Northwestern places a good deal of focus on chapel. So much so attendance is required for all students. Current school policy has a mandatory 45 chapel credit requirement for each semester.
However, this year NW is reviewing the current chapel program. On Sept. 8 the school held a forum where students could voice their opinions of the current chapel system and provide their feedback on how chapel could be changed or improved. Both students and staff partook in these forums.
Julie Elliott, dean of student life and overseer of campus ministries, has been working with others to hear student requests and consider changes to the program.
“I’ve been working closely with President [Greg] Christy to answer questions: are we satisfied with chapel right now?” Elliot said. “Students’ answers to this questions help to guide us.”
There have been numerous surveys distributed in recent weeks to help staff and administration understand student thoughts on chapel. In these forums, Elliott said five questions were asked in relation to content and attendance requirements for chapel. She said she believes these inquiries will be essential in deciding how to approach chapel in the future.
“The five questions we’re asking students are: What do you value most about chapel? What do you see is the purpose of chapel? What things would you like to see changed? Should chapel be required, and if so, how many credits should be required?” Elliott said. “I think we’re asking big questions, and when big questions are being asked, there is the potential for big changes.”
While the future of the chapel program may be a bit uncertain now, staff members are working to make sure the chapel experience can be an enjoyable part of college life on campus.
“I want our chapel program to be excellent, so that students want to be there whether it’s required of them or not,” Elliott said.
Barb Dewald, a faculty member of Campus Ministries, echoes Elliott’s thoughts on the improvement of chapel for the good of the students. Dewald believes that chapel should be reflective of NW’s vision for learning.
“It’s more than just asking: do you like it,” Dewald said. “We have to ask, is chapel fulfilling the goal of being a place for students to worship, learn, and grow on their spiritual walk. That’s what we want for the students.”
No official changes have been made to the chapel system. Faculty will continue to evaluate student input and make changes in the future to facilitate what they believe will be most beneficial to students in their faith experience.