Laura Todd Brings Interfaith Perspective to Spiritual Wellness at Albion
March 15, 2022
By Ariel Berry
Albion College’s first assistant director for spiritual wellness comes into the role with big plans.
“I really want to be a presence that doesn’t add more pressure to students or make spirituality into something that they have to accomplish, but instead helps to encourage them and provide them with tools for spiritual well-being,” says Laura Todd, who arrived in Albion in December.
Todd, whose role reimagines the College’s chaplaincy, adds, “Students experience multiple dimensions of wellness or well-being, and spiritual wellness is a key part of that, along with physical wellness, mental wellness, environmental and so forth.”
The assistant director for spiritual wellness is part of the Office of Integrated Wellness team and will work closely with student faith groups on campus, faith leaders in the City of Albion, and the College’s Counseling Services team.
Before coming to Albion, Todd received bachelor degrees in English and religious studies from Guilford College and a master of divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School. She expressed excitement about joining Albion because “Albion College itself and its students are going through a lot of changes,” she says. “Some of those are really hard changes, and some are exciting changes, or both. And I’m generally excited about being someone who can be along for the journey as we move through those changes.”
While pursuing her master’s degree, Todd interned at the LGBTQI Center at Vanderbilt University, and she has made those issues a central part of her work.
“I’m a member of the LGBTQ community myself, and oftentimes even in interfaith work or spiritual work, LGBTQ people sort of get thrown under the bus,” she says. “Our needs are not seen as important. We experience a lot of spiritual harm oftentimes through organized religion, even though organized religion can be a huge source of support as well. So, a lot of the work that I’ve done has arisen from the needs that I’ve experienced myself and that I’ve seen in others that I care about. I am also mindful of the impact that racism, classism and other forms of oppression have on spiritual work.”
Todd sees her role in students’ lives as one of support and encouragement, and it’s important to her that her approach be truly interfaith. She says interfaith efforts often wind up still emphasizing Christianity, but for her it’s different.
“As an interfaith leader, I want to make sure every religious tradition and spiritual tradition is respected and not existing solely as a tool that a more powerful organization would use to showcase their diversity,” Todd says. “It’s more about actually digging in and respecting the dignity of each group on its own terms, instead of just in relation to a particular form of Christianity.”
Todd has found multiple ways to support students. One way is by meeting with them individually.
“I give spiritual counsel to students who are looking for spiritual direction, who are not sure where to go next in their lives, who are maybe experimenting with different spiritual practices, reevaluating their beliefs, looking into how they want to be as humans living on this earth,” she says.
Todd also hosts events on campus to help students explore their spirituality. She designed the Glitter + Ash Wednesday service that took place March 2, which gave participants the option to be marked with ashes mixed with glitter in celebration of LGBTQ people and affirmation of human worth.
Coming soon is a designated meditation space at the Whitehouse Nature Center in the Kalamazoo Room. The room is home to many different types of animals and is the location for “turtle time,” when the resident turtles are allowed to freely roam the room. This ability to interact with nature in a calming indoor atmosphere aims to foster a positive environment for meditation and for students to explore their spirituality.
Students who want to schedule a meeting with Todd can do so through her calendly.com page or by attending her office hours, which can be found regularly in the Albion Today email newsletter. To keep up with current Spiritual Life events, follow the Spiritual Life Instagram page, @albioncollegespirituallife.