Yale’s First Indigenous Student Body President Outlines New Programs and Goals at Divinity School
The first president of Indigenous student government at Yale Divinity School, Tamara Fore-Ravelo bases her platform on diversity and a fluid definition of divinity.
Courtesy of Tamara Fore-Ravelo
Tamara Fore-Ravelo DIV ’23 makes Yale Divinity School history as the school’s first Indigenous student government president, basing her platform on an increasingly fluid definition of “divinity” and a school culture that elevates underrepresented voices in the American faith.
Since its founding in 1822, the Divinity School has been committed to preparing students for service in the church and in the community, in the hope of nurturing the exploration of Christian scholarship in a multi-faith global context. It’s the final part of that mission — cultivating awareness of religious diversity — that Fore-Ravelo says takes work and one she’s eager to zone in as a student body leader.
“We are all healing from the breakdown in the world – the pandemic, the shootings, the [post-traumatic stress disorder]“said Fore-Ravelo. “I really am an unconventional president. What I bring — apart from intellectualism — is the heart. My platform aims to do healing work and bring light to campus.
The first step, Fore-Ravelo said, is to recognize that this healing is not just an individual process. Knowing that many of his peers are still recovering from the pandemic and the national upheavals of recent years, his platform focuses on strengthening people-to-people relationships, as well as the role people play in nature’s larger ecosystems.
Among the initiatives Fore-Ravelo and her team are announcing this year is a series of lectures called “Name It, Heal It,” where she invites big names in global advocacy to engage students in conversations about diversity and the leadership. Speakers will come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, and will include an American Poet Laureate, heavyweight boxing champion, authors and pastors. After months of planning, the series will officially debut on September 21, featuring Fore-Ravelo’s personal mentor, Iyanla Vanzant — a famous American motivational speaker and spiritual educator — as its first guest.
“Because the YDS is a Christian school, it can be quite difficult for other people of other faiths to be affirmed,” said Edwin Pérez Jr. DIV ’24, Andover Newton Seminary Representative to Student Government. from Yale Divinity.
Pérez stressed the importance of telling local stories and the stories of “people below the story”.
These conversations about race and inequality at the YDS are nothing new. In January 2022, Yale Divinity School Dean Gregory Sterling acknowledged the school’s historic complicity with racism, announcing a $20 million Social Justice Scholarship Fund to accommodate Black students. and underrepresented in school.
Fore-Ravelo emphasized that beyond serving as a liaison for the YDS student body and capitalizing on marginalized perspectives, she seeks to change the way the rest of Yale views the Divinity School, its employees, and its goals. She said she understands Divinity School can often feel very “religious” and isolated from the rest of an academically oriented campus, but said the principles taught there can be applied regardless of one’s career and background. his academic trajectories; she said that ultimately a spiritual education is to edify people.
In an interview with the News, Vanzant echoed Fore-Ravelo’s sentiment that divinity and the sciences deserve unity. She said she was disappointed with the lack of clarity in the definition of the word “deity” at Yale. Divinity isn’t just religion and it’s not just culture, Vanzant said – the traditional qualifications used to determine whether something is “divine” or not come from a European construction of a seeing being. all and almighty.
As a black spiritual leader working in a field she described as dominated by white male voices, Vanzant said any school that offers a divinity program, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton, must be held accountable for the integration of diversity into its curriculum, as well as to erode the boundaries that divide academic disciplines.
“Because the concepts of male dominance and superiority are collapsing,” Vanzant said. “I encourage the Divinity School to be mindful, aware, and deliberate in sharing with the rest of the body what its mission is and how it trains leaders today to integrate concepts of divinity into the myriad arenas of life. “
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