Next fall, a new initiative by the Chaplain’s Office will bring two “chaplaincy fellows” to each residential college to organize events encouraging self-reflection and interfaith dialogue.
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Nathaniel DeLuca, program coordinator for the Chaplain’s Office, said the program, which was announced in an email to masters and deans last weekend, will give each of the 24 fellows a $500 stipend and a small budget for programming expenses. The fellows, who will all be members of the class of 2014 and will be known as the “Core of 24,” will focus their efforts on helping sophomores who have just lost the support base available for freshmen, he said, though he added that he hopes the program will help students in all classes find “balance” in their busy lives.
“I think people can get very caught up in the frantic pace at Yale and lose sight of the broader and more meaningful things that make their life meaningful,” DeLuca said. “The most positive effect of [the chaplaincy fellows program] is that it will help students be balanced and centered. We definitely want students to be ambitious and do a lot of wonderful things, but we also want them to slow down and relax and think about things.”
Jonathan Howe, executive director of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations — the organization that provided the Chaplain’s Office with a $50,000 grant this fall to fund the initiative — said he thought the chaplaincy fellows program aligned with the Foundation’s goal of building a greater understanding among people of different faiths.
Though DeLuca said that chaplaincy fellows will not be peer counselors or assume advisory roles, he added that they will work instead to promote conversations about spirituality, organize “journaling” exercises and encourage students to “ponder big questions” and engage in religious and spiritual traditions. During spring break, the fellows will visit sacred sites and do community service in Washington, D.C. for an all-expenses-paid training trip.
The program follows a recent initiative by the Chaplain’s Office called “Breathing Space,” located in Welch Hall, that also invites students to escape from stress. While the Chaplaincy Fellows program has a similar structure to the existing campus programs with representatives in each residential college — such as mental health fellows and Undergraduate Career Services peer advisors — DeLuca said this program will require a smaller time commitment from fellows than participants in the other programs.
Five of eight students interviewed said they appreciated that the chaplaincy fellows program would facilitate productive discussion about spirituality and provide an respite from the stress of college life. Emily Ullmann ’14, a Jewish life fellow for Timothy Dwight College, said that she thought the program was an “awesome” way to bring people together and take advantage of Yale’s tolerant atmosphere.
But some said they thought such a program was “forced” and that interfaith tension was not a problem on campus that demanded additional resources. Benjamin Kline ’14 said the Chaplain’s Office provides many opportunities to discuss religion, though he acknowledged that the presence of fellows in colleges would make attending events more convenient.
“I don’t think that Yalies think conversations about spirituality are missing,” he said. “It’s not a big factor.”
Applications to be a chaplaincy fellow are due Friday, Dec. 2 and interviews will be held by Thursday, Dec. 15, according to the program’s application form.