Poopy diapers and potty training is not typical conversation with doctoral supervisors, so I hear. Soon after deciding to pursue a PhD, a professor offered some valuable advice. He told me, “A supervisor’s character is just as important as their academic abilities.” So, while on the hunt for a suitable PhD program, I took his advice seriously. Each year, an annual meeting for Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) takes place in America. Often times, U.S. PhD applicants are encouraged to setup meetings with potential supervisors (especially, if their supervisor lives in another country) to discuss prospective projects. Usually, doctoral supervisors will only take one to two new students each year, so helping them associate a face with an application is important.
With the help of friends and professors, I was able to setup a few meetings with potential supervisors last year. Sadly, I was quite disappointed by all but one pre-arranged meeting. I came to realize that my field—like many in academia—was nothing short of a “pissing contest.” In fact, the experience rattled me to the point where I questioned pursuing a PhD at all (I am thankful for those who convinced me otherwise). At SBL, hundreds of seminars occur during overlapping times and on numbers of topics. I happened to stumble into a seminar (after my planned session had switched times) on the Gospels, with fifteen other people. One of those people was Professor Helen Bond. As I recognized her face, and was previously acquainted with her work, I stammered through our first conversation—a conversation, I am sure left no impact! However, I remember being impressed by her gentleness and kindness. I had already been convinced that she was a stellar scholar, but chatting briefly proved she was human as well. The other scholars I had met seemed consumed by their work and achievements (talking about themselves the whole time), and she just wanted to know, first, about me, then, about my work.
After returning from SBL, I had narrowed my search down to two potential supervisors. I spoke to several Professors at Fuller Seminary (where I received my MA) who knew Professor Bond; and her character was apparent as everyone spoke gold about her. Also, my friend (pastor and boss) David graduated with Professor Bond, who also studied with the renowned James D.G. Dunn—I didn’t think this a coincidence. I decided I wanted to study with her. So, we exchanged emails. She was a godsend throughout the whole application and proposal stage—correcting my work with gentleness, confidence, and expertise. I was happy to receive acceptance as one her students.
Currently, we meet every couple of weeks and each time I am encouraged that she’s not just invested in my work, but in me as a person. Much of the discussion in our last meeting consisted of potty training and family stories (family is far too neglected in academia). Working—over these last few months—with Professor Bond has further affirmed my suspicions about her…not only is she a star scholar, but also embodies a character of grace I have found in few. I am so thankful for her guidance and investment in me, and continue to look forward to the next three years studying under her supervision.
Some of Professor Bond’s Works/Books: