Student “chaplaincy fellows” recently selected by the Chaplain’s Office have begun training to organize activities and promote reflective conversations in the residential colleges next year.
The initiative, funded by a $50,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, will provide each of the fellows with a $500 stipend to sponsor activities that foster interfaith dialogue and raise awareness about spiritual resources available on campus, said Nat DeLuca GRD ’06, program coordinator for the Chaplain’s Office. The newly selected fellows, all members of the class of 2014, spent spring break with DeLuca in Washington, D.C., learning about different religions and building leadership abilities to help them implement the pilot program in the fall.
“The fellows will create spaces where students can be more vulnerable and doubtful than other places at Yale,” DeLuca said. “They will help us make Yale a more tender, caring place.”
Though the original plans called for two fellows in each college, four colleges — Jonathan Edwards, Timothy Dwight, Davenport and Trumbull Colleges — will not have fellows specific to them, DeLuca said, adding that the program is still “in pilot mode” and he hopes it will extend in the future. Still, DeLuca said fellows will hold events in each of the residential colleges.
To teach the fellows about hospitality and different spiritual practices, DeLuca said he brought them to different religious centers in Washington, D.C., over spring break, including a Jain Society, a temple of the Latter-day Saints and the National Cathedral.
Beata Fiszer ’14, a chaplaincy fellow for Morse College, said she thinks the exposure to different religious practices helped prepared her to be open to students from different religious traditions, adding that she hopes to help people start conversations they may be afraid to have.
“A lot of people struggle with things they’re not comfortable talking about,” Fiszer said. “I want to help the class of 2015 find themselves in more than just academia.”
Grace Bang ’14, a chaplaincy fellow for Ezra Stiles, said the trip made her better understand an “underlying continuity” between people of different religious backgrounds, and that this knowledge will likely help her to connect with students.
DeLuca said the fellows will use activities such as study breaks, journaling exercises and artistic projects to create a “meaningful” opportunity for students to grapple with difficult life questions. While the program will primarily focus on sophomores, who have recently lost the support bases available to freshmen, DeLuca said he hopes all classes will benefit from increased access to religious and spiritual resources.
Cheryl Tupper, program coordinator for the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, which awarded the Chaplain’s Office the grant, said the foundation thought the program was an “imaginative and creative” way to foster dialogue within student communities and was consistent with the foundation’s goal of strengthening America’s future through education.
Benjamin VanGelder ’13, a member of Yale Students for Christ, said he thinks the new fellows will increase the use of Chaplain’s Office programs and integrate students into religious life on campus.
But Pim-orn Wacharaprapapong ’12 said she is not sure if the fellows will be able to effectively initiate conversations about such “sensitive” personal issues.
“I don’t think I would go to a person I don’t know, even in my college, to talk about religious or spiritual questions,” Wacharaprapapong said. “I would probably rather talk to my close friends.”
The Yale Chaplain’s office is located in the basement of Bingham Hall’s entryway D.