Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2024

Title:The Last Word: Dr. Shazetta Thompson-Hill

Author: Interview with Jane Varner Malhotra
Date Published: April 8, 2024
a woman in a denim jacket and navy clothes stands in a house
Dr. Shazetta Thompson-Hill, ordained elder in the Methodist Church, on cultivating belonging

Students and most colleagues at Georgetown call me Dr. Z. I serve as director of Residential Ministry, which means that in addition to being a residential minister myself, I have the awesome privilege of overseeing a team of about 25 amazing RMs who represent Protestant, Catholic, Dharmic, Muslim, Jewish, and Orthodox Christian faith traditions. We live amongst the students and aim to provide the ministry of presence. We work closely with Residential Education, but have no disciplinary responsibilities or authority in the dorms.

Residential ministers live on campus at no cost. Our work with students, which is expected to be 10 hours a week, is unpaid. But when a student knocks, we answer. There are no punch clocks in this role. I’m blessed with a committed team who sees the benefit and not the burden of this work. We’re the first line of defense for the student safety net. When there is a crisis, we’re there.

Each residential minister covers about 500 students and has a modest budget of $1,000 per semester to provide food and materials for weekly open houses. When I started last year our budget was just $600 per semester. I am so grateful to our donors whose generosity has helped multiply the “loaves and fishes.”

“We’re the first line of defense for the student safety net. When there is a crisis, we’re there.”

Within our RM community, we commit to learn from each other. We work hard to live into the notion of belonging, meeting basic human needs like food and shelter but also love, joy, finding common ground, and having hard conversations that stretch us to move beyond mere tolerance to appreciation. We do this by being intentional in our efforts to cultivate spaces of meaning, purpose, and belonging. Our job is to come alongside the students as they navigate this critical time in their lives.

The work we do can be heavy, but it is also rewarding and it is part of who I’m called to be in this particular season of my life. We RMs work hard and often have to remind ourselves to pause and engage in self-care, to refill our own cups… to give ourselves permission to do “the work our souls need.” One of the ways I do this is through documentary street photography.

When you see a residential minister, say a kind word and offer a smile. I promise it will be much appreciated and go a long way.

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