First Cohort of Changemaker Fellows Comes to PSR

September 6, 2013
Some of the Changemakers Fellows
BERKELEY, CA - After graduating from Brown University this past May, Demetrius Burnett was not expecting to continue his education, at least for a few years. “The Changemaker Fellowship... is giving me an opportunity that I could not have seen for myself in this season of my life,” he said.
Burnett is one of 14 Fellows who have received one year of full tuition for Pacific School of Religion’s Certificate of Theological Studies Program. In June, the school sent out a letter asking for nominations for the program, and the response was considerable. After the nominations were reviewed, invitations were extended to applicants. All but one accepted.
“When I heard of this opportunity, my decision was instant,” said Grayson Vega, a Los Angeles native who considered attending PSR for the past 10 years, but held off for financial reasons. “It is time to move into the next phase of my life, graduate study for the ministry.”
The group brings to PSR a vast mix of experience and goals, including performer & Fine Arts Director of St. Leo the Great Catholic School, Kevan Peabody; founder of the HIV intervention non-profit Messengers of Hope, Ernest Larkins; and President of the Ella Baker Center, Jakada Imani, who is pursuing ordination to further his liberation & social justice work.
“Becoming a Changemaker Fellow will provide the foundation I need to be effective at answering God’s call,” Imani said.
For others, being part of the program is more about the journey than the destination. Despite not being sure of his next steps after completing the program, Marvin K. White, a poet, author, and expert baker, does not consider this a leap of faith. “It’s more like I’m tripping on faith and falling into PSR,” he said.
The Fellowship is part of a larger, institution-wide effort at Pacific School of Religion to revision both theological educa- tion, and education for leaders of social transformation. Through training and collaboration, the school will be able to better equip religious leaders to reach beyond the normal definitions of church, and help leaders in other sectors- including non-profits and start-ups- find spiritual grounding to sustain their work.
But the Changemakers Fellowship is only one part of this new vision for the school. Along with the 24-credit Certificate of Theological Studies requirements, the Changemakers will also be taking part in educational initiatives focused on social change, including cohort and immersion learning experiences, and faculty mentors. These additional elements of the program will provide a unique, expansive experience different from any currently offered at the school.
“Our faculty, staff, and students are thrilled by the talents, energy, and enthusiasm that these Changemakers are bring- ing to our campus this year,” Vice President of Academic Affairs & Dean Dr. Bernard Schlager said. “We hope to learn from them and with them as we work together to build upon PSR’s rich legacy of educating leaders for creating positive change in communities of faith and our wider society.”
Diana Becton, a Superior Court Judge in Contra Costa County who has won several awards for her work, believes all the Fellows are ready to rise to that occasion.
“I am humbled, grateful, and excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this awesome group of Changemakers to whom much has been given, and from much is expected,” she said.
A multidenominational Christian seminary in Berkeley, CA, Pacific School of Religion (PSR) has been preparing bold leaders for historic and emerging faith communities since 1866. PSR’s graduates are known for innovative ministries of compassion and justice around the world—in urban and rural parishes, on city streets and college campuses, in the arts, public policy, and many other fields. PSR is a member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), an interfaith consortium of seminaries and institutes in the Bay Area. Visit us online at
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