Meet these graduates: Commencement 2020

A sampling of graduates reflect on their YDS experience and look ahead to what’s next in their lives and careers.

Stephanie Addenbrooke ‘20 M.Div., ‘17 B.A.
There are many things at YDS that have been life-giving and transformative, but there are two things that stand out. First, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to sing with Mark Miller in the Marquand Gospel and Inspirational Choir. I have made memories in those rehearsals that I’ll treasure for a lifetime. And, second, the professors at YDS have taught me so much. I will forever admire them as brilliant scholars, but also as wonderful people with deep care and concern for the world. I feel very lucky to have been their student.
I will begin a Ph.D. in Theological Studies at Emory University this fall. My interests sit at the intersection of theology and disability studies, and I am looking forward to working with the faculty at Emory to construct and create theological resources for the academy and the church. I am passionate about creating classrooms and churches where all will be welcomed, and I look forward to continuing that work in Atlanta.
While the pandemic has resulted in a virtual graduation, I am heartened by the strength of YDS’ virtual community. I have been blessed by Zoom breakfasts with friends, an active Facebook group and encouraging emails lovingly crafted by the Student Affairs office. It reminds me that community takes many forms, and that my YDS family will continue far beyond our time on the Quad.
Cate Anthony ‘20 M.Div.
I’d never belonged to a community the way I belonged to my community here at YDS and Berkeley Divinity School. The relationships I built here taught me so much: how to be unafraid and vulnerable, how to ask for what I need, how to be unabashedly silly, how to unconditionally show up for the people I love. Because of the embrace of this community, I could bravely say “yes” to God’s call in my life. 
In June I will join the staff at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, VA, as Associate Priest. While my work as a priest will cover the whole gamut of ministry, my particular areas of focus will be in pastoral care, the church’s abundant and remarkable food ministries (including a weekly farmer’s market and a café!), and as a dedicated presence to the children and families of the community.
YDS will hold an online Commencement ceremony on Monday, May 18. Watch here.
I’ve been sheltering in New Haven since spring break. In all, I feel remarkably blessed to have a safe place to spend this time, financial stability, and my own health. As I think about the next year, I’m sure that my formation at YDS (particularly with Joyce Mercer!) will come to great use as I do my best to walk with and care for my community as we navigate this collective trauma. 

Joshua Cayetano ‘20 M.A.R. (Ethics)

The most transformative experience I had while attending Yale Divinity School was protesting the shooting of Stephanie Washington and Paul Witherspoon III last April alongside my classmates and members of the New Haven community. From this, I learned that the most important work of love and solidarity is a practice of the gut, not the head; and that it should be pursued in community, not alone. 

Next year I will be moving to Austin, Texas, for a gap year before attending UC Berkeley School of Law in the fall of 2021. While I have no concrete plans for my gap year, I intend to continue to work with Students of Salaam, a nonprofit committed to the educational success of migrant students. 

Will Dickinson ‘20 M.Div.
I remember the first time I saw Marquand Chapel living out the dream I have for the Church: reconciliation through blended worship. A space where solemn processions are as natural as ecstatic dancing, a prayer for the world that ends in a shiver of doubt or a shout of testimony, all honored as beautiful responses to God’s promise. My formation at Yale has instilled a conviction in me that reconciliation is not only possible but inevitable. Our worship in Marquand proves this every day. This is our call. This blessed naïveté is why we run this race.
Like many, I’m not quite sure what’s next. I was ordained a deacon in the last public liturgy in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia before we suspended public worship. What a strange time to be new clergy! I will begin my priesthood in the fall at a parish in the Mid-Atlantic, and until then I plan to rest up, cook some delicious food, and, who knows, maybe start a podcast or two! I suspect that I will pursue doctoral study at some point, in the intersection of liturgy and ethics, but the Covid-19 pandemic has affirmed my conviction that whatever work the academy does, it must do for those who might never read it. Of one thing I’m sure: There are people to serve, a world in pain and confusion, work to do…and my formation at YDS has given me the will and grace to do it. 
Alicia Fowler ‘20 M.A.R. 
In my experience of the Divine, there’s never just one moment that transforms. Instead it is a slow tuning, sometimes bumpy, other times not, to the Eternal voice that whispers (and sometimes shouts) our names from beyond the deep, calling us towards a sacred communion. Residing for two years alongside others who likewise wrestled with that Divine voice transformed me in the most profound, and bittersweet, of ways. I say bittersweet because an earnest pursuit of realizing God’s loving action in this world reveals the depths of pain, complicity, and joy there is in this thing we call life. This my courses and classmates taught me. I can’t have asked for a better space to encounter God.
What’s next? I’m still trying to tune to that elusive Divine whisper. In the meantime, I am using my quarantine time to provide strategic consulting and graphic design support to for-profit and not-for-profit religious organizations I love in NYC including Lab/Shul and Bushwick Abbey. Oh, and also dreaming about that spiritually-based, sustainable, food start-up with my best friend.
Joshua Rumbaoa Jerome Garcia ‘20 M.A.R. (Hebrew Bible)
While my studies have been extremely important to me, I found that my most transformative experiences were the many opportunities to participate in student leadership at both the Divinity School and the broader university. By serving as a representative to student government and a board member for the Roman Catholic Fellowship at YDS, serving as a graduate affiliate for Benjamin Franklin College downtown, and serving on the Graduate Student Council at Saint Thomas More, I’ve learned how to be a better person as much as I’ve learned how to be a better scholar.
After the summer, I plan on pursuing a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible at the Graduate Theological Union. I’m excited to continue the work I’ve started at Yale examining how empires shape and affect gender and sexuality in the Deuteronomistic History at the GTU. Affiliation with UC Berkeley will also allow me to research and explore how to bring my Asian American, and more specifically Filipino American, identity to bear on interpreting Scripture for my ethnic and faith communities.
I have been sheltering in my apartment in New Haven, but the city and campus do not feel like home without my colleagues, friends, and family. Fortunately, the global health crisis did not pause and only minimally disrupted the encouragement and support I received from the many groups at Yale with which I am affiliated. I truly could not have made it through this last leg of my program without them and I am honored to have them in my corner for the next chapter of my life.
Berit Goetz ‘20 M.A.R. (Music & Religion)
I’ve loved contributing original music to worship at Marquand Chapel, a space for which I’m deeply grateful. This year’s Advent Service was especially memorable. Two dancer classmates choreographed my piece, and we performed it together as a visual-sonic duet. It was powerful to watch them bring my work to a new kind of life through movement, and to see how creative work together can feed the Church. Interdisciplinary collaboration, thoughtful worship, and graced scholarship are the reasons I came to YDS, and they’re reasons I’ve loved this place.
I’m looking forward to a busy slate of independent writing, recording, and performing (virtually, for the time being!) with my songwriting project, Mystery & Manners. I’ll also continue to serve the church through parish music ministry.
Over spring break, I was on tour. Since cutting it short (because of the Covid pandemic) and returning to New Haven, I’ve enjoyed finding creative ways to stay connected and in conversation with the outside world. Hosting a weekly remote record-listening party, livestreaming house concerts, and participating in mutual aid networks have all been exercises in joy and discipline. Those things need to be held together, now more than ever.
Darien Jamel Jones ‘20 M.Div.
Initially, my time at YDS was a bit unsettling. It took quite a few semesters to become comfortable with being here—I never actually settled. In hindsight, settling seems like an impossible task; after all, I only had three years. In the three short years, I’ve encountered several transformational moments. What pushed me to grow and transform the most was being in community with fellow students, faculty, staff, and everyday people at YDS. I’ve never underestimated the power of community, but I’ve also never fully grasped all that community-building takes. By far, learning how to be in community with people from all walks of life is what I will cherish as the thing that had the most transformative effect. 
There is an old proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Being transformed through the power of community is what enabled me to graduate from YDS.  
I am an Itinerant Deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. After graduation, I will receive an appointment from my episcopal leader and serve at local congregations in South Carolina.
Nate Lee ‘20 M.Div.
Some of my most transformative moments at YDS were in my classes with Dr. Willie Jennings and discussing his lectures with my friends and classmates. Also, not really at YDS, but a huge part of my YDS experience was being able to spend my second year studying abroad at a divinity school in Hong Kong. 
As for what’s next, I am still figuring things out! But I am planning on returning to the San Francisco Bay Area to do congregational ministry.
Michael Libunao-Macalintal ‘20 M.Div.
For me, the most transformative experience at YDS was the first Filipino American History Month service in Marquand Chapel. As a second-generation Filipino American, it was really important for me to find new ways to uncover and recover lost histories and stories of my ancestors and elevate them into public spaces. That day, alongside other Filipino students, we celebrated these voices as a community in worship. I never thought that would ever be a possibility when I had started at YDS. But that day, I caught a glimpse of a more loving, inclusive, and just community.
I’ve given a lot of thought as to how I want to approach my next steps, particularly as a lay Catholic person. I’ve learned that ministry takes a lot of different forms, and it doesn’t always happen in the pulpit or in the church. I’m focused on how to reach people outside of those spaces, using the skills I’ve obtained to support and walk alongside people in new ways. Whether that be at a university or at different non-profit organizations, I hope to continue the work of recovering, elevating, and supporting peoples’ lives and stories.
Claire Repsholdt ‘20 M.Div. 
My M.Div. felt like a three-year stream of transformation. I built friendships out of beautiful worship services. I heard music that took my breath away. I ran into incredible writers around every corner. Because of my work with alumni, I trust that my most profound experiences are yet to come. YDS is a landscape of inspiration that will guide me for a lifetime. I await the transformation that its lessons will bring when they show up in the communities I serve.   
In February, by the grace of God, I was “endorsed” by the ELCA to continue to the final stage of the ordination process—a parish internship. Before I take that step, I will complete a CPE residency at Yale New Haven Hospital. All of the good yoga and great conversations it took to ground me as I pursued questions of intellectual faith at YDS turned out to inspire me to study questions of embodied faith. I am grateful for the chance to attend to questions of health and spirituality that no longer seem the littlest bit tangential to modern ministry. 
These last few unimaginable weeks of the semester have been, for me, time to dwell richly in God’s call. What greater graduation speech could God have inspired for a generation of pastors giddy to solve the problems of the world than—as a friend recently quoted to me—the formidable words of Jonathan Edwards, “You have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.” Here goes nothing!
Mahogany Savoy Thomas ‘20 M.Div.
In the spring semester of my first year, all of my courses were taught by Black professors. I took Doctrine of Creation with Dr. Willie Jennings, Introduction to Womanist Theology and Ethics with Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman, and Is it a Sermon? and Pauli Murray: In and Out the Pulpit with Dr. Donyelle McCray. This semester at YDS changed my life. I went the majority of my academic career without the experience of an instructor who looked like me. My experience in those courses affirmed in my spirit that I was exactly where God called me. 
I am relocating to Washington, D.C. to serve as the Executive Minister of Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC). 
As a class of 2020 graduate, one of my first reactions to the pandemic was grief. While I longed for the safety and well-being of our world, the loss of a traditional commencement grieved my spirit. Completing my M.Div at YDS was not just personal; it was deeply communal. I planned to walk up the steps of Marquand Chapel carrying the spirits of my family, my ancestors, and my entire village. So, the inability to have a traditional ceremony brought grief that felt profoundly devastating. With the help of God, I channeled my grief into support and began to care for my fellow graduates as I thought perhaps, they too, were grieving. Our care for one another evolved in many ways since that moment. Yet, I will always remember how we supported our community to ensure each graduate completed their YDS journey amidst a global pandemic.
Akhil Thomas ‘20 M.A.R.
One of the most transformative experiences for me was the class Theology and Medicine, co-taught by Dr. Mark Heim and Dr. Benjamin Dolittle. Especially memorable was the class trip to the anatomy lab at Yale New Haven Hospital. I also have very fond memories of playing with the Paracleats, our intramural soccer team and working at the circulation desk at the Divinity library. I will also miss helping move furniture with my philosophy buddies and our unrealized dream of starting a moving company called Epistemic Displacers. 
I will begin my Ph.D. program at the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard this fall. I am interested in studying South Asian religions and philosophical systems at the intersections of social reformation and religious vision. 
May 12, 2020