After a tumultuous few years for Macalester’s Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL), the Reverend Kelly J. Stone has been hired to join the college as Chaplain and Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life. She received her Masters in Divinity from Yale Divinity School and is ordained in the Protestant tradition. The Mac Weekly sat down with Reverend Stone to learn a little bit more about her work and how she feels about her new position. Editor’s Note: This piece has been edited for length.
The Mac Weekly: Welcome to Macalester! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Reverend Kelly J. Stone: It’s such a delight, first of all, to be at Macalester. It’s a great community, such a vibrant community, and I really enjoy working with students who have a global perspective and who are thinking about how their life’s work will intersect with the world more largely. So I have a small piece in that as a religious life professional. This is my ninth year working in higher education. I started my career at a small liberal arts college in Sheboygan, Wisconsin called Lakeland College.
After my time at Lakeland, I took a position at Wellesley College. I had a number of different titles while I was there. My end title was ultimately Interim Dean for Religious and Spiritual Life. I went to Wellesley in part because I had two positions I was hired into. One was to be the half-time Protestant chaplain, and the other was to be the half-time Director of Multifaith Programs. And so that really let me dive more deeply into that work. Wellesley was an interesting place to work because it was one of the first colleges that had a really intentional multifaith chaplaincy model. We had nine chaplains on staff, each of us in unique religious traditions, all part-time in some capacity.
But it really was a team of folks who were teachers and leaders in different traditions who were working with our students and doing multifaith work together. It really was just a rich place for me to step into the next piece of my work.
TMW: What made you apply for the position of Chaplain/Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life here at Macalester?
RKS: I wasn’t really looking, but Macalester’s job posted and someone said, you should maybe look at that. And I did, and it was exciting. Incredible work has been done here under Lucy [Forster-Smith, Macalester’s previous Chaplain], really exciting things have happened. Macalester was really highlighted in a very national kind of way last year when Lucy edited a book that a number of chaplains contributed to at a conference, called “College Chaplaincy in the 21st Century [sic].” I went to that conference, and it was at a moment for the field that was a really a pivotal moment and we began having some honest conversations about how do we do multifaith work on our college campuses. So I’d known about Macalester, but certainly Lucy’s work highlighted it for me. I checked out the college, and you all checked me out, and it felt like it was a good fit, and so here I am, four months later, settling in.
TMW: Keeping in mind that Mac’s CRSL has been through many changes in the past few years, how are you planning on fostering a deeper relationship with Mac students and the broader community?
RKS: One of the words that I’ve heard a lot from students is “stability.” It feels really important. My own personal approach to that is going to be kind of a slow and steady approach. I’ve heard people saying, “What programs are happening this semester?”, and my response is that I really need to get to know the students who are connected with this office. This week and early parts of next week I’ll be sitting with all the student leaders of all the religious programming here on campus and having conversations, seeing what they need, what their hopes are for their community, and where I can support them.
TMW: What are some challenges that you are expecting at Macalester, and how do you plan to face them?
RKS: So one of the challenges that I think everybody has that’s in a chaplaincy role or in religious life is that the people who are interested and curious are coming to events and to gatherings. And those are the really curious, really eager, really excited ones. And then there’s people who might engage in religious conversations or conversations about religion and spirituality but who aren’t sure they want to step foot in the CRSL. And so there’s a question of how do I connect with people who, this might be meaningful conversation for them, but they may not be inclined to seek that conversation out? That will be one of the big challenges and that’s always one of the challenges. That just means that one has to be creative and thoughtful about how and where and when they’re doing programming and how it reaches a broad audience. I think that’s always a challenge.
TMW: What’s the most exciting thing to you about this position?
RKS: It feels like this position is poised really well for a next chapter of religious and spiritual life here at Macalester. You mentioned all the transitions that this office has been through. I think that situates us really well to think about how do we do this work moving forward. And we’re not beholden to doing exactly what had been done in the past. So I think it’s an exciting moment to step in and help a community think about what fits, what makes sense, and we take this program together.
TMW: What were your first impressions of the Macalester community?
RKS: So my first impressions when I came here to interview were that this was a really warm community. People were really welcoming and really genuine, and that tells me a lot about this place. It tells me a lot about how students feel about the college, it tells me a lot about how the faculty and staff feel about this place where they work. And my job as the chaplain is to be engaged in religious and spiritual life, yes, but it’s also more broad care of the community. And it’s easier to care for a community that really likes each other. And it feels like people like their jobs, they really like their school, people really like being part of the Macalester community. So that’s exciting to me. There’s a kind of joyfulness that I’ve sensed on campus that I find exciting, just about being here, a pride in Macalester.
TMW: Anything else you want to say to Macalester?
RKS: I’m really glad to be here and I’m really looking forward to getting to know folks. I hope people will know that my door’s open and that they can stop by the CRSL and introduce themselves.
I’ll swing through the cafeteria or the coffee shops or out on the green and say hello and introduce myself. I’m really here to get to know who people are and what they’re excited about and to hear their story. [People] may see me walking around campus with my toddler and baby and dog, and people should feel free to stop and pet said dog and say hello to a cute baby.