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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Andi Lloyd, Biology Professor and Dean of Faculty, Leaving to Attend Divinity School

After 23 years in higher education, Andi Lloyd is leaving Middlebury to pursue a higher calling. 

Lloyd, the dean of the faculty and a Biology professor, will leave the college at the end of this academic year to attend divinity school. She is currently applying to schools and plans to become an ordained minister.

“If you had told me that two years ago, I would have been surprised to hear it,” Lloyd said. After all, she only began regularly attending church a little over a year ago. 

Lloyd first came to Middlebury as a biology professor in the fall of 1996, straight out of graduate school at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She had attended Dartmouth College as an undergraduate. 

“I was really interested in teaching at a liberal arts college, and I loved Vermont. This was my dream job which I didn’t think I’d get, but I applied anyway,” she said.

[pullquote speaker="Andi Lloyd" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]My desire to have a life that included faith is longstanding — it dates back to childhood.[/pullquote]

She accepted her current administrative role in the 2012-13 academic year. “I really liked thinking at the institutional level. I liked thinking about the whole college enterprise,” Lloyd said. It also allowed her to advance the work that brought her to Middlebury.

“Administrative work is exciting because it furthers that thing that I deeply love, which is classroom teaching,” she said. Lloyd has continued to teach biology and ecology classes as well as continued her research on the effects of climate change on northern forests. Now, Lloyd said, “I’m leaving all of that behind.”

She made the decision to leave academia and apply to divinity school within the last year.

“It was one of those life-cracked-open moments of a pathway presenting itself that I had never imagined was there, so it’s a recent turn,” Lloyd said.  Although her parents grew up going to church, she only went as a young child and on Christmas. 

“My desire to have a life that included faith is longstanding — it dates back to childhood,” she said. “I’ve just been really good at ignoring it for large stretches of my life.”

A little over a year ago, Lloyd finally acknowledged this desire and began regularly attending the congregational church in town.

“It was over the period of three or four months that followed from that— just this deepening sense that I had found the place I was supposed to be,” she said. “I fairly quickly began to think about how much I wanted to be in that world all the time.”

[pullquote speaker="Andi Lloyd" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]There’s a way in which that same interest in thinking about issues of environmental justice and how we are in the world can be approached from the perspective of ministry.[/pullquote]

Divinity schools prepare students for entry into the clergy, and the student’s religious faith is an integral part of their experience — unlike seminaries, however, divinity schools are attached to universities. After earning her Masters of Divinity, Lloyd can be ordained.

Although she will soon stop teaching and end her research, Lloyd sees a link between ecology and divinity. “It doesn’t feel to me like I am entirely leaving that world of biology and ecology behind, I think there are big pieces of it that carry forward,” Lloyd said. “There’s a way in which that same interest in thinking about issues of environmental justice and how we are in the world can be approached from the perspective of ministry.”

She also sees a connection between ethics and one’s obligation to the planet and other species, as well as a similar appreciation for the Earth.

“There’s a lot around reverence for the natural world,” Lloyd said. “Whether I frame that as the person with a PhD in evolutionary biology or whether I frame that as a Christian, there’s surprising overlap there, in terms of just opening oneself up to the amazement of this planet we live on.”

Other scholars have examined the relationship between the natural world and Christian faith. The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale Divinity School, for example, is dedicated to exploring this connection.

After graduating from divinity school, Lloyd plans to become a pastor at a congregational church. 

“The emphasis of the denomination as a whole on social justice and environmental justice, things that are near and dear to my heart, is really, really important,” Lloyd said. “I would love to be back in Vermont, but that’s not mine to decide.”

Lloyd has the uniform support of the congregation in Middlebury and of her family and friends. “I feel so lucky to have the people in my life that I do,” she said. “A surprising number of them have expressed a lack of surprise, and I don’t fully understand where that comes from.” 

After more than 20 years working in academia, Lloyd is making an undeniably enormous transition. “There are still big pieces of this that I don’t fully understand,” she said. “I have a sense of amazement looking back at the last year of my life, and that amazement is full of some mysteries, some things that I generally don’t understand.”