Faculty Members Consider the Most Effective Ways to Teach Interfaith Understanding

How might faculty members in religious studies, as well as those in other fields with practical or theoretical connections to questions of interfaith cooperation, best apply these ideas to their own courses? How can faculty members effectively connect curricular and co-curricular interfaith work? Those are just two of the many questions that participants of the 2018 Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar explored this summer.

Cosponsored by CIC and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, the seventh Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar was held at DePaul University (IL) in Chicago June 17–21, 2018. Twenty-five CIC faculty members from various fields including religion, economics, English, and health care ethics participated in the seminar. The program is designed to help faculty members strengthen the teaching of interfaith understanding and develop new courses and resources on the subject.

The seminar was led by Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, and Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College (VT) and a distinguished scholar of South Asian religions. After the seminar leaders delivered welcoming remarks at IFYC’s Chicago office, participants broke into small groups to discuss narrative case studies that they had submitted in advance of the seminar. The case studies served as the foundation of the plenary discussions throughout the week and allowed participants to explore methodologies and pedagogies for interfaith topics. Throughout the seminar, participants examined the substantial theoretical questions inherent in teaching interfaith understanding and discussed the practical work of translating these ideas into courses.

As Kristi Del Vecchio, IFYC’s academic initiatives manager, remarked, “This year’s seminar centered once again on interfaith-focused case studies, course creation, and pedagogical practices. But this year, many participants entered the seminar program with some prior knowledge and experience teaching interfaith topics. Many were asking ‘how do we do this well?’ rather than ‘how do we do this at all?’” Indeed, a number of participants’ case studies examined how to structure a site visit in ways that respect students’ religious commitments; how to best explore issues that intersect with religious identity, such as race, gender, and sexuality; and how to highlight the pressing relevance of religious diversity issues in our public or civic spaces.

Along with seminar presentations of case studies identified by the small groups for discussion, the week also allowed time for participants to share resources and to work together on syllabi and teaching strategies. After seminar participants toured Temple Sholom in Chicago, they discussed the benefits and challenges that site visits create when teaching interfaith understanding.

On the final day of the seminar, each participant articulated one concrete “action step” to advance when returning to campus. Some intend to forge new interdisciplinary partnerships, and others plan to work with their administrators to advance interfaith initiatives on campus. All shared deep gratitude for the experience and the opportunity to think deeply and critically about how to teach interfaith understanding effectively.

For information on the 2019 Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar, visit the program site.

Group photo with participants standing on a stairwell
Seminar leaders, IFYC staff, and CIC faculty members convened at DePaul University (IL) in June for the seventh CIC/IFYC Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar.

2018 Teaching Interfaith Understanding Seminar Participants

Assumption College (MA)
Kathleen Fisher
Associate Professor of Theology

Augustana University (SD)
David O’Hara
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Classics

Aurora University (IL)
John McCormack
Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Barton College (NC)
Lucy Schultz
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion

Benedictine University (IL)
Elizabeth Kubek
Professor of Languages and Literature

Campbell University (NC)
Glenn Jonas
Charles Howard Professor of Religion and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Capital University (OH)
Sally Stamper
Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Duquesne University (PA)
Daniel Scheid
Associate Professor of Theology

Eastern Mennonite University (VA)
Timothy Seidel
Assistant Professor of Peacebuilding and Development

Eastern University (PA)
Drick Boyd
Professor of Urban and Interdisciplinary Studies

Elmhurst College (IL)
Paul Parker
Professor of Religious Studies

Goshen College (IN)
Regina Shands Stoltzfus
Assistant Professor of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies

Gustavus Adolphus College (MN)
Katherine Tunheim
Associate Professor of Economics and Management
Loras College (IA)
John Waldmeir
Associate Professor of Religious Studies

McMurry University (TX)
Jori Sechrist
Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology

Naropa University (CO)
Judith Simmer-Brown
Professor of Religious Studies and Wisdom Traditions

Northwest Nazarene University (ID)
Stephen Riley
Associate Professor of Religion

Regis University (CO)
Amanda Hine
Assistant Professor of Health Care Ethics

Saint Francis University (PA)
Arthur Remillard
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Samford University (AL)
Lisa Battaglia
Associate Professor of Religion

Texas Christian University
Janis Quesada
Instructor II in Religion

Thiel University (PA)
Daniel Eppley
Professor of Religious Studies

University of Saint Francis (IN)
Tricia Bugajski
Assistant Professor and Director of Student Support Services

University of the Ozarks (AR)
David Daily
Professor of Religion

Viterbo University (WI)
Matthew Bersagal Braley
Associate Professor of Student Success and Business Administration