For Intellectual Leadership, Professional Service, and Ministry

November 13, 2019
HDS students at Commencement
HDS students at 2019 Commencement ceremony

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 women and men on campus last year.

J.Y. LEE, MDIV ’21 

J.Y. Lee. Photo courtesy of J.Y. Lee.
J.Y. Lee. Photo courtesy of J.Y. Lee.
J.Y. Lee grew up in South Korea and New Zealand before coming to the United States for his education. As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, Lee studied history and business and then enrolled at Stanford for a master’s degree in East Asian Studies. After traveling the world, he returned to Korea as a literary translator and journalist for the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. It was at this time that Lee, who grew up in a conservative Christian family, discovered his interest in theology and the spirituality of millennials. He plans to intern with MIT’s interfaith chaplaincy in AY 2019–20 through HDS’s field education program and then to pursue ministry in a university setting after ordination in the Presbyterian Church. 


“I think it’s so important to be rooted in a tradition. In the past, I’ve been kind of a spiritual dilettante, trying a little bit of this or that. But without a tradition, I think there’s a limit to what one can gain. I think it’s in these communities that we can go deeper.”


Katie Gordon
Katie Gordon. Photo courtesy of Katie Gordon.

Katie Gordon is the leader, organizer, and facilitator of Nuns & Nones, an initiative she co-founded during the spring of her first year at HDS. The group brings together Catholic women religious and religiously unaffiliated millennials to live in intergenerational community with one another. The young people learn from the sisters’ years of experience working for social justice and living meaningfully, even as they enable the nuns to expand their legacy and pass their gifts along to a new generation. Now graduated, Gordon plans to continue her work with Nuns & Nones as well as with the Formation Project, a year-long online spiritual formation experience for community leaders. 

“Women religious have been around for centuries. They have very simple living standards and a cooperative economic model that brings in resources and distributes them equitably among their community members. Their communities are connected to values that are much deeper than what we see in business today. Nuns & Nones learns from those models and traditions so that we, as young people, can build organizations that practice what we preach.”


Michelle Madigan Somerville. Photo courtesy of Michelle Madigan Somerville.
An award-winning writer whose poems have garnered recognition both in the United States and abroad, Michele Madigan Somerville came to HDS with years of experience working as an educational activist in extracurricular contexts and community settings. An educator herself, Somerville taught elementary and high school in New York City before teaching writing at the City University of New York and at the State University of New York (Purchase College). She is currently completing an education memoir, a fourth book of verse, a religion memoir, and a novel.

“I do think there’s something very connected between writing and religion. It’s creation of something from nothing. If you read poets—T.S. Eliot, Fanny Howe, even Sappho—you read a lot of metaphysical content. It’s a natural pairing.”




Kinga Tshering. Photo courtesy of Kinga Tshering.

Kinga Tshering is a former member of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Bhutan. A longtime business executive and engineer with experience in finance, banking, and energy and infrastructure projects, Tshering founded the nonprofit Institute of Happiness to integrate Bhutan’s pioneering gross national happiness index into mainstream economic theory and development work. After HDS, Tshering plans to use his studies in multifaith and Buddhist practices to navigate the conflicts, competing demands, and beliefs that often fracture political systems and societies.  

“Gross national happiness is a paradigm shift from the idea of gross domestic product. It’s based not only on economic development but also on the health of the natural environment and on the culture and traditions in which communities exist. We don’t measure it in terms of income but in terms of what it means to have a holistic, happy life.”


Tom Maridad
Tom Maridad. Photo courtesy of Tom Maridad.

Thomas Maridada is the senior advisor and president emeritus of BRIGHT New Leaders for Ohio Schools, which seeks to close persistent achievement and opportunity gaps for Ohio’s most vulnerable children. A lifelong educator and administrator, Maridada was named Superintendent of the Year and Outstanding Teacher of the Year in the state of Michigan and was also honored by the Metropolitan Detroit Youth Foundation, the National Urban League, and the NAACP for his dedication and work with young people. Although he holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as degrees from the University of Detroit and Wayne State University, Maridada returned to HDS to develop his own religious knowledge as well as the skills needed to provide spiritual care and counseling in a variety of settings.


“I always thought that education was an extension of the ministry that I was called to do. My colleagues and I strive to hear with clarity the voice of the divine, and to discern the ways in which to advance equity, advance equality, promote freedom, and be a catalyst for restorative social justice. It’s a calling.”