Learning in Place
David Finnegan-Hosey ’07 found his path by walking in others’ shoes. On his way to a career as a college chaplain, now at Georgetown University, the international studies major had two experiences as a Cater Society fellow: a Civil Rights tour of the South led by the Rev. Bernard Lafayette Jr., and a summer experience in Bosnia with research on post-conflict rebuilding. Both, he says, put him on terrain that brought human struggle to life.
“In Alabama, we went to the Baptist Church in Birmingham where the bomb killed the little girls,” Finnegan-Hosey says. “We occupied these spaces where people spilled blood, where there was violence and conflict. To actually walk with someone across the Edmund Pettus Bridge who had been there on Bloody Sunday is a different experience than hearing a speech or watching an interview.”
He was struck by humanity’s common clashes. “A lot of my coursework focused on global challenges. So the opportunity to see the connections between what I was studying in the Middle East or in Latin America with events that had happened not very long ago, much closer to home, was an important eye-opener for me.”
Not surprisingly, when Finnegan-Hosey’s class started studying the Bosnian conflict, he longed to hear people’s stories, to connect policy with personal experience. “In Sarajevo, we walked through a tunnel that the Bosnian Army had dug under the airport so people could get in and out during the siege. You had to crouch to walk through, and those tunnels could fill up with groundwater. Being in that space was very different from hearing about it or reading about it.”
As a result of his travels, Finnegan-Hosey prefers his world view to be up close and personal. “Those experiences shaped my understanding of the importance of directly encountering people and their stories in the places they live. It was a big theme of what I did after college—working through Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, both internationally and in the U.S.—and then going into seminary education.”
More than anything, Finnegan-Hosey appreciates the freedom he had to explore. “Because of the Cater Society, I got to do a funded research project on the Civil Rights Movement, and I wasn’t an American studies major, I wasn’t a history major. I got to try out a lot of things, and I remain very grateful for that.”