Happy Friday McReaders!
I recently sat down with the co-moderators, Melva Lowry and Dirk Labuschagne, of the Student Session to see exactly what they do and what Student Session is all about. Here’s what they had to say:
Wes: So Dirk and Melva, you two are the co-moderators of Session. Start us off by telling a little about yourselves.
Dirk: I was born and raised in South Africa, and I’ve been calling the U.S. my home now for a little more than three years. I still don’t get the appeal of American football, but I do love Starbucks. Amy (my wife) and I are the proud owners of the cutest dog in Hyde Park, Albus, whose eagerness to go for walks is making this Chicago winter feel extra long and cold. I am a middler in the MDiv program, and a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Melva: Same as above. (lol, just kidding) … I am a southern girl born in Georgia, but have lived in a few different places over my years. I’m the youngest of four kids and the aunt to eight kids, ages 2-10 years old! I am a senior MADD student, raised in the PC(USA) but I also have affiliation with the non-denominational church.
W: What is Session anyway?
D&M: Session consists of student representatives from each class – juniors, middlers, and seniors – as well as a representative from each student advocacy group. Officially, the responsibilities of Session revolve around communication, advocacy, and nurture. We are here to serve the McCormick community by providing the opportunity for students to raise concerns, a way for those concerns to be addressed, and space for solidarity to be fostered. There is also an elected student and Session member on the board of trustees to ensure concerns are communicated appropriately between the two governing bodies.
W: Why do you think Session is important?
D: I think it’s an important way for the student body to feel represented in the life of McCormick Theological Seminary. There are many decisions that go into making McCormick the seminary that it is, and, ideally, Session is a voice for the students in those decisions.
M: I think session is very important. Students have needs and concerns and to have a group to hold the burden of these concerns with the student(s) is very important. Also to remind the administrative body where students are in terms of learning needs, community, etc. to ensure a great education and readiness to go into the world.
W: What were your goals for this past semester? Have they been a success?
M: Our main goal was to be present. To let the community know that we were here and actively willing and ready to hear the needs and concerns brought to Session and respond to those needs (no matter how long that would take). I think since Dirk and I are not overly aggressive in our approach we did a great job staying on top of the issues and making sure needed persons responded; and we’re still working.
W: What are your goals for next semester?
D: Melva has been thinking of ways to make Session work more effectively. Take it away, Melva!
M: Well, change is inevitable. We are working on the by-laws and holding elected members accountable to the call of service that Session holds. Hopefully this will increase productivity, awareness and availability of all Session, not just the co-moderators, to the community; and improve communication between students and the administration. Plus maintaining our commitment to balancing advanced education with fun, but making sure we are truly being inclusive and diverse in what we do. If we are going to have the motto “cross-cultural, ecumenical, urban and reformed” then we need to live into that better and across the board.
W: What are the biggest challenges Session faces?
D: In my opinion, Session’s biggest challenge is relevancy. We can easily become a body that exists merely for the sake of existing. It will remain a challenge to continually strive to serve the McCormick community in a constructive and relevant manner.
M: Yep! I agree. Say it, mean it, do it.
W: What has Session done that has been a success?
D: I think it depends on what is seen as a ‘success.’ If this is measured by what’s stated in our by-laws, that is the importance of communication, advocacy, and nurture, we have certainly tried to make students aware of Session as a place to voice concerns. We have worked not to have student concerns fall on deaf ears, and to have these concerns, once properly heard, be addressed in a calm and constructive way.
M: No one has picketed! I think raising the awareness of student needs and seeing the group be open to welcoming change is a success. If we can till the soil or prick the heart to look outside of one’s personal “norms” to see the concerns of another, then we are successful.
W: Any final thoughts on Student Session or life at McCormick?
D: I’m continually amazed at the ways I have grown while being here at McCormick. My faith, my sense of calling, and my expectations of the future have developed and expanded in ways I could not have imagined. I’m thankful for the people I have gotten to know and been able to work with, both fellow students and faculty, and look forward to what’s ahead. McCormick is a special place, and there is something about life here that counters stagnation.
M: Theological education and being on Session is a lived experience. You have to open yourself to it and embrace the things that are comfortable and uncomfortable. It moves quickly and calls you to look deep inside your faith and pull out your strengths and find those who will support your weaknesses. We have a great group and we get a lot done (especially when Mo reads her emails—shout out!) and we understand it’s a process of growing, reflecting and developing and students, faculty, staff and board of trustees must be willing to do it together.
…And that’s it! A big thanks to Dirk and Melva for their willingness to share about the Student Session.
See you next week! Peace.