IC Names First Director of Religious and Spiritual Life

By Charles McKenzie, August 27, 2018
Hierald Osorto will oversee faith-based programming.

Hierald Edgardo Osorto has been named director of religious and spiritual life at Ithaca College. Established in the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life, the position is responsible for providing administrative leadership; developing and leading interfaith sponsored programming; providing counsel to students, faculty and staff; and working in collaboration and partnership with members of the campus and local communities. Osorto will start in his new role on Sept. 4. 

“We are thrilled to have Hierald join our community,” said Rosanna Ferro, vice president for student affairs and campus life. “This newly created position will build a stronger bridge between the various faith communities and the college, and foster constructive and respectful dialogue among students with different beliefs.” 

Osorto said he looks forward to supporting and advancing inclusivity and religious diversity at the college. 

I’m excited to learn peoples stories and to connect with each department to create excellent and expansive programs for this spiritually diverse community, said Osorto. “I look forward to strengthening connections between faith communities on campus and hosting an ongoing dialogue about what makes for a meaningful life.” 

Osorto’s deep and varied experiences include coordinating multicultural programming at a small liberal arts college, co-moderating the young adult council for Religions for Peace, connecting students and sustainable farmers in El Salvador, and directing the national program for Lutheran Volunteer Corps, a faith-based service program for young adults of many religious and spiritual backgrounds pursuing justice. 

Osorto said that Ithaca College was the ideal next step for him because of its broad approach to diversity, noting that he wants to honor and continue the traditions of places like Muller Chapel while creating new traditions with new voices. 

"I’m going in with an ear toward the voices of those who haven’t necessarily seen themselves represented in Muller Chapel, but also wanting to hear from those who have. Holding those together will be part of my role.”

At first, he’ll have far more questions than answers.  

"Im curious: How do various communities perceive the chapel? I see an opportunity to dream about what this space can mean, both for religious groups and for individuals regardless of spiritual practice. What does it look like to be a place that isnt just representative of one religious tradition but affirms the vastness of traditions and practices that exist? Ideally, members of the IC community will feel welcome there to pray, to meditate or even just to find a few moments of quiet or reflection, he said. 

For Osorto, joining a college without a particular religious tradition or affiliation is more of an opportunity than a hurdle.  

“There is a lot of freedom in being at an institution that doesn’t necessarily have what I might see as a lot of religious baggage. You get to approach it much more broadly,” he said. “We haven’t done enough in higher education to develop language to talk about meaning-making and about the practices and things that sustain one’s journey.” 

“I am very pleased with the outcome of our national search,” said Dr. Roger Richardson, associate vice president for student affairs and campus life. “Hierald’s outstanding experience working with young people in faith-based communities and his commitment to service, diversity and inclusion made him an outstanding candidate.” 

 A recent graduate of Austin Seminary, Osorto hopes to honor a variety of religious traditions and practices, though there is one non-negotiable for him.  

"Religion can help people discern who they are in the world and how to serve the public good, but we need to acknowledge that religion has also been used to harm others. The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life will not support this kind of harm,” he said. 

Osorto said that, as a gay Latino in a predominantly white tradition — the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — this is something he can particularly relate to. 

“Speaking from my religious tradition, I affirm that every person is God’s beloved creation. Regardless of whom you love, how you vote, or the choices you have made, you are welcome to bring your whole self to the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. That’s my core commitment.”