ESR Update from Dean Matt Hisrich

Dear ESR Community,

I hope you are doing well and staying safe and healthy in this time of challenge, grief, transition, and anxiety. I write to share my deep gratitude for the many ways ESR’s students, staff, faculty, alumni, and supporters have demonstrated incredible flexibility, adaptability, patience, grace, love, and care. I have found it to be a great blessing to be a part of this community at this time and I hope you have, as well.

ESR update from
Dean Matt Hisrich


As you know, ESR closed its campus as part of Earlham College’s campus closure on Monday, March 23. All our work and courses are being done online through calls, emails, and video conference. Please be patient with mailings and communication under these conditions. 

Thankfully, given ESR’s increasing use of online instruction and Zoom video for coursework, this transition has been easier here than is likely the case at many schools.

That being said, I do not want to downplay the significance of not having any in-person campus coursework, office work, or community life. For a school that thrives on interpersonal connection and encourages in-person study when possible, this has not been easy. Please know that our institutional commitment to these values has not shifted even as we try to continue to provide an excellent educational experience and care for the health and wellbeing of the entire community.

I would like to take a moment to highlight some of the actions we have taken to address these unique circumstances and some of the positive responses we have already seen.

  • We have transitioned our May intensives from an on-campus residential experience to Zoom, while providing residential credit to participating students to alleviate concerns about meeting residency requirements.
  • ESR has extended an offer to host Earlham College international students in need of housing at our Lauramoore Guest House. We are thankful to resident host and M.Div. student Anthony Kirk for his willingness to take this on!
  • ESR students, faculty, staff, and alumni have continued to find ways to connect – through regular worship opportunities online during the week and through “Coffee Klatches” hosted by ESR’s Director of Student and Alumni Engagement Brent Walsh. You can find these and other opportunities in our Community Life group on Facebook.
  • ESR students have been engaged in community support – two students come to mind, Katie Breslin who has been active in helping EC students make the transition off campus, and Kaia Jackson, who helps administrate the Richmond Response and Resource for Covid-19 Facebook group.
  • While Commencement and Baccalaureate services will not be held on campus, ESR will participate in a virtual Commencement May 9 with Earlham College and host a virtual Baccalaureate service May 8. Brent Walsh has been working closely with our soon-to-be graduates to plan a service that is both meaningful and memorable
  • A joyous time of connection with prospective students, current students, graduates, and supporters each year has been our tabling at Yearly Meeting Sessions and Church Conferences each summer. With the cancellation of many of these ESR will miss seeing many of you. Please know that we value supporting and being a part of these events. ESR Director of Recruitment and Admissions Julie Dishman has been actively seeking alternative means to connect with those who might find study at ESR a part of their journey. Earlier this spring she hosted a Zoom session with 15 students interested in learning more about our new Master of Arts in Peace and Social Transformation – a wonderful turnout. If you have ideas of how we can connect with your community, meeting, or congregation, please let us know.
  • At this point, we do plan on returning to normal campus operations and classes in the fall. Obviously, plans can change depending on how the virus continues to develop. We are committed to communicating any changes as quickly as possible.
  • We continue to run our Traveling Ministries program and would welcome the chance to connect our faculty with your meeting – even if virtually! Please do consider how we can be a support to your meetings in this time. You can learn more about that program here:
  • Our annual Leadership Conference is scheduled for July 31-August 2 and features Fearless Dialogues Executive Director Dr. Georgette Ledgister,  leading us in a facilitated online conversation on the topic, Courageous Leadership: Embracing Difference and Facing Uncertainty. Director of Community Engagement Mandy Ford has posted the updated Leadership Conference info including registration on our website: I hope you will be able to join us virtually!

If you have any questions, would like to learn more about ESR during this health crisis, or have suggestions for how you would like to see ESR respond, please do not hesitate to reach out. I look forward to hearing from you!