Knox’s first Director of Spiritual Life, Lisa Seiwert, will be leaving Knox on Friday Jan. 20.
Since starting at Knox in the fall, Seiwert has worked to establish the role at a secular institution and meet students’ spiritual needs.
Seiwert announced her departure in an e-mail to faculty, staff and students on Jan. 16. Vice President of Student Development Anne Ehrlich said Seiwert informed her on Jan. 11.
Seiwert is leaving Knox to direct the new Interreligious Institute at the Chicago Theological Seminary, which has been funded by a grant from the Luce Foundation. Seiwert worked at the Chicago Theological Seminary prior to coming to Knox, and helped write the application for the grant.
“This was just the opportunity of a lifetime for her and she never saw it coming,” Ehrlich said. “How can we, as a college that is invested in helping people find their opportunities of a lifetime, not support that?”
The Institute will be facilitating social change that stems from interreligious studies.
“That institute is really interested in taking interreligious or interfaith engagement and trying to deepen and maximize the types of social change that can come out of that,” Seiwert said.
Some of the initiatives will focus on applying interreligious studies to social practice. Seiwert will also work to define the Institute’s purpose and direction as planning moves from paper to reality.
Ehrlich said that all of Seiwert’s current projects Ñ including the planned trip to an interfaith conference Ñ will continue under the Student Development Office and Seiwert’s successor. Her successor will also oversee an expansion of the Spiritual Space, currently located in the Quads.
According to Ehrlich, no definite plans are in place to choose Seiwert’s successor. Possibilities include returning to the original pool of applicants or using the same committee that hired Seiwert to find new candidates. Forming a new committee is also a possibility.
If a replacement cannot be found quickly, Ehrlich said several faculty members have offered to take on the position in an interim capacity.
“It’s only natural that people are going to compare the new person to her. It happens whenever anyone comes in to replace someone who is loved,” Ehrlich said. “I hope that our campus will give them grace and evaluate them as their own person.”
Seiwert will be returning to Galesburg periodically until her house sells, but looks forward to returning to Chicago. She hopes that her successor will continue to build on the foundation she has built for the position at Knox.
“There’s definitely been a lot of increased understanding of what the role of a spiritual director looks like and how an office of spirituality differs from religious life and religious studies, but also how it intersects,” Seiwert said.
One event that stands out to Seiwert from her time at Knox is her trip to the Standing Rock Reservation with 16 Knox students.
“I will carry that with me, the trip itself as well as the students and the way we worked together on that,” she said.
As she goes forward, Seiwert hopes to not only take what she has learned from her experience at Knox, but also the contacts and friends she has made.
“The best parts of Knox have been the people, period,” Seiwert said.