Fellowship in Theological Education Leadership

A new opportunity for MDiv, MA, or PhD graduates offered in 2022-23.

Benny VanDerburgh and Lijia Xie have been selected as the inaugural Theological Education Leadership Fellows. They begin in September.

Functioning as members of the Disciples Divinity House professional staff, Fellows will be engaged in aspects of educational and non-profit leadership on a schedule aligned with the academic year. Fellows will each develop a special focus.

Benny VanDerburgh, a current DDH Scholar, will receive his MDiv degree from the Divinity School in June. He is a 2015 magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Bates College with a BA in English and a 2019 MAPH graduate of the University of Chicago. He currently coordinates DDH’s chapel services and serves as librarian and as the House Council co-president; he is also a pastoral associate at St. Pauls UCC. His fellowship project involves developing a model of digitized mutual aid that will curate materials and spotlight trustworthy resources. He intends to pursue doctoral studies to critically examine the religious lives of movement workers and collectives and, specifically, of early waves of HIV/AIDS activism outside of religious institutions.

Lijia Xie will receive his MDiv degree from the Divinity School in August. He completed field education at Urban Village Church in Chicago. He is a 2017 cum laude graduate of Harvard University where he majored in Computer Science and minored in Statistics. After college he worked as a software engineer for eBay in New York City. Lijia’s project for the fellowship is to develop pedagogy and contexts for “revitalizing theological fluency for human flourishing.” He hopes to continue similar work in a PhD program: “a revitalizing of theology in the fraught arena of public discourse, a reclamation … which I believe is indispensable to the flourishing of humanity and society.”

The opportunity

Two new fellowships will offer a full-time, in-residence work-learning opportunity for MDiv, MA, or PhD graduates who are preparing for their next vocational steps.

Fellows will hone organizational acuity, knowledge of higher and theological education, and institutional leadership skills while working closely with the dean, students, staff, and other key constituencies. Functioning as members of the Disciples Divinity House professional staff, fellows will be engaged in aspects of educational and non-profit leadership on a schedule aligned with the academic year.

Possible areas of responsibility and learning are: educational programs, chapel and worship coordination, interpretation, project planning and management, recruitment, fund development, alumni/ae relations, budgeting and finance, trustee engagement, and collaboration with other educational institutions and religious organizations.

Fellows will also pursue an area of special focus, which they will propose as part of the application process and which will be developed and advanced during the year. The special project should address a question or issue in community life, social context/s, the study of religion and theology, and/or religious leadership. We encourage projects that are brave and intellectually compelling, and that will find some public or community expression. A small budget and tailored mentorship will be available. ✜


■ Earned MDiv or MA in religion or theological studies between 2020 and before the end of August 2022. PhD candidates who will earn their degree before the end of August 2022 and postdoctoral applicants are welcome to apply.
■ High promise for pursuing PhD work/post-doctoral work relevant to institutions of theological education and/or related religious or nonprofit organizations.
■ Proven ability for leadership and collaborative work, including for imaginative and independent project development.
■ Commitment to the nurture of individuals for ministerial, theological, and religious leadership and to ecumenical/interreligious learning and community.
■ Residence in Chicago for the duration of the fellowship. Housing at DDH may be chosen as a portion of the stipend.
■ Applications are not limited to graduates of the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Disciples Divinity House.
■ Applications are especially encouraged from, but not limited to, members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).


The primary context of learning and engagement is the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago. DDH’s scholarship program and resident learning community, offered in connection with the University of Chicago, prepares individuals to be the creative thinkers and courageous leaders the church, academy, and wider world need today. DDH’s signature scholarship program ensures a shared community of inquiry and innovation while also providing significant financial, academic, professional, and spiritual support. Students are readied for critical ministry and scholarship for a globalized and swiftly changing world while they are pursuing MA, MDiv, or PhD degrees at the University of Chicago Divinity School. DDH, the University of Chicago, the Hyde Park neighborhood, and the City of Chicago are rich resources for this endeavor. The Fellowship in Theological Education Leadership extends this ethos of learning and engagement by offering an immersive work-learning opportunity for individuals who have already attained significant graduate education and who are readying themselves for their next vocational steps. ✜ 

Duration:   12-month fellowships begin in fall 2022; possible one-year renewal.
Stipend:     $40,000 on an annual basis and with applicable benefits.
Deadline:   Review of completed applications begins January 20, 2022.


Completed applications will be reviewed beginning January 20, 2022, with letters of recommendation due by February 1.

Applications must include:

  • Application form.
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (1-3 pages) – upload with the application or with the supplemental upload form.
  • Transcripts from graduate and professional schools – unofficial copies may be uploaded with the application or with the supplemental upload form. Official copies may be requested to be sent directly to DDH during the review process.
  • Two written pieces (1,000 words each, pdf or word format):
    • A cover letter or statement of interest in applying to be a Disciples Divinity House Fellow. What are your intellectual, academic, professional, and personal objectives in applying? How does it fit into your longer-term aspirations? What do you bring to it? What do you hope to gain from the experience?
    • A précis of your proposed area of special focus for the fellowship year and your approach to it. Describe/define your area of focus. Sketch how you might pursue it, who it will draw in and how, and what you hope to contribute through it.
  • Two letters of recommendation: The application asks for names and contact information for two references who can speak to the intersection of the applicant’s intellectual and vocational abilities, achievements, and aspirations. After submitting your application, DDH will email recommenders with a link to submit letters online. Applicants should contact their recommenders in advance to request letters and explain the opportunity for which you are applying. Letters of Recommendation should be submitted by February 1.
    • One recommender should be an academic advisor or professor who can address the applicant’s high promise for academic or intellectual work.
    • A second recommender, who may or may not be a second professor, should be able to address the applicant’s vocational promise in nonprofit organizational or theological education leadership.