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Religion Student on a Path from Prison Intern to Military Chaplain

Inspired by his faith, Nathaniel Clugston ’20 dreams of becoming a military chaplain to provide comfort and strength to service members.

Clugston, a religion major at LVC, gained valuable experience toward his goal through a summer internship with the chaplain at the Moose Lake and Willow River Correctional Facilities in Minnesota. 

He found the internship online after discovering how difficult positions are for undergraduates to attain, with many only open to graduate students trying to complete clinical pastoral education. A grant from LVC’s Thaddeus Project provided support for his travel expenses. Louise Stevenson, Ph.D., and Philip Zimmerman, Ph.D., parents of Lila Stevenson Zimmerman '09, established the Thaddeus Project which offers students in the humanities and select social sciences the opportunity to apply for internship funding to support career preparation. 

As part of his daily responsibilities, Clugston answered inmates’ requests for spiritual resources, assisted religious volunteers with services and programs, and provided pastoral counseling to inmates—including those in the segregation unit. Some of the people he met left him with lasting impressions.

“One of the inmates I met earned his GED and a bachelor's degree while incarcerated and plans to attend seminary to pursue a master’s degree when he is released in three years,” said Clugston. 

In addition to his regular duties, Clugston attended a meeting with all the prison chaplains in Minnesota and witnessed a baptism ceremony that a chaplain facilitated.

“My classes taught me critical thinking and communication skills that helped me, especially in counseling sessions,” he said. “They also gave me an understanding of World Religions, which helped prepare me to communicate effectively with the religiously diverse population I encountered daily.”

Going forward, Clugston said the knowledge he obtained at his internship about the role religion and religious liberty plays in an institution like a correctional system will enhance the theoretical knowledge that he continues to learn in his classes.

After graduation from LVC, Clugston plans to pursue a master of divinity degree.