Getting to know Pacific’s new Director of Religious and Spiritual Life
Kim Montenegro joined University of the Pacific this fall as the new director of religious and spiritual life. We got to know her more with a quick Q&A:
Tell us about your background.
Montenegro: I’m a native Stocktonian and went to Stagg High School. After college, when I was deciding if I would stay in New York, my pastor Gary Putnam—who was the chaplain at Pacific—said that if I came back to Central United Methodist Church (where I’d grown up as a kid), I could be the youth director. I’m an ordained United Methodist minister and before coming to Pacific, I was working in local United Methodist churches.
What brought you to Pacific?
Montenegro: I first got involved with Pacific by volunteering to support Black students following the murder of George Floyd. When this position opened up, Pacific asked if I was interested. At first, I declined because I was already serving a church. But over time, they continued asking if I was interested.
Pacific offers a unique opportunity to be present with a variety of students who are interfaith, multicultural, and on multiple campuses. I am excited and thrilled about the opportunity to be with our undergraduate as well as graduate students as they navigate their faith formation and how it informs who they are in the world in conjunction with their experience with Pacific. There is no other place like it!
Tell us about your role at Pacific. What does the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life do?
Montenegro: I’m here to support the Pacific community: students, faculty and staff. I can help them figure out the development of their faith. Being from Stockton, I’m hoping to strengthen the bonds between the community and the campus.
Do you lead services on campus? Are there worship services available to students on campus?
Montenegro: I am currently not leading services, but different faith group affiliates are leading services and doing check-ins with their students. These have become more personal since COVID-19: one-on-ones or small groups vs. larger events. We want to make sure people are cared for during this time. With the pandemic, so many things went dark. So, part of my role is navigating my new position, how we can use our space, and how we best connect with our students.
What services and support do you offer Pacific students, faculty and staff?
Montenegro: So much of what we do is about embodiment—the physical manifestation of the spiritual—but as a result of COVID-19, we had to retreat from gathering in person. Now we have to decide: How do we come back together again as bodies of faith? It will look different from this point forward; we’ve all shifted our behaviors either out of choice or need.
I’ve been meeting with our student groups to guide and support them as they come back together, and provide them resources and mentorship. I’m excited at the possibilities with our new leadership of President Christopher Callahan and Vice President for Student Life Maria Blandizzi. It’s a time to redefine how we best connect with our student body and our community.
Tell us more about student organizations for those interested in religious or spiritual communities on campus.
Montenegro: Student organizations are currently meeting individually or in groups. For instance, the Newman Catholic Club is looking to resume celebrating Sunday evening Mass; the Muslim Student Association is meeting with its sister circle, main circle and larger group; and Tigers for Christ is meeting the needs of student-athletes in small groups, Bible studies and larger group gatherings. Students who are interested in the learning more about any of these groups can reach out to my office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can connect them with the organizations:
- Circle K International
- Dome of Hope
- Global Medical Missions Alliance
- Health Sciences Christian Fellowship
- Muslim Student Association
- Newman Catholic Club
- Pacific Christian Fellowship (InterVarsity)
- Rotaract Club
- Sikh Student Association
- The Nest Prayer Family
- Tigers for Christ
- Tzu Chi Club
Tell us about Morris Chapel. How is it being used now? Is it open to the Pacific community?
Montenegro: We’re working to make sure that the space is open and accessible to as many people on campus and in the community as possible so that people are able to enjoy the beauty of it. The chapel is also being used by the community for weddings.
In addition to the chapel, where people can go to pray, meditate and spend quiet time?
Montenegro: I am excited about our new prayer and meditation space on the third floor of the library. It’s primarily used by our Muslim students who are in the library and need to pray. Instead of having to pack up and head to the chapel, they are able to stay in the library. We want to make sure we provide access in places where people already are, like the library.
Other spaces on the Stockton Campus include the meditation garden behind Morris Chapel, the redwood groves behind McCaffrey Center and near the Janssen-Lagorio Gym, and the reflection pool in front of the DeRosa University Center.
On the San Francisco Campus, the Meditation Room on the fifth floor (by the Student Wellness Center) is available for reflection, prayer, meditation and relaxation. And in Sacramento, we will be using a room in the Center for Inclusion and Diversity (upstairs in the Student Center) for prayer and meditation.
The holiday season is here. Pacific is a diverse community, so there are myriad ways people recognize different holidays. How does your office support and promote these?
Montenegro: It’s important to support all people in their holidays. I think that we can appreciate that this is a time of celebration for many cultures and religions. If we are willing to see in our differences what we’re all trying to do and say, ‘I don’t know how you celebrate your particular holiday, but I wish you well and I hope that it brings you light, love and joy,’ there’s something good to take away from that.
This time of year can be hard under “normal” circumstances and can be even harder during the pandemic. What support can you offer the Pacific community, particularly students?
Montenegro: I’m here to support folks. I can be a listening ear, and if they need anything I’m here. I think holidays are hard for people: we don’t want to admit that they’re hard, and we all have a particular image that we think holidays are supposed to look like. We struggle, because we fight with what should be, instead of living in the reality of what is. And that’s not isolated to the holidays, but it’s heightened.
You can reach my office at email@example.com or 209.946.2538. CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) is also here for students and EAP (Employee Assistance Program; Pacific login required) is available for employees. I’m able to journey with people but also point them to these services when they need extra and ongoing support.
Now, please tell us about your favorite …
Place on campus?
Is it cheating if I say the chapel? If I showed you my camera roll, there’s probably a hundred different picture of the chapel. I like it in different lighting, different times of day, the way the stained glass looks. Now that the weather is changing, it’s getting different light. Depending on the lighting, it has a completely different feel.
Homemade mac and cheese. There is no other way. Five different cheeses.
I’m on a Brene Brown kick. I’m working my way through her catalog. I just finished “Dare to Lead.” It’s my current favorite.
Song or type of music?
I’ve been really deep into ’90s R&B. It’s been heavy on my playlist and I’ve been feeling all the grooves.
Thing to do in your spare time?
TikTok, crafting: making T-shirts. Screenprinting whatever design fits my mood that day; sometimes ’90s rap lyrics.