|Samuel H. Speers||Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices||(845) 437-5550|
|Bryan Mann||Rachlin Director for Jewish Student Life and Assistant Director, Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practice|
|Nora Zaki||Advisor for Muslim Student Life||(845) 437-5577|
|Annie Sampugnaro||Administrative Assistant||(845) 437-5550|
- James McCowan, Faculty Advisor for the Buddhist Sangha
- Jason Miller, Affiliate Advisor for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
- Leigh Hall, Interim Affiliate Advisor for the Episcopal Church at Vassar College
- Linda Tuttle, Affiliate Advisor for the Vassar Catholic Community
Our Staff Bios
Rev. Samuel Speers, D.Min.
Rev. Samuel Speers (he/him/his) is Associate Dean for Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices at Vassar College; he has been at the college for twenty years. Sam moved to Poughkeepsie from Chicago, where he had worked in campus ministry for ten years at the University of Chicago, serving as Associate Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the university’s chapel.
At Vassar, Sam has focused on collaborative initiatives at the intersections of religion, secular public life, and inter-religious engagement. Sam directed a multi-campus initiative called “Secularity and the Liberal Arts”—a faculty-chaplain collaboration that involved twenty colleges. The 10-year project, supported by a major grant from by Teagle Foundation, grew out of concerns that faculty and chaplains kept hearing from students about how to integrate their questions of meaning and purpose into their “secular” education. He contributed a chapter on this project to College and University Chaplaincy in the 21st Century.
Sam is an ordained Presbyterian minister; he holds a B.A. in Religion from Columbia University, an M.Div. (Master of Divinity) from the University of Chicago, and his D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry) from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has been an active member of campus chaplaincy associations, and is past president of the Association of College and University Religious Affairs. At Vassar, he chairs the Frances Fergusson Good Neighbors Partnerships, a college-based initiative in engaged philanthropy.
Sam is deeply committed to collaborative partnerships; he works with his inter-religious colleagues to help students to bring their messy, joyful, and whole selves to build a culture of “belonging-in-difference.” He is grateful for the wide range of ways his campus work allows him to discover and rediscover that students are the most creative and insightful interpreters of the changing religious, spiritual, and secular landscape he seeks to serve.
Rabbi Bryan Mann
Rabbi Bryan Mann (he/him/his) is the Rachlin Director of Jewish Student Life and Assistant Director of the RSCLP. He joined us in August 2020, coming from Tampa, FL where he was serving as the senior rabbi of a small suburban synagogue. He is very excited to be back in the Northeast where he spent most of his life. He grew up in Penacook, NH. He received his BA in Jewish Studies from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. He received his Rabbinic Ordination, Masters in Jewish Studies, and a Certificate in Spirituality and Social Justice from the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Newton, MA.
As a queer rabbi, he is particularly interested in the ways spirituality informs queerness and queerness informs spirituality.
On-campus or off you will likely catch him hanging out with his dog Babka, reading a good fantasy book, and/or enjoying time outside.
Nora Zaki (she/hers), Master of Divinity, is a University of Chicago Divinity School graduate. She serves as Advisor for Muslim Life at Vassar College and Muslim Chaplain at Bard College, the latter where she also teaches First Year Seminar.
She’s worked as a college chaplain at Dominican University, a hospital chaplain in Tampa, FL and has volunteered as a prison chaplain. Nora is a member of the Association of Muslim Chaplains. She is interested in Quranic and Islamic Studies, particularly Islamic ethics. Nora has been published in the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and has a chapter in the book, One Nation, Indivisible: Seeking Liberty from the Pulpit to the Streets. She has studied Arabic in Fes, Morocco, Amman, Jordan and Cairo, Egypt and visited Algeria, Turkey, Palestine and Israel. Fluent in Arabic, Nora is learning Turkish and loves cooking all types of food.
Annie Sampugnaro (she/hers) has been the Administrative Assistant for Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices since February 2018. Before coming to Vassar, her experience was diverse: managing offices for major corporations, high profile criminal-defense law firms, an urban police department and a local Christian church. In that mix, she chose to be a stay-at-home mom for 9 years after adopting two daughters.
Annie was born and raised in NYC. She is a devout Christian who attempts to live her life to the glory of God and to love others as she is loved by Him. She has volunteered to teach children in local churches and at a boy’s home in Naya Akola, India. She enjoys attending a bible study group, hosting and cooking for her large extended family, and traveling to cities in the US and abroad to visit art museums and to walk with the crowd on busy streets, admiring the people, the architecture and the skylines.
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices program staff includes a full-time associate dean and full-time assistant director who also serves as the Rose and Irving Rachlin Director for Jewish students.
The associate dean reports to the dean of the college, supervises the staff, oversees the work of the affiliate advisors who relate to the campus through the office, shapes the direction of the office’s program initiatives, offers pastoral counsel to members of the campus community, and directs fund-raising efforts in collaboration with the development office.
The assistant director shares campus responsibilities with the associate dean for advising the office’s working groups and student religious groups, offering spiritual counsel, and serving on college committees. As Rachlin Director for Jewish Student Life, the assistant director coordinates religious programming, advises Jewish student groups, counsels individual students on academic and personal aspects of Jewish identity, and serves as a voice of the Vassar Jewish community on campus and in the larger Poughkeepsie community.
The office also oversees the work of denominationally funded campus staff who serve as affiliate advisors for particular religious communities on campus. At present there are affiliate advisors for the Episcopal, Roman Catholic and Intervarsity Christian communities. We are working to expand this staffing in the coming years to provide advisement to a larger number of campus religious communities.
The Religious and Spritual Life Advisory Committee, composed of faculty, administrator and Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices staff representatives, meets regularly to develop programs, listen and respond to community needs and concerns, and facilitate planning and evaluation. Committee members also help the office liaison to the larger Vassar and Mid-Hudson communities.