Alumni/ae Tuesday: VDS Alumni @ Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt Divinity Alumni serve in churches, organizations, and institutions across the country and around the world. Some, however, choose after they graduate to make a transformative impact right here on campus. This series features VDS alumni who work at Vanderbilt, showing the range of work a theological education can prepare one to do. We hope you’ll enjoy getting to meet them!
Adam McKeever-Burgett, MDiv ’11
Associate Director of Academic Services for Vanderbilt School of Engineering
How is your work at Vanderbilt shaped by having pursued a theological education?
Each day I speak with several (sometimes many) students in varying circumstances – some in academic or personal distress, some who simply need someone to encourage them, occasionally some at crisis level. The ability to serve as a non-anxious, nonjudgmental presence that I practiced in Pastoral Care courses, as well as the ethos of inclusion that pervaded all of my other courses are learnings that I draw upon daily. I can’t think of a better training for the work that I do than a theological education; I could not do my work without it.
In what ways do the Divinity School’s Purposes & Commitments inform your work at Vanderbilt?
I am lucky enough to speak with nearly every student who comes through Vanderbilt School of Engineering at some point during their undergraduate career, and speak with many of them frequently. VDS’ commitments to combat, oppose, and confront racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, homophobia are commitments that became ingrained in me through discussions with my classmates in ethics, theology, field education, and history of religion classes. That I can draw upon the experiences shared by my former classmates to educate, empathize, or make my students feel more safe is a vital part of my role. The VDS community that challenged me daily to see all people as worthy continues to challenge me to make sure that all undergraduates I encounter – many of whom are in vulnerable places at some point during their time here – feel safe, respected, and cared for.
What advice would you share with prospective students?
Use some of your electives to explore areas of interest. One of the great things about VDS is that it’s just one of ten schools that comprise Vanderbilt University. I used elective hours to take an education course at Peabody that helped me further discern exactly how I would be able to use my theological education in the real world. Being able to take a course or two outside of the Divinity School can strengthen your vocational discernment and efficacy.