Q&A With Past Chapel President Beth Singleton '10
Meet Beth Singleton '10
Past Chapel President
Q. Where are you now? Please share your location and job title, and provide a description of what your position entails (chief responsibilities, etc.).
A. Currently, I am a Ph.D. candidate at Claremont School of Theology in Religion, Ethics and Society and living in Waterloo, Iowa. In addition to writing my dissertation, I am a project manager for Toward Ecological Civilization, a non-profit working to support civilizational movement towards a sustainable society. I am currently developing an online education program and a series of events and projects on agricultural spirituality.
Q. At Augustana, faith is certainly nurtured in Chapel, but it is also nourished throughout campus — in our classrooms and labs, in rehearsals and at practice, in quiet consultation with professors and staff, in our residence halls and in countless other places. Please share a bit about how Campus Ministry at Augustana influenced your life.
A. I was involved in campus ministry throughout my four years as a student and was able to serve in a variety of roles, each of which developed my leadership and relational skills. Through my involvement with campus ministry, I was always engaged in an embodied faith because the things I was learning and thinking in the classroom as a religion and philosophy major were connected to what I was doing in campus ministry in a concrete way. In campus ministry I learned that theology matters because it impacts the way people move in relationship with the world. I also learned the value of tradition and ritual in the formation of a meaningful community.
Q. Please also share how your faith was nurtured outside of Chapel — by professors in class, by peer advisors, by friends, through participation in clubs or intramurals, etc.
A. Since I was a religion and philosophy major, many of my classes were focused on engaging my beliefs about the world. I learned to think critically about what my beliefs are, how they inform what I do, and how those beliefs might impact others. I learned that beliefs are not simply beliefs, but have implications for other beings. The professors in these departments fostered an environment of critical questioning that allowed my faith to transform. Through my friendships and conversations with people across campus I know that Augustana is unique in the way it nourishes a community of engaged thinkers, unafraid to take on the taboo topics of religion and politics at the dinner table even when opposing positions are presented. This environment allowed me to engage my faith in relation to others and to the world, giving my faith material and relational meaning.
Q. How does Faith continue to serve as your compass?
A. My faith is not what it was while I was a student at Augustana but it was the nurturing of my faith there that has continually caused me to seek the truth with an open mind, ask critical questions and be in relationship to other beings in a way that reflects the material and relational beliefs I began to develop at Augie. My faith has led me to believe in the value of all beings and the interdependence that holds us together that informs and inspires my life and work as a teacher and activist.
Q. How as your faith helped you navigate through life's changes and challenges?
A. My moral compass certainly maintains roots in Christianity and my faith has greatly shaped who I am because it is a big part of where I’ve come from. I constantly strive to live authentically by embodying my beliefs about the world and encouraging others to make connections between belief and practice rooted in an understanding of the world that is true to them. As a result of this striving, I do my best to eat a vegan diet, support local economies, reduce my carbon footprint, and generally be in relationship to others in a way that allows mutual flourishing. Thus, I navigate life’s changes and challenges with the help and support of a loving community.
Q. Who was your most inspiring professor at Augie, and why?
A. Dr. Ann Pederson was, and still is, my most inspiring professor at Augie. As a female in academia finding and asserting one’s voice can be a challenge. Ann has always encouraged me to strengthen my voice and ask my questions, even (or especially) when they were a little off the wall. She encourages deep, critical, creative and transformational thinking which is something I try to model in my own teaching. Her theology was never about something far-reaching or beyond experience — it was about the real bodily, placed, and relational experiences and relationships that all people must navigate through every day. Beyond being my most inspiring professor, she has become an invaluable mentor to me.
Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?
A. Without a doubt, teaching, including a year at Augustana, has given me the greatest satisfaction since graduating. Witnessing students engage in the process of critical thinking and apply what they are learning to their lives is rewarding because it reflects back to me the importance of learning to be better people. For me, learning at Augustana and beyond has never been about cataloguing information; it’s about studying the world and the beings that inhabit it so I can do better. Walking alongside students in the learning and living process gives me great satisfaction.