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 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.
The Rev. Shantell Hinton
Assistant University Chaplain, Assistant Director of Religious Life
Reverend Hinton is a native of Conway, Arkansas. She recently graduated with a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School where she was awarded the Kelly Miller Smith Institute for Black Church Studies Certificate, the Luke-Acts Prize, the Liston O. Mills Award, and the Florence Conwell Prize. She also attended Vanderbilt University and received a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering and Colorado State University for a Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering, with a concentration in Controls and Robotics. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the National Society of Black Engineers. She has worked as a Process Control Engineer and as a Bible teacher for various organizations. She is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and serves as Worship Coordinator at New Covenant Christian Church in Nashville, TN.
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.
Gordon Maples is a Masters student in Higher Education Administration in Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education. Prior to joining the Vanderbilt community, he worked for 5 years at the national Secular Student Alliance as their Senior Campus Organizer, providing leadership training and organizational support to atheist, agnostic, and humanist student groups around the country, and speaking publicly at numerous interfaith and atheist conferences and events. He strongly believes in religious pluralism and interfaith cooperation, and advocates for the inclusion of the non-religious in interfaith circles. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa in 2012.
Byron ‘Tyler’ Coles
Office Assistant & Divinity School Intern
Tyler is a first-year graduate student within the Vanderbilt Divinity School working towards his Masters in Divinity. A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Tyler is also a 2014 graduate of Roanoke College where he received a Bachelors Degree in History and Religion. Inspired and motivated by his UU-Pagan religious identity, he quickly began organizing around the topics of racial diversity and awareness, the LGBTQ community, and interfaith cooperation while at Roanoke. Through his experiences of creating community based in understanding, Tyler received a motion towards the ministry and looks to become an ordained minister within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) as a College Chaplain upon graduating from Vanderbilt.
Maria Michonski is a second year graduate student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, where she is pursuing her Master’s of Divinity. Although she is new to Vanderbilt as a transfer student, she is a born-and-raised Nashvillian. She received her B.A. in Theology and Women’s & Gender Studies from Saint Louis University in 2016, and has a background in student affairs and Catholic campus ministry. Maria lives near Ashland City with her parents and her husband, Jay, and enjoys reading for fun, hiking, playing with dogs, and organizing anything. Along with her position as Chaplain Intern for the OUCRL this year, she is the Graduate Student Worker/Graduate Assistant in the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt.
Who’s who among our Affiliated Chaplains and Directors.