After ten years working for Elon University, Chaplain Jan Fuller has announced her retirement. The university chaplain and lecturer in humanities has made it a mission of hers to help students connect with their spiritual selves through promoting cultural and spiritual interaction.
“I feel like we have really changed Elon in a way that isn’t gonna go away. And of course, I love the people at Elon so much. That's the piece of Elon I'm gonna miss the most, is the people.” Fuller said.
Fuller, who is one of the longest serving chaplains in the nation, worked for other universities such as Yale and Hollins, Fuller has devoted her time at Elon in developing Elon's spiritual and religious culture on campus.
Fuller said that her time at Elon has been filled with multiple opportunities to grow as a chaplain, as well as an administrator.
“We've done a lot of growing and I've had to do a lot of growing in the meantime, figuring out how to go from being a solo chaplain, to build a building and to design programs and to hire staff. And so it's been a whirlwind 10 years,” Fuller said.
During her time at Elon, Fuller built the Numen Lumen Pavilion. Also, she expanded Elon’s spiritual and cultural activities through introducing the annual interfaith student conference and created a multifaith staffing structure.
In her career, she has been the President of the National Association of College and University chaplains twice and has been a part of the organization since 1988. In addition, she has published multiple articles, sermons, poems and prayers
Along with being a chaplain at Elon, Fuller also taught in the humanities area and conducted research on first generation college students and their experiences and needs in terms of religion and spirituality. However, her most fulfilling achievement in her job is getting to know students.
“I do love nurturing and being in a relationship with religious communities that are often marginalized, that are on the edges of culture,” she said. “I love being in relationship with smaller religions or misunderstood religions and trying to help a community understand those better.”
Video by Ellis Chandler.
Fuller was raised in Beirut, Lebanon. Her parents were Southern Baptist missionaries, allowing her to start her spiritual journey early in her life. She studied at Hollins University, where she obtained a B.A. in English and French. She then got her Masters of Divinity at Yale Divinity School and her Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary.
Fuller said that living abroad and following her parents' journey as missionaries has affected how she goes about her work and how she approaches it.
“I would say that the work that I have done in the ministry on campus is very different from what I saw my parents do, but the fact that they raised me in another country made me sensitive to the fact that what when you see another human being you don't know the story that they have inside them, you can't tell by looking who they really are,” Fuller said.
Now with a new vacancy, the university must find a new chaplain. The job consists of supporting the spiritual and religious journey of students, creating opportunities for spiritual and religious engagement on campus and helping to serve the college community to foster a positive religious and spiritual environment on campus.
Fuller said that for the next chaplain, they need to make sure they have a plan to expand the spiritual and religious presence on campus further and connect to students.
“The new chaplain needs to have ... a vision for how to grow education in multifaith religions, and in the multiforme, a multiplicity of the ways people are spiritual, and how to help Elon do that in a way that exposes every student to this movement,” Fuller said. “It's a complex world we live in and religions have influences in every part of our lives, that we don't think about enough that we need to think about more so I think the chaplain needs to be a good listener, a good administrator, and a kind person.”