Meet Ursinus’ New Religious Faculty

Erin Corcoran

The holidays are just around the corner, bringing traditions and spirituality to the forefront for some students. At any time of year, but especially now, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life is a great resource for students of all backgrounds and religions to gather for events or speak to the staff. I spoke to two of the new faculty members: Rev. Betty Wright-Riggins, Interim Chaplain, and Aziz Nathoo, Muslim Life Coordinator, about their roles, initiatives, and experiences on campus so far.

Rev. Betty Wright-Riggins is an ordained clergyperson with years of experience as a pastor, teaching religious life, and facilitating groups and lectures. On campus, she serves many roles as Chaplain, most notably to promote and enhance religious and spiritual life at Ursinus. Rev. Wright-Riggins is also a resource to lend support to students, faculty, and staff in times of stress and tragedy. Additionally, she acts as a liaison between the college’s religious organizations and the surrounding community, as she is also the wife of Collegeville’s mayor. Rev. Betty Wright-Riggins has enjoyed her time at Ursinus thus far, calling it a “caring, compassionate place to work,” and emphasizing the active community environment the students and staff bring.

Aziz Nathoo serves in the new Muslim Life Coordinator role. He brings a wealth of experience to this position, including an upbringing in Muslim and Catholic schools, leadership positions with organizations, including the UN, the Mayor of Philadelphia’s Interfaith Commission, and Montgomery County Multi-Faith Coalition. Nathoo says his philosophy is to, “converse not convert,” explaining, “I believe interfaith and communal dialogue gives us the wisdom to walk away from the path of tribalism and work together as one human family, with faith being the connective tissue and glue to hold us together.” On campus, his roles include advising Muslim students, serving as a resource for interfaith dialogue, and coordinating religious and spiritual events. His favorite initiative to take part in on campus is the Conversations about and Across Difference, not only for the representation it provides but also for engaging with different perspectives of others in the campus community.

Michael Thompkins and Dr. Rosa Abrahams have stepped up this year to the roles of the Jewish Life Coordinator and the Jewish Ritual Leader. The Grizzly reached out to the Jewish Life Coordinator but did not hear back at the time of publication. There are a variety of upcoming Religious and Spiritual Life events for students to get involved with. Routine events include Meditation Mondays, Bible Study and Sacred Readings on the first Thursday of the month, and Evensong on the third Thursday of each month, all meeting in the basement of Bomberger. The Religious and Spiritual Life Office is busy planning events for MLK day. Contact Religious Life or look for email regarding more information about these events.

Both staff members emphasized their role as a support system for students, no matter what faith, to contact. Nathoo said he is looking forward to using the holidays, “not only to celebrate but also to use them as a conduit to explain Islam and how we add our contributions to make this a better campus, community, country, and world a better place, God willing.” To contact the Religious and Spiritual Life Of- fice with questions or to set up a meeting with one of the staff members, email rsl@ or the staff directly.