The Tufts University Chaplaincy began the hiring process this semester for two new part-time community associates to serve the Africana and Hindu spiritual communities on campus.
The Buddhist, Catholic, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim and Protestant communities are already represented in the Chaplaincy’s staff, according to its website. For communities not already served by the Chaplaincy’s staff, the university chaplain is responsible for providing additional support.
University Chaplain ad interim Jennifer Howe Peace explained that the rationale for the new community associates stems from an inclusive perspective to serve the spiritual and religious needs of the Tufts community.
“The need [for community associates] comes from student demographics and our desire to support the spiritual, religious and philosophical life of our whole community,” Peace wrote in an email to the Daily.
Peace said that various community partners — especially the Africana Center and the Hindu Student Council (HSC) — have been included in the search and hiring process.
“Throughout the whole process, I have been working closely with students and other stakeholders on campus,” Peace said. “Students have been involved from the beginning for both searches. They have played important roles in describing their needs, reviewing position descriptions, and interviewing candidates. They have a crucial voice in deciding who we hire.”
Africana Center Director Katrina Moore wrote in an email to the Daily that the center looks forward to the availability of the new resource to students, and is pleased about working through the search and hiring process with the Chaplaincy.
Ishan Gupta, HSC’s vice president, said that the group’s desire for a community associate was boosted by growing student participation.
“I think the growing number of students joining organizations in the university chaplaincy system such as HSC makes me think that having a Hindu Resident will be helpful in creating an open environment for students to talk and allow them to express themselves and their cultural/religious backgrounds,” Gupta, a senior, wrote in an electronic message.
Akshita Rao, HSC’s treasurer, emphasized that the Chaplaincy recognized the demand among students for a community associate.
“The chaplaincy had looked at the growing number of Hindu students getting involved in the HSC and felt that there was a need for someone to provide some sort of central guidance for a diverse group of people,” Rao, a junior, wrote in an electronic message. “HSC has always been open to anyone with an interest or involvement in Hindu culture, regardless of the degree. To help facilitate this, the Chaplaincy thought that a Resident position would be helpful.”
Rao added that the HSC has so far participated in the hiring process by hosting potential candidates at meetings and frequently seeking feedback from students within the group.
Peace stressed the importance of interpersonal skills in determining a strong candidate for the positions.
“A successful candidate will have deep roots in their primary tradition of reference, demonstrated leadership, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to create connections not only with students who share their religious affiliation but also with the wider Tufts community as a whole,” Peace said.
Both Rao and Gupta echoed these sentiments.
“Our organization hopes that we get someone that is understanding and able to create an open space and converse with students who may need someone to talk to and ask questions,” Gupta said.
Rao also identified the importance of a candidate’s accessibility.
“The group hopes that the candidate is someone that can learn as well as teach from us, and help students navigate their spiritual identities during times of crisis of faith,” Rao said.
The search process for community associates for both communities will mirror the search process for other candidates, which includes drafting and publishing job descriptions, outreach to encourage applications and a review and interview process, according to Peace.
Muslim Chaplain Abdul-Malik Merchant, the most recent Chaplain to join, described his process integrating with the faith community on campus.
“I’ve found the Tufts community, chaplaincy team, and specifically the Muslim students so loving and welcoming,” Merchant wrote in an email. “Because of their empathic embrace and profoundly competent leadership, I’m blessed that my integration process has been seamless.”
Merchant expressed hope that the new community associates would have a similar experience joining the Chaplaincy.
“Onboarding to new positions is always a growth process, but I think with the support of the team and the loving genius of the Tufts’ students, they will feel right at home,” Merchant said.
Robert Kaplan contributed reporting to this article.