By Alex Tsai
Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert, who was appointed the University’s new dean for Religious Life on Oct. 1, 2018, will assume the role on Monday and succeed the Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, who served in the position since fall 2014 and left Stanford at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 academic year to become principal of Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford.
As dean, Steinwert will serve as minister of Memorial Church and work with the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access in a Learning Community (IDEAL) initiative chaired by Drell and developed under Stanford’s Long-Range Planning (LRP) process.
“The new leader of our Office for Religious Life, Tiffany Steinwert, will bring the passion, scholarship and experiences that will help our diverse community navigate celebrations and challenges — and will support and enliven our individual religious and spiritual journeys,” Drell told Stanford News.
In an interview with The Daily, Steinwert said the role that a dean for Religious Life plays in a college community is threefold. First, Steinwert aims to provide religious access to students of all faith traditions and no faith traditions. Second, Steinwert seeks to foster an environment in which students learn about and form relationships with peers who practice or believe faiths that diverge from their own.
“Religious and spiritual life ought to be aimed at creating appreciative knowledge, not just surface knowledge, about diverse traditions,” Steinwert said. “That’s part of education for global competency … Students ought to bring people together around common values for a shared purpose, so that they are doing real work together in forming a community.”
The third role, Steinwert added, is to help students answer “life’s most fundamental question, which is ‘who am I?’ and ‘Who do I want to become for the sake of the world?’”
“What I value about Stanford University is the understanding that the cultivation of whole citizens, of engaged global citizens, necessitates having religion and spirituality at the center of higher education,” Steinwert said.
She added that religion and spirituality will advance Stanford’s commitment to being engaged in the wider world.
“Students who leave Stanford University with a clear moral compass, a keen sense of vocation and a holistic understanding of wellness and balance will be better able to change the world,” Steinwert said.
Steinwert, who has been a part of the inclusion and diversity work of every university where she has previously served, will partner with Drell to advance the mission of IDEAL. Through IDEAL, Steinwert hopes to create structural change to “level the playing field” for all students, regardless of background.
“You have to change systems, you have to educate individuals and communities to become aware, to become conscious of bias and privilege, and then you actually have to take action,” Steinwert said. “Stanford is poised to do that. Provost Drell has a deep commitment to this work and I am thrilled to join another institution … [with a] commitment to creating a community where all students can flourish.”
Grant Parker, associate professor of Classics and co-chair of the search committee for the position, emphasized Steinwert’s experience in fostering an inclusive environment on college campuses.
“We especially appreciated her broad vision and lofty goals and her pragmatic approach to pursuing them,” Parker told Stanford News. “Her track record on inclusion and diversity bodes well for the Office of Religious Life and our community.”
Steinwert is currently the dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at Wellesley College, a role she has held since 2015. Prior to joining Wellesley, she served as the dean of Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University from 2010 to 2015, a pastor in several Methodist congregations in New England, a national organizer for social justice organizations and a teaching fellow at Boston University and Harvard Kennedy School.
Contact Alex Tsai at aotsai ‘at’ stanford.edu.
Correction: this article has been corrected to reflect that Dean Shaw left her role as Stanford’s Dean of Religious Life at the end of the last academic year. The Daily regrets this error.