New Chaplain aims to collaborate with the student body

Julio Rodriguez

Thivierge looks forward to collaboration between the faculty departments and the student body. Photo by Kimberly Easlick | The Hudsonian Student Newspaper

Thivierge looks forward to collaboration between the faculty departments and the student body.

Michelle Thivierge joins Hudson Valley as the new campus chaplain and seeks to establish collaboration with both the college and the student body.

Thivierge realized her calling to work in ministry after she studied English in college and developed a sensitivity toward social justice.

“In college, I started taking a lot of classes that focused on social justice issues, equality and rights issues,” Thivierge said. “It was through that experience that I started to see the true message of the gospel, which is social justice and equality. Everybody has enough and nobody has too much — I started to see that in a real concrete way.”

After college, Thivierge worked at a volunteer program that assisted the homeless and mentally and physically disabled in California. After that experience, Thivierge realized her calling.
“There were people who had every reason to say that life sucked and they [had] faith,” Thivierge said. “They were the most hopeful.”

Thivierge continued, “That really inspired me to say that I wanted to study Theology. I wanted to say, ‘How can I be with a person in any walk of life and walk that walk with them?’ I really wanted to do that.”

Since then, Thivierge has worked with America’s youth to help them develop their own ability to pursue social justice in their own micro-environment.

“I’ve been working with youth and young adults to give them that same experience that I had,” Thivierge said. “How do you incorporate, whatever your faith is — even if you don’t have a faith — how do you incorporate the lense in which you look through the world into the bigger picture?”
Thivierge continued her thought.

“It’s a part of all of us, and we can’t compartmentalize it,” Thivierge said. “I think it runs through everything that we do. That is why I wanted to do [ministry].”

Thivierge joins Hudson Valley after previously serving as campus minister at both Siena and Maria Colleges. After spending 10 months looking for a position, Thivierge discovered Hudson Valley’s online posting.

“I am really happy to be here; the minute I walked down the Hudson Valley campus, I said, ‘Wow, for a commuter school it has such a communal feeling, as if everyone is living here,’” Thivierge said. “It has a very welcoming vibe, and I really liked that the moment I walked on to campus.”
Thivierge’s agenda includes a goal to help link community engagement with learning done in the classroom.

“I really believe, and this is my 13th year of doing this work, that collaboration across departments is really important,” Thivierge said.

“I would love to branch out into some of the academic departments and see what we might be able to work on together, whether it’s a speaker series, a documentary or a movie with an important message on social justice,” Thivierge said. “So, that way, it rounds out the academic experience.”

This fall, the campus ministry at Hudson Valley is hosting a variety of events and activities open to students.

“On Thursdays, I’m doing weekly meditation with the Wellness center,” Thivierge said. “I have lots of programming opportunities for students. We [also] have a fall retreat coming up Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.”

The retreat will host students from Hudson Valley, Russell Sage, SUNY Albany, SUNY Oneonta and Union College.

“It’s a nice chance to meet students from other college campuses, and it’s off campus, obviously,” Thivierge said. “[Specifically,] it’s in the mountains of Greenwich, N.Y.”
Thivierge encourages students to reach out and engage with the campus ministry at Hudson Valley. A student’s relationship with spirituality and religion should not keep them from visiting the campus ministry.

“When people see me, or they see the word chaplain, or they see campus ministry, if it’s not something they’re initially comfortable with, they don’t know how to engage,” Thivierge said. “It can make people say, ‘Oh I don’t know if I would fit in there or if that’s for me.’”

“So, I think it’s really important to be out on campus and do a variety of things so people get a sense of understanding,” said Thivierge. “The lense in which we look through things and how we connect all of the dots in our worlds is important. I think as a minister and a campus chaplain, I can help facilitate that sort of work.”

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