MIT will welcome the Reverend Kirstin Boswell-Ford this month as the new chaplain to the Institute and director of religious life. She will succeed Robert Randolph, a member of the MIT community since 1979 who became the first chaplain to the Institute in 2007.
Boswell-Ford comes to MIT from Brown University, where she served as associate university chaplain to the Protestant community. Prior to her service at Brown, Boswell-Ford worked both at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and at the International Association of Black Religions and Spiritualities in Chicago. Speaking about working in a university setting, she says the growth and development of individuals is what makes her service so worthwhile.
“You’re looking at students that are going to be our next world leaders,” Boswell-Ford says. “And I love seeing them as they’re just embarking on their careers.”
“I am delighted that Kirstin is taking on this important role in our community,” says Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life. “As a member of the Division of Student Life’s senior staff, she will be an important voice in conversations about community support, diversity, and inclusion, and student wellbeing.”
Senior Associate Dean of Student Support and Wellbeing David Randall, who chaired the search for the new chaplain to the Institute, says the committee “wanted someone who, most importantly, connected with students — someone who could build on the foundation that was set by Bob Randolph, but also create a new vision for the office.”
Boswell-Ford matched the committee’s priorities perfectly. During her time at Brown, she worked closely with a number of smaller groups within the Protestant community, as well as with that university's many interfaith organizations.
“Kirstin has a deep appreciation for diversity and inclusion, and we needed a chaplain who could speak to the whole MIT community,” Randall says. “Kirstin really had a commitment to interfaith work that I think was quite unique.”
While Boswell-Ford is new to MIT, she's no stranger to Cambridge. She has also served as an associate pastor at Union Baptist Church in Central Square, where she worked closely with the congregation’s Women’s Fellowship and provided pastoral care and counseling for community members. She experienced her first interactions with the MIT community when she took some courses at the Institute while studying at Wellesley College (she later transferred to the University of Virginia, where she completed her degree).
“I've always been very impressed with the school’s mission and dedication to the sciences and engineering and technology,” she says. “MIT really is a place where there's a lot of support for students, and that was really impressive to me.”
Given that Boswell-Ford will be only the second chaplain to the Institute in MIT’s history after Randolph, who retired last August, she and the MIT community are looking forward to the strides she can make in the position.
“Bob Randolph really worked hard at establishing the chaplaincy, and I think Kirstin can really take it to the next level,” Randall says. “There are folks in many offices who are very interested in partnering with the chaplaincy, and in making sure that we have a tight web of support for our students. I think she’s going to really have a lot of flexibility in creating her vision for the office, and she’s going to have a lot of eager partners as we think about how to all work together.”
Boswell-Ford says she's “very excited for the challenge.”
“I think that there’s a lot of room for putting my mark on the growth and the implementation of what religious life looks like at MIT, so that’s very exciting to me,” she says.