ISABELLA LEONOR ROSALES
As I reflect on my time in the Social Justice and Ethics program at Iliff, I am filled with gratitude. Through this program, I was able to develop an academic vocabulary for my lived experiences and engage my long-standing social justice and anti-racist values.
By engaging with peers dedicated to consciousness-raising and nurturing mentorships with faculty and staff, I feel a strong foundation of support and community at Iliff. These last two years, Iliff has given me the tools to begin an ongoing internal deconstruction and decolonization of the mind. Through classes and professional relationships, I’ve begun the process of embracing the hybridity of my intersecting identities and valuing the validity of my own lived experiences as a lens into higher academia.
Beyond the many tools and academic vocabulary Iliff provided, the opportunities to be mentored by a faculty from diverse social locations is something I will always treasure. I would not have been successful in higher academia without the guidance and support of faculty and staff, specifically faculty and staff of color. During my two years, I experienced the successful cultivation of “brave spaces” in classroom settings where all identities and lived experiences were honored. Iliff also connected me with affinity communities outside of campus. My internship with the Colorado Organization of Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights was not only integral to the development of my identity but enhanced my ability to communicate my scholarship in a praxis-oriented way with my community.
Because of my dedication to scholar activism, I’ve decided to remain in higher academia and am now pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in the Joint Doctoral Program at the University of Denver and Iliff in the Study of Religion. I want to continue to develop this academic vocabulary in liberating ways for myself and for my affinity communities. Someday, I hope to provide the kind of critical compassion and support to students in the study of Religion as Iliff has given me.
MATTHEW DAVID MORRIS
The dramatic and world-altering events of 2020 have stretched and distorted everyone’s sense of time, and I find it hard to grasp that this year of pandemic, uprising, and natural disaster is the same year in which my MDiv journey reached its destination. The structure of my daily life has changed significantly since graduation, but Iliff’s impact on my formation as a thinker and minister continues to be felt.
Being a remote student at Iliff required me to be creative, critical, and flexible in digital environments. These skills equipped me to step into a role as the digital specialist in the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon during the early days of the pandemic and assist congregations in making the transition to online worship. I was able to speak to the importance of demonstrating presence online, which is a value held by Iliff’s faculty and adjunct teachers alike. I would not have been as prepared to respond to the crisis had it not been for Iliff’s commitment to the ongoing development of quality online education.
The ecumenical, multiracial and intercultural atmosphere at Iliff honed in on my skills at communicating across lines of difference, but it also gave me a clearer sense of my own identity as a Christian. Iliff is a school of theology, but I approached my time there as though it were a seminary. Iliff sought to make me a scholar while God sought to make me a priest, and somehow at the end of it all I became both. Those identities are not at odds with each other, I think, which is perhaps a very Iliff thing to say.
It’s a strange moment to chart out future plans. Survival is a good starting point. Survival, and our mutual thriving. “I need you to survive,” we sang together in Iliff’s chapel, the sacred heart of the school. And it’s true, my beloved scholars, pastors, artists, and future students: I need you to survive. I need you, for we are interconnected, supported and strengthened by the gifts and differences we carry in our sacred, beloved bodies. And your survival matters, because you are a fractal image of the Love that made and continues to make us all who we are. You help to make this world whole, simply by being.
Be generous with your kindness. Life is precious and short, so love today as though it is the only day you have.
For in the end, it is.