The first step to becoming a leader is the ability to truly understand others. Although she’s held multiple leadership positions, Natalie Hughes ‘23 is taking that step through each conversation and scripture by pursuing her Masters of Arts in Religion at Yale Divinity School.

Natalie Hughes '23 is furthering her Hebrew Bible Studies at Yale Divinity School where she's earning her Masters in Religion.

Religion was always of interest to Hughes. At St. Edward’s, she majored in Catholic Studies and drew inspiration from professors and from peers through Campus Ministry. It wasn’t until she stepped foot into Professor of Religious and Theological Studies Dr. Kelley Coblentz-Bauch’s Introduction to the Hebrew Bible course when she noticed all the doors that opened through this path. Dr. Colbentz-Bauch influenced much of Hughes’ discernment process, specifically her decision to concentrate her masters studies on the Hebrew Bible.  

“She taught it in a way that was so engaging to me that I really just fell in love with it, and all of my research had to do with the Hebrew Bible, Jewish studies and ancient Judaism,” Hughes said. “ It was a field of study that—growing up Catholic—I didn't feel I was exposed to as much as Catholic doctrine. So I think that part of my attraction to it is the fact that everyday I'm rereading a passage in a different way, or I'm always learning something new.”

The Holy Cross Mission played a key role in guiding Hughes where she is today

—and it’s still a mission by which she abides. Hughes credits the Holy Cross Mission for her ability to interpret scripture and understand the context behind it. 

“I think about the idea of educating the heart and the mind a lot,” Hughes said. “When you're reading these very dense, critical texts, you have to look up every other word and you don't really understand it. Sometimes it’s very hard to make the connection between ‘how is this educating my heart as well as my mind?’ I really think it comes back to this central idea of how. How does the text that I'm reading enhance the way that somebody feels and approaches the situation hundreds of years later?”

After four years of focused education in Catholic Studies, Hughes is committing her studies to understanding the Hebrew Bible by studying the language, along with Greek, Aramaic and years of biblical interpretations. It’s the exact kind of challenge Hughes was looking for; and she accepted it with a crowd full of faculty, staff, family and friends cheering her on. 

Hughes’ support on campus stretched from Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel to the RecWell Center, where she served as a competitive sports coordinator, supervisor and captain of the women’s lacrosse team. Through LiveWellSEU, a RecWell health initiative, Hughes carried out the dimensions of the program—intellectual, social, emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, environmental and vocational. She credits Director of RecWell Clint Jones for helping her grow confidence outside of her studies. 

Natalie Hughes '23 is furthering her Hebrew Bible Studies at Yale Divinity School where she's earning her Masters in Religion.

“I never doubted that there was somebody in my corner. I was able to have the flexibility to try new things at all times. I always had this security blanket of “Okay, I know that if I mess up I'm going to be held accountable and that is going to help me grow,” Hughes said. “And if I mess up, I’ll be able to overcome that. I cannot emphasize enough how I would not be at Yale today without all of the support and opportunities I received at RecWell, especially without Clint. “

Hughes is still testing the waters at Yale as she reflects on what’s next on her journey. She’s considered earning her PhD and continuing her research; however, she’s still very drawn to working with teams and leading in sports management. No matter the path she chooses, Hughes is confident that her education has prepared her to excel in the future. 

“I'm challenged to be a better thinker, and I'm also consistently challenged to confront and understand perspectives that are different from my own—whether it be a classmate or somebody who wrote on a scroll 2,000 years ago.” 

By Nina Martinez

Photography by Liberty Vela '24

"I never doubted that there was somebody in my corner."

Natalie Hughes '23