by Michelle Butler, Staff Writer


So, Jesse do you mind telling us just a little about what lead you to divinity school? What has kept you here?

I’ve always had a spiritual curiosity that ramped up in a Religious Studies course titled “Prophecy” I took in my last semester at Kenyon College.  We approached justice – religious, social, ecological – in a way that moved me at an undiscovered, deep level.   I had not heard of divinity school at this point and itched to study these topics further.  I took two years to quiet down, engage mentors, and work small jobs.  Divinity school found me and led to an automatic fit at Wake Forest.  I’ve remained here because the studies and relationships give me life, and nothing else makes sense for my personal and professional formation.


What has been the most life giving thing for you either inside or outside of school?

Divinity school has reawakened me to awe and mystery.


If you could be a superhero what would be your name and superpower?

Don’t know… I’m content with being human…


Over the last three school years, what would your top five favorite classes be?

Pastoral Care in Times of Grief and Loss; Roots and Branches; Saving Places, Savoring Graces:  Exploring a Grounded Liturgical Theology (Sacraments and Ordinances); Homiletics; Biblical studies


What would be your least favorite classes (top five)?

I was in the Bioethics dual degree program for two short weeks; Contemporary Ethics class discussion often made my stomach hurt.  That’s it.  I’ve really loved classes here.


How have you practiced self-care while here at Wake Forest? What does that look like?

I’m big on bedtime and morning routine, meditation/yoga, cooking simple meals, and nurturing relationships.


You’re always so nice, sweet and welcoming to everyone you encounter at the school. Do you ever have a bad day?

Oh yeah.  I have a strong emotional life that sometimes sweeps me under.  Thankfully, I’ve learned to identify my emotions, which keeps me grounded most days.  I’ll caution you if I’m very hungry because that can get regrettable.


How have you been most impacted at the Divinity school?

I have cultivated language to articulate core beliefs that I struggled to name before divinity school.


In what areas in life have you felt most drained?

I have missed consistent reading for pleasure.


If you could give any advice to your 17yr old self, what would that be?

Trust in life’s goodness.


If you could meet any celebrity (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

J.K. Rowling to absorb some of her creativity and learn from her lived experience.


If you were stranded on an island, which 3 professors would you pick and why?

Fred Bahnson to help identify edible plants; Dr. Crainshaw to steep in her wisdom; Dr. Leonard to keep me laughing and hear his stories


Do you have some tea (a secret to tell us) something that we may not know about you?

I’m confused.  Tea?  I do love tea, especially ginger. You may not know that I love dried flowers.


If you could live on another planet/ country which one would it be?



If you could name one thing, what would you say has been the most transformative experience here?

Praying the Psalms with Benedictine monks and friends at 3:30AM


For the incoming class, one that you will never have a chance to sit side by side with in a classroom with but have come before them. And have travelled this long journey ahead, what is some advice that you will offer these students?

Open yourself to change and not knowing from day one.  Take care of your whole self.  Ask for help.  Read.  Befriend older students who have integrated their lived experience.  Engage the amazing professors.  Attend chapel and community lunch regularly. Listen before you speak and/or act on assumptions about your peers.  Do CPE, especially if it scares you.