the better future is one we build together

Connect with your spiritual side. Learn about religions. Share a plate of pasta. At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Office of Spiritual Engagement is devoted to bringing our community together, regardless of our individual beliefs or views. Our staff will support you throughout your college career, however you may need it.


On the Edge of a Lake
St, John's Chapel

At the Heart of Campus

St. John's Chapel

St. John's Chapel, just a stone’s throw away from Seneca Lake on South Main Street, provides a historic and picturesque setting for prayer and gathering.

Hosting worship services for Catholics, Episcopalians, Quakers and Buddhists, the chapel also serves as the setting for concerts, discussions and traditional HWS events like Charter Day and Baccalaureate. Additional religious services, including but not limited to Baha'i, Baptist, Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist and Presbyterian are available in the local community.

Attend mass, enjoy some classical music during Music, Meditation and Munchies, meet like-minded students during a knitting circle, join the Chaplain and your friends for a delicious dinner at Pasta Night or dance the night away at Bart Mitzvah. The Office of Spiritual Engagement provides a multitude of opportunities for you to practice your faith or connect with community in a welcoming, inclusive environment.



Jewish Life

Explore Judaism, celebrate Jewish traditions or take courses in Holocaust Studies. Whatever your beliefs, you’re always welcome at the Abbe Center for Jewish Life.


Who We Are

At Hobart and William Smith, we believe that the life of the spirit and the life of the mind need not be separate or mutually exclusive, but in fact may be profoundly interrelated and rewarding.

The Office for Spiritual Engagement works to promote engagement with that interrelationship through services, programming and spiritual support that provide hospitality and advocacy for students of all religions and cultures.

Nita Byrd
Nita Byrd

Chaplain and Dean for Spiritual Engagement
(315) 781-3670

The Rev. Nita Byrd joined the Colleges from Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C. As chaplain there since 2012, she was responsible for campus religious life, from planning services to student programming to pastoral care. In addition to her duties as Religious Studies Program Director at St. Augustine’s, she served on the faculty and as a member of the president’s cabinet and the university’s advancement team.

Byrd, who served as curate at Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church from 2012 to 2015, earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees from NC State University and her M.Div. and Certificate of Anglican Episcopal Studies from Duke Divinity School. While at Duke Divinity, she participated in the Canterbury Scholars Program at Canterbury Cathedral, England. She has been involved at the diocesan level as a member of the Commission on Ministry for the priesthood, the Nominating Committee for the XII Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, and the Bishop’s Chartered Committee on Campus and Young Adult Ministries.

As an active member of the Association of Episcopal Colleges (AEC), Byrd participated in the planning committee for an “Ethics and Social Media Conference” where undergraduates participated in seminars at Vanderbilt University. She represented Saint Augustine’s University at the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion Triennial in Seoul, South Korea, and in Chennai, India. In Chennai, Byrd led a discussion at the Triennial Chaplain’s Conference, based on collaborative ministry with other universities in the Raleigh, N.C. area. Additionally, she serves on the Scholarship Review Committee for the Office of Black Ministries of The Episcopal Church.

At Duke University, Byrd has served as a guest lecturer on the topics of the African American musical tradition and Episcopal liturgy, and on the American Christian Experience (presented to exchange students from Jiangsu, China).

Julianne Miller
Julianne H. Miller

Abbe Center for Jewish Life Director and Hillel Advisor
(315) 781-3385

Julianne Miller has been the director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and Hillel adviser since January 2015. Julianne works with the HWS Hillel student board to develop diverse and innovative Judaic programming that encourages students to explore connections between their Jewish identity and their academic, co-curricular, and personal interests. She hosts weekly Shabbat dinners, holiday observances, social justice conversations, tikkun olam programs, and fosters partnerships across campus. Julianne works in the Office for Spiritual Engagement to create opportunities for multifaith dialogue and education. She graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude with degrees in history and teacher preparation, and received a master’s degree in American history from Brown University. Before coming to HWS, she taught at Needham High School (Needham, Mass.), The Frisch School (a Jewish Day School in Paramus, N.J.), Hillel Community Day School (Rochester, N.Y.), and the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester. She also served as the director of education and president of Temple Beth-El in Geneva.

Jennifer Tufano
Jennifer G. Tufano

Office and Event Coordinator
(315) 781-3671

Jennifer Tufano came to HWS in 2015 from Lake Placid, N.Y., where she worked for six years as the director of the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society. As the Office for Spiritual Engagement office and event coordinator, she is the front line contact for students and campus community. She coordinates St. John’s Chapel performance reservations and organizes the HWS Food Pantry, located on the first floor of Demarest. Jenn has a master’s degree in student development administration from Seattle University in Seattle, Washington (2004) and a bachelor’s degree in English literature/marketing from Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. (1994). She served as the director of undergraduate programs for the School of Business, managing academic advising and admissions initiatives, while pursuing her degree at Seattle U. Prior to that, Jenn was the director of admissions at Paul Smith’s College of the Adirondacks in Paul Smiths, N.Y.

MaryAnn Hamilton
MaryAnn Hamilton

Colleges Organist in Residence
(315) 781-3671

Maryann Hamilton was appointed chapel organist (now Colleges organist in residence) in 2000, upon the completion of her doctor of musical arts degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. At Eastman, her principal teacher was David Higgs and she also studied improvisation with Gerre Hancock. Previously, she earned a master of sacred music degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and studied with John Weaver. She plays for weekly services in St. John’s Chapel, Baccalaureate, Commencement (carillon), Easter Vigil and other events when appropriate. In December 2001, she inaugurated the monthly organ series called Music, Meditation and Munchies, which offers an organ program during the noon hour on the first Wednesday of the month when classes are in session. Each program features music played by Dr. Hamilton and often includes other musicians in the community. Spoken meditation or poetry complements the music each month and is offered by members of the HWS and greater Geneva community. Each program concludes with dessert or other munchie. In addition, MaryAnn is the parish musician at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Geneva, where she plays for Sunday services, directs the adult mixed choir, and accompanies the junior and denior (high school) choirs.