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Office of Spiritual Life plans expansion to create an inclusive space

Westminster College’s director of spiritual life, Jan Saeed, stands at the base of the Teton mountain range in Grand Teton National Park in May 2017 on travel trip sponsored by the Spiritual Life Office. Over the past semester, Saeed and the Spiritual Life student employees have been working to transition into what they hope will be a more welcoming and inclusive Global Peace and Spiritual Life Center (GPS). (Photo by Stephanie Held)

In an effort to become more inclusive and involved on campus, Westminster College’s Office of Spiritual Life is working to expand its space and rebrand to the Global Peace and Spiritual Life Center (GPS).

Nicole Rodriguez-Cavero, a student employee in the office, said she and others involved are hoping the GPS Center will be more welcoming and inclusive of people with diverse religions and people without one.

“The whole idea of rebranding is trying to have a fresh start — trying to bring more people into the office and trying to spread the overall message of our office that global peace and spirituality are both important and they don’t necessarily have to belong to a religious affiliation,” she said.

Jan Saaed, the director of the Office of Spiritual Life, said she thinks the new center will not only create a safe and welcoming space on campus but also help students achieve the college-wide learning goals.

“If you look at Westminster’s learning goals, they say that we want to raise students that are globally conscious, socially responsible, and ethically aware,” Saaed said. “We want students that are respectful of diverse peoples and their perspectives, so the only way you can have that is if you bring and create spaces where those conversations can be had.”

The Forum sat down with Saeed to learn more about the proposal, which ASW Senate approved in September, and to find out about its progress. This piece has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Q: For those who don’t know, what does the Office of Spiritual Life do?

A: The Office of Spiritual Life is a space on campus where students can connect with their own faith tradition, if they are connected to a religion before they come to campus. Or it’s a place to explore, ‘How can they put their spirituality into action?’ and to learn about other people: where they are in the world as far as spirituality, religion, or beliefs.

Q: Why are you renaming the office?

A: We’re thinking that the name change provides an opportunity for people that are of no religion to feel more engaged in a process that every religion preaches. […] This concept of a Global Peace Center is something that resonates with the spiritual nature, and so we feel like it combines not only the spiritual beliefs of every faith, but it also brings in a more secular view that even if you are not a part of a religion most Westminster people would believe in, let’s have a peaceful world.

Q: You mentioned that the office would change to a center. What would be part of those expansion efforts?

A: I think, just talking to students, it resonates that we’re thinking broader. Not necessarily… I mean, if people really believe in faith and believe in their spirituality [they] see it as a huge overarching part of their lives. But people that don’t can relate more to that concept of global peace and that, ‘I have a place in this department, or this office.’ […]

[We’re] hoping that with new branding of a space, it creates a better understanding of what we actually do and what we’re hoping to do. So, we’re working on a mission statement to try to be more inclusive of where we feel spirituality and our student population can go forward best.

Q: If the expansion occurs, what are some projects you’d like to implement?

A: I would hope that the expansion […] would make to the campus and to possible donors to the campus that we’re not just about connecting students to their own faith traditions — we’re about building a community and building a global understanding and spiritual global understanding.  

Maybe we would have some think tanks […] How do we get a group of students, faculty, and staff together to come up with a solution that we could actually present to some senator in our own senate?’ […] Why can’t we put some fresh minds and scholars onto these issues that are affecting our own students and our own community but also on the national or global level?

[…] Not that it would be just the people that are in office right now, but it would become even more of a liaison between the departments on campus and professors that are working on these kinds of ideas. It would become more integrated into the actual learning process and into the social change fabric of the society.

Q: Is there anything else we should know?

A: If we don’t institutionalize the concept of peace, then we’re questioning whether peace is possible. Unless we have that ideal — and every faith tradition has that… that’s why I think a lot of people do appreciate their faith is it continues to bring hope. And if we live in a society with no hope, then that’s what we get out of our society as well.

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