Hartford Seminary

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Graduate Profiles

We are proud to highlight the accomplishments of our inspiring graduates. Through their hard work and devotion to scholarship, they have forged a path to success in many different fields. Find out where a Hartford Seminary degree can lead you.

For Janice Lautier, ‘The World Opened Up’ at Hartford Seminary

As it does for many alumni/ae, Hartford Seminary holds a special place in the heart of Janice Lautier of Southington, CT. And like many alums, the story of how she found the school has its roots in heeding a call from God.

“It’s really about becoming who you were meant to be.”

– Janice Lautier

Janice was a special education administrator when she felt the beginnings of a calling to “devote my life to what God was looking for in me.” Since she wasn’t sure exactly what that was, she began on the path of discernment, beginning to recognize and affirm what she was feeling as it became grounded in a contemplative prayer practice.

The path unfolded in a way she would not have expected nor could have imagined. Her journey helped her to realize that Catholic women could be chaplains, which intrigued her as a way of answering God’s calling. The search for training in that field eventually led her to Hartford Seminary, where she asked to sit in on a class in 2011.

That class turned out to be pastoral counseling with Ben Watts, Faculty Associate in Religion and Community Life.

“As soon as I sat down, it went beyond the experience of being inspired academically,” she said. “There was a joy there. I was mesmerized.”

Before long, Janice had enrolled in the Master of Arts with a focus in Spirituality. Classes with Professor Miriam Therese Winter and President Heidi Hadsell, she said, were transformative in a way that went way beyond the classroom. She also met students of all ages from different countries and different faiths.

“It brought the world to me,” she said.

Janice earned her MA and went on to become board certified through the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. She did her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Griffin Hospital in Derby, and in short order, she was hired as a chaplain there. She is now the Director of Spiritual Care and Education.

Janice credits Professor Winter with helping her to understand that “everything unfolds.”

“The beauty of being here is that I met people of any faith and was offered a multitude of perspectives.” she said. “It led me to a deeper sense of spirituality. … It changed the way I saw things and so many doorways opened.”

After taking the Seminary’s signature “Dialogue in a World of Difference” class, for example, Janice decided to visit a Sikh temple she had passed many times in Southington. That was something she never would have thought to do before attending Hartford Seminary.

“I went in one day and they couldn’t have been nicer,” she said. “They invited me to a wedding!”

Hartford Seminary is a safe and very welcoming place to discover spirituality in yourself and others, Janice said. She credits it for allowing her to live out what God was calling her to do.

“It’s really about becoming who you were meant to be.”

Byron Peart – Master of Arts grad / Doctor of Ministry student

“A Hartford Seminary education is unique and profoundly enriching.”

– Byron Peart

byron

How did you hear about Hartford Seminary?

I have known about Hartford Seminary since I was a teenager. While in high school I did a term paper on Islam by utilizing the seminary’s library which was across the street from where the seminary is now.

What made you decide to attend?

I have always wanted to pursue a seminary education. I was accepted at several seminaries including Gordon Conwell and Yale. Since I live in the greater Hartford area, the seminary is “in my back yard.” The seminary’s diversity, faculty, and physical proximity appealed to me. I have a profound interest in interfaith dialogue. I took at least one course at the seminary shortly after graduating from college. I chose a secular career and had family responsibilities, so I attended business school and earned a master’s degree at night.

When did you graduate and what degree program did you graduate from?

I graduated in May 2014 with a Master’s degree in Theology and Ethics and I am currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program.

What sets the Hartford Seminary environment apart?

The Hartford Seminary is unique in its approach to interfaith dialogue. I am not aware of any other seminary where the Abrahamic faiths are deliberately engaged in dialogue in its curriculum, faculty and students on a daily basis.

How do you plan on using your degree?

I am Pastor of the Church of God in West Hartford where I facilitate a weekly Bible study, teach a new converts’ class, and preach. Additionally, along with my wife Georgia, I coordinate a regional (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode island) “Calling and Ministry Studies” program for my denomination. The Church of God is headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee. We are the oldest Pentecostal denomination in America with ministries in over 180 countries.

What should prospective students know about Hartford Seminary?

A Hartford Seminary education is unique and profoundly enriching due to the emphasis on religious diversity. At Hartford Seminary you will find gifted and caring faculty and staff who comprise a strong family oriented community. Also, you will meet and develop significant friendships with students from various faith traditions, ethnic, and national origin.


Kristen Provost Switzer – Cooperative Master of Divinity

“The educators at HartSem work to create the ideal learning environment.”

– Kristen Provost Switzer

Kristen

How did you hear about Hartford Seminary?

I learned about HartSem by doing a Google search for seminaries in CT.

What made you decide to attend?

HartSem was a good fit for me for many reasons. First, it was necessary for me to attend school close to home (Branford, CT).  The classes were flexible and the environment was relaxed, yet intelligent. I needed to “ease into” seminary, and HartSem helped me determine that seminary was indeed the correct choice for me.

What degree program?

I took courses at Hartford Seminary in the Cooperative Master of Divinity program, then transferred to Yale Divinity School, where I graduated with my M.Div.

What sets the Hartford Seminary environment apart?

HartSem is full of incredibly intelligent, diverse and down-to-earth people. For starters, there is nowhere else in the world where one could gain an education such as the one found at HartSem or in the Cooperative M.Div. program. Learning with people of all Abrahamic faith traditions was a complete eye-opener, and an opportunity that frankly most people never get to experience. The people at HartSem are also special. I remember sitting in M.T. Winter’s “Quantum Jesus” class, and someone admitted that they had not prepared the reading for the day. M.T.’s response was, “Well don’t get stressed out about it! That’s the last thing that anyone would want.” The educators at HartSem work to create the ideal learning environment, one which is centered on learning through people, experiences and conversation.

How do you plan on using your degree?

I am now the Minister of Youth and Mission at Newtown Congregational Church in Newtown, CT.

What should prospective students know about Hartford Seminary?

Prospective students should know that Hartford Seminary creates an educational experience that one will not find at any other school. It is one-of-a-kind, and pursuing a degree at HartSem is a life-changing experience.


Rev. Gail Williams – Graduate of Women’s Leadership Institute, Black Ministries Program, and Master of Arts in Transformative Leadership and Spirituality

“Hartford seminary prepares strong leaders in a diverse world.”

– Reverend Gail Williams

Rev Gail

What did you hear about Hartford Seminary before attending?

Hartford seminary is outstanding and committed to theological academics and multicultural programs. In 1889, Hartford Seminary became the first seminary to admit female students.

What made you decide to attend?

This program helps to build, prepare, and train leaders. This program was filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit!  I knew upon my completion of BMP that I would be back to Hartford Seminary for my graduate degree. It was through BMP that I was introduced to the writings of Cornel West, who taught me “ the problem is we need much more moral content.”

What degree program did you graduate from?

I started my journey in the Women’s Leadership Institute. It was in WLI that I learned how to apply our spirituality. In WLI I was blessed to work with Professor M.T. Winter in the Christmas Toy Ministry “ Where Love Is” for the past two years. I also graduated from the Black Ministries Program as the class president in 2008, and just received my Master of Arts in Transformative Leadership and Spirituality in 2016.

What sets the Hartford Seminary environment apart?

What sets Hartford Seminary apart? The transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, mind and heart which conforms us to the character of Jesus. To sum it up in one word “Ethos.”

How do you plan on using your degree?

I am using my leadership skills as the founder of “The Anita, Ava House For Women, Inc.” and in the Bloomfield Public schools where I work in Special Education. I am currently working to start a mentoring program there for girls. I am also using my leadership skills in my church with a ministry called “Feeding The Multitude” for the hungry. Additionally, I am a hospice volunteer through Masonic Care as I witness people transitioning. It was in my class “The Essential Writings Of Howard Thurman and Religion In A Multicultural World” that I learned to be present in one’s presence. This has had a profound effect in my ministries.

What should prospective students know about Hartford Seminary?

There is one word that comes to my mind. They should expect “ Elevation.” Proverbs 3:5-5 NIV, Trust in the Lord with all your hearts, and do not lean on your own.


The Rev. Dee Wellington Bright Sr. – Doctor of Ministry

“The opportunity to study with Jews and Muslims broadens your scope of study. It adds to the uniqueness of this place.”

– Rev. Dee Wellington Bright Sr.

Jennifer

What did you hear about Hartford Seminary before attending?

I’m an immigrant from Liberia, where I served as an Episcopal priest for 10 years. I came to the U.S. [in 1996] and experienced many cultural shocks, including that mainline congregations were declining. That was surprising to me coming from Africa. … I took an interest in studying the dynamics of U.S. congregations. I started at Yale Divinity, but if you really are interested in U.S. congregations, you have to look at Hartford Seminary.

What degree program did you graduate from?

The Doctor of Ministry. I was the rector of a parish in Springfield, MA, and have since relocated to Oklahoma.

What sets the Hartford Seminary environment apart?

I was in one of the largest D.Min. classes. There were folks from other Christian denominations, other faith traditions as well. It was also interracial and intergenerational. The [seminary] did good work in recruiting that diversity. … [The Doctor of Ministry program is tailored] to what you are studying and what you are doing in ministry. I like the whole dynamic. It’s not something apart from your ministry. The professors are quite aware that the students are professionals in their field. There’s a balance of rigorous work and elastic tolerance to each person’s situation.

How do you plan on using your degree?

I was in search of a new ministry. When I sent in my application and resume (to the parish in Oklahoma), they were fascinated by my knowledge of congregational ministry. I credit that to this place.

What should prospective students know about Hartford Seminary?

No. 1, it’s very strong in congregational ministry. No. 2, it is practical theology, not just philosophical theology. No. 3, the interfaith component. The opportunity to study with Jews and Muslims broadens your scope of study. It adds to the uniqueness of this place.

Jennifer Sanborn – Master of Arts

“I truly feel like the Seminary is living its mission of preparing peacemakers.”

– Jennifer Sanborn

Jennifer

How did you hear about Hartford Seminary?

I am the daughter of an American Baptist pastor and granddaughter of two. Seminary has long had some intrigue, given the members of my family in ministry. I did not foresee serving as a traditional pastor, however, so my exploration of seminary was in aligning the education with my values, interests, and professional focus. The Women’s Leadership Institute was a perfect fit! I discovered the program online, and, in a “Spirit of God Moment,” soon thereafter accepted a position in the Hartford area that resulted in our family moving here from Massachusetts.

What made you decide to attend?

Following the Women’s Leadership Institute, I continued to take one course at a time, simply because I enjoyed my classmates and the interfaith learning environment. This one-at-a-time model first turned into a certificate in Ministry in Daily Life and then into a Master of Arts in Spirituality.

When did you graduate and what degree/certificate did you get?

I graduated in 2012 with a Master of Arts in Spirituality.

What sets the Hartford Seminary environment apart?

A number of seminaries are experimenting with serving students of multiple faiths. For me, Hartford Seminary is beyond the experimental stage–this quality of the educational experience is well-integrated and an assumed value for those who come. The faculty are more adept at engaging multiple faith perspectives, even in classes like Scripture and Theology, where primary belief systems can easily dominate. I truly feel like the Seminary is living its mission of preparing peacemakers.

How do you plan on using your degree?

At present, I serve as a pastor of Enfield American Baptist Church (arriving at this family legacy vocation after all!) and work part-time at Hartford Seminary as an Admissions Recruiter. I also have a life coaching business for women, again returning to my value expressed in WLI of empowering women of all ages to open themselves up to the fullness of life.

What should prospective students know about Hartford Seminary?

Prepare to invest yourself. You can skate along the edges of the experience, but you will be missing out on the full richness of what is offered by the faculty, staff, and students of Hartford Seminary. I am grateful to count many classmates as personal friends and professional associates, and I remain in contact with faculty members as well!


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