Last month, the Brandeis community made its acquaintance with Shrestha Singh, the newly appointed Hindu adviser at the Multifaith Chaplaincy. 

According to an Aug. 14 BrandeisNOW article, Singh graduated from Harvard Divinity School and is also the Hindu Chaplain at Wellesley College. As the Hindu adviser at Brandeis, she will support all students of Dharmic traditions, as well as facilitate conversations on their spirituality and cultures. Singh will also be responsible for the function of the Dharmic prayer center in the Shapiro Campus Center.

In an interview with the Justice, Singh described her role on campus as that of a “listening ear,” available as a source of guidance for students of Dharmic faith. “The core of it is supporting students: being a compassionate and empathetic presence, and being a sounding board for them as they journey through their years in college,” she said, acknowledging that those years can be as tumultuous as they can be beautiful. She stated that she will be someone that students of Dharmic faith can come to in times of spiritual, emotional, or even personal crises.

Although Singh is appointed within the Multifaith Chaplaincy, she said that she doesn’t believe her role requires her to serve students solely through a religious lens. “I feel I also do a lot of work that’s about culture and identity,” she said, explaining how in many countries, faith and culture are deeply intertwined.                  

 She looks forward to working with the Intercultural Center and developing a program regarding cultural identity and how it relates to gender, sexuality, race and social justice.

Singh also stated that dedication to social justice was one of the many factors that drew her to Brandeis. She pointed out how the University, through its Jewish roots, is an example of a relationship between a strong history of social justice and a strong interest in spirituality. “And that’s where my passions lie, ” she said. “Social justice and spirituality. And, to do that, from a Dharmic lens, just seemed like a really exciting opportunity.”

Working with the Intercultural Center, Singh also hopes to reach out to students living with multiple cultures and identities, such as Asian-Americans and children of immigrants. Singh is the child of immigrants herself, as she stated in the BrandeisNOW article, and she aims to help students who “are similarly navigating multiple cultures and identities.”

During the interview, Singh also expressed her appreciation of the Brandeis student body. “The students were so wonderful, engaged, and friendly and open,” she said, “and that sense of openness was something that I really, really appreciated and was drawn to.” Another exciting side to that sense of openness, according to Singh, is the potential for growth as a community. As well as new programming, she is eager to help students of Dharmic tradition develop their presence on campus and help their voices be heard. 

However, her new role is not without its challenges.“I’m serving a really broad range of traditions,” she said Singh will be working with students of Sikh, Jain, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, all of which may share similarities but are ultimately different traditions. Singh stated that navigating where these communities overlap and where they have distinct needs will be a challenge, especially as hers is a part-time position.

Singh also foresaw a challenge in getting the word out and helping the Brandeis student body to understand what her presence on campus as Hindu adviser would entail. 

She hopes that open communication with students will help facilitate discussion and interest. She invites students to seek her out and converse with her at the Dharmic prayer center, and despite these challenges, she is excited to help build a strong foundation within the community for future growth and guidance.

In the BrandeisNOW article, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel commended and welcomed her to the University. “[Singh] has an excellent understanding of the spiritual and cultural needs of students from all Dharmic traditions,” he said, “and will be a great asset to our Department of Spiritual and Religious Life and the Multifaith Chaplaincy.”