A Message from the Dean

Welcome to the University of Chicago Divinity School.  
Dean Margaret Mitchell

This is a place that can change your life.

My own association with the Divinity School began when I ventured to Chicago from my job teaching high school religion at a school in Connecticut to enroll at the Divinity School in the MA program, now more than 30 years ago.  From there it led to doctoral work in Bible, to a first faculty position at McCormick Theological Seminary here in Hyde Park (from 1986-1998) and onto the faculty of the Divinity School, where I have taught New Testament and Early Christian Literature for the last 16 years, the last 4 of them as Dean.  The Divinity School and the University of which it is such an integral part have been my intellectual home and remain for me the most exciting environment for teaching, learning, researching, debating, socializing and being human that I can imagine.

This is a place that is known for uncompromising rigor in thought, in language, in preparation, in method, in research and in scholarly argumentation.  We prize that reputation and reality – that we are known for adhering to no orthodoxy except the good argument and a resistance to the easy answer.  There is always more to know, and it is always more complex than we had thought.  Here we also experience that that rigor is not at the expense of respect and inter-personal regard, but is one of the highest forms of it.  This is a School where faculty love to talk about their teaching and love to teach courses in which they discuss their field-defining research with outstanding students while it is underway; where graduate students in all four of our programs have their voices and their own academic projects and vocational aspirations about which they are passionate and that they are eager to discuss; where talented student leaders lend their gifts to a vibrant community life that includes meals, the arts and music worlds of our great city, dancing, the best coffee on campus, softball games between faculty and students, and lots and lots of good humor and good conversation.

In one short webpage I cannot describe to you entirely what the Divinity School is about, and I do not have to, since the rest of the site will tell you much more, and a visit to Swift Hall all the more.  But I would try, at least through the texts (in PDF format, below), to put you in the room at the opening community Wednesday lunches in October of 2010, 2011 and 2012 as I sought to give some definition to what it is that we do in this place that is called the University of Chicago Divinity School, and why the academic study of religion as we carry it out here – across all 4 of our degree programs -- is so vital, not only to we whose lives are changed here, but also to the wider publics who seek to understand religious phenomena in all of their multiple manifestations, past and present, and want to know why doing so really matters.  This is an ongoing conversation of which we are all a part, and to which you are warmly invited.


Margaret M. Mitchell
Dean and Shailer Mathews Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature

“Playing with Fire: The Task of the Divinity School” 

“Workshop or Assembly Line: Models of Learning in the Academic Study of Religion” 

“Complicated Religious Pasts and Presents: the Place of ‘Religion’ in the Academic Study of Religion”