In addition to its degree programs, Harvard Divinity School offers a selection of short seminars and online sessions exploring some of the world’s biggest questions with leading HDS scholars and professors of religion.
Making Change Program
What’s around us changes us.
What’s inside us changes the world.
Step away from the demands of daily life and reconnect with the values that inspire all you do at Making Change, an intensive five-day program of personal and spiritual development on the Harvard Divinity School (HDS) campus.
In sessions with some of the country's leading scholars of religion, theology, and ethics, you will encounter knowledge and practices that lead to personal transformation and make you a more effective agent of change in your organization, your community, and the world.
Making Change 2022:
Friendship and a Life Well-lived
Ananda, the Buddha’s beloved disciple, speaking to the Buddha about what he had learned from the Buddha’s instructions over the years of living with him, said that “half of the good life” is friendship with good people (kalyanamitta), companionship with good people, closeness with good people, only to be corrected by the Buddha that these are not half but actually the whole of the good life. (SN.45v.2)
—Jan Surrey and Charles Hallisey 2021
“Friendship, the Whole of Life Well-lived,”
Insight Journal, 47:164
The social fabric of virtually any society emerges, binds, and holds itself through a combination of factors, but among the most important are relationships—bonds of family, friendship, and social connections. The historical and cultural understandings of relationships are as vast and creative as humankind itself. And yet they are constantly evolving, informed by the contemporaneous times, economies, cultural norms, and technologies that are in perpetual motion.
Across five days in early June 2022, program participants joined notable scholars and faculty to focus on friendship’s historical and spiritual dimensions. Through a close, critical inspection of secular literature and sacred texts, participants examined the rich and complex power of friendship, including:
- How the depiction of friendship in religious narratives helps us to appreciate the gravity of personal relationships
- The importance of cultivating connections with those who share different backgrounds to bridge cultural and religious divides
- The potential for expanding what we learn from relationships—how to nurture, respect, and care for others—to make meaningful change in the world.
Participants who join the “Friendship and a Life Well-lived” seminar engaged in deep reading of the texts, rigorous discussion with fellow participants, and exploration of the content with leading Harvard scholars. The approach is inspired by havruta—a way of learning from the Jewish tradition that involves understanding and solving problems through dialogue, discussion, and debate. A brief word about discussion-based learning from the opening chapter in Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership:
“The traditional [teaching] model is based on the idea of teaching as telling. The primary goal is the transfer of information from an expert (the teacher) to novices (the students), with the expert controlling such critical elements of the process as the syllabus, pace and sequencing, and mode of presentation…. [A]n alternative model goes by various names, including active learning, self-directed learning, student-centered education, humanistic education, and progressive education. But in every case, the central tenet is the same: students must be actively involved in the learning process. The implications of this philosophy are both subtle and profound.”
Because Friendship Can Cross Lines
Author Colum McCann and David N. Hempton in Conversation with David Shulman
Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli, both living in a world of conflict that shapes every aspect of their daily lives. Their personal worlds shift irreparably when each has a child killed.
Hailed as “transformative” by both Israeli and Palestinian writers, Colum McCann’s Apeirogon takes as its fulcrum the real-life story of two fathers who have lost their daughters to the conflict in the Holy Land. When Aramin and Elhanan learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them and, becoming friends, they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.
HDS Dean David N. Hempton, who grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, engaged Irish-born international bestseller Colum McCann on what he thinks are the lessons to be taken from the exemplary friendship between Aramin and Elhanan with all its particular complexities. Israeli Indologist, poet, and peace activist David Shulman joined the conversation.
Making Change is for individuals who want to:
- Study at one of the world’s leading divinity schools
- Get a new perspective on the challenges they face
- Connect with others working to make change
- Take the long view
- Make an investment in themselves
Participant conversation and connection is an essential component of the program. We seek a group of participants with diverse perspectives and experiences. The only formal requirement for admission is proficiency in written and spoken English.
Prospective participants will be requested to complete an application, which will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
Payment for the program can be made by check, credit card, or transferring the program fee from a bank account. Once you are accepted into the program you will receive payment instructions.
The program fee ($4,600 for summer 2022) covered all sessions, the readings, and all meals with the exception of one dinner when you are free to explore the Cambridge/Boston area.
Withdrawals, refunds, and changes to the program
Participants can withdraw their registration subject to the following refund schedule:
- 15 or more days before the program start: full refund
- 8–14 days before start: 50 percent refund
- Within 7 days of start: no refund
Program curriculum, dates, and faculty are subject to change. In the unlikely event of a change in the program dates, participants who previously paid are eligible to have the program fee refunded in full, but the School is not responsible for any other expenses incurred by the participant.
In 2022, there were 15-20 hours of preliminary assignments and required readings to complete prior to the start of the program.