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Deanna Shorb leaves Grinnell after 26 years


After 26 years of service to the Grinnell community, Deanna Shorb, dean of religious life and chaplain reverend, left the College in June 2023. During her tenure, Shorb significantly expanded the programming and the resources available to students at the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice (CRSSJ), including establishing a lending library, a food bank and worship locations for students of different faiths.

Beginning her work at Grinnell in August of 1996, Shorb was the college’s first full-time chaplain and first-ever female chaplain. Shorb said that she started out with an office in the CRSSJ building, where she began her duties as chaplain, but that after five years, she was moved to what is now the admissions building, expanding her role to include supervising postgraduate service and community service at the College.

Shorb’s expanded role at the College later began to center on support for first-generation and low-income students. As a once first-generation and low-income student herself, Shorb said that she thought there was not enough being done on campus to serve the needs of these students. 

She said that a highlight of her work in both spiritual life and student support was that she was given a blank slate – she was able to develop her own programs and then request the resources for them. 

Shorb and her staff worked to create spaces for students of all religions, including meditation sessions, synagogues and temples, as Shorb said she believed that none of them were available in town and students outside of the Christian faith needed spaces to worship their respective religions on campus.

In her tenth year at the College, Shorb said that she pushed the College to allocate more funds and staff to her projects with first-generation and low-income students. Although her request was initially rejected, she would be granted the funds to continue developing programs two years later at the start of former president Kingston’s term.

In 2016, Shorb contributed to the creation of the lending library available to first-generation, low-income students after a QuestBridge Scholars leader approached her with the idea. Additionally, in 2017, Shorb established the Chaplain’s Office Student Food Pantry. 

 “I think if I were still there, I would still be trying to figure out what the next program is,” said Shorb. “I think what you see at the CRSSJ is really my life’s work,” Shorb said.

I think what you see at the CRSSJ is really my life’s work.

— Deanna Shorb

Shorb went on to become a Title IX deputy for confidential response and support, and she ran the Grinnell Advocates program for 10 years – roles which complicated her time at the college, said Shorb. 

She stated that she felt as though the College wanted her to act as an administrator, which conflicted with her chaplaincy. “This is the problem with chaplains on campus and deans of religious life and other spiritual leaders, you’re asked to wear too many caps,” Shorb said. 

After making a comment published in a previous S&B article that did not align with the College’s official Title IX policy, Shorb said that she felt some pushback from the College. 

Although she continued to operate in her position for several years afterward, she said that she felt she could no longer advocate for students in the way that she wanted while keeping her job.

This is the problem with chaplains on campus and deans of religious life and other spiritual leaders, you’re asked to wear too many caps.

— Deanna Shorb


She announced her decision to leave the college on March 5, 2023. As of writing this article, her position has not been filled.

Shorb said that she hopes the programs and initiatives she worked to establish will continue in her absence in order to further support students in need. As a parting message to the community, she said, “Well, for the faculty, staff, students and alums that I’ve worked with, thank you … It’s been a really good run.” 

Rev. Deanna Shorb is now the pastor of First Congregational Church in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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Evelyn Wilber
Evelyn Wilber, Staff Writer
Evelyn is a second year intended English and math double major from Chicago, Illinois. She enjoys reading, watching movies, listening to music, her dog Ted, and the season of winter.
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