Chaplain change is in the air

Chaplain and Director of the Wesley Center Nancy Victorin-Vangerud retires Aug. 20.


Courtesy of Nancy Victorin
Chaplain Nancy Victorin-Vangerud receives the Wesley Award at a commencement ceremony.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

Recent years have brought change to University Chaplain and Director of the Wesley Center Nancy Victorin-Vangerud in her professional life, like hosting the annual Mahle Lecture on a virtual platform for the first time.

“I’ve been getting emails from around the country of people who Zoomed in,” Victorin-Vangerud said of the lecture, which was titled “Who are We? Christian Nationalism, White Supremacy and Pathways to Liberation.”

But this year, Victorin-Vangerud is due for an even bigger professional change — namely, that after marking 14 years as chaplain and Wesley Center director, she will retire from the position on Aug. 20. 

That does not mean that Victorin-Vangerud’s passions for spirituality and social justice will draw to a close, however. 

“I really want to retire, formally, so that I can devote myself to finding places to teach, particularly at this time of need for new narratives about religion, about Christianity, about the changes that are underway in our society,” Victorin-Vangerud said. “I want religion to draw on its more prophetic roots… teaching, writing, creating, being a part of organizations that are working on food sustainability. I want to be feeding people and teaching people how to garden and grow their own food.”

Now, the search for a new chaplain and Wesley Center director is underway, with the job opening officially listed online. Most of the position’s duties are the same ones Victorin-Vangerud has carried out over the past 14 years — like coordinating the Mahle Lecture, representing Hamline at the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and providing interfaith leadership throughout the community — but greater academic commitments are a new function.

“The chaplain will also have some teaching responsibility… whether that’s a FYSem or in the Religion Department,” Victorin-Vangerud said. The job posting reads “Teach up to 3 courses in the area of expertise under the direction of the dean of the college of liberal arts.”

In her time as chaplain and Wesley Center director, Victorin-Vangerud has overseen departmental restructuring and has seen colleagues come and go. Positions like Coordinator of Religious and Spiritual Life Programs and Coordinator of Civic Engagement and the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration have been cut when their officeholder resigned or have been absorbed into a different jurisdiction. 

Although the Wesley Center staff is smaller than when Victorin-Vangerud first arrived, many of her colleagues have been with her since the beginning.

“I first met Nancy when the staff from various programs who would come together to form the new Wesley Center had a chance to meet with the finalists for her position,” Jane Krentz, director of the McVay Youth Partnership, said. “We all agreed that Nancy would be a great choice, though we weren’t part of the official interview committee.”

The committee that will select Victorin-Vangerud’s successor has not yet been assembled, according to Dean of Students Patti Klein-Kersten.

“[Victorin-Vangerud] has been one of the best mentors and advocates I’ve had, so I hope that we will continue to talk and be friends,” said sophomore Emily Hilderbrand, student leader of the Love Boldly campaign. “Certainly the Wesley Center will be really different without Nancy, though… there will be some big shoes to fill.”