By Amber Hunsicker
Chaplains John and Laura Studenroth became “KU’s Golden Bear Grandparents” when they realized they were old enough to be grandparents of current students, and they wanted to emphasize their availability in a caring, friendly role but not as professional counselors, just like grandparents.
Laura has a bachelor’s in Food Science from Cornell University and her master’s of art and master’s of divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, pa.
John has a bachelor’s and master’s in Botany from the University of Maine, his doctorate in Plant Pathology from Cornell University and his master’s in divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary.
Before becoming the grandparents of KU, John was a pastor for nine years, and Laura counseled women in crisis, and later, she home-schooled her three children.
John has been a chaplain at KU for the past 20 years, and Laura joined him as a chaplain for the past eight years. The Studenroths have served in their new role as KU’s grandparents for the past three years.
Mrs. Studenroth also mentioned while she is a chaplain and KU grandparent, she also is “working part-time in elder care.” She says that she “enjoys working with the very old, the younger people on campus and the very young, like our six grandchildren ranging in age from six months to eight years.”
The KU administration has hosted several meetings for local religious leaders, which is where the Studenroths heard of the growing demand for counseling students experiencing anxiety, depression and other emotional and mental health issues.
The chaplains said, “Although we are not formally trained as professional counselors, our seminary training included courses in counseling. We thought that perhaps we could help to lighten the load on KU’s professional counseling staff by being a friendly, listening ear for students who just need someone older to talk with about life’s struggles.”
A chaplain is basically a pastor or minister who focuses on a larger population (such as at a university, in the military or at a hospital) rather than on a single church congregation. The Studenroth’s are not employees of KU but rather are sent to KU as a gift from their church – the Kutztown Bible Fellowship Church.
Pre-pandemic, John and Laura participated as facilitators at the Healthy Relationships Workshops sponsored by the Women’s Center and in the Human Library Project where John was a human book entitled “Faith-Based Scientist.”
John was a member of the Advisory Board of the KU Women’s Center for ten years. They also attended many of the weekly meetings of Cru and KCF, two Christian student groups on campus.
During the pandemic, they have been outside at an outreach table weekly (weather permitting) and also attending Cru meetings with students via Zoom.
The KU grandparents’ goal is “simply to be here for anyone open to faith-based solutions to life’s troubling issues. We are available to everyone in the KU community, including faculty, staff and students. People of any faith, or no faith, are welcome to contact us.”
The KU grandparents are here to support, guide and help all Golden Bears. As they said, “Anything you’d like to discuss is fine: perhaps a personal issue, relationships, academic questions, doubts about God or your place in the world. Maybe you’re wondering if there is any purpose to life, and we’d be happy to share with you from a Christian faith-based perspective.”
They can best be contacted via email at ChaplainsJohnandLaura@gmail.com or via text or call at 610-914-7289 to set up a time to meet on campus or possibly at a local restaurant or coffee shop.