Summer Seminar Helps Faculty Members Strengthen the Teaching of Interfaith Understanding

​CIC and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) offered a fifth seminar this summer to help faculty members strengthen the teaching of interfaith understanding and develop new courses and resources on the subject. Twenty-six CIC faculty members in the humanities and social sciences were competitively selected to participate in the multidisciplinary program. Generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar took place July 31–August 4, 2016, at DePaul University (IL) in Chicago.

Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College(VT), and Eboo Patel, founder and president of IFYC, led the seminar. The week opened with a welcoming dinner hosted by IFYC and small-group work on interfaith understanding case studies. Seminar discussions and small group work during the week allowed participants to explore their own case studies and the substantial theoretical questions involved in teaching interfaith understanding and the practical work of translating these ideas into courses. Discussions also examined the interfaith frameworks articulated in Patel’s new book, Interfaith Leadership: A Primer (2016), and explored potential syllabus content. Participants toured DePaul’s interfaith spaces and spaces set aside for both Muslim and Jewish students to pray and organize their respective communities; they also visited Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network to consider the challenges and opportunities of site visits as a way of teaching interfaith understanding.
Participants praised the collegiality, small seminar setting, and open discussions with new colleagues that already have led to plans for future collaboration. Dan Mathewson, associate professor of religion at Wofford College (SC), noted, “I enjoyed the combination of intellectual rigor and nuts-and-bolts practicality of the seminar. The case studies, in particular, were an incredibly useful way to unpack the challenges and opportunities of interfaith work. I also treasured the informal conversations I had with my fellow seminar participants outside of the formal seminar setting.”
Coming out of this seminar, as well as the previous four, CIC and IFYC have been working with past participants to develop an online Faculty Resource Library that will allow other faculty members to access syllabi, teaching tools, sample activities, and other resources for teaching interfaith understanding. CIC and IFYC launched the recently completed curated library in September. Many of the resources were created by faculty members as direct results of their participation in the seminars; others are resources these scholars have used for years in their teaching. All resources can be found online.
Kristi Del Vecchio, IFYC’s academic initiatives manager, summarized the week by saying, “Participants expressed enthusiasm about the different opportunities for engagement throughout the seminar. They reported feeling intellectually enriched by the site visits, syllabus workshops, and case study discussions, yet they also had pragmatic next-steps to act upon as they return back to campus.”
The 2017 Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar will take place June 18–22, again at DePaul University in Chicago.
The nomination deadline is January 13, 2017. For more information, visit the program page.

Eboo Patel and Laurie Patton stand in front of seminar participants posing on a stairwell.
Eboo Patel, Interfaith Youth Core founder and president, and Laurie Patton, Middlebury College (VT) president (front), led the 2016 Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar at DePaul University (IL).


2016 Teaching Interfaith Understanding Seminar Participants

Augustana University (SD)
Benjamin Jeppsen
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Bennett College (NC)
Ruth Lucier
Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Berea College (KY)
Jeffrey Richey
Professor of Religion and Asian Studies

Bethel University (MN)
Marion Larson
Professor of English

Bluefield College (VA)
Rob Merritt
Professor of English

Calvin College (MI)
Douglas Howard
Professor of History

Cardinal Stritch University (WI)
David Stosur
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Carthage College (WI)
Fatih Harpci
Assistant Professor of Religion

Chatham University (PA)
Katherine Cruger
Assistant Professor of Communication

Converse College (SC)
Sherry Fohr
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Duquesne University (PA)
Marinus Iwuchukwu
Associate Professor of Theology

Elizabethtown College (PA)
Christina Bucher
Professor of Religious Studies

Guilford College (NC)
Michael Dutch
Professor of Business Administration
Huston-Tillotson University (TX)
James Kraft
Associate Professor of Humanities

Lakeland College (WI)
Karl Kuhn
Professor of Religion

Lynn University (FL)
Mark Luttio
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion

Marygrove College (MI)
Sarah Heidt
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Our Lady of the Lake University (TX)
Oswald Nira
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Pacific Lutheran University (WA)
Erik Hammerstrom
Assistant Professor of Religion

Principia College (IL)
Gretchen Starr-LeBeau
Associate Professor of Religion

Randolph College (VA)
Suzanne Bessenger
Assistant Professor of Religion

University of Mount Union (OH)
Nicole Johnson
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

University of the Ozarks (AR)
William Eakin
Professor of Humanities

Virginia Wesleyan College
Craig Wansink
Professor of Religious Studies

Washington & Jefferson College (PA)
Olga Solovieva
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Wofford College (SC)
Dan Matthewson
Associate Professor of Religion