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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff members write about Grinnell

In the past year, two newly published books on very different aspects of the college campus administration have featured chapters written by Grinnell’s own staff members. Vice President for Student Affairs Houston Dougharty contributed a co-authored chapter on assessing campus culture to “Executive Transitions in Student Affairs: A Guide to Getting Started as the Vice President” and Dean of Religious Life Deanna Shorb penned a chapter on religious life at a secular campus that appeared in “College & University Chaplaincy in the 21st Century: A Multifaith Look at the Practice of Ministry on Campuses Across America.”

Dougharty’s authorship was sought by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, who published the book.

“The book itself is the first-ever book for executive transitions in the field of higher education, and [I was asked] … to help write the chapter regarding how you do an executive transition,” said Dougharty, who has been involved with NASPA for more than 20 years and recently directed a NASPA institution for would-be vice presidents of student affairs.

Photo by Joanna Silverman
Photo by Joanna Silverman

Dougharty’s chapter, “Assessing Campus and Divisional Cultures,” describes several models and tools for getting to know a campus. These methods include the questions to ask around campus, suggestions for research and strategies for digging into the modus operandi of an administration. Working in his position requires “in essence, being a natural campus ethnographer,” Dougharty said.

Dougharty, who has worked as Vice President for Student Affairs at Grinnell since 2008, wanted to co-author the chapter with someone who had recent experience making an executive transition. Dougharty chose a long-time colleague, JoNes R. VanHecke, who had taken the equivalent to his position at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. after years in administration at Central College in Pella. The two were the book’s only authors from small liberal arts colleges.

Dougharty hopes that any prospective administrator examining Grinnell would pick up on the College’s collaborative student-faculty-staff dynamic. Also critical is the tradition of self-governance, which he said “makes student affairs work very, very differently here than almost any other place.”

Shorb’s chapter also describes a non-academic aspect of college life. Called “Uncovering God: A Global Chaplaincy on a Secular Campus,” it describes her ministry at a college with both a committed secular environment and great religious diversity.

Shorb wrote the chapter at the invitation of her friend and the book’s editor, Rev. Dr. Lucy A. Forster-Smith, who was the chaplain at Macalester College before moving to a position at Harvard University last month.

Forster-Smith invited 14 colleagues from various institutions and religious traditions to write a book on the modern college chaplaincy, which they worked on for several years before publishing this fall.

“The theme of my chapter is … what it means to have a global chaplaincy and what it means to have religious leadership at a seemingly largely secular community,” Shorb said.

“At Grinnell, we want to be all things to all people. What we want to be the most is inclusive,” Shorb said. “What we don’t want to do in being inclusive is dilute anything.”

With Grinnell students coming from a wider range of religious backgrounds than ever before, accommodating their different beliefs and practices becomes a primary focus.

Shorb came to Grinnell in 1996, as the College’s first full-time minister and first-ever female minister.

“I had no idea how incredibly religiously diverse this haven of a campus really was,” Shorb said. “And so it was rich with possibilities.”

In her chapter, Shorb describes the origins of the College’s Black Church service and her work as an interreligious “ethical barometer” in the debate over adding a roof, or mandap, to the memorial statue of Ganesha installed on the campus.

Whether in providing counseling to students of all religions or no religion, in arranging transportation to religious services outside of Grinnell or hosting interreligious dialogues on campus, Shorb’s work shows the change that has come to on-campus religious ministry.

“What I would really like folks to understand about the work of chaplains today is that it’s global,” Shorb said. “At Grinnell, it’s finding a way to be supportive and respectful of the particular and the universal, in its many manifestations.”

Despite the very different subjects, Shorb’s and Dougharty’s chapters bear the clear imprint of their particular Grinnell experiences, which they use to demonstrate what it means to be part of running a college in the 21st century.

“I’m really excited about the fact that I could help be the small college voice in this book because it is primarily authored by people at larger institutions,” Dougharty said. “I think working in student affairs in a small college is one of the most exciting professions one can have because you have a chance to get to know students in a very close and productive way.”

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