Alumni spotlight: Lucinda Huffaker

Lucinda Huffaker, Ph.D., (BS Psychology ’75) currently serves as Yale University’s Director of Supervised Ministries, single-handedly advising and mentoring 50 Master of Divinity students annually. While guiding students through the curriculum and coaching their first steps toward their future careers, she not only draws upon her innate enthusiasm and years of experience in teaching, but also uses her undergraduate background in psychology to inform her approach to mentoring.

After completing her undergraduate studies in the Department of Psychology at VCU, Lucinda went on to pursue a doctorate in religion and psychology at Iliff School of Theology and the University of Denver with plans to teach after earning the degree. She took a position with the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion in Crawfordsville, Indiana, an organization dedicated to developing the teaching practices of theology and religion faculty and doctoral students. During that time, Lucinda facilitated workshops, colloquia, and conferences that focused on the dynamics of teaching religion and theology.

In 2011, Lucinda began her tenue at Yale in the Office of Supervised Ministries. Since then, she’s worked with over 300 students to advise their studies and match them with meaningful fieldwork. She enjoys a natural rhythm in her calendar with spring and winter advising appointments and matching students with practicum sites, summer visits to potential host sites and organizations, and fall events and meetings to get to know a new class of students. The right fieldwork placement is her top priority and the center of all of her work. “This might be the only place in the curriculum where the students practice, apply and integrate what they learn in the classroom. I know from my own experience it is some of the most effective learning there is.”

Over time, she has seen a shift in the ways students use their placements—from engaging with future employers to simply exploring possibilities that a Master of Divinity degree can offer. Lucinda describes that more and more students use the divinity program in seemingly unexpected ways, seeking employment in government agencies, community programs, schools, research facilities, or environmental work rather than what is viewed as perhaps the more traditional path of pastoral ministry. She sees this as an indication that society is viewing ministry differently—and her students are anticipating that change as they consider their fieldwork. “In the future, ministry won’t be tied to a building but will be practiced in a more entrepreneurial or public setting like secular or nonprofit work.”

Lucinda has an obvious pride for and dedication to her work with students. “When I am working with a student, I explore with them how they think they need to grow and where the gaps are in their education but also what’s going to be challenging for them to develop their skills and expose them to new experiences.” No doubt, having her thoughtful counsel makes a tremendous impact.

Written by Caitlin Hanbury