Steven Philp

MDiv student


Why did you choose to attend the Divinity School at the University of Chicago?

I knew that my three years at the Divinity School would be challenging; coming to the University of Chicago was a commitment to push myself academically, socially, and spiritually. As the first Jewish Master of Divinity student, I have had to blaze a few trails – from reformulating the core requirements to reflect my faith commitments, to finding a synagogue for my second year placement. As a convert, I am used to being a border crosser; however I have found that carving your own path can be an isolating experience. Yet from the moment I stepped on campus, I knew I was part of a family; the Divinity School is a remarkably intimate and supportive environment. The faculty and staff have a strict open door policy, and both the Dean and the Dean of Students know each student by name. Reverend Lindner – the Director of the Ministry Program – regularly invites students to her home for meals. Although one is challenged at the Divinity School, I have never had to face obstacles alone. Rather, I am able to approach problems with the tools that I have been equipped with through my classes and extracurricular experiences, knowing that I have a strong and affirming support network behind me.

What have been the highlights of your academic work at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago thus far?

Perhaps the best part of the Master of Divinity program is the ability to take what we learn inside the classroom and apply it off campus. During the second quarter of my first year, we began to define what it meant – to us – to carry our faith commitments outside of the church of synagogue. To practice the principles that we were preaching, each of us spent time at Jackson Park Hospital doing chaplaincy work – serving people at their time of need as a reflection of our theological values.

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

I work at Grounds of Being, the Divinity School student-run coffee shop. I am also the Spiritual Life Assistant at the University of Chicago Spiritual Life Office; I coordinate our student-run interfaith council, as well as plan regular spiritual life events for the student body. I am also a sculptor; this past year I had a piece featured in a student art show, run by the Festival of the Arts (FOTA).

Tell us a little about your engagement in a faith community (chaplaincy, advocacy work, etc.).

I am doing my second year placement at Anshe Emet Synagogue, located off the Addison Red Line in Lakeview. I sit on several committees, help coordinate services, teach arts and crafts at our Religious School, assist with the Jews-by-Choice program, and hang out with our youth group attendees. My internship has been a great experience; due to the fact that Anshe Emet is such a large synagogue, I have had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything. I am also the co-founder and co-leader of Mishkan, an independent Jewish community that meets every other week for Shabbat evening services.

How do you like living in Chicago?

Although my first winter was a little difficult (moving here from Southern California), I have learned to love the seasons and how it changes the character of the city. During the winter people stay indoors, attending theater shows and enjoying live music at one of the thousand pubs in Chicago. When spring rolls around and all the flowers begin to bloom, everyone comes outside to run and bike along the several-mile long lakeshore trail. In the summer, there are hundreds of free festivals to take advantage of. It's a wonderful city, made user-friendly by the extensive public transportation system – every weekend I feel like I have the opportunity to do something new!

What do you plan to do after you have graduated from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago?

After graduation I plan on attending rabbinical school, pursuing ordination with the intention of going in the chaplaincy work and interfaith advocacy.