My informal meeting with the director of the doctoral program which I am to begin in the fall was a very interesting encounter for me. The Boston College School of Theology and Ministry will my twelfth educational institution, but I can already tell that this feels like a very different thing. In trying to think about it, I came upon the word pastoral, which I will try to explain.
Up until now, school has been about someone telling me what I ought to read and write, with evaluation based upon how well I have managed to understand or apply the things I was told to learn. The tasks and questions are different now. It's not what I am supposed to read, but whose influence I want to form me and make me want to read things. It's about mentors and finding people who can help me know how to read the things I want to read and write about. It's about building connections that will help me get to the sort of campuses and libraries that have the people and books I want to form me. The director made me feel like someone who was going to be initiated into a conversation and shepherded into a culture.
I know this a corny thought and betrays my shallowness, but I came out of the meeting feeling like I had received the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, "You've taken your first step into a larger world."
The director also bought me a cup of coffee and a pistachio cookie.