Hindu advisor joins Chaplain’s Office

As the newly appointed Hindu life advisor, Asha Shipman will assist the Hindu Students Council in expanding its programming.
As the newly appointed Hindu life advisor, Asha Shipman will assist the Hindu Students Council in expanding its programming. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

In an effort to help strengthen Hindu programming on campus, Asha Shipman joined the Chaplain’s Office staff on Jan. 16 as the Yale’s first Hindu life advisor.

The new 20-hour-per-week part-time position was created to support the increasing popularity of Hindu programs on campus, University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said. Shipman’s primary responsibility will be to advise the Hindu Students Council, which has significantly expanded its presence on campus since its founding in 2005. Shipman said she plans to grow the Hindu programming on campus further by helping the HSC offer a more diverse selection of events.

“They haven’t had someone help them consider programs beyond Diwali Pooja and the Gita studies and Holi, those have been their focus,” Shipman said. “We’re going to broaden out based on their interests, sort of an ethnographic adventure.”

HSC was previously supported by a Hindu fellow, a 10-hour-per-week position held by a graduate student, Kugler said. Last spring, administrators in the Chaplain’s Office decided they wanted to hire a staff member who could dedicate more time to Hindu programs such as weekly prayer services and community gatherings as they grow in popularity, she added. Attendance at HSC’s annual Diwali ceremony has grown from roughly 50 students to over 400 students and community members over the past five years, Kugler said, adding that the Hindu events have become celebrations for non-Hindu as well as Hindu students.

Shipman will a serve a similar role as the Hindu fellow, but will be available for twice as many hours, will have her own office space and serve in a more formal capacity, said Shaunak Bakshi ’15, vice president of HSC.

“With Asha’s support, HSC looks to continue its growth as a prominent on-campus community that allows students to maintain and expand their religiosity while at Yale,” Hindu Students Council President Devi Mehrotra ’14 said in an email.

Shipman, who received her doctorate in anthropology from the University of Connecticut in 2011, said her background in cultural education within the Hindu community — such as serving on the Society Executive Committee of the Connecticut Valley Hindu Temple and co-founding a Hindu Sunday school for children — will be applicable in creating student programs on campus.

Shipman said her primary focus will be on “organizational culture,” meaning that she hopes to ensure that HSC has a cohesive focus and effective structure that will allow for expanded programming. She added that since arriving on campus, she has helped the HSC president and vice-president select seven additional board members.

“One thing we’re expanding is to build more of a cohesive community,” Bakshi said. “People come to events for different reasons — religious, social. We want to plan more events catering to everyone’s interests.”

Shipman said that the group has not yet finalized plans for any specific new programs, but will begin to discuss potential events at a “mini-retreat” she has planned for board members this weekend.

The Hindu Students Council andthe  Yale Chaplain’s Office organize Holi in late April and expect 500 to 600 students to attend this year.

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