Communities of Learning are collaborative, ecumenical, and geographical cohorts of students and ministry leaders committed to connecting congregations with their communities. Through this program, residential M.Div. students participating in field education placements in the same geographical area meet together with ministry and nonprofit leaders to collaborate on strengthening their communities.


"Seeing the ways each of our churches and supervisors support each other’s ministry and how we are able to support and encourage each other in our different placements has given me a model for how ecumenical and community relationships can strengthen and broaden our imagination for the life, vision, and mission of the church."

Communities of Learning affirm what we already know: that churches do not exist in a vacuum; they exist inside a larger context, a community of stakeholders who share a vested interest in the community’s flourishing. The Communities of Learning model for field education forms ministerial leaders with the competencies, leadership skills, and missional imagination to impact a community through churches and nonprofits, while contributing to systemic change, community development, and serving others.

Thriving Communities Fellows pose near Duke Chapel

Thriving Communities Fellowship


While Communities of Learning are open to all residential M.Div. students through field education, the program is an important component of the Thriving Communities Fellowship. In addition to receiving full-tuition scholarships, Thriving Communities Fellows participate in signature programming tailored to their vocational aims, including mentoring, immersion experiences, and cohort-based professional formation and events in the Ormond Center. Students are also eligible for funded field education placements through the Office of Field Education that provide financial support up to $40,000.

Connecting Congregations to Communities

Through Communities of Learning we are:

  • utilizing the rural church as a teaching and learning context for student interns
  • cross-pollinating and collaborating among community stakeholders for strengthened relationships and sustained engagement
  • forming leaders who can lead both inside the church and within a community
  • fostering excitement and theological imagination about the pastoral vocation in both students and current practitioners
  • including faculty and staff partners in each cohort, bringing the classroom to the field and creating a feedback loop to the classroom
  • practicing building community through conversations  

General Guidelines

Students participate in Communities of Learning in fulfillment of the field education requirements of the M.Div. degree. Communities of Learning take place in both the summer and academic year placement periods in a variety of contexts. Ministry leaders who are interested in participating in a community of learning are encouraged to contact the Office of Field Education.

Fellows gather outside seating in a circle listening to a clergymember speak

Building Community Connections


Our students have found that participating in a Community of Learning gives them a chance to discuss and explore a wide variety of topics that are important to the life of their community, and work together with other ministry and nonprofit leaders to connect congregations with their communities.