One Day Apprentice: Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82

3 March 2020
By Hannah Pietrick
Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82

Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82 never imagined she would return to Carleton as chaplain nearly 15 years after graduating. During her senior year, Fure-Slocum traveled widely throughout Asia as part of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest’s India Studies Program. Her interest in community organizing soon led her back to Northfield, where she worked as a farm organizer in southern Minnesota. “I realized that I wanted to ground my social justice work more deeply in my faith,” she says, so she enrolled in seminary at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. And then renowned Carleton science and religion professor Ian Barbour suggested she apply for the position of Carleton’s chaplain.

While she describes the path that brought her to her current position as “convoluted,” Fure-Slocum knew soon after starting her work here that it was a perfect fit. Working closely with students allows her not only to make a difference to them, but also to effect greater change as she helps them learn how to make a difference in their own communities.

“There are many metaphors that apply to my job: a wearer of many hats, a skater on thin ice, shepherd, gardener, and many religious titles that fit in part,” says Fure-Slocum. Ultimately, she believes that her work at Carleton and in the greater Northfield community is best encapsulated by Micah 6:8 — “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” She divides her long days pursuing all three: working toward social change both on and off campus, connecting with people, and helping to build community. “Sometimes that means hard situations, like a campus tragedy,” she says, “and other times, there are joyful encounters, such as profound conversations with students as they think about their future.”

Reflecting on her decades-long history with Carleton, Fure-Slocum says she believes the ethos of the college has remained the same. “Carleton strives to help people think deeply and complexly,” she says. “Not to avoid responding to a situation, but so that we don’t take a simplistic approach to a difficult problem.” This dynamic informs the challenging interfaith discussions she leads in her role as chaplain: “It is a great age group to work with since they are exploring widely in their spiritual lives — and Carleton students in particular are a wonderful bunch. Open, idealistic, smart, committed, and caring.”

Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82 leads an early-morning breakfast meeting with her student chaplain’s associates
7:58 a.m. | Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82 leads an early-morning breakfast meeting with her student chaplain’s associates, who serve as liaisons with the student body by leading discussions and meeting with groups on campus.
Carolyn Fure-Slocum talking on an office telephone
10:14 a.m. | The chaplain’s office oversees Carleton’s social justice summer internship program, which coordinates with alumni and community partners to provide students with internships in public health, law, activism, housing, and community development.
Carolyn Fure-Slocum counseling a student in her office
10:33 a.m. | Fure-Slocum provides counseling for students and staff and faculty members who seek her out for support on any number of issues.
Carolyn Fure-Slocum lights a candle at a vigil
12:12 p.m. | Vigils are an active part of religious life at Carleton. Here, Fure-Slocum lights a candle at a vigil jointly organized by her office and Carleton’s Gender and Sexuality Center to recognize National Transgender Day.
Carolyn Fure-Slocum laying out prayer rugs
1:05 p.m. | “People assume Carleton isn’t very religious, but almost every religion in the world is represented here,” says Fure-Slocum, who has worked to make the chapel — which has a Muslim prayer room and a Buddhist meditation area — a true interfaith space. “About 50 percent of our students claim a religious tradition, and they are both knowledgeable about their tradition and open to learning about other perspectives,” she says.
Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82
2:00 p.m. | Fure-Slocum has been Carleton’s chaplain since 1997.
Carolyn Fure-Slocum outside Skinner Chapel
3:20 p.m. | Fure-Slocum leaves her office in the chapel for a meeting at the Wellstone House of Organizing and Activism (WHOA).
Hanging a porch banner at WHOA House
3:28 p.m. | Fure-Slocum and Jacob Isaacs ’20 (Cambell, Calif.) meet at WHOA. Fure-Slocum cites the late Senator Paul Wellstone, once a political science professor, as one of the many Carleton people who taught her about “historical analysis, making social change, and putting my commitments into action.”
Carolyn Fure-Slocum lighting candles at an evening service in the chapel
9:00 p.m. | Fure-Slocum leads EvenSong, a weekly Christian service that offers a time for prayer, song, and contemplation. She expects a sizable turnout at this evening’s service, since the end of the term creates extra stress for students.

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