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New Dean of the Howard School of Divinity hopes to advance ‘Black theological education’

After 17 years as a professor at various levels, Kenyatta Gilbert is appointed to be the new dean of the Howard University School of Divinity.

Kenyatta Gilbert, a member of the Howard community since 2006, will begin his new role as Dean of the School of Divinity this school year. Photo Courtesy of Justin King/ HU Communications.

In a recent email sent out to the Howard community, it was announced that a full-time professor from Howard’s School of Divinity, Kenyatta R. Gilbert, would be assuming the position of Dean. 

Gilbert began his journey at Howard in 2006 as an adjunct lecturer, “I was commuting from New Jersey every Friday to teach a preaching course – I would go from Penn Station to Union Station and I would do that weekly for the course of 13 weeks,” Gilbert said. 

The following year Gilbert became an assistant professor of preaching, getting tenure in 2011 and officially becoming a full-time professor in 2018. Gilbert has assumed five different positions within the School of Divinity since his time at Howard including his new position as Dean. 

Gilbert has many mixed emotions about his new appointment as Dean. He’s transparent about how the adjustment has been but he meets the appointment with gratitude and understanding. 

“I’m humbled by that, certainly grateful, in this present moment overwhelmed but I’m excited to have the opportunity to help our students, our faculty, reimagine what we can be in this particular season nationally and globally,” Gilbert said.

Aligning his vision for the School of Divinity with the Howard Forward strategic plan, Gilbert’s plan, titled “Divinity Forward” is designed to advance excellence in Black theological education together.

“My core focuses will be enhancing and innovating the theological curriculum, theologically engaging the church and public square, and then educat[ing] and forming community and collaboration,” Gilbert said.

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He has hopes of collaborating with the Howard University School of Law, possibly adding another dual degree program to the School of Divinity in collaboration with them.

“What stands before us now with two new incoming deans, there’s an opportunity to reimagine what west campus can be about and do in terms of building an establishing community and thinking more collaboratively about what is possible in this time where faith and politics are so central and important that we engage in, in this moment,” Gilbert said.

It is clear from discussions with the student body that Gilbert has left an impression on the students in the School of Divinity. Fifth-year student and student body president of the Student Government Association (SGA) in the Divinity School, Leah Burgess attests to this. When she found out about the new appointment she experienced “pure joy and excitement.” So, when it came time to have a meeting with Dean Gilbert and the SGA board she was not surprised about the outcome.

“I wasn’t really sure what that meeting was going to be like,” she said. “But, I was not surprised at all that we, as students, did the talking and he listened, took notes, and asked questions to clarify anything he needed clarity on. He wanted to hear from the student body. It might seem small but that means a lot.”  

Others, including faculty, held these same sentiments making it clear that Gilbert had a strong passion for the School of Divinity and the community within it. 

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Frederick Ware, believes that Gilbert’s energy and willingness to engage so deeply with the Divinity school community germinates from the genuine passion behind what Gilbert does.

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“When someone believes in what they do, they believe in the mission of the school, the university – I think that’s where the passion comes from – believing in the mission, and not only believing in the mission,” Ware said.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew


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