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The Carletonian

Chatting with the Chaplain: Q&A with Dawson Eriksen, Chaplain’s Associate


The chapel is well known for hosting religious services, holidays and official Carleton gatherings. However, the Carleton College Office of the Chaplain contributes extensively to Carleton life beyond the realm of the spiritual, hosting events and workshops spanning meditation, mindfulness, discussion and general community building in addition to prayer groups and holiday celebrations. 

The Chaplaincy also liaises with local churches and religious groups, bringing in speakers and providing community service opportunities. As one of eleven student associates to the Chaplain’s Office, Dawson Eriksen ’23 assists in ways including “leading discussion groups, participating in services, supporting religious activities and meeting with student religious groups.” Eriksen was gracious enough to answer some questions about their work with the Office of the Chaplain. All statements were made in collaboration with the Chaplain’s Office. 

Q: What’s your position in the Chaplain’s Office?

A: I am a Chaplain’s Associate, meaning that I support the professional Chaplains and lead programs that serve the student population. Unlike the Professional Chaplains, I am not a confidential resource, which is a common misconception on campus. This means that Eriksen and the other Chaplain’s Associates are mandated reporters.

Q: What does the Chaplain’s Office do? 

A: What don’t we do?! Our official manifesto is to foster religious and purpose-driven life on campus through programs, services and connecting students to their faith community in the area. A beautiful manifesto, and the best part is that we make it a reality. From support groups for queer students to three meditation sessions [each] week, the Chapel does so much for students’ wellbeing and is definitely an underutilized resource on campus. We do more than religion, is another thing I would add. We want to see students, practicing and otherwise, connecting [with] each other and themselves in ways that enrich and deepen their sense of self and commitment toward a better world. Our job is not only to support students in this effort, but also to remind them [of] the importance of their interior and communal lives and how to make those things work together toward wellbeing, inner peace and contentment.

Q: What activities does the Chaplain’s Office offer? 

A: The list goes on and on and on, [and is listed on the Chapel’s website]. I wouldn’t be able to say what we do from memory because it is so expansive. I personally run Queer Spiritz, a group for queer students that explores both secular and spiritual topics, with a focus on community, healing and wellbeing. I also guide meditation, which happens Monday and Thursday evenings and Friday morning[s]. Thursday sessions are always led by a Buddhist leader of faith to serve the Buddhist community on campus while also being open to the larger public. The last thing I lead is IFSA, or Interfaith Social Action. This group connects students of all backgrounds to causes in the local area, and this term we are focused on voting access and democracy protection. Please contact me if any of these interest you! 

Q: How can students get involved? Particularly non-religious students?

A: COME TO AN ACTIVITY!!! There are so many accessible activities for non-religious students. I myself am non-religious (by some definitions, but labels mean nothing at the Chapel. All are welcome no matter how you choose to self-identify) and find even religious services incredibly welcoming and educational. I recommend meditation to everyone: it is such a healing practice, and having a community makes it so much easier. IFSA, while including the scary ‘faith’ word, is an amazing space for any student who wants to get involved in the community.

Q: What’s something about the Office more people should know about?

A: That we are here for you in a way many offices are but also in ways that are very different. Regardless of your background, you can feel at home at our activities and in our space. Come study in the chapel lounge, take a break from the hustle for a few quiet moments in the sanctuary [or] email one of the Chaplains to seek advice. The chapel is here [not only] to serve you, but also to remind you that spiritual wellbeing is critical for everyone regardless of creed or lack thereof.

Q: Anything else?

A: The food is really good at our events. You really have to try it to know 🙂 

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