A new Muslim chaplain and a new multifaith counselor have joined the William Jewett Tucker Center for Spiritual and Ethical Living.
Abdul Rahman Latif, a Muslim minister and associate director of the Tucker Center, started at Dartmouth at the beginning of the fall semester. Since then, he has spearheaded the Tucker Center’s social media efforts, mentoring student staff, supporting students and organizations in times of need and celebration, and working with campus partners.
The Tucker Center is for “anyone who focuses on issues of conscience and heart,” whether religious or secular, says Latif. “That’s the theme we’ve emphasized this year.”
He’s also worked hard to strengthen ties within the Muslim community, which was without a campus counselor for more than a year, says Rev. Nancy Vogele ’85, college chaplain and director of the Tucker Center.
This includes leading Friday evening prayers in the newly renovated Muslim prayer room; facilitating a weekly halaqa or religious study circle; and promoting student engagement.
Part of the Tucker Center’s mission is to celebrate Dartmouth’s religious diversity and to support students who wish to deepen their faith. United Campus Ministry, part of the Tucker Center, is made up of the campus chaplains and counselors from 17 different religious student groups.
While Dartmouth previously had a Muslim advisor, Latif is the first Muslim chaplain, reflecting ongoing initiatives to provide chaplaincy to all students.
Latif, who grew up in western Maryland, says he enjoys hosting dinners, organizing student field trips — from stargazing to hiking — and seeing students connect with one another.
It’s so important that students know there’s a community here, and that regardless of their “precise religious beliefs,” how much or little they practice, they always feel welcome, that they always feel like they belong, he says .
On Friday nights, Al-Nur, Dartmouth’s Muslim student association, hosts a social gathering where students play board games or just chat over dinner, Latif says. The meetings “are not only open to Muslim students, but to anyone who wants to come.”
Ditto for Latif’s office hours, which features “plentiful amounts” of flavorful homemade chai.
Before coming to Dartmouth, Latif was a teaching assistant and cataloger at Columbia University, an adjunct professor at Mercy College – where he currently teaches an online course in world religions – and an active member of New York City’s Muslim community. He previously served as campus minister for the Muslim Student Association at Boston College and as an academic advisor for the Boston Islamic Seminary Academy program.
Latif holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master of theological studies degree from Harvard Divinity School. As a graduate student in religion at Columbia University, he is writing a dissertation on medieval Islamic narrative traditions.
Another addition to the Tucker Center last month, Ellie Anders Thompson assumed the role of multifaith counselor and program manager.
Ellie Anders Thompson, the new multi-faith adviser and program manager, joined Dartmouth last month. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)
Thompson has more than 10 years of experience in multifaith ministry, Vogele says, “so I’m really excited that she’s here.”
Before coming to Dartmouth, Thompson was the interfaith outreach coordinator at Utah Valley University. Her introduction to the work came as a graduate student in history at West Texas A&M University, where she founded a student club for interfaith dialogue. Thompson also has a bachelor’s degree in Technical Theater from West Texas A&M.
At Dartmouth, Thompson oversees programs for the Tucker Center’s multifaith initiative, which includes programs such as weekly discussions on spirituality and ethics as they relate to campus life. Students are invited to participate in the multi-religious conversations held Tuesdays during the winter, spring and fall academic terms at a catered dinner at South Fairbanks Hall.
A common misconception about multireligious dialogue is that it’s about watering down individual religions to find the “lowest common denominator,” says Thompson. Instead, she says, it’s necessary to maintain curiosity “about the person standing in front of you.”
While Latif and Thompson are just getting started, Vogele is already seeing a big difference in Tucker.
“Abdul Rahman has done an excellent job of building a community for our Muslim students this semester. Ellie has hit the ground running and will be a powerhouse for interfaith programs as we move forward,” she says. “It’s great to have colleagues with whom I can do the important work that is needed to better serve our students.”