Lives of Purpose

Lives of Purpose (LoP), a joint effort of the Colby Volunteer Center and Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, is dedicated to engaging a select group of first-year students in local service and community building around active reflection on ethical and/or religious commitments.

If you’re an incoming student who wants to be involved in the community, develop deep friendships with your classmates, and ask big questions about who we are and what we ought to do, please join us.


Have a question about LoP?

For more information, contact Kurt Nelson, dean of religious and spiritual life, or Thu Le ’19, program chair.

Lives of Purpose

Who should join LoP?

Any incoming (first-year or transfer) student interested in building community, serving locally, and exploring values at commitments—members of the world’s religious traditions, atheists, agnostics, seekers, or anywhere in between.

What is the commitment?

Students will engage weekly (usually one afternoon or evening) in a local nonprofit focused on food and hunger programs in Waterville and Central Maine. Plan on about three hours per week. Small groups will meet for dinner twice a month. The full group will gather monthly for discussion or gatherings with campus or local leaders.

Why should I join?

Many students come to Colby with a passion for community service and social justice work. Many more come with deep questions about who they are and how to put their talents to work in the world. Lives of Purpose offers a community of first-year students the opportunity to engage substantively with the community while building deep and lasting relationships with peers. The group seeks to form a safe-enough space to delve consistently into big questions of meaning, purpose, and community.

In what ways does LoP engage ‘religious’ questions?

We anticipate that students in the program will encompass a wide variety of religious traditions as well as students who are not religious or not religious in a conventional way. The key aspect of the program is engaging themes of integrity, values, commitment, and social justice. For some students, this will have a religious component. For others it will not. The program is meant to be an open place to discuss, support, and even challenge one another. Our hope is that each person will feel comfortable enriching our discussions with their own personal perspectives.

What should I do next?

Apply online by Sept. 7 for the fall 2017 cohort, or contact Kurt Nelson, dean of religious and spiritual life, at kdnelson@colby.edu or 207-859-4272 with more questions.


Meet the People of LOP

Program Chair

Thu Le
Thu Le ’19

Thu is a junior majoring in both biochemistry and science, technology and society. She’s from Vietnam but she spent her last two years of high school in Singapore. She joined Lives of Purpose as a first-year and served as a discussion leader in her sophomore year. She’s also a member of Colby’s Admission Ambassadors, International Club, and Quilting Club. In her free time, she loves reading books and taking part in fun activities with friends, especially arts and crafts. She’s eager to lead Lives of Purpose this year and welcome new group members from the Class of 2021.

Read Thu’s welcome letter to the Class of 2021.

Sophomore Mentors

Alyssa Chesney
Alyssa Chesney

My name is Alyssa Chesney and I am a sophomore at Colby. I was born in Baltimore but moved to Maine when I was 8 have lived here since! Collecting seaglass in the summer is still a favorite activity as is complaining about winter. As of now, I have declared a history major and an art minor—and along with learning about history and making art, I also enjoy reading, singing, playing soccer, and coming up with strange explanations or analogies. I’m excited to continue working with LoP as a sophomore mentor.


Amber Churchwell
Amber Churchwell

My name is Amber Churchwell and I’m a Questbridge Scholar from the Class of 2020! I’m originally from Georgia but I’m slowly adjusting to the Maine winters. Although I keep hopping around, I’m currently aiming for a sociology major with a environment studies minor. I’m specifically interested in class difference and food insecurity. When I’m not working on initiatives to bridge the socioeconomic gap on and off campus, you can find me eating French fries in Dana or studying in the deepest parts of Olin.


M Getgen
M Getgen

M Getgen is a sophomore, double majoring in American studies and global studies with a concentration in human rights/social justice. M is from Pennsylvania and is a Christian, involved in spiritual life on campus. As a first-generation-to-college student and a QuestBridge scholar, they are active in service on campus to help give back to the community that brought them here.


Bohan Ma
Bohan Ma

Bohan is a sophomore majoring in economics and mathematics with a minor in philosophy. He’s from Shanghai, China, and has been involved in different cultures from his childhood. He is a member of Colby Outing Club, International Club, and Poetry Club. He likes playing table-tennis and swimming during his relaxation. He is eager to perform his responsibility as a discussion leader for LoP this coming year and exploring the purpose of lives together with his teammates.


Chasity McFadden
Chasity McFadden

Hey everyone, my name is Chasity McFadden. First of all, welcome to Lives of Purpose and I can’t wait to meet you all. I am a 2020 QuestBridge scholar majoring in economics with a minor in mathematics and Jewish studies. Right now, I am hoping to start a career focused on education availability for students of various socioeconomic background, so I work on initiatives for changing the dynamic between Colby and Thomas College. If any of you are interested in any of these things or just want to chat, just reach out!

Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life

Kurt Nelson
Kurt Nelson

Kurt Nelson has been Colby’s dean of religious and spiritual life since the fall of 2012. Kurt is the founder and advisor of Lives of Purpose. He lives in Waterville with his wife Joanna, daughter Lillian, and dog Grover. He comes to Colby after five years at Dartmouth College advising multi-faith programs and with degrees from Yale Divinity School and St. Olaf College. He’s always up for coffee and conversation—email or stop by his office on the lower level of Lorimer Chapel.