Hannah Campbell Gustafson

MDiv student


Where were you born and raised?

This is a complicated question. I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The majority of my extended family lives in Minnesota, and I spent every summer in Minnesota growing up, but I also lived in Michigan for 10 years. I consider myself to be a Minnesotan, and am a Midwesterner, which is one of the reasons it feels right to be in Chicago!

What education did you receive before coming to the University of Chicago Divinity School?

I received a BA in Religion from Carleton College, in Northfield, Minnesota.

Why did you choose to attend Chicago?

I chose to attend Chicago for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to attend a grad school where I could do a dual degree MDiv and MSW (which I am doing here, in a 4 year program with the SSA!). I wanted an environment that was going to provide intellectual challenges in ways that my two years since graduating from college have not. I was very ready to return to the Midwest after a year on each coast, and was excited about moving to a big city. I also have a familial history at this institution and in this city. I love that I am spending time in the city where my dad and grandma grew up, and in the neighborhood where one grandpa got an MDiv and the other got a PhD.

Please detail any highlights of your academic work at Chicago thus far.

I have really enjoyed taking Biblical Hebrew and Introduction to the Hebrew Bible at the same time. My Hebrew has helped me to better understand parts of the Hebrew Bible, and taking a course on the Hebrew Bible provides me with more motivation for studying Biblical Hebrew. Also, for our Introduction to the Study of Religion, we had to read Kant. I was dreading this (because I had not read Kant before), but have greatly appreciated the ways in which I have been made to exercise my brain, and love having professors from other areas come in and give their points of view on another text, sometimes connecting to Kant, sometimes not. I may not completely understand Kant, but I have a much greater appreciation for him, which feels very helpful going forward in my studies.

Please describe any church work, special teaching activities, publications, or presentations you have worked on so far that you feel are noteworthy. Are there any professors or ministers in particular who have made a significant impact on your studies?

I come from a family of clergy (and professors). Both grandpas, 1 grandma, 2 of 3 uncles, and my mom are or were all clergy in very liberal protestant denominations. Watching the ministry of my mother has been very inspiring to me. She is the Senior Minister at a large active church in urban Minneapolis. Her church is very involved in the work of social justice, including recently being part of building 30 units of workforce housing on the land next to their church. I have watched the ways in which my mother is both supportive and challenging of her parishioners. Together, they are doing some important and powerful work.

Part of my upbringing was, therefore, an idea that the work of social justice is essential to how I live out my faith in the world. As part of this, in the two years between college and grad school, I did two different UCC volunteer programs. I spent a year living in community in DC, working as a case manager at a wonderful non-profit. I then spent last year as one of four live-in companions in a transitional house for adults who have experienced homelessness and are coming out of mental health inpatient treatment. These were completely transformative experiences that have been a big part of getting me to this place.

What activities do you participate in outside of the classroom? (community service, work, hobbies, etc.)

I have been part of reviving the Greening the Divinity School club since arriving on campus. I have a work study job that is not at all related to what I'm doing in school, which has been a fabulous mental break thus far. I love to write snail mail, bake bread, run, and build relationships.

What do you plan to do after you have graduated from Chicago?

I am thinking about engaging in the discernment process with my home church though, coming from a family of clergy, I still sometimes feel confused about whether or not I want to be ordained. I do know that I am very passionate about being present with individuals who live with mental illness. I think that churches could be huge in helping to rid our society of the stigma against mental illness, and would love to be a part of that work. I could see myself participating in hospital chaplaincy or working in a social service agency for awhile, providing services to individuals with mental illness in those ways. I think there are a huge number of ways in which I can come out of these two degrees and these passions to do work that fits within my calling. I am so grateful and glad to be here!