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.”