This post is written by Kelly Conner, currently a student at Duke Divinity and a graduate of Randolph-Macon College. She writes about what it meant to her to be a Bailey Scholar.

My name is Kelly Conner, and I am a first year MDiv student at Duke Divinity School.  I really view it as God’s leading and influence in my life that I have been afforded the opportunity to be here at Duke, and every day when I set foot on campus, it defies belief that I could possibly be so lucky to be learning in this environment.

During my first semester here, it became obvious that my time at Randolph-Macon (both in class and as a Bailey Scholar) prepared me well for my classes here.  Because I was a Religious Studies major, I had already been exposed to theological language and I had already begun to do some deep thinking about the nature of God, Scriptural interpretation, and spiritual disciplines.  That part, the academic part, was obvious to me:  I didn’t struggle in the same way that some of my friends did over words like “eschatology” that Duke professors automatically assumed students would already know; I knew to read the Old Testament like a continuous narrative and that its organization and progression were already familiar to me; I had already been introduced to some Church history so that I could conceptualize some basics about what we were discussing in class.  That part was easy to see.  But what I am just starting to realize is that the Bailey Scholarship program itself gave me just as much preparation as the academic side of Randolph-Macon did.

The Bailey Program is not simply a scholarship; yes, we receive tuition funds, but what is equally important is the community we have as “Baileys.”  We come together once a week to share a meal and reflect.  We also study Scripture during this time and hear about important ministries which are taking place on campus and in the lives of our fellow Baileys.  From the other students, I learned what it means to be in community.  We prayed for one another and discussed problems of a theological and a daily nature.  We genuinely cared for another and encouraged one another in the face of difficulty.  We learned how to join one another in ministry and came to one another for advice.  This gave me more preparation than I realized, especially when I arrived at Duke Divinity School and encountered an academic community of gracious, kind, prayerful, contemplative, often stressed, and yet merciful professors and students.  If my classmates know I’m having a rough week, they will stop and pray for me in the hall.  If a classmate is struggling, they always find a hug and a listening ear.  We have formed for ourselves accountability groups and conversations that offer reflection, commentary on class material, and, occasionally, an outlet for frustration.  This reminds me of my time in the Bailey Program with my fellow Baileys.

Despite being at Duke, a place of academic rigor, all I really seem to find is more questions.  I’ve been told that this is a common, normal experience; after all, only God knows all the answers.  I suppose I could say that I am learning to appreciate God’s mystery more and more, because the more I learn about theology and Christian thought, the more I realize that God is too big to be contained in these principles.  Ultimately, it is up to us to participate in a community of believers, like a church or our fellow Bailey students, and discuss how we see God moving and what we think the truth is.  Sometimes, we learn more from one another than we could in any classroom.

For more information about the Bailey Scholarship program at Randolph-Macon, visit their website.  Or click email and we’ll send you information.