reflection, and professional competence;
to develop within students an ongoing self-assessment process, utilizing self-perceptions and feedback from others, for the purpose of stimulating further growth and lifelong learning.

Learning Covenant

The Learning Covenant describes a three-way relationship between the student, supervisor/mentor, and the Director of Professional Formation. In Commonwealth and Covenant: Economics, Politics, and Theologies of Relationality (Eerdmans, 2016), Marcia Pally points out that a covenant is something like a Mobius strip in that “ a relationship of reciprocal concern, the commitment by each to give for the flourishing of the other, generously, not quid pro quo.” It is choosing to join together in mutual commitment, pursuits, responsibilities, concern for the other, and accepting the gift of consideration (advice, support) in return (155-157). Making covenant to fulfill the learning goals of supervised ministry means committing to reciprocal consideration--worthiness, reciprocal regard, and responsibility among persons--in light of inherent differences in the roles of mentor and mentee. For additional information on Learning Covenants, see the Resources page.

Sites and Supervisors

Internship sites and supervisors that value and help advance student learning are essential and one of the most important ways that Yale Divinity School partners with other institutions in the theological education and formation of individuals for justice work. Sites participating in the internship program represent a broad range of contexts and missions. While the student leads the process of exploration and selection of a site, thus allowing students to create individualized internships that prepare them for the vocation they are discerning, the Director of Professional Formation approves all sites and supervisors, provides them initial and ongoing training and support, and periodically visits and reviews sites and supervisors to assure a high quality contextual learning experience for students. Interested sites and supervisors may also propose themselves for review and approval by the Office of Vocation and Leadership. See eligibility criteria on the page, Hosting an Intern.


In addition to their activities at the site, student interns also participate in a weekly practicum at YDS, a collaborative learning community of student peers. Their instructors are experienced practitioners trained to guide small groups of interns in practical theological discussions and mutual support. These groups become a model for professional peer groups that students are encouraged to seek or develop to help sustain their work in the future. The purpose of practicum is to support critical, theological reflection on the nature, practice and context of justice work as experienced in the internship. In this setting, students gain the experience of collegial support and feedback from their peers while building a foundation for lifelong learning. Practicum focuses on the following core areas: theological reflection, professional identity, vocational calling and discernment, professional competencies, the context and culture of justice work, and lifelong learning.

Contact: Alison Cunningham, Director of Professional Formation,, 203-645-4656.