Hindu Chaplaincy in US Higher Education

Asha Shipman, Yale University

There is an increasing awareness among higher education professionals that to fully serve students, institutions should include among their goals a firm commitment to supporting students’ religious, spiritual and secular identities. Spiritual support for Hindu students is in a nascent stage. To gain an understanding of the spiritual support offered Hindu students on US campuses, this project explored the history of Hindu Americans in the US and reached out to colleagues in the field of chaplaincy and student affairs. Chaplains and spiritual advisors recounted how they came to support (or are attempting to support) Hindu students at their various institutions – from small liberal arts colleges to business schools and large universities. Hindu chaplains’ roles vary depending on the time and resources they are allotted. Consistent, however, is the belief that their presence on our campuses serves a vital need for the Hindu population while at the same time enhancing the wider campus community.

Asha Shipman earned a BA in Biology at Mount Holyoke College, an MS in Ecology from the University of Connecticut along with an MA and PhD in Anthropology, also from UCONN. She is an experienced educator, having taught for almost 20 years at the high school, college and university levels. Asha joined the Yale University Chaplain’s Office in 2013 in a part-time position and in 2016 she became the second (and only female) Hindu chaplain with a full-time university appointment in the US. She speaks on panels and at events on and off campus and arranges programming that highlights Hinduism and Indian culture. In helping to assess and support this nascent field of Hindu chaplaincy, Asha channeled her anthropological training to examine spiritual support offered to Hindu students at US college and university campuses. As a result of this research, Asha wrote a summary paper on work in the field and is actively forming a Hindu Chaplains Association. She blogs on Hinduism and chaplaincy and has created a series of podcasts for a new faith and life inquiry platform. She is a contributor to the first book on Hindu chaplaincy in the US coming out this Fall entitled “Hindu Approaches to Spiritual Care.” Asha has recently been appointed to the Board of Trustees for the Connecticut Valley Hindu Temple Society.