Knox’s first Director of Spiritual Life Lisa Seiwert was selected out of a pool of 31 viable candidates for the position.
Seiwert came to campus on Aug. 8 and most recently worked in admissions at the Chicago Theological Seminary. She had been looking for a position like this one on a small college campus for several years.
The position is entirely new to the Knox campus and Seiwert will spend her first term on campus getting to know the Knox community.
“For me that means making myself available, it means me going places and extending myself to others and not sitting here waiting for people to come to me,” Seiwert said.
Her position will likely involve some combination of one-on-one meetings with students, facilitating interreligious dialogue and helping to hold spiritual spaces and practices for interested students. She also hopes to form an advisory board of students for the position to help direct her office and identify goals for the position.
By the start of fall term 2017, Seiwert is tasked with having a mission statement in place for the position, measurable outcomes and strategic goals. She plans to have the advisory board help with this process.
Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehlrich is Seiwert’s direct supervisor and interviewed the final three candidates for the position one-on-one. “In talking with her I felt like we had worked together for years, she was just that approachable and friendly and in-tune with a small private college campus and I heard similar feedback from other people as well,” Ehlrich said.
One of the things about Knox that appealed to Seiwert was the campus’s diversity and the opportunity to work with students coming from different faiths.
“One of my basic beliefs is that in order communities that can not only sustain themselves but can thrive, we have to find ways of building a sense of mutual interdependence across lines of difference,” she said.
Seiwert holds two degrees from the Chicago Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.
Director of Multicultural Student Advisement Tianna Cervantez was not directly involved with the creation of this position, but has been involved in conversations with students who were wanting additional spiritual support on campus.
“Students kind of started asking in a variety of different ways for additional support and additional help. We have a lot of very active spiritual groups on campus that want space Ñ not only physical space, but space in the conversation to be recognized from their vantage points as well,” Cervantez said.
Assistant Director of the Center for Intercultural Life Cathy Walters was one of the members of the search committee for Seiwert’s position. She was impressed by Seiwert’s commitment to addressing student needs and saw the position as a necessary development for the campus.
“Students of faith have said, ‘We feel left out here.’ And I don’t know if that’s necessarily something that other students intend to do, but you have to realize that coming from a position of faith is as important as coming from any other position that says, ‘This is who I am,’” Walters said.
The position was made possible through the support of an anonymous donor. That same donor also funded Associate Professor Jim Thrall’s endowed chair position on campus, according to Vice President of Advancement Beverly Holmes.
The funds donated for endowed positions are put into the college’s endowment and the income that comes from how it is invested goes toward supporting the salary of the chair holder. Holmes estimated that Knox has about 20 endowed faculty members.
“Once you endow something it’s here forever. The amount of money coming out depends upon the endowment and how it’s invested and interest rates and all of that kind of stuff, but the dollar amount will vary, should grow over time you hope because it’s invested with the entire Knox endowment,” Holmes said.
The donor was not able to set any stipulations about what the position would look like and was not involved in hiring Seiwert.