This month YTi begins its series on factuly and staff perceptions and reflections on their experiences with the YTI Summer Academy.

The Reverend Ellen Echols Purdum
Assistant Dean of Student Life and Spiritual Formation

Dr. Ellen PurdumHow did you first become involved with YTI?

 I first got connected through my former work at the Fund for Theological Education, another organization supported by Lilly Endowment.  Beth asked me to lead a workshop when I arrived at Candler in 2010.
What workshop/plenary do you teach?

 Vocational discernment

A lot of staff  might shy away from teaching with high school students. What can you tell them about it’s value for you? Or, for theological education?
To be honest, I find that some years on the day I’m doing the workshop, there has been some “drama” at YTI earlier (which I know is supposed to happen at YTI), so we often spend much of the time de-compressing and de-briefing.  Which is fine with me.  The older scholars engage the discernment topic much more readily; for the younger ones, I think it’s not real yet.  All of them love lighting candles, being quiet and journaling or doing art!
How has teaching at YTI impacted how you teach or work with students at Candler?

 In the arena of working with seminarians, who are often very young now, the YTI scholars remind me that for some students, college doesn’t offer them much opportunity to engage questions of vocational discernment—they are as nebulous about it as are the high schoolers.  So it reminds me where to start.

What would you say to a faculty member who is considering teaching at YTI?

Do it.  And for God’s sake, don’t give a lecture.

Why should others support YTI?

Because everyone is a theologian, and at least in the Christian tradition, ignoring the theological insights of our youngest goes against our baptismal vows.

Any final thoughts?

While I believe in the value of inter-generational work, I do wonder about offering different vocational workshops for younger and older scholars.