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Meet Our Staff!

The Rev. Mark Forrester


University Chaplain, Director of Religious Life

Reverend Mark Forrester is an ordained United Methodist minister (Tennessee Conference), a native Nashvillian and an alumnus of Vanderbilt Divinity School (M.Div. 1983). He is also a graduate of Trevecca University (BA, 1979) and Columbia Theological Seminary (D.Min., 2005). Prior to becoming university chaplain in September 2012, Mark was the Affiliated United Methodist Chaplain at Vanderbilt between 1994 and 2012, serving as a campus minister and director of the Methodist/Episcopal ecumenical student ministry, The Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship.

Before entering ministry in higher education in 1991, when Mark was appointed to direct the Wesley Foundation at Austin Peay State University, he served eight years as a full time parish minister. Mark has served his denomination as a mentor to candidates seeking ordination, as a member of the UMC’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and as a professional ethics trainer for the Tennessee Conference Board of Ministry.

Mark is married to Elaine Billingsley, has two daughters, Emily and Shelley, and two grandchildren, Cayden and Layne. He loves to cook, write, read and remain physically active by running, cycling and hiking.


The Rev. Gretchen Person


Associate University Chaplain, Associate of Director Religious Life

Gretchen Person, Associate University Chaplain and Associate Director of Religious Life, previously served as Director of Spiritual Life at DePauw University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from St. Olaf College, studied music in Copenhagen, Denmark, and worked at the International Church of Copenhagen. She began her M.Div. studies at Harvard University, graduated from Luther Seminary, and received the Master of Sacred Theology degree from Yale University. She has also studied at the Goethe Institute in Murnau, Germany, and at Valparaiso University. She completed internships in both the San Diego and San Francisco areas of California, and has served as a pastor of congregations in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Tennessee. An ordained pastor in the Lutheran (ELCA) church, she has also served as a hospice and hospital chaplain and as Associate Campus Pastor of a private liberal arts college. Gretchen and her family enjoy sharing time with family and friends, travel, reading and biking.


Mike Zimmerman, M.T.S.


Program Coordinator

Mike Zimmerman, Program Coordinator for the Office of Religious Life, is originally from New York, but has lived in many places around the US, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Utah, Michigan, Arizona and finally settling with his wife Sarah and two children Jonah and Finley, here in Nashville. Getting his BA in Religious Studies from Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan, he would come to Vanderbilt to attain his Master’s of Theological Studies from our Divinity School. Continuing his degree, Mike joined Liverpool Hope University and the Maryvale Institute in Liverpool, England, obtaining another Master’s degree in Catholic Pastoral Education. Now working on a research PhD long distance, Mike travels “across the pond” yearly to work with Medieval scholars on his dissertation on the “Devotion to Mary Magdalene in Medieval Southern France.” As Program Coordinator, Mike looks forward to working with all the various religious and social groups on campus as he has made religious diversity a main interest due to his personal history of various faith traditions.


Kay Tyler


Administrative Assistant

Kay Tyler grew up on a family farm in northwest Tennessee, and keeps an open cotton boll in her office. When asked why, “It’s a reminder; when stressed, remember the real definition of hard work; farmers know it”.  As an adult, Kay has lived in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Hawaii. Some of her jobs included inventory control, Parts Manager for two auto dealerships, computer operator and Micrographics Systems supervisor. She finally returned to Tennessee in 1986, choosing Nashville. A Vanderbilt employee since May 1986, she joined the Office of Religious Life in December 2005. She appreciates the continued opportunities for learning about faith traditions and cultures, and enjoys gaining knowledge when assisting the chaplains and religious student groups with programs and events.

Friends know Kay as an avid reader, book collector, and promoter of literacy. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) and the Sisters in Crime Nashville chapters. When asked for a little-known fact, she reveals that she and her husband (also a Vanderbilt employee) are certified KCBS barbeque judges.


Jay Bozman


Graduate Assistant

I am originally from a small town called Delmar on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. After high school, I attended High Point University in High Point, NC. I was involved in numerous student groups including Theta Chi Fraternity and the Honors Program. After graduation, I remained at High Point University as an Admissions Counselor for almost 2 years. I then decided to go back to school to earn an MBA. This time I choose Salisbury University in Maryland and moved back home. While earning my MBA, I worked as a Graduate Assistant in the President’s Office. I also had the opportunity to study abroad in France. Upon graduation I was offered a job at Northrop Grumman in Baltimore as a Program Cost Control Analyst. After 2 years, I was offered an Operations Manager position at Target in one of their distribution centers in Pennsylvania. I managed a team of 30 people and it was great learning experience. Now I am here
at Vanderbilt and am very excited!

I enjoy reading, sports of all kinds, checking out new restaurants, watching movies and traveling as much as I can. One of my favorite places to go is Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I am very close with my family. I have an older sister and a younger sister. Finally, as a fun fact, I grew up on a Christmas Tree farm!


Jordan Walker


Chaplaincy Intern

Jordan, a native of Chattanooga, TN, has lived in Nashville since 2008. Completing his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt in 2012, he majored in Human & Organizational Development with an emphasis in Health and Human Services and Women’s and Gender Studies. Now a Master of Divinity candidate at the Vanderbilt Divinity School, he hopes to survive the process of studying “until his head explodes,” as one colleague calls it, and tries to laugh as much as he can.

An ardent seeker, Jordan believes in the value of religious diversity and exploration of theological imagination. His research interests include the Hebrew Bible, Gender and Religion, and Beyonce. Jordan is excited to be working with the OUCRL and looks forward to encountering you if given the opportunity.

Ps. Jordan also recommends checking out the Thistle Farms website if you get a chance (http://thistlefarms.org).


Amanda Armstrong


Office Assistant

Amanda grew up in Asheville, NC, and graduated from Furman University with a BA in Communications and Philosophy. After college, Teach For America took her to Gallup, New Mexico, where she taught seventh grade English. After a few years out west, she moved back to Western NC, where she worked as the Assistant Director for a non-profit school and resource center for children with autism and their families. Amanda is now working on her M.Ed. at Peabody in Learning and Instruction, and loves Nashville so far!


Aleezah Merali


Office Assistant

I am a junior in the Peabody College studying Secondary Education and English with a particular interest in low income schools.  I hope to make a difference in ending the cycle of poverty in America.  On campus, I am the president of Vanderbilt’s Multicultural A Capella group, Taal and a member of the South-Asian group on campus.  Additionally, I have been involved in the Vanderbilt Interfaith Council for the past three years and currently hold the Vice President position. My interest in religion focuses mainly on bridging gaps of misconceptions and promoting tolerance and acceptance between people of different faiths.


Erin Palmer


Office Assistant

Erin is a graduate student at Vanderbilt Divinity School working on her Master of Theological Studies degree. Originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, she comes to Nashville by way of Elon University in North Carolina where she recently completed a BA in Pure Mathematics and Religious Studies. Erin enjoys being able to engage in conversations about religion and religious life on a daily basis as a student of the field and as part of the Office of Religious Life on a college campus. Erin never thought she would live in Tennessee, but has quickly fallen in love with Nashville–the food, the drinks, the people, and the ever-present live music! Erin’s happiest with her foot on the gas pedal or in an airplane, going somewhere, seeing interesting things, and visiting the people and places she loves.




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