Elon welcomes a national leader for chaplaincy and interfaith work with previous experience at MIT and Brown University.
Elon University has named Rev. Kirstin Boswell, associate dean at Brown University, as the new university chaplain and dean of multifaith engagement. She will be responsible for providing strategic leadership for a comprehensive vision to support religious and spiritual life and advance multifaith understanding at Elon, as part of the university’s Boldly Elon strategic plan.
Boswell will begin her work as Elon’s fourth full-time chaplain on July 5, 2021, succeeding Rev. Dr. Jan Fuller, who is retiring after a decade of service to the Elon community.
“We are thrilled to welcome someone of Rev. Boswell’s caliber to lead our religious and spiritual life programs and to continue to strengthen and deepen our nationally-recognized multifaith initiatives,” said Jon Dooley, vice president for student life, in announcing the appointment to the university community. “She brings thoughtful leadership, effective listening and consensus-building, and the right combination of scholarly approach and pastoral presence to advance the goals we’ve established for the next decade through Boldly Elon.”
Boswell is an ordained clergy member in the American Baptist Churches, USA. She has a master of divinity degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and is completing her doctorate there in anthropology and sociology of religion.
“I am both excited and humbled to be joining the Elon University community this summer,” Boswell says. “The work of chaplaincy and multifaith engagement is core to Elon’s history and to its mission and goals for the next decade and beyond. I am pleased to be entrusted with the leadership of this program.”
While a divinity school student, Boswell served as a student pastor at the First Baptist Church of Chicago and operations director for the International Association of Black Religions and Spiritualities. She began her ministry career as associate pastor at Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she designed young adult programming and service opportunities from 2011 to 2017. She began her work with college students in 2012, serving as associate chaplain at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. As the associate university chaplain at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, Boswell was responsible for Protestant and interfaith organizations and affiliated staff and developed programs, training, lectures and initiatives to meet the spiritual and religious literacy needs of the university community.
In 2017, Boswell joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she was chaplain to the institute and director of the Office of Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life (ORSEL). She developed a thriving religious and spiritual life experience for students, forged new partnerships to support students’ needs, launched the new humanist chaplaincy program, established effective and affirming relationships with LGBTQIA students, faculty, and staff, and engaged donors to fund a new mindfulness program to combat suicide and mental illness.
In 2019, Boswell returned to Brown University as associate dean and has fostered a holistic culture of resilience and thriving by working with students to encourage and support wellness and success in their academic and personal lives.
Boswell has been a collaborator, panelist, and writer for the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and is on the Board of Advisors for the Spiritual Care Providers Network collaboration between the Fetzer Institute and the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab.
Boswell has a bachelor’s degree in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia. Prior to her divinity school studies, she had a career in the corporate sector, working in sales and training roles for Xerox and Pella Corporation.
Elon University has developed a national reputation for innovation and excellence in multifaith programs, combining academic, cocurricular and spiritual life initiatives. In her new role, Boswell will work to deepen and advance Elon’s program and uphold the value placed on spiritual development alongside intellectual and social development. She will lead the council of chaplains, supervise the staff of the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, and support university staff and affiliated ministers who lead religious, spiritual and multifaith initiatives.
Elon was founded in 1889 by the Christian Church, a denomination that was the predecessor of today’s United Church of Christ (UCC). Today, Elon is one of 11 colleges and universities considered historically related to the UCC. Elon had part-time or shared chaplains until 1980, when the Rev. Bill Sharpe became Elon’s first full-time chaplain. Rev. Richard McBride was named chaplain in 1984 and led religious and spiritual life at Elon for 25 years, laying the foundation for multifaith engagement with his vision for a central shared space for religious and spiritual life, and programs to match it.
Rev. Fuller was named Elon’s third full-time chaplain in 2011 just as the construction of the Numen Lumen Pavilion began. Completed in March 2013, the Numen Lumen Pavilion now houses the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, the professional staff of all ministry groups and student religious organizations, as well as the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society.
About Rev. Kirstin Boswell
The University of Chicago Divinity School – Chicago, IL
- Ph.D. (ABD Anticipated 2021 Completion), Anthropology and Sociology of Religion
- M.Div., Theology
The University of Virginia – Charlottesville, VA
- B.A., Government and Foreign Affairs
Marymount International School – Kingston-upon-Thames, United Kingdom
- International Baccalaureate
2019 – Present
Brown University, Associate Dean
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chaplain to the Institute and Director of the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life
Brown University, Associate University Chaplain
Bentley University, Associate Chaplain
Union Baptist Church, Cambridge, MA, Associate Pastor
International Association of Black Religions and Spiritualities, Director of Operations
First Baptist Church of Chicago, Student Pastor
Pella Corporation, Director of National Service Training
Xerox Corporation, Associate Sales Manager