The Advisory Board for Black Student Spiritual Support (ABBSSS) is an initiative of the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life to make spiritual support for Black students more available, accessible, and visible. Our mission is to listen and respond to the needs of Black students. ABBSSS aims to offer personal and communal support for the myriad ways in which Black students are spiritual, religious, not religious, or searching, and to acknowledge the cultural, ethnic, familial, geographic, and historical intersections between the Black experience and spirituality.
Dr. Cherrel Miller Dyce (co-chair)
Associate Professor of Education and Director of Intercultural Education
Cherrel Miller Dyce is an Associate Professor and Director of Intercultural Education in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education at Elon University. With twenty years of experience in social justice work, she is a fierce social justice advocate, K-20 researcher, mentor, and social theorist. Dr. Dyce believes in uplifting marginalized communities through education. She emphasizes racial equity, social justice, and critical self-reflection in all research projects. Dr. Dyce is a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant and provides professional development in the area of racial equity for public and charter schools, higher education institutions, and private organizations. She has published many journal articles and is the co-author of a book, D.I.V.A. Diaries: The Road to the Ph.D. and Stories of Black women who have endured. Dr. Dyce’s faith is central to how she navigates her personal, professional, and academic endeavors. She is highly involved in her local church providing educational offerings for children and youth. Her mission statement is: “I want my work to resonate in the souls of humanity, cast down inferiorities, mute institutions of power, capsulate privilege and discrimination, and eradicate racism.”
Kiah Glenn (co-chair)
Assistant Director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education
Kiah Glenn is a NJ native now living in NC. She is the Assistant Director in the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education (CREDE). In this role she serves as the point person for the ANAM (Asian/Pacific Islander, Native/Indigenous/Alaskan Native, Multiracial) communities. She also oversees DEEP which is the CREDEs premier social justice program. She also oversees Sisterhood Circle our Bi-weekly meeting for Elon ALANAM students who identify as women. As a Muslim convert Kiah is intimately familiar with both Christianity and Islam. She also likes having conversations around various other religious traditions and spirituality. In her spare time, Kiah likes to read, cook, and bake. She enjoys anime and K dramas and working out when she can. She is the mom of two great little humans.
Visiting Professor at Wake Forest School of Divinity
Chelsea Brooke Yarborough is a poet, an enneagram enthusiast, an ordained minister and a lover of leadership development. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religion at Vanderbilt University and a visiting professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Chelsea’s current research imagines the possibilities of preaching outside of the pulpit by looking at historical Black women who were non-pulpit preachers. Her motto is “live to love and love to live each day and she is excited to continue her journey of cultivating and engaging curiosity in all that she pursues.”
Rev. Kirstin Boswell
University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement
Boswell is an ordained clergy member of 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. 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. 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. As the previous 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 needs of the university community. In 2017, Boswell became chaplain to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Director of the Office of Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life (ORSEL). 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. In her new role at Elon, Boswell will work to deepen and advance Elon’s program and uphold the value placed on spiritual growth alongside intellectual and social development.
Rev. Donna Vanhook
Associate Pastor at Union Chapel UCC
Rev. Donna Vanhook, a former certified law enforcement officer, earned a BA degree from Elon University where she majored in Religious Studies and minored in Human Services (Class of 2007), and an MDiv degree from Shaw University Divinity School. She has been ordained Baptist and currently serves as an United Church of Christ associate pastor in full standing at Union Chapel UCC, in Burlington, NC. Rev. Vanhook uses an intersectional equity lens as a womanist community organizer and co-educator who mentors undergraduate students at Elon University along with other young people.
Rev. James Wilkes
Pastor at Elon First Baptist Church
Rev. James H. Wilkes, Jr. is a native of Gastonia, North Carolina. Rev. Wilkes graduated from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Business Management. Rev. Wilkes is also a graduate of Wake Forest University where he received his Master of Divinity degree (MDiv). He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree (D.Min.) in Transformational Leadership at Boston University.
Director of Odyssey Scholars Program
Marcus Elliott is the director of the Odyssey Program, He is currently in his eighth year at Elon University. With nearly twenty years of diversified experiences in higher education, he has served in a multitude of areas including alumni engagement, diversity & inclusion, and intercollegiate athletics. Utilizing a strengths-based approach rooted in faith, Marcus has been blessed with the opportunity of guiding students during their collegiate journey by providing mentorship, sharing constructive feedback, and celebrating their achievements along the way. He is looking forward to being part of this effort to support Black students in their spiritual practice and belonging.
Program Assistant for the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education
Marilyn Slade, affectionately known as “Ms. Marilyn”, has served in various roles in the community throughout her life and continues to play a pivotal role in fostering relationships with Elon University and the Elon Community. Marilyn Slade attended Alamance Community College. She received Childcare Credentials I and Childcare Credentials II Certifications and was a participant in the Leadership Millennium Program. Marilyn Slade has been an active member of Elon First Baptist Church all her life. She has served on the Ushers’ Ministry, Missionaries Ministry, and was Vacation Bible School Teacher. In 1992, Marilyn founded the Elon Community Choir. From 1995 – 2018 Marilyn Slade served as the Church Administrator/Program Director for Elon First Baptist Church. Her primary responsibilities included providing administrative support to the Pastor, Associate Ministers, Deacons, Trustees, and ministry team leaders. Other responsibilities were planning Pastoral Installation Services, Youth Choir and Pastoral Anniversaries, Discovery Sunday and College Sunday. Above all else, Marilyn Slade is a devout Christian who loves the Lord. She strives to please God and not man in all that she does. Her favorite Bible verse is Colossians 3:23: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (NLT) In October of 2010, Marilyn Slade began working as the Program Assistant for Elon University’s Multicultural Center, now known as the Center for Race, Ethnicity, & Diversity Education, or The CREDE She supports students that regularly visit the office. On Elon’s campus, she is known to be a “Mother of Many” to the students.
Lecturer in Education
Portia Wade is a native of Washington, D.C., but has resided in the Burlington, N.C. area for the past several years. Portia is a professional educator who received her undergraduate training at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She completed her graduate studies in Elementary Education at Elon College, now known as Elon University here in North Carolina. Portia recently completed her E.D. S. degree in 2020 from Regent University with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Adult Education. She is planning to pursue doctoral Studies in Organizational Leadership this fall. Portia’s professional endeavors have included classroom teaching, administrative services, consulting work, and supervision of early childhood practitioners and elementary education teacher candidates. She was a member of the Adjunct Faculty at Alamance Community College for over 30 years and currently serves on their Early Childhood Advisory Board. In December of 2015, Portia joined the faculty at Elon University, where she currently serves as a Lecturer in Education for the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education. From a community/ministry outreach standpoint, Portia is passionately committed to women’s services and community outreach efforts to young children and their families. She is a former member of Abundant Faith Church (Whitsett, NC), where she and her husband served as Elders, under the leadership of Dr. Roger and Kathy Medlin. During Portia’s time at Abundant Faith Church, she served in women’s and children’s ministry. Portia and her husband serve on the Elder Board Council and Leadership Team at World Victory, and she is once again involved in speaking, teaching, and family ministry as needed and requested.
Director of the Moseley Center
Michael Williams is a 1985 Graduate of Carson Newman College. His first position after graduation was an Upward Bound Counselor, Next, he worked for 12 years at Union College in Kentucky. Michael Williams has been the Director of the Moseley Center for 21 years. During his time at Elon he has been an Elon 101 instructor, a campus advisor to the Gospel Choir, Alpha Phi Alpha. He has also had the opportunity to travel with Leadership Fellows on the civil rights tour through the Alabama and Georgia. Michael traveled as staff advisor to Greece during Winter Term. He is active in his church as a Steward and Sunday School Superintended. He is a servant that loves the Lord and who tries to show God’s love by helping people.
Lecturer in Human Service Studies
Sandra Reid has been a faculty member in the department of Human Service Studies since 2006. She is also an Elon College Alumna (1985). Upon graduation, Reid worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for more than 20 years. She enjoys teaching and engaging with students. She is an active member of the university community with a special emphasis on black student life. She believes that having a strong spiritual life is necessary as individuals move toward wholeness.