Welcomes and well-wishes: Q&A with new associate chaplain for upperclass students Joella Ranaivoson

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This week, Chimes sat down with Joella Ranaivoson, the new associate chaplain for upperclass students, to learn about her transition into the new job and to introduce her to students.

Chimes: Why did you decide to apply to become associate chaplain for upperclass students?

Ranaivoson: It was more a sequence of things that lent themselves to my deciding to apply. I had interned for campus ministries at Calvin for 2 of my 3 years in seminary. When the associate chaplain position came open, I applied feeling it was something I should do. I knew it was a time for discerning call — if I was given a job in Grand Rapids, that meant I was to stay; if I wasn’t, that meant it was time to leave. When I was offered my position, I knew I was to stay.

Chimes: How did you hear about Calvin?

Ranaivoson: I heard about Calvin as a senior in high school. I’m from Madagascar, but I was raised in Papua New Guinea and Kenya with my missionary family. I was finishing high school in Nairobi when my older sister told me to look into Calvin because she had classmates from our international school that attended here; so I did.

I came to Calvin in 2009 to start my undergraduate studies and graduated in 2013 with an interdisciplinary degree. When I was finishing up college, I felt a strong sense of pull toward seminary (which I fought and resisted quite hard for a while — ministry was just so not what I had envisioned for myself). But, similarly, through a series of events, I understood it was a call from God I needed to heed. I graduated from Calvin Seminary with a Master of Divinity in May of this year.

Chimes: What does your role at Calvin look like?

Ranaivoson: My role as associate chaplain of upperclass students is to give pastoral care and counseling to students (my focus being upperclass students, but all the chaplains welcome ALL students). I am also the point person in campus ministries for our fall Bible study — this year we are studying Revelation as a community. Finally, I am on the Upperclass Task Force with Bob Crow (commuter students), Jason Schaffer (Knollcrest East apartments) and Jay Wise (residence life). This task force plans and hosts events for upperclass students, among other tasks. I also work closely with the rest of the chaplain and campus ministries team.

We also want to think through how to best serve our AHANA and international students in journeying with and guiding them in their spiritual formation — that’s something I hope to focus on in my position.

Chimes: What is one thing you are looking forward to in your new position?

Ranaivoson: I am looking forward to getting to know students and journeying with them through their time at Calvin. I love the pastoral care and pastoral counseling event, so I look forward to meeting with folks in those spaces. I also love the campus ministries team, so I’m very happy to get to work alongside some fantastic people and pastors.

Chimes: What challenges do you anticipate?

Ranaivoson: I anticipate that the process of learning my role, the gifts I have to offer to Calvin and the where and how to be of service will take some time; me figuring out Calvin as an associate chaplain now and Calvin accepting me as an associate chaplain, that’s a two-way street and journey that’s bound to be a process and to take some time — and I’m good with that. I’m very much looking forward to it, actually.

Chimes: What is one thing you would like the Calvin community to know about you?

Ranaivoson: Where my office is! Commons Annex 150A. You are most welcome to drop in, say hi, stay for a hot drink, find a listening ear. Please don’t let bashfulness stand in the way. You are welcome. It is in the Commons Annex, near the entrance from the library; enter the campus ministries suite, pass Jana Stob’s (our administrative assistant) desk and go left!