This past May, Duke Divinity School’s Office of Admissions welcomed the first cohort of undergraduate students to campus for the launch of the Emerging Ministry Scholars Fellowship (EMSF) program. This program, designed to serve students from historically Black colleges and universities who show promise for Christian leadership in the church and the academy, encourages students to engage in vocational ministry discernment in an ecumenical environment and explore opportunities for graduate work at an R-1 research institution.

Students pose in front of Duke Chapel
Students who participated in the Emerging Ministry Scholars Fellowship program are pictured left to right, back row: Sydney Wilkins (North Carolina Central University), Naryah Ellis (Spelman College), Anthony Mitchell (Clark Atlanta University), Shadavia Burnett (Spelman College); front row: DaShawn Jones (Howard University), Rachel Garrett (North Carolina Central University), Kourtney Flowers (Spelman College), Elijah Strong (Wiley College, a participant in the Duke Accelerated Pastoral Formation Program).

The EMSF fellows were nominated by their professors and mentors and included representatives from Spelman College, North Carolina Central University, Howard University, and Clark Atlanta University. They attended faculty lectures, interacted with current students, developed relationships with alumni, and connected with one another in shared meals and activities.

Said the Rev. Ashley Cross, senior admissions recruiter: “Sharing time and space with these fellows was a gift. They are being formed well at their undergraduate institutions and are already demonstrating a high capacity to thrive in ministry and graduate-level theological education. We sought to create an engaging space where these young scholars were able to discern what continued theological formation and education might look like for them at Duke. I hope their time with us continues to spark questions about their vocational pathways. And of course, we would love to have them join us at Duke.”

EMSF has been developed to cultivate new pathways to higher education that carefully consider the context of prospective students, part of the Office of Admissions’ goal to provide a supportive environment to all prospective students. The program was led by Rev. Cross and facilitated by Deborah Williams, project coordinator with the Office of Black Church Studies and academic support. Supporting faculty members included Dr. Quinton Dixie, Dr. Valerie Cooper, Dr. Wylin Wilson, and consulting faculty Christine Parton Burkett; and staff included the Rev. Dr. Regina Graham and the Rev. Dr. Cullen McKenney. The program led students to see Duke Divinity School in a new light, with one student commenting: “Duke is nothing like I thought it would be. That’s a good thing; I can see myself here.”