A self-proclaimed progressive, feminist pastor, the Rev. Jan Bye has served the Shippensburg community since 1994. Reverend Bye will be retiring this June after 28 years of dedicated service as the United Campus Minister at Shippensburg University.
According to its mission statement, the United Campus Ministry (UCM) “takes a progressive approach to Christianity by encouraging open minds, open hearts and open spirits.”
Those three tenants along with friendship, faith and fellowship have been vital to Bye’s leadership approach over the years.
Bye’s role has filled many needs throughout her time at SU. She runs the programming for UCM, which includes multi-denominational services, Bible studies and retreats.
She also serves as the Religious-Life Coordinator on campus.
“I’m the resource person for any kind of religious perspective. I help connect [students] to whatever religion they are from. I clearly understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to religion,” Bye said.
Bye also helps students in times of crisis with referrals to the counseling center on campus and provides a non-judgmental, safe space for students to be open about their struggles.
Starting her college career as an elementary education major, Bye has always had a passion for helping young people. She took a job after graduation as the director of youth and young adult ministry at a large church. “From there, I felt called to ministry,” Bye said.
Bye then moved from Colorado with her husband to the Central Pennsylvania area. “I didn’t ever think that I would be here this long, but it certainly hasn’t been a regret. I have loved working here and I loved working with the whole Ship community,” she said.
Some of Bye’s favorite memories with United Campus Ministry include the service-learning opportunities that were provided over the years. Before Bye came to SU, there were none.
In 2003, UCM took its first international trip to Vietnam. “It was life changing for all the students who participated,” Bye said.
Bye also started an alternative spring break program. Every spring break, UCM goes to Louisiana to provide services like hurricane relief or community assistance. UCM has since gone every year except the last two due to COVID-19.
SU’s food pantry is also a result of Bye’s hard work. With help from the Catholic Campus Ministry, the food pantry came to life in 2008 after student financial aid was decreased. “People were really struggling,” Bye said.
The pantry is open to all students and is made to be accessible to whoever needs it. “It’s all very simple,” she said. “If you’ve got a pot and a microwave you can cook whatever’s in our food pantry.”
The pantry runs on donations from local churches as well as donations from campus departments. Students may also donate. All food should be non-perishable, and toiletries are accepted as well.
When asked for farewell words to students, Bye said, “One of the joys of working with young adults is seeing them open to the possibilities of the world around them, not only academically, but spiritually as well. To ask the questions that are important to them, to explore what is it that gives their lives meaning, and to walk with them when they struggle has been a really good thing and I’ve really felt honored to be able to do that.”
Bye encouraged students to keep asking questions and to use the support systems that are available. Bye plans on serving part-time in three small United Methodist churches within the community after retirement.
To thank Bye for her service here at SU and to congratulate her on her retirement, you can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.