HTI Giving Day: Making an #HTIimpact

The day is winding down, but there is still plenty of time to give!

Dr. Melissa Pagán tells the final #HTIimpact story of the day. This is a story of the “rippling impact” of the support of #HTI for her scholarship. We support #Latinx students so they can impact institutions, churches, communities, and families. This is the HTI mission and vision. Consider joining us on this journey:

Dr. Melissa Pagán
Assistant Professor, Graduate Program Director, Mount Saint Mary’s University

I am a first-generation college student. Needless to say I was excited when I began my doctoral studies at Emory University; however, the uncertainties abounded. While I knew that I wanted to complete my Ph.D. I had no idea what I was actually doing at this institution and, at that time, I did not have sufficient resources to figure it out. Grace presented itself when I was given the opportunity to become an HTI scholar. The overwhelming confusion and isolation so typical for doctoral students was tempered for me through the work of the Hispanic Theological Initiative. At each stage of my doctoral program they were intent and consistent in providing the resources and support—mentoring, writing workshops, exams and dissertation workshops, editorial support—that was necessary to keep me moving forward. This was crucial for my success since, in addition to the very typical stressors doctoral students face, I had many personal obstacles that were it not for the HTI community and the editorial support of Uli Guthrie, would have certainly meant I would not complete my degree.

To this point: I entered my Ph.D. program with one child and I birthed two others while in my program. Almost as quickly as I had three children I became a single parent to them. Facing this reality I despaired, floundering in the darkness of anxiety and self-doubt, assuming that there was no way I would ever complete my program. I am unsure how Joanne Rodriguez sensed that I might be struggling but at just the right moment she called to check in with me. I explained to her my situation and that I believed that my only option would be to leave my dissertation half-written and walk away. I will never forget her response. It was one that grounded me in the present while directing me towards a hopeful future: “Melissa, you cannot stop, you were born to do this. I believe in you and not finishing is not an option. Tell me what you need and we will get it taken care of for you.” And she did. Joanne Rodriguez was not the only member of the HTI community committed to my success despite every statistic that would suggest that there was no way I could complete. Senior scholars and mentors, in spite of their busy schedules, consistently checked with me to ensure that I was well (and that I was writing). It was the fierce and unrelenting support of these persons who persistently believed in me even when I did not believe in myself that got me to finish my Ph.D.

While I was ever grateful to HTI, I had underestimated its potential for a rippling impact until, after completing my degree, I received a call from my grandmother. A part of the Puerto Rican diaspora, she had moved to Brooklyn, New York from Puerto Rico in the 1950’s. She said that she knew that I was now a doctor and that though she had no idea what kind of doctor I was that she was so proud because we have never had a doctor in the family. She went on to explain that, while she had hopes that in coming to the states her family would be better off, she never saw those benefits materialize. She explained that this success is the first real fruit of her tireless laboring. She thanked me. And in thanking me she thanked HTI. This is poetry. HTI is the poetry that with tongues of fire speaks into existence our deepest desires. It is the poetry that affirms that we ought to persist, exist, and have a voice in our academic institutions and our churches. HTI is the poetry that empowers, emboldens, that sets free. This is the impact of the HTI community. For this reason and so many more, I encourage you to consider joining the En Conjunto Association of the Hispanic Theological Initiative.