Making a World of Difference: HDS Students

HDS students develop a deep and intellectually rigorous understanding of the world’s religious traditions and the ways in which they shape the lives of people everywhere. They learn to bridge divides of faith, culture, gender, and more by participating authentically in a close-knit community of extraordinary diversity. Perhaps most importantly, they cultivate the inner resources and critical frameworks of meaning necessary for effective lifelong leadership.

Here is a sampling of the remarkable men and women on campus last year.

SANA SAEED, MDIV ’18

Student Sana Saeed

Sana Saeed grew up in England and has lived in the United States, Pakistan, and Japan. With master’s degrees in conflict resolution and peace studies, Saeed has worked on issues of religious discrimination at the Interfaith Alliance, studied violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, and provided training on negotiations, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution for the International Organization on Migration. She is passionate about community organizing and working with youth.

“Exploring interfaith dialogue and working with people of other faiths has taught me about what brings people together. It makes me value my own spiritual upbringing.”

STEVE NÚÑEZ, MTS ’18

Student Steven Nunez

Steve Núñez wanted a challenge after graduating from high school in Wilmington, NC, so he joined the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces and earned his Green Beret at only 20 years old. Driven by the Special Forces’ motto, De Oppresso Liber (To Free the Oppressed), he served in Central America and Afghanistan. Núñez returned home for college, where he studied the intersections of philosophy, religion, identity, and violence. Today, as an MTS candidate, he studies, religion, ethics, and politics at HDS and at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School. Núñez still lives by the Special Forces creed and hopes after he graduates to pursue a doctoral degree while working with politically marginalized groups.

“I don’t think that we need a reward to do good; we should do good for the sake of doing good. I try to ‘walk through life knowing that my footsteps matter,’ as [Rice University professor] Anthony Pinn says, doing what I can to make the world a better place.”

CHRISTINA DESERT, MDIV ’19

Student Christina Desert

Originally from Haiti, Christina Desert decided against the Peace Corps after college and instead joined the Benedictine Women’s Service Corps, where she worked with homeless women and children and with immigrants and refugees. She came to HDS after getting her master’s in social work at Baylor University in order to combine her commitments to faith and service in a multireligious environment.

“At HDS I’m learning to work with people within their own particularities, to embrace those differences, and to love each person’s whole self. That’s been one of the most profound experiences for me here.”

BENJAMIN  CROCKETT, MTS ’18

Student Ben Crockett

A virtual reality (VR) director, Benjamin Crockett came to divinity school to study artistic interpretations of sacred material. In the process, he began to explore VR’s ability to liberate an audience from the conventional video frame. The master of theological studies program enables him to combine work in religion at HDS with VR production at MIT and social entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. His summer field education experience took him to Rome, where he made 360 VR documentaries for the Vatican-sponsored television network EWTN that illustrate the Catholic Church’s efforts in communities around the world.

“Faith communities have to realize that millennials’ spiritual worship is driven by their technology. Right now, the average millennial spends a day a week on their cellphone. Virtual reality is the final major computing platform—and it will be far more addictive and powerful than the rectangular image-based  communication that we have on our mobile devices today. I’m interested in seeing how we can use this technology for something positive.”

WILLIAM WILLIAMSON, MDIV ’18

Student Will Williamson

A foster child and adopted son of a preacher, Will Williamson “fell in love with religious life” growing up in a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Asheville, NC. After working as a wilderness therapy guide, Williamson enrolled in HDS and set out on the ordination path to UU ministry. He plans to become a chaplain in the United States military when he graduates.

“It is deeply fulfilling for me to be part of a tradition that gives one practices to deal with life. Furthermore, I think religion is the only institution that sits people down and says, ‘We’re going to just talk about what it means to be a good, morally righteous person.’ I think that’s incredibly important.”

-Paul Massari