Part Two â€“ Being a Graduate Student
When I entered grad school, I entered with a sense of purpose that was in my mind akin to the idea that the Puritans had of vocation or calling. Attending a Catholic university, I realize that many use the word vocation in strictly religious ways, but the Puritans viewed all of life as religious, and so all of life should be understood as vocation. I had been involved in the vocation of teaching, but not at the place where I felt I was fulfilling my true calling. I was going to grad school with the intent in my mind to complete that calling, to fulfill my vocation. But shortly upon arriving at grad school with the above ideas in my mind, I realized I needed to change the way I thought about my own vocation. So, what changed in my own self-understanding about the vocation of academia?
First, I realized I had to become a scholar if I was going to take seriously the vocation of an academic. In the first six months, I shifted my thinking in a variety of ways, not the least of which was changing my vocabulary from studying theology, to being a theologian. While this change might be subtle, it was a reflective way for me to begin to think of myself as a scholar, not just a teacher. I do think there is not enough emphasis placed on the development of the craft of teaching in doctoral programs, but I needed to do a reset of my thinking about my own place in scholarship.
I came into the program with very vague ideas of what I wanted to study, and I had no real settled person who I wanted to study under. My previous work had been very general, and I liked thinking about things in big picture terms. But I soon realized that to become a scholar meant mastery, not just generalized knowledge. I was very fortunate that in spite of my lack of vision, God saw fit to bring both a great mentor to study under and a theologian whom I could study in depth whose papers were close to my current location. My studies have opened doors to present papers and work on writing articles about my research which I never envisioned when I began the program. If we as evangelicals are to fulfill the vision that Mark Noll laid out, it is necessary that we become scholars. I needed to learn that lesson. [Read more…] about Returning to Graduate School â€“ Thoughts by Michael Stell (2)