Call her chaplain, please

Maggie Falenschek sits on a couch in her office which is brightly decorated with photos, crosses and other artwork.

The Rev. Maggie Garberg Falenschek has a request for her new Wartburg College family: When you see her out and about, please don’t call her pastor, as she prefers chaplain.

“The chaplain title feels much more descriptive of my work on a college campus. I get to do pastoral things, but my role is really extended beyond the walls of the chapel,” said Falenschek, who joined the college Aug. 7 as the new dean of spiritual life and Herbert and Cora Moehlmann Chaplaincy Chair. “I’m here to walk alongside and to equip students of many different world views and backgrounds and stories, and I think the word chaplain gets at that a little better.”

Falenschek comes to Wartburg from Gustavus Adolphus College, where she served as chaplain, director of campus ministries, and director of the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Falenschek earned her undergraduate degree at Concordia College in Moorhead before heading west to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., for her Master of Divinity. It was in California that she fell in love with campus ministry while interning at Stanford University with the Episcopal Lutheran campus ministry team. She returned to the Midwest to serve as a pastor for youth and family ministries in Urbana, Ill., before landing at Gustavus. Falenschek and her spouse, Nikoli, have two rescue dogs.

As someone who credits a campus pastor with helping her find her calling, Falenschek is excited to have the opportunity to be that person for students at Wartburg.

“She was the first person to help me see myself in this kind of role. She was super encouraging, but she also let me fail at things I needed to fail at,” Falenschek said. “She was always a calming, sacred presence for me. I love that I get to have the opportunity to help emerging adults as they navigate life and their own leadership by equipping them with the skills and tools they need to thrive in those transformative years.”

Q & A

How did your participation in Wartburg’s German Heritage Tour help you acclimate to your new role?  

I’ve been joking that was the best onboarding I could have ever imagined. I was getting an in-depth view into the history of not only our college, but of Waverly, too. Even more valuable was the opportunity to get to know 20 people from different departments that I then knew when I arrived. Those kinds of connections would normally take semesters to develop, if they ever even did.

What do your tattoos mean to you? 

I sometimes feel I don’t look like your typical church leader or an administrator at a college, but my tattoos are stories of different parts of my life that have been meaningful for me. My tattoos show a bit of my story on my skin. They are important to me because I feel like they help me live into this role as my authentic self.

Tell us more about your running interest.

I’ve run six marathons, and I’m pretty proud of that. They were six very slow marathons, but I did it. Folks will likely see me running around town. I’m really excited because Waverly has the beautiful paved trail system, and I’m already getting to explore those spaces on my runs.