While The Rev. Craig Kocher was growing up, he and his family attended a Methodist church on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s no surprise to him then, that today he finds himself serving as the University of Richmond’s Jessie Ball duPont Chair of the Chaplaincy.

“For some, there is a disconnect between knowledge and faith,” Kocher says. “… I have always felt that they enhance one another. I have always been very comfortable both in the church and in the academy. I felt from early on in divinity school that it would be wonderful to be a chaplain, because a chaplain has the opportunity to hold those two things together.”

Kocher was installed as chaplain in October 2009 and has spent the past year talking to Richmond students, faculty, staff, and alumni to get to know the University through their experiences.

When he first arrived on campus, Kocher recalls meeting a first-year student who, after introductions — and after mistaking the youthful Kocher for a student — asked him, “What exactly does a chaplain do?”

Kocher has spent the past year answering that question while developing the chaplaincy’s strategic plan, “Inspiring Generous Faith; Engaging the Heart of the University.”

First and foremost, Kocher sees himself as a pastor to the community, “walking alongside students, faculty, and staff in times of sadness and times of joy,” he says.

On an increasingly diverse campus, Kocher is also responsible for “bringing people of different faith traditions together.” There are currently 17 campus ministries ranging from Hillel and the Muslim League to Presbyterian Fellowship and Catholic Campus Ministry. As chaplain, Kocher encourages students of different faiths to talk to and learn from one another.

“Statistically we know that religious faith is incredibly important to this generation of college students,” he says, “…so a big part of my job is to ensure that we are a place that’s not only welcoming and encouraging for students to express their own faith, but also to help students learn from people of different faith traditions than them.”

Kocher is also an educator. This fall, he will teach a class in Justice and Civil Society at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. “I also think of myself as a teacher outside of the classroom, he adds. “Especially in the realm of theology and religious expression.”

Kocher comes to Richmond from Duke University, where he was associate dean of the chapel and director of religious life. Previously, he was associate pastor at Davidson College.

When a search firm contacted him about the chaplaincy position at Richmond, he admits he didn’t know much about the school. But once he learned more, he saw a place that combined, “The intimacy of a small liberal arts college with the energy of a major university,” he recalls. “I got really excited about that.

“I was really inspired by the opportunity to be the senior chaplain at a school with the kind of ambition, resources and rich heritage that U of R has — and a school that really values the life of the spirit broadly understood.”

As chaplain, Kocher hopes to works closely with students as they explore what they believe and why they believe it. Kocher says he wants to help students express their spirituality, no matter what their faith tradition.

He also hopes to develop a program to help students discern “what they really want to do with their lives,” he says. “How do we help students discern not just what they want to do, but what kind of person they want to become? I think that's a more important question.”

Kocher is looking forward to implementing some new programs this year. The chaplaincy is in the process of developing a multi-faith council of Richmond-area clergy to help draw students into the wider Richmond community, he says.

He also hopes to travel to the Holy Land next summer, with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim students and faculty.

This fall, under a grant from the Teagle Foundation, the University will bring together faculty, students, and student development staff in a full-day workshop to talk about the role of the sacred at the University of Richmond. Kocher is eager to learn the outcome. “I don’t know where that will go,” he says. “That’s what makes it exciting.”