Julian DeShazier


Why did you decide to pursue the MDiv program at the University of Chicago Divinity School?

The Divinity School's emphasis on method and research was a huge sell for me. I wanted a seminary experience where I could enhance my faith, yes, but also dialogue with other traditions, histories, and texts. The MDiv program in particular excited me because they take critical reflection seriously but are still able to relate this to the practical experience of ministry. In a lot of places, either the praxis or the academic rigor is lacking, but UChicago seemed to be a place where I could get both! 

What were the highlights of your experiences?

My cohort. We were a small bunch - only about 16 of us - but that allowed us to really get to know one another. This made the dialogue - sometimes debate! - even more exciting, and I left feeling like I had a group of friends to support me for life. This, and the program director spends so much time with you. It's like everybody knows you and is ready to support you, even after you graduate!

What is your current profession and how did your degree prepare you for it?

I am the senior pastor at University Church, and began only a month after graduation in 2010. With the degree and preparation from Swift Hall, I felt smart enough to engage a congregation as the "young guy," disciplined enough to navigate different cultures and tastes responsibly, and confident that I could serve anywhere. I left and felt ready to lead. This place has a way of doing that.

How did the program and the wider University help you attain your goals?

Being able to take classes across the University was a huge benefit for me. Not often do you get to take a course in "Financial Management of Nonprofits" at a school of social services while earning an MDiv. I also took "Philanthrophy and Public Policy" at the school of public policy. These courses have been an asset to me in my ministry.

What do you do in your non-professional life?

I play and perform music, I watch the White Sox fade in and out of obscurity, and I watch my little daughter discover the world. 

Anything else you would like to add?

When I was doing my undergrad at Morehouse College, the dean of the Chapel told me that the ideal path from Morehouse was the University of Chicago. "At most seminaries," he said, "you learn how to preach and speak whatever words of your tradition. But at the University of Chicago, you'll learn to speak to anyone. You'll learn to be responsible and critical. The church needs more of this." I was glad I listened. He was right.