New Kim on the block


At Wednesday’s Div School lunch, Kimberly Goff-Crews, the new University VP and dean of students, shared an alliterative agenda for her first year: “Pizza, policy, and procedure." While getting to know the University’s “very distinctive” culture, she said, she will also take in the city and its Hyde Park neighborhood; learning about the University's present and past will guide her in planning for the future.

Goff-Crews oversees 15 on-campus departments—including the Office of the Bursar, Campus Dining Services, and the University House System—that provide resources for Chicago's 13,000 students. The latest addition to her portfolio is Rockefeller Chapel. With the departure of former Chapel Dean Alison Boden this summer, the search is on for a "new, improved" campus spiritual leader, Goff-Crews said, who can build on the kind of support Boden provided for the community. Asking for input on "who it is we should be getting " and "what kind of spiritual community we should have"—regular communication between students and administration is a primary focus, she said—she turned the discussion over to the audience.

In the past few years spirituality and religious studies have been "bullied," a Div School student said. "We work in an environment of some hostility." Prayers are no longer a part of academic convocation, one man complained, and "the life of the mind" is valued more than spiritual life.

Few students, another attendee said, perceive the similarites between education and religion: "We approach studies as an ascetic practice." One's "discipline as a student," he argued, becomes a "spiritual and profound quest tying together different faiths." Both education and religious experience are transformative processes, a Div School student-services staff member said; the key is to explore how religion's vocabulary can apply to "larger University life."


Photos: Div School student staff members serve plates of penne, tomato, and mozzarella; Kimberly Goff-Crews seeks student input.

September 28, 2007