Serap Bulsen

MPS, Muslim Focus

How did you learn about the MPS program at Emmanuel College?
I was aware of the Emmanuel College MPS program since its initial launch. I met Professor Nevin Reda during my undergraduate studies. She left an unforgettable impression as an amazing instructor at the Near and Middle Easter Civilizations (NMC) Department where I was lucky to have an opportunity of being her Arabic language student for a short period of time. When I learned that she was teaching at Emmanuel College, I did further research about the MPS program. Upon my acceptance at Emmanuel College, I was selected by the Royal Canadian Chaplain Services as a candidate for the Subsidized Education Entry Level Masters (Chaplain) program. I was thrilled to become a student of the program I was dreaming about.

Can you tell us a bit about your studies?
I have completed the MPS Spiritual Care Muslim Stream program. I had the opportunity to take courses related to my faith tradition as well as other courses offered at Emmanuel College and other theological colleges. I enjoyed taking courses of my interest, such as Narrative Therapy, Spirituality and Creativity and Religious Peacebuilding. It was an amazing experience. I became more appreciative of richness and diverse views within the Islamic tradition both in the classic and contemporary period.

I also enjoyed the courses that I took with the Buddhist and Christian stream students. I did my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in a hospital setting. It was a challenging and transformative experience for me.

What did you study as an undergraduate student?
Before enrolling in the MPS Program at Emmanuel College, I completed an Honours BA and an MA in NMC at University of Toronto.

What was it like to study in Toronto?
I would say the opportunity to learn from diverse and distinguished professors and students was definitely a unique experience that I will always appreciate. Also, Toronto is a city that offers so many opportunities in terms of continuing education programs and different workshops to broaden my knowledge and experience. I also believe it is a great city in terms of the availability of places to practice, such as hospitals, mental health clinics, hospices and so on.

What was it like to be an MPS student?
Being an MPS student was both exciting and demanding. Having an opportunity to listen to many amazing lectures from the people who are experts in their fields, exchange ideas with friends who are coming from different walks of life and eating, laughing, worshiping together with all of them, including students and professors, constitutes the exciting part. Finding myself struggling to finish several papers at a time, reading books, doing research and preparing presentations constitutes the demanding part. 

What influence has the program had on your life, education and career?
There is a Prophetic tradition which says “Whoever knows herself knows her Lord”. MPS Program allowed me just that: to know myself better. I also believe what I learned and deepened my relationship with God. It prepared me for my military chaplaincy career in terms of knowledge, practice and the tools it provided for future references. I think seeing great role models had greater impact on me and the way I practice Chaplaincy.

What have you learned about yourself, and even about others?
I realized that I have a perfectionist nature which is not always helpful in life. I learned that in order to provide compassionate spiritual care for others I need to be able to practice self-compassion more. Additionally, I believe I became more appreciative of the goodness of others. My belief about making a positive change through human connection strengthened.

What does your time with Emmanuel College mean to you?
My time at Emmanuel means a lot to me. It felt like home from the first day of studies. I learned, laughed, cried, ate, prayed and worshiped there with the same contentment as I would at home. I wish every student could have a similar opportunity. Being a student at Emmanuel College was more than books, lectures and attending lessons. It was a very unique experience of acquiring wisdom. Every individual I met here, from administrative staff to professors, inspired me to become a better person and Chaplain. I always felt love, compassion, kindness and respect of others towards me.

Where do you hope your degree will take you in the future?
At this moment I will be starting the Basic Training List (BTL) as part of my transition to full Military Chaplaincy. I will need to complete some additional courses such as Chaplain Basic Occupational Qualification, Pastoral Counseling and Ethics during my BTL period. I will be posted to Kingston and I'm excited to have an opportunity to put my training into practice in the Canadian Armed Forces. I am looking forward to serving my fellow military members and their families.

Did you have any mentors at Emmanuel College?
I have benefited greatly from the guidance of many professors. Professor Pamela McCarroll has a special place in my heart in this regard. I greatly benefited from her expertise and guidance. She was kind enough to provide the support I needed at that particular time. She exemplified the great qualities of a mentor for me. The way she teaches and treats her students inspired me a lot.

What advice would you have for prospective or current students?
I would ask them to follow their dreams even if they do not see the light at the end of tunnel at the moment, it will eventually pay off. Also, I would advise them to treasure every learning opportunity inside and outside the classroom while at Emmanuel. It is not about knowing every answer or having every key to any dilemma. This is not possible. And we do not have all the answers. It is about being open to challenges of new experiences and stepping out of our comfort zone. Try it! This will help your growth a lot.

Additionally, I would try to emphasize these words: “Value every single life experience that brought you here. Those are the greatest teachers of all. Every success, failure, heartbreak and struggle has something to teach you. We are who we are because of them”.

Is there anything else you can share about yourself?
I think this is the hardest question of all. I always struggle to find what to mention first about myself. But I would say I am a Muslim woman, who is living her dream career, a teacher and student of Ebru art, a spouse, a mother of two wonderful children. I also love music, reading, traveling and biking.

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