From spiritual questions to daunting medical challenges: alumni scholarship support student research

Saybrook PhD student Erica Hamilton wants to create a multi-dimensional model for addressing a painful women’s medical condition.  PhD student Les Ernst wants to interview spiritual directors across the U.S. to study how they teach people to discern an authentic spiritual experience.

Both of them will be able to complete these ambitious dissertations, thanks to support from the Saybrook Alumni Association.

This month the Alumni Association named Ernst and Hamilton its 2009 scholarship winners.

The $8,000 scholarships, begun last year, are awarded annually to two PhD students, in any Saybrook program, who have completed their coursework and are looking for funding to help complete their dissertation. 

Saybrook Alumni Director George Aiken says there were nearly 20 essay and candidacy level doctoral students who applied, and that all of them were highly qualified.

“The intention of the scholarships is to support serious students who are near the end of their graduate work and are in financial need, so that they can reduce the time spent earning a livelihood and increase their focus in a ‘final push’ to finish their essays and dissertations,” said Aiken, who is himself a Saybrook Alumnus.  “The award has been extremely successful so far, and the Alumni Association hopes to continue to offer these scholarships in the future.”

Ernst said he would like to express his “sincere gratitude” and “heartfelt appreciation” to the Alumni Association. 

“Without this scholarship it would not be possible for me to conduct this research or to finish my doctoral program,” he said.  He now anticipates finishing his dissertation, entitled The Use of Discernment as a Means to Authenticate Spiritual Experiences in Christian Spiritual Direction, by the spring semester. 

Hamilton is hoping that her research will help women who suffer from Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) get off the “medical merry-go-round of diagnosis, referral, and treatments that may or may not be effective.”

“This research,” she says, “will serve as the foundation for the development of a multi-dimensional model of CPP in women, one that addresses critical factors related to the physical health, mental health, and spiritual health of women with CPP. I intend for this study’s findings to be used to help women with CPP step off of the medical merry-go-round and onto new healing paths that actualize their healing capacities.”

She intends to apply the scholarship to her tuition, and to doctrinal research expenses, and anticipates finishing by next spring. 

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