University Chaplaincy

Wendy Cadge (Brandeis University), Shelly Rambo (Boston University), Tiffany Steinwert (Wellesley College)

Funded by the BTS Center

The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab collaborated with scholars around the country to conduct a campus-wide survey on students’ experience of spiritual and religious life. We have developed a generic iteration of the survey and are happy to provide the instrument to researchers and religious life leaders interested in learning more about the needs of their student communities. The instrument is available at no charge, and the Lab requests acknowledgement in any resulting internal or external publications. For more information and to request the survey, please contact Director of Programs Michael Skaggs at

This project brings a sociologist, a university chaplain, and a theological educator together to vision on three levels. This visioning emerges from our awareness that there is little continuing education for college and university chaplains who address a multitude of difficult and sensitive issues on today’s politically complex campuses. We aim to name these challenges, assess what is known about them in existing research literature, and develop two training programs to help current university chaplains in New England address them. Specifically, we are first mapping and clearly articulating the work that chaplains are doing at colleges and universities across New England. Second, we are exploring the current research literature for effects or outcomes this work might be having on students, staff, faculty and these institutions in general. Our preliminary reviews of the limited research suggest that the study of university chaplaincy rarely focuses on outcomes, even though the needs of students and of the institutions themselves around crisis management, grief work, responses to trauma, and the facilitation of difficult conversations and dialogues is great. Third, we will pilot 1-2 trainings for regional chaplains based on what we learn through the mapping and literature review that will allow us to design an empirically-grounded, best practices-based continuing education curriculum for higher education chaplains.

This work will impact several groups. First, it will benefit the 20-30 chaplains who participate in the regional university chaplaincy group led by the university chaplain on our team. These individuals will learn from the white paper, benefit from the training, and share this information with colleagues outside of the region. Second, our efforts will benefit faculty, staff and students on the campuses where these chaplains work by giving the chaplains the trainings and tools they need to do their jobs more effectively. Finally, the initiatives serves as a model for chaplains in higher education nationally.