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Comings and Goings Update: Mark Duntley’s new title highlights enhanced spiritual life offerings on campus

September 04, 2012

  • From left to right: Rachael Green, Jeanne Lilly, Mark Duntley, Fiona Corner and Rachel Hirsch

Last month, the Chapel office officially became the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. This change was a part of a larger vision and effort to expand the scope and breadth of spiritual life on the Lewis & Clark Campus. First proposed by Mark Duntley this past spring, the Spiritual Initiatives Project not only suggested a change in the name of the office, but also offered new ideas and programs designed to enhance our campus community through spirituality. Mark fills in some of the details in the following Q&A.

How did the name change to the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life come about?

Early this past spring semester I became aware that Sister Loretta Schaff would be retiring at the end of the semester as our adjunct Catholic chaplain. As I began to consider how I would move forward after her retirement, it also became clear that Rabbi Jonathan Seidel would be resigning as our rabbinic chaplain at about the same time. With these two colleagues departing soon, I felt compelled to reassess how I could configure our office to best serve the religious and spiritual life needs of our students.

Other than the name change, are there any additional new developments happening in your office?

Near the end of March, I presented Associate Vice President for Campus Life Michael Ford with the first draft of a vision that would not only change the office name and my title, but would also seek to respond to the unique characteristics of our campus and the recent research about spiritual life among college students. I chose the phrase “Spiritual Initiatives Project” and proposed an expanded vision of nurturing religious and spiritual life among our students by focusing on three areas: ( 1) interfaith initiatives, ( 2) meditation and spiritual inquiry groups, and (3) action and reflection on justice and service. I also proposed establishing a Religious and Spiritual Life Advisory Council to help guide and assess this new initiative. I am also pleased to have Rabbi Michael Cahana, senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel here in northwest Portland, as our new rabbinic liaison.

Michael Ford and Provost Jane Atkinson responded enthusiastically to the ideas presented in the Spiritual Initiatives Project, and the Executive Council approved the office name and position title change. My next task was to line up part-time staffing thatcould accomplish all of this. Over the next few months I was able to identify the following people to assist me in this work: Jeanne Lilly (contemplative and spiritual life coordinator); Fiona Corner (Catholic student life coordinator); Rachel Hirsch (Hillel engagement associate); and Rachael Green (spirituality and justice coordinator). 

Students Willa Keegan-Rodewald, Erika Peregrine, and Kathleen Burkhardt will also be helping in our office and will concentrate their efforts on some of our interfaith programs. Finally, Adonica De Vault, acting director for the Center for Career and Community Engagement, and Susanna Morrill, associate professor of religious studies, will cochairthe Religious and Spiritual Life Advisory Council.

What do you like best about your job as dean of religious and spiritual life?

Obviously the best part is the people I get to work with. Over the years I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with wonderful colleagues and students. I also find great satisfaction in uplifting the importance of spirituality and religious expression and helping others explore and grow in these areas. And while some may consider spirituality as a minor aspect of our students’ lives, recent research conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has concluded that enhancing the spiritual lives and experiences of college students has direct and positive impacts on a whole series of traditional educational outcomes including things like students’ grades, motivation for further education, and satisfaction with college.

What are the biggest challenges of your work?

It’s not difficult to realize that a majority of our students don’t self- identify with any particular religious or spiritual tradition. And while unfamiliarity with a far away land may spur a student to join one of our overseas programs in order to explore a new culture, being unfamiliar with a religious or spiritual way of life doesn’t often engender the same kind of curiosity. So, to use a metaphor, even though the spiritual pool may look somewhat inviting and the water may feel warm as you dangle your toes in it, many students hesitate to dive right in and never really get immersed in the pool. I often wish for a more active expression of spiritual curiosity and inquiry among those who haven’t really given it a try, and for students to set aside their religious stereotypes and open themselves to learning about and experiencing spirituality.

What impresses you about Lewis & Clark as a whole?

It is great to be a part of a community committed to intellectual and academic excellence. But what I enjoy seeing the very most here is a lot of very smart people with very big hearts. In general, I’ve found that Lewis & Clark students, staff, and faculty are caring people and really want to help out others when needs exist. The quality of the friendships and relationships brings a smile to my face.

What sorts of interests or activities do you pursue outside of work?

I’m involved in executive boards at the regional and national level that work to support higher education ministries. I am a part of a church community, and I have enjoyed singing in the choir and teaching preschool classes. I like attending with my wife the plays and musicals that my college and high school daughters are in, and our family enjoys trips to the coast, Seattle, and Ashland. I play golf, walk my greyhound on campus a couple of times a day, and have recently become a regular at the Pamplin fitness center. I also have a keen interest in health care policy and reform efforts, and in medical ethics.

What did you aspire to be when you were a kid?

My parents were fabulous role models, so I always wanted to become a parent and must say that I love being a dad. As a young child, I loved sports and aspired to be either an Olympic sprinter, a quarterback, or a pitcher. Johnny Unitas and Sandy Koufax were my early sports heroes.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I’m very enthusiastic about the possibilities of the Spiritual Initiatives Project, and am hopeful over time that some of the things we are able to do in the coming months and years will indeed enhance our campus community and will open up the possibility for new and renewed expressions of spiritual vitality here at Lewis & Clark.

Comings and Goings Update:

Several people have joined the community recently, and some continuing employees have taken on new roles and responsibilities at Lewis & Clark:

Whitney DeGroff, area director, Campus Living; Adonica DeVault, acting director, Center for Career and Community Engagement; Jimmie Dudley, campus safety officer, Campus Safety; Mark Duntley, dean of religious and spiritual life, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; Sae Jo, special teams coordinator/defensive assistant/instructor, Physical Education andAthletics; Craig Leto, field technician, Law Computing Services; Jeanne Lilly, contemplative and spiritual life coordinator, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; Linda Lopeman, events coordinator, Law Facilities Services; Susan Mako, loan account specialist, Student and Departmental Account Services; Lindsey Miller, associate director of annual giving, Law External Relations; Natasha Richmond, assistant director of admissions, Law Admissions; Melissa Roane, cataloging specialist, Watzek Library;Logan Thurnauer, area director, Campus Living; Kathy Tymoczko, application developer/analyst, Information Technology; Ryan Wagner, area director, Campus Living; and William Penn, director of public interest law, law school.

The following people have left Lewis & Clark. Here’s wishing them good luck in their new adventures:

Angie McGinnis, interim associate registrar, CAS Registrar; Cherilyn Ronningen, degree audit and transfer credit coordinator, CAS Registrar; David Rosengard, area director, Campus LivingJo Sae Woon, special teams coordinator and instructor, Physical Education and Athletics; and Gregory Volk, vice president, Institutional Advancement.