Barry McNamara  |  Published August 23, 2021

Meet the Rev. Monica Corsaro

Interim chaplain of community engagement will wear many hats at Monmouth, including ‘companion.’

MONICA CORSARO: Born on the prairie, she's now back in the area as Monmouth's interim cha... MONICA CORSARO: Born on the prairie, she's now back in the area as Monmouth's interim chaplain of community engagement.MONMOUTH, Ill. – The Rev. Monica Corsaro, Monmouth’s new interim chaplain of community engagement, is grateful for a word that’s not in her job title.

“They often use the word ‘director’ in the job titles of people in positions like mine, but we don’t direct, we ‘companion,’” said Corsaro. “And that ‘companion’ piece is very important. I’m a super-extrovert, so this (pandemic) has been tough.”

Corsaro has no trouble meeting people, as evidenced by the selfie she took with one of the Fighting Scots coaches – who she learned also has ties to her adopted Pacific Northwest – as she sat at their table during an all-campus breakfast Aug. 19.

In her new position, Corsaro will team in the Chaplain’s Office with another recent hire, the Rev. Brandon Ouellette ’14, who was named the College’s interim chaplain earlier this summer.

One of Corsaro’s first orders of business was to meet with Ouellette “to figure out together our roles and communicate that we have each other’s backs.”

Corsaro has spent most of her adult life in Washington state, but she was raised not far from Monmouth in Geneseo. She came home to western Illinois to serve three years as the director of spiritual life at nearby Knox College.

“I was RIF-ed at Knox” shortly after the pandemic began, she said. “I’m here not only for the students, but for the faculty and staff. I know their story. I’ve lived it. Students, faculty, staff – they all need someone safe to talk to.”

‘No higher level of curiosity’

Corsaro has also served students on the campuses of the Intercollegiate School of Nursing in Spokane, the University of Washington and the Colorado School of Mines, the latter while she was in seminary at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

“There’s no higher level of curiosity and openness to learning in a person’s life than their college years, except maybe kindergarten. For all their lives, they’ve gone to mom and dad’s church or temple or mosque. Now, they get to decide where they go, or if they even go at all.” Monica Corsaro

“There’s no higher level of curiosity and openness to learning in a person’s life than their college years, except maybe kindergarten,” said Corsaro. “For all their lives, they’ve gone to mom and dad’s church or temple or mosque. Now, they get to decide where they go, or if they even go at all. I love working with students who are at that age of exploration. They get to ask questions about who they are and about where they are in the universe.”

Corsaro’s college experience started at Illinois State University, where she studied political science. After receiving her master of divinity degree from Iliff, she earned a doctoral degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

She’s also served churches in Spokane and Seattle and was the first chaplain in the Planned Parenthood organization.

Utilizing talents and spaces

Corsaro’s job title at Monmouth may not officially include “companion,” but it does have the term “community engagement,” and she sees plenty of potential for that.

“I was thrilled to see that Monmouth has a labyrinth,” she said. “Using a labyrinth is an ancient practice. It’s so old that we get it to make it new again.”

“I was thrilled to see that Monmouth has a labyrinth. Using a labyrinth is an ancient practice. It’s so old that we get it to make it new again.” Monica Corsaro

She said the labyrinth is not only an example of one of Monmouth’s many spiritual places on campus, but also offers another way to make a “town-gown” connection.

“That’s one of the things I’ll be exploring – how we can utilize the talents and spaces we have on campus to better connect with the community of Monmouth,” she said.

Corsaro said her leadership style features strong communication, team building and organizational excellence. From developing letter-to-the-editor and social media campaigns to doing national radio and television interviews as a sought-out preacher, she engages issues both intentionally and extemporaneously.

“I have learned over the years, it is not only about having excellent communications skills, but also knowing how to use them,” she said.

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