Teaching Interfaith Understanding

June 15–19, 2014 · Lesley University · Cambridge, MA
August 3–7, 2014 · DePaul University · Chicago, IL
The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) are pleased to announce two multidisciplinary seminars on Teaching Interfaith Understanding for full-time faculty members. The seminars will broaden faculty members’ knowledge and perspective to help them strengthen the teaching of interfaith understanding, develop new courses and other resources, and encourage the development of a growing network of faculty members who are committed to teaching this subject. The seminars, offered by CIC and IFYC and generously supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, will cover most costs of participation for those faculty members who are selected.
Religious diversity, along with contestations of religious belonging, pluralism, and inclusion, is an increasingly fraught topic in American public discourse and public life, even as American campuses have become more religiously diverse. On many campuses, interfaith activities are expanding, drawing increased attention from students, campus staff and administrators, and faculty members. The 2014 seminars are concerned with how interfaith understanding can be taught effectively in the college classroom, so that students are equipped for interfaith engagement and leadership both in the classroom and beyond.
While some scholars—primarily those within the fields of comparative religion or comparative theology—have engaged such topics for years, many faculty members in the humanities are seeking new ways to connect their expertise with efforts to foster religious pluralism. There is also growing interest in these topics among faculty members in fields such as education, health care, and business in which the challenges of religious diversity will have an impact in students’ postgraduate professions. Arguably, education on such topics is critical not only to counter religious illiteracy and insensitivity, but also to prepare students for leadership and civic responsibility in a religiously diverse world. These objectives raise significant pedagogical and methodological questions for faculty members. How might faculty members within religious studies, as well as those in other fields with practical or theoretical connections to questions of interfaith cooperation, apply these ideas to their own courses? What pitfalls may arise for faculty members who breach the sensitive topics of religious identity and diversity within an academic classroom? How can faculty members effectively connect curricular and cocurricular interfaith work? What should a student know after taking a course about interfaith understanding, and how might that learning be assessed?

Read an article on the seminars in the Fall 2014 Independent.

About the Seminars

These seminars, led by leading scholars and IFYC staff, will examine the substantial theoretical questions inherent in teaching interfaith understanding and explore the practical work of translating these ideas into courses. Participating faculty members will have opportunities to develop teaching resources such as syllabi and course modules that may be shared online with colleagues at many other institutions. The seminars will be especially helpful both to faculty members who are interested in teaching an entire course on interfaith understanding, as well as those interested in strengthening interfaith themes in existing courses. While the seminars in Cambridge and Chicago share common goals, each will be shaped by the expertise and research interests of the seminar leaders.
Each day of the seminars will focus on a particular dimension of interfaith understanding—such as models of interfaith collaboration and pedagogies for teaching interfaith cooperation—and will include both theoretical and applied work. The seminars will blend textbased discussions of key concepts, experiential activities such as site visits, practicing models of interfaith dialogue, and tools to teach interfaith cooperation.

Cambridge Seminar
June 15–19, 2014 · Lesley University · Cambridge, MA
Catherine Cornille is the Newton College Alumnae Chair of Western Culture at Boston College, where she is also Chair of the Department of Theology and Professor of Comparative Theology. Her teaching and research focus on comparative theology and interreligious dialogue. She has authored or edited 14 books on interreligious dialogue, most recently The Im-Possibility of Interreligious Dialogue (2008), Interreligious Hermeneutics (2010), Interreligious Dialogue and Cultural Change (2012), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Inter-Religious Dialogue (2013), and Women and Interreligious Dialogue (2013). She is founding editor-in-chief of the book series “Christian Commentaries on non-Christian Sacred Texts.”
Diana Eck is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University. For 30 years Eck has taught courses in religious diversity and interfaith relations and has written about religious life in both India and the United States. Her work on India includes Banaras: City of Light (1982) and India: A Sacred Geography (2012). Concerning American religions, she has published A New Religious America: How a ‘Christian Country’ Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation (2001). Her work on American religious pluralism led to her receiving the National Humanities Medal from President Clinton. She currently chairs the Interreligious Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches. Since 1991, Eck has been heading the Pluralism Project, mapping and interpreting the changing religious landscape of the U.S. Her own teaching has increasingly utilized case studies that help students experience actual religious encounters that are found in American civic and religious life today.

Chicago Seminar
August 3–7, 2014 · DePaul University · Chicago, IL
Eboo Patel is the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based organization building the interfaith movement on college campuses. Author of the books Acts of Faith (2007), which won the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and Sacred Ground (2012), Patel is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, NPR, and CNN. He served on President Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. He has taught courses on interfaith cooperation at many institutions including the University of Chicago, Princeton Theological Seminary, Northwestern University, and Dominican University (IL) where he was the Lund-Gill Chair. Patel recently delivered the Greeley Lecture at Harvard University Divinity School and a series of lectures at Union Theological Seminary, where he served as a visiting distinguished guest lecturer during the 2012–2013 academic year.
Laurie Patton is the Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion at Duke University. She came to Duke in 2011 from Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions and inaugural director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in the office of the provost. While at Emory, Patton served as chair of the religion department from 2000–2007, founded and co-convened the Religions and the Human Spirit Strategic Plan, and received the Emory Williams Award in 2005. At Duke she developed Duke’s first university-wide course, sponsored the creation of the first global advising program in the country, and launched an initiative in public scholarship. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago and the author or editor of eight books on South Asian history, culture, and religion. She has lectured widely on interfaith issues and religion and public life and consulted with White House offices on faith-based initiatives as well as on civic engagement.

Participants, Locations, and Expenses
Twenty-five participants were selected for each seminar. The Cambridge (MA) seminar took place at Lesley University, June 15–19, 2014 and the Chicago (IL) seminar took place at DePaul University, August 3–7, 2014. Lodging, most meals, and reading materials were provided, thanks to generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation. Participants or their institutions are expected to cover transportation to and from the seminar locations.
CIC is grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for support of the Teaching Interfaith Understanding Seminars.