Emerson students may be known for being spiritual, but not necessarily religious. That doesn’t mean that the College doesn’t work to support students of any and all faiths, nor has it stopped numerous alums from following a path to be faith leaders.
For Faithful Representation, an occasional series, Emerson Today spoke with alums and staff members who lead congregations or minister to faith groups to learn about their spirituality, religion, and how Emerson influences them while doing God’s work.
Emerson a Good Fit
“I do love to introduce myself as a chaplain who happens to be Muslim. So, I serve everyone,” said Amber Hai, Emerson’s first-ever Muslim chaplain and advisor.
Hai started her role virtually in March after Campus Chaplain and Campus Director of Religion and Spirituality Julie Avis Rogers determined that Muslim students needed a leader of their faith. This semester, Hai is in-person on Emerson’s Boston campus and excited to be in the city.
Hai grew up practicing Islam, went to a Christian school, and was always really interested in religions. She got her masters degree at the nondenominational Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, with a focus on Muslim chaplaincy and Christian-Islamic relationships.
Hai was looking for chaplain roles at colleges, and was struck by the description Emerson posted of her job.
“I could see right off the bat that Emerson really cares about their students by creating my role because their students were in need,” said Hai. “I could see how much they wanted to support their students during the interview process. I got to meet students and hear what they needed. My heart was like, ‘Oh, wow. This is a beautiful place.’”
Hai felt right at home as soon as she started. Emerson has a growing Muslim student population, and she is currently working with them to form an official Muslim Student Association, an organization commonly formed at colleges.
This semester she has led students to attend Al-Jumah services at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, which offers Muslim prayers on Fridays, a sacred day of worship as stated in the Qur’an. She said there’s a group of first-year students who want a Muslim community with which to gather and celebrate holidays.
Hai is also looking to get involved with the Emerson community in other ways, including being a stagehand for Emerson Stage. But her mission is to help students.
“Right now, I’m working to create a supportive space for Muslim students, as well as anyone else,” said Hai. “I feel like … anyone who feels a little different these days is going through the ringer. Chaplaincy is my way of walking with someone .”
Her goal is to create a space for students of any religion reach their own goals. She’d also like to teach classes and have meet-up groups for students to learn about their own faith. Hai wants to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about the Koran, Islam, and how Muslims can express themselves in many ways.
“There is so much religious trauma that people our age and younger have gone through in this country. I feel like we don’t have spaces to talk about it,” said Hai. “Or there are authority figures to say, ‘I didn’t have a good upbringing with religion’ and let’s talk about it. I feel that Emerson is a great place for it.”