Dean for Religious Life Jane Shaw to depart for Oxford

Shaw, dean for religious life at Stanford since fall 2014, will leave at the end of the academic year to become principal of Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford.

The Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, dean for Religious Life at Stanford for four years, will be leaving Stanford at the end of the academic year to become Principal of Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford.

Jane Shaw

Jane Shaw, dean for religious life (Image credit: Courtesy Office of Religious Life)

Shaw has led the office that provides spiritual and religious leadership to the university community and has served as minister of Memorial Church, since fall 2014. Shaw, a historian and theologian, has also taught undergraduates as a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies and is a member of the Faculty Senate. Her new position marks a return to the University of Oxford, where she previously taught before moving to California to serve as dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

“I have absolutely loved my time at Stanford. It will be hard to leave, but I know that the Office for Religious Life has a strong team and a very bright future, and I am honored to have been dean here,” Shaw said. “I look forward to taking what I have learnt at Stanford to this new opportunity at Oxford, and to continuing friendships and academic collaborations with so many wonderful Stanford colleagues.”

In her tenure at Stanford, Shaw brought new and expanded programming to the Office for Religious Life to serve more diverse communities; enable students, staff and faculty to explore what it means to lead a meaningful life; and offer resources to all on campus for the shaping of individual and community values.

“Jane Shaw has innovated and invigorated the Office for Religious Life and has embraced the role of serving as spiritual leader to our diverse community with new, broadened events that truly welcomed everyone to participate,” Provost Persis Drell said. “We are grateful for her dedication to the needs of our community during a period of great change in our country and renewed activism on campus. The true compassion she has shown will be dearly missed.”

Drell will appoint a committee in coming weeks to launch a search for Shaw’s replacement.

Throughout her tenure, Shaw invited high-profile speakers to Memorial Church, to share their perspectives on leading a meaningful life. Visitors included Oprah Winfrey, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alice Walker and well-known Buddhist teachers. The What Matters to My and Why speaker series featured campus leaders including John Hennessy, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Steve Denning, Alex Nemerov and Persis Drell with her father, Sidney.

Shaw further incorporated the arts into the work of the Office for Religious Life, bringing Anna Deavere Smith as resident artist and collaborating with partners across the university to bring world-renowned choirs and choral music to Memorial Church. And, under her oversight, the office developed programming at the Windhover contemplation center, a rare “device-free space in Silicon Valley,” which opened just as Shaw arrived on campus.

Last fall, Shaw expanded the Office for Religious Life team with a new associate dean, Sughra Ahmed, who is Muslim, to better serve an underrepresented religious community and to share additional perspectives with the entire campus community. The office also has welcomed a wider range of student religious group activities in Memorial Church – such as Diwali for the Hindu community and the opening event of Muslim Awareness week – and next quarter will host a range of festive multi-faith events in the CIRCLE, the interfaith center on the third floor of Old Union, to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Shaw was an organizer of the OpenXChange events together with Harry Elam and Roberta Katz, producing programing that provided models of civil discourse for the campus, and encouraging and enabling students to do the same. Shaw has contributed to the wider university life, sitting on range of committees including the Knight-Hennessy Scholar faculty advisory board, the Community Area Steering Group of the Long-Range Planning Process, and the Center for Ethics in Society advisory board.

An active scholar, Shaw maintained her research as a historian of modern religion and was an active member of the Religious Studies department. She taught a popular Thinking Matters class on empathy and curated an exhibit on the topic at the Cantor Art Center.

At Oxford, as Principal of Harris Manchester College, Shaw will join the group of “heads of house” who lead the university’s 38 colleges, all of which are self-governing, integrating academic and residential life.  Every Oxford student is a member of a college. Harris Manchester College is the only college at Oxford that admits mature undergraduate and graduate students and it has a deep commitment to diversity.

“The college’s emphasis is on educating those who come from less conventional routes to higher education, which is very appealing to me,” Shaw said. “I look forward to continuing to affirm the values of inclusion, to assure that everyone has a chance to participate in higher education, regardless of their circumstances and background.”

Shaw taught history and theology at the University of Oxford for sixteen years from 1994 to 2010, first as a fellow of Regent’s Park College and subsequently as dean of divinity and fellow of New College. During that time, she also served as canon theologian of Salisbury Cathedral and was an honorary canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Shaw has a BA and MA in history from the University of Oxford; MDiv from Harvard University; and a PhD in history from the University of California at Berkeley.