Alumnus honored to return to Trinity to do work he loves, at a place he loves
by Carla Sierra
Trinity alumnus Alexander Serna-Wallender ’08, ’09 will return to campus on Feb. 1, 2019, as the University’s new chaplain. “I feel deeply honored to return to Trinity as the next chaplain,” says Serna-Wallender. “Trinity plays a special part in my sacred geography and was a place of deep transformation for me and my faith. So having the opportunity to do the work I love, at a place I love, in a community I love, is a gift beyond measure.”
Serna-Wallender is a Trinity alumnus, having received a bachelor’s degree in urban studies with a minor in economics in 2008, as well as a master’s degree in teaching in 2009. He also holds a master’s degree of divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and holds a spiritual direction certification.
“One of the powerful things about a liberal arts education is that it equips you to be a lifelong learner, and it lays the foundation for the unexpected turns in one’s life plan,” says Serna-Wallender, who is also a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains, the Association for College and University Religious Affairs, and the Presbyterian College Chaplains Association.
On returning to San Antonio in the role of University chaplain, he says, “As an urban studies major working closely with San Antonians struggling with homelessness, and as a middle school teacher in NEISD, one of the themes that ran through my early career was thinking about how I can help create a space and place of welcome and belonging for all. And the question, ‘How does the call to boundless hospitality, born of my faith, play itself out in my daily life and actions?’ became a central part of my call to ordained ministry. Over the years, this has grown into a deep understanding of how supporting individuals in developing a vibrant spiritual life can be key to holistic wellness and purposeful vocation.”
Serna-Wallender is currently serving as the Henry J. Copeland Interfaith Chaplain and director of religious and spiritual life at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, where he oversees religious and spiritual life for the entire campus community, working to provide multi-faith programming, interfaith initiatives, community-based mentorship opportunities, and faith-based service learning experiences. Prior to that, he served as the Earl Hall Religious Life Fellow at Columbia University and as a seminary assistant at Princeton University.
“In addition to my previous work as a teacher, I have had the privilege of serving three fantastic colleges prior to my return to Trinity,” says Serna-Wallender. “And though every campus community is different, I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore the intersectional ways spiritual life can be integrated into programs, the classroom, and personal practice.”
Serna-Wallender says that returning to San Antonio feels like home to him and his wife. “My wife, Elena, and I are both alumni, so Trinity has played an incredibly formative role in our lives. We met the week before first-year orientation on The Plunge, and then because of a late registration slot, we both ended up in an “Intro to Urban Studies” class during our first semester and ended up loving it. Majoring in urban studies gave us a deep and nuanced appreciation for San Antonio,” he explains. “Having lived in a number of cities and towns, there is no place quite like San Antonio, and we are thrilled to come home to this school and this city that we care about so deeply.”