May 21, 2010
Candler School of Theology at Emory University has expanded its director of student life position in order to provide direct attention to students' spiritual development. The Rev. Ellen Echols Purdum joined the Candler staff in March as the seminary’s first director of student life and spiritual formation.
Purdum, who is an ordained Episcopal priest and a 2001 Candler graduate, returns to her alma mater from The Fund for Theological Education, where she served as director of ministry fellowships. She continues to serve as priest associate at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Covington, GA, a position she’s held since 2007. Prior to attending seminary, Purdum taught high school English, service learning and leadership courses at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta.
Though Candler has long had a director of student life, the addition of an intentional emphasis on spiritual formation is new, said the Rev. Shonda R. Jones, associate dean of admissions and student services at Candler. Having someone to assist students with spiritual formation will complement Candler's curriculum and enhance the students' educational experience, she said.
“Students will be able to engage in a wide variety of spiritual practices that will add to their Candler education,” Jones said. “The hope is that—with the added focus on spiritual formation—students will take advantage of our rich curriculum as well as co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities that will inform their ministries and service to the church and world.”
Jones said Purdum also will take stock of the current resources Candler offers students, maximizing what’s most useful, and develop new resources for vocational discernment and advisement.
“I look forward to the gifts Ellen will bring to the Candler community as she works with students and colleagues to enrich student life and foster new opportunities for spiritual and vocational formation,” she said.
Purdum is excited about tackling the task at hand. “I think it’s my job to look around at what is already here in terms of resources at Candler and beyond and be the connective tissue between students and those opportunities,” she said. “So it’s not just programming; it’s listening attentively to diverse students, individually and collectively, and trying to help them discern what are appropriate and helpful resources for where they are in the seminary journey.”