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The Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson is Chaplain of the University, Director of the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life, and a member of the faculty at Brown University. Her 1990 appointment to these responsibilities followed comparable posts at Vassar, Mount Holyoke, and as Associate Pastor at The Church of Christ at Dartmouth College. Since 1986 she has been a member of the supervisory faculty for fieldwork placements from Harvard Divinity School and the Boston Theological Institute.
Awarded the Fund for Theological Education's North American Ministerial Fellowship in 1977, she left secondary education to complete a Master of Divinity degree at Harvard where she was also awarded the Hopkins Scholarship and the Billings Prize for preaching. Her undergraduate degree in United States Studies and History is from Wellesley College and she also earned a Masters degree in Education from Tufts University. Ordained in 1980 by the United Church of Christ, she preaches extensively and serves as consultant to both religious and academic institutions, especially undergraduate programs on religious life and independent school leadership. In 1996, she was honored with Harvard Divinity School's Rabbi Martin Katzenstein Distinguished Alumna award.
She is past President of The Association for College and University Religious Affairs and edits its journal Dialogue. She serves on the Harvard Divinity School Visiting Committee, the Institutional Research Board for Women and Infants Hospital, and as senior advisor to Education As Transformation: Religious Pluralism, Spirituality and Higher Education. Her Board responsibilities include: AIDS Project Rhode Island, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The Spurwink Institute, Reach Out and Read Rhode Island, Brown/RISD Hillel Foundation, the Open and Affirming Task Force of the Rhode Island Conference of the United Church of Christ. She established and maintains the Network of United Church of Christ Ministries in Higher Education and is Chaplain for the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. She teaches regularly in Medium Security at the Rhode Island State Adult Correctional Institution.
Her articles in Rhode Island Medicine on the ethics of physician assisted suicide include "Mistaking the Periphery for the Center", "Through the Looking Glass of Abortion" Her article "It's the Rivets not the Icebergs" published in The Providence Journal examines the ethical structure of managed medical care. Her most recent essay "Burn the Ark: Kindling the Sacred at the Heart of American Higher Education" appears in Education as Transformation: Reflections on Religious Pluralism, Spirituality and Higher Education from Peter Lang Publishers in Spring 2000.