Project Leader: Eboo Patel

Background

Interfaith Youth Core’s mission is to partner with colleges and universities that are working to turn religious diversity into a positive force in our society. Along with The Teagle Foundation, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) believes that at the heart of liberal education is the commitment to educating our nation’s future leaders in the knowledge and habits needed to be actively engaged democratic citizens. IFYC has strategically focused its work within higher education toward furthering the positive engagement of religious diversity as a critical area of inquiry within liberal education. Essential to this strategy is integrating an appreciation for and knowledge of religious diversity in the classroom that will contribute to students’ engagement as responsible citizens in a religiously diverse democracy.

As part of a three-year project funded by The Teagle Foundation, Renewing American Democracy Through Liberal Education in an Age of Unparalleled Religious Diversity, IFYC partnered with a network of campus innovators in their efforts to develop course sequences that advance the liberal education agenda by integrating an Interfaith Studies approach. Through the project, IFYC 1) convened two academic conferences on the emerging field of Interfaith Studies, in January 2014 and March 2016, with nearly 250 faculty from over 120 institutions attending; 2) provided grants and support for 17 colleges and universities to develop academic programs in Interfaith and Interreligious Studies; and 3) disseminated learnings and resources from this work among a growing network of over 50 participating campuses.

Fast Facts

Through this project, the following programs in Interfaith/Interreligious Studies have taken shape:

  • One major

  • Two certificates

  • Three course sequences

  • Eight minors  


The programs are housed in the following departments, colleges, or centers:

  • Eight programs are housed within religion, theology, or philosophy departments

  • Four programs are housed within a college of arts and sciences

  • One program is housed within a college of business

  • One program is housed in a center affiliated with the university  


Interdisciplinary faculty and courses are included in every approved program. Although religion and theology are key focus areas, programs include a breadth of courses in business, management, philosophy, biology, psychology, marketing, history, literature, social work, journalism, pre-health professions, and more. 

Key Findings

  • Campus grant recipients stressed the relevance and value of cross-department collaboration with faculty from diverse disciplines in their course sequences, certificates, minors, and majors. This garnered support from a larger cross-section of faculty on campus, and also distinguished Interfaith and Interreligious Studies programs from already-established religion or theology programs.
  • Campuses not only stressed the value of cross-department collaboration, but cross-institutional collaboration as well. A number of grantees commissioned scholars from other campuses to offer feedback on their programs. In other cases, grantees from different institutions met informally to discuss their ideas.
  • Of approved programs, about half offer applied or professional opportunities in Interfaith Studies. These opportunities took shape via internships, site visits, service learning, study abroad programs, or through other community partnerships. The goal of providing these opportunities, according to grantees, was to underscore the contemporary relevance of classroom-based theories and methods. 
  • A number of grantee campuses have planned or executed program assessment. Many grantees mention that they hope to develop tools for measuring both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the program. 

Disseminating Learnings

As part of the objectives of the project, IFYC codified many of its learnings into a suite of faculty-oriented downloadable resources in its Faculty Resource Library. These resources are grouped around the five key learnings that emerged from our project:

Summarizes the work of the institutions involved in the project, including key learnings from their new courses and programs.

Describes how five different colleges and universities are creating academic programs in Interfaith/Interreligious Studies and the curricular models they are pursuing.

Highlights Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) relevant for structuring and evaluating programs in Interfaith and Interreligious Studies.

Features syllabi for five courses from both private and public undergraduate institutions.

Provides three examples of student internships housed within both curricular and co-curricular programs.