Building Interfaith America


IFYC Campus Innovation Grants 2020-2021 

In a time when our country is experiencing cultural, political, and religious division, our nation needs interfaith leaders to break barriers and build bridges across difference. At Interfaith Youth Core, we envision interfaith leaders in all areas of campus life - as student club presidents, program coordinators in student life offices, faculty partnering with the Service-Learning office, and vice presidents supporting an interfaith strategic planning process. By bringing people together, interfaith leaders facilitate meaningful dialogue and action and bring positive change on their college campus and in their community.  

Overview

IFYC is offering Campus Innovation Grants in the amount of $2000 and $4000 to support campuses as they implement sustainable initiatives to advance interfaith leadership.  

In his book, Out of Many Faiths, IFYC’s Founder and President Eboo Patel presents a new metaphor for our American culture. He sees America as a potluck nation, not a melting pot. In this metaphor, everyone is encouraged to bring their diverse dishes to the potluck so that all may feast. The potluck facilitates relationships between people by creating a space for a diverse group to eat, socialize, and enjoy surprising new connections. Ultimately, potlucks highlight the importance of the whole community, not their disparate parts. Everyone participating in a potluck benefits from a clean kitchen, enough dishes and cutlery, and a safe and open place to eat and socialize. When it comes to a potluck, these are the structures of the common good. Everyone ensures their upkeep through their contributions, cooking, cleaning, and conversating for the common good.  

As we look to 2020-2021, we encourage campuses to create innovative interfaith programs in this spirit. We invite you to reflect: how can you welcome students from various religious and philosophical identities to express themselves in the classroom, in co-curricular activities, in the residence halls, and in their surrounding communities? In what ways can you challenge your campus community to bring their whole selves to a space and lean into religious pluralism? How can you equip staff, faculty, and administration to be leaders with an interfaith lens to address opportunities and challenges that arise on your campus? 

Grant applications will be accepted January 15th, 2020, until the deadline on March 15th, 2020. All undergraduate-serving U.S. institutions of higher education are eligible to apply for a Campus Innovation Grant. IFYC is particularly interested in supporting these initiatives at HBCU and HSI campuses. Grants will be awarded in mid-April 2020. Grant funds must be spent between August 1st, 2020 and June 30th, 2021. Please contact Katherine O’Brien at katherineo@ifyc.org with any questions pertaining to your grant submission or fill out the interest form. 

Case Studies

Learn more from these past grant recipients and their successful grant projects.

University of Vermont – Interfaith Student Leadership Retreat

Sometimes creating space for students to build meaningful relationships across difference can start a ripple effect across campus. The University of Vermont’s Interfaith Student Leadership Retreat is one such example, where an intentional effort to initiate interfaith dialogue led students to create inclusive spaces on campus for diverse voices.  

Rev. Laura Engelken, coordinator at the university’s Interfaith Center, hosted an overnight leadership retreat for 20 graduate and undergraduate students from diverse religious and secular backgrounds in the spring semester. The retreat encouraged students to reflect and identify their own worldviews in relation to others, initiate interfaith conversations within their social circles, and build an interfaith network of students on campus for friendship, support, and collaboration. The response from students after the retreat was overwhelmingly positive. Students expressed their appreciation for having a space to articulate their thoughts and feelings in an open, inclusive group without judgement. One of the participants, a student from a large Evangelical Christian campus group, commented afterwards that they’d try to broaden the scope of their outreach activities to be more in conversation with the UVM community rather than trying to merely "superimpose [their values] on the culture on campus." Another student expressed that she is not as afraid to bring [spirituality] up to her friends anymore knowing there is a "cool" community of people who do appreciate such conversations.” 

One of the key successes for Engelken was hearing from a graduate student, Alex, who wanted to discuss religious and philosophical topics but had difficulties relating to and connecting with others. Over the course of the retreat, he had time and opportunity to get to know people beyond his asssumptions of them and gain skills to shift his conversational approach from debate to dialogue. Following the retreat, Alex began attending various campus conversations more regularly and even volunteered to facilitate a small group at one of the center’s Dinner & Dialogue meetings. He is now actively working to develop a "lyceum" geared toward graduate students that will gather to discuss philosophical questions of faith.  

In a survey taken six weeks after the retreat, students made a striking observation that has encouraged Engelken to continue hosting it. They wrote: “Whereas other retreats on campus have largely focused on disrupting or deflecting negative conversations, this one was more focused on the start of the conversation and thinking intentionally about how to cultivate the exchanges you desire rather than focus on stopping the ones you do not.” 

Bowdoin College – Multifaith Fellows Program

When Nick Suarez, one of four 2018-19 Multifaith Fellows at Bowdoin College, planned to host an event called ‘Islam, Women, and Modesty’ in March to coincide with Women’s History Month -- he didn’t expect a big turnout.

To his surprise around 40 staff, faculty, and students turned up at the night of the event. They gathered around in a living room of one of the college houses and discussed the role of veiling and modesty in Islam and other faiths, and how that shapes the way people view and think about women’s bodies and clothing. Muslim students shared why they saw their choice to wear a hijab as a choice of agency, empowerment, and freedom, while other students shared their frustrations over the dichotomy of women being criticized for either wearing too many clothes, or not wearing enough. The discussion also revolved around the concept of modesty in other religious contexts like Catholic nuns, Jewish prayer shawls, women walking down the aisle during their wedding, etc. Nick found the event to be a gratifying experience and felt it brought him greater awareness about engaging in conversations with people of different faith.

The event was Nick’s final project for the Multifaith Fellows Program, which was started by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, affiliated with the Office of Inclusion and Diversity in Student Affairs on campus. The program aimed to lead interfaith conversations on campus, especially in residence halls, and to contribute to interfaith training for the center’s volunteers and help fellows work on final projects that would encourage interfaith leadership on campus. There were three other Fellows besides Nick, whose projects were: ‘Buddhism, Meditation, and Cultural Appropriation,’ ‘Interfaith conversation with Maine Clergy,’ and ‘Multifaith Fellowship 2019-20.’

Eduardo Pazos, the Director of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, says: “Receiving the grant allowed us to move from just the sacred work of Religion and Spiritual Life, to the work of academic, social, and democratic engagement and intersectionality within our campus community.”

University of Northern Colorado – Interfaith Committee

Nestled between the Rocky Mountains and Colorado’s stunning high plains, the University of Northern Colorado is home to over 12,000 students, and according to College Factual, ranks #830 nationwide for overall diversity. Historically, the university’s Office of Student Life has an emphasis on progressing student, staff, and faculty leadership roles on campus, but as the campus faced a fiscal deficit in the year ahead, the office found it challenging to introduce new events and initiatives.

After attending the Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI) in 2018, Liane Ortis, the Associate Director of Student Life, applied for a Campus Innovation Grant to form a committee to oversee interfaith capacity development efforts around campus. As a part of the project, Ortis envisioned hosting a monthly interfaith dialogue series, develop interfaith training content for faculty/staff and students, hire student interns to support project developments, encourage student leadership on campus around interfaith dialogues, and host capacity building sessions. They wanted to inspire change within the campus community by initiating broader conversations on the role of interfaith dialogues in day-to-day programmatic and operational activities around campus, as well as on the role of faith in the life of individual students, staff, and faculty members.

With the grant, Ortis formed an interfaith committee comprised of faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students. They hosted a monthly interfaith dialogue series which soon became a reading group centered around Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Leadership Book, and during each session, they came together to discuss parts of the book that resonated with them strongly. They successfully hosted an ‘Inter/Multifaith Awareness Week’ on campus in spring that garnered praise from the campus community, with members reaching out to show interest in future events and training sessions. The biggest success, according to Ortis, was when participants reached out to say they felt happy to finally have a space to talk openly about their faith backgrounds on campus.

Looking back, Ortis says: “We would have pursued the project even without proper funding, but would only have limited offerings for our community. Having funding for student interns, books, events with food, and supplies was helpful in growing our initiatives more intentionally.”

Butler University – Interfaith Student Media Campaign Competition

To foster engaging conversations with students around interfaith dialogue and religious diversity on campus, Butler University, Indiana, came up with an innovative project that utilized IDEALS data to inform an interfaith student media campaign competition.

Around 54 students enrolled in three strategic communication courses received a presentation on the importance and meaning of interfaith pluralism. Out of them, 16 students participated in the competition to submit five projects, each focusing on an interfaith media campaign. A panel of 34 students from the Business and Marketing Course evaluated the quality and meaningfulness of the projects, and the winning team became a consultant for the university’s Center for Faith and Vocation, for a month leading up to their actual marketing campaign. The participants and winners received awards and gave speeches at a dinner event where they shared their key take-aways from the campaign. In a post-event survey, some of the participants commented on their key lessons: “It helped me understand faiths other than my own and common values.” “It made me believe that promoting religious pluralism is attainable.” “Participating in this project helped me have a better understanding on how to show religious pluralism through media.

The project also boosted the university’s social media presence, according to Daniel Meyers, Director of the Center for Faith and Vocation, who had applied for the 2018-19 Campus Innovation Grant to fund the project and other interfaith initiatives on campus. Daniel says they witnessed a 13 percent increase in Instagram followers and a 50 percent increase in likes on Twitter after they shared the student’s projects on their channels. The Center also used the grant to organize three site visits to a Mosque, a Latter-day Saints Church, and an LGBTQ church and had 14 community members from Butler attend the field trips. The events were hosted during an ‘All-In-Week’, which also involved a pledge that stated: I pledge to always be open and accepting of all faiths, philosophies, and spiritual traditions. I pledge to do my best to ensure students of all faiths, philosophies, and spiritual traditions are welcomed and safe on Butler University’s campus. I pledge to do my best to uphold pluralism wherever I may go. I, ___________ pledge to pluralism.” 85 people signed the pledge during the week.

Fairfield University - Interfaith Peer Minister Program

Founded on Jesuit principles, Fairfield University has long welcomed people of all faiths and traditions and worked to create interfaith spaces. However, the campus recognized that local and national cultural divides meant students needed more opportunities to learn about other worldviews and more encouragement to engage religious diversity on campus. After completing an annual campus-wide Quality of Life Assessment, Fairfield found that for students who identify as Jewish, Muslim or Atheist, only 13-16 percent rated the campus climate as “excellent” compared to 53 percent of Catholics and Christians.

With a Campus Innovation Grant, Fairfield’s Center for Faith & Public Life and Office of Residence Life partnered to create a new program: Interfaith Peer Ministers – undergraduate students who help build positive attitudes on campus toward diverse religious and nonreligious traditions. The program, now moving into its second year, trained students to be peer ministers in first-year residence halls and among commuter students. Interfaith Peer Ministers learned about things like What Makes Interfaith Ministry Different, Sharing Faith Journeys, and How to Facilitate Conversations that Matter. Throughout the semester, the group met weekly, in addition to holding events for other students to improve interfaith literacy and making themselves available to talk through worldview questions and concerns as they arose. During their weekly meetings, the peer ministers engaged in an Interfaith Examen, “Finding God in All Things: An Interfaith Journey,” which is an adaptation of the Ignatian Examen and was facilitated by Rev. David Spollett, the campus Protestant minister.

In January, interfaith peer ministers returned to campus early and joined the Resident Assistants (RA) training. The joint training built awareness and collaboration among key student leaders, and Interfaith Peer Ministers were invited to help plan the semester of programming with the First-Year Resident Assistants and Commuter Peer Assistants. In this way, the program began to integrate interfaith learning and listening into everyday campus life. In addition to providing intensive training for the peer ministers, the program is also beginning to have an impact on the broader community.

One interfaith peer minister said, “Knowing that these programs take time to build relationships, I had set out this semester to simply be recognized by my students on campus. Now I find myself running into them all over, especially in the Tully Dining Hall where we will always sit and talk for a while. I feel that the most important part of being successful in this position is that I create regular dialogue with interested students. Hopefully this will help when they would like to talk about something a little more serious.”

After the grant year, the Office of Residence Life and Center for Faith and Public Life assessed the pilot program and based on its success, chose to continue the program. They recruited seven new Interfaith Peer Ministers for 2018-19 and enriched and deepened the curriculum through enhanced training, closer collaboration with the RAs and other teams in the residence halls, and more intensive interfaith literacy events. In addition, The Office of Residence Life staff altered their annual “Quality of Life Assessment” to include more questions that explicitly examine the experience of non-Christian students on campus and their perception of a welcoming climate in order to continue to inform their programming in the future.

Grant Categories

Because IFYC understands that campuses start from different places and have different needs, the 2020-2021 Campus Innovation Grants will be segmented into four primary categories.

Starter Innovation Grants ($2000)

Past grant cycles have shown that campus innovation grants can serve as an effective catalyst to launch new initiatives and build buy-in, credibility, and prestige among key campus stakeholders for interfaith efforts. Therefore, grants of $2000 will be made available for institutions that are in the early stages of advancing campus interfaith efforts. Grant activities should advance on of the 9 Leadership Practices for Interfaith Excellence in Higher Education. Examples can include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating a new interfaith student organization.
  • Piloting a new interfaith program (e.g. ongoing dinner/dialogue series).
  • Embedding interfaith content into existing programs or structures such as a program for RAs to use in residence halls or Orientation Leaders to include in Welcome Week.
Student Leadership Development Grants ($4000)

Grants of $4000 will support campuses with an established history of interfaith programs in launching a new interfaith student leadership program or expanding an existing student leadership program. Grant activities must include an internal plan for participating students’ leadership development and an external plan for how students will execute their leadership skills within the broader campus and/or community. Examples can include, but are not limited to:

  • Interfaith Fellows or Scholars programs.
  • Interfaith Peer Ministry within residence halls.
  • Interfaith leadership certificate program.
Staff and Faculty Professional Development Grants ($4000)

Grants of $4000 will support campuses with an established history of interfaith programs in launching initiatives to build capacity and competency in campus staff, faculty, and paraprofessionals to address and engage religious diversity. Examples can include, but are not limited to:

  • A religious literacy seminar series with book reading and discussion.
  • A campus-wide professional development day with follow-up workshops.
  • A series of trainings for faculty to incorporate interfaith literacy into coursework.

IFYC has developed multiple resources, including the BRIDGE and blended learning curricula to assist campuses in this area. IFYC highly recommends using these resources as a starting point for training.

Creative Projects Grants ($4000)

Recognizing that not all impactful projects will fit into the previous three categories, additional grants of $4000 will support creative projects that advance interfaith cooperation as a campus-wide priority and/or within a specific new area of campus life. Projects should fall within the spirit of the 9 Leadership Practices for Interfaith Excellence in Higher Education, but think outside of the box. Be imaginative in scope but grounded in methodology and focus on one or two leadership practices.

Past projects that fall into this area include but are not limited to :

  • Benedictine University’s engagement of over 300 students in 25 general education courses in writing reflections based on hospitality in the Rule of St. Benedict. A selection of them were bound and distributed to the entire incoming first-year class.
  • Butler University’s use of campus climate data and social media campaigns to increase interfaith awareness.
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s application of interfaith leadership skills to gaming culture.

Grant projects must include tangible outcomes, and not solely be planning processes or “think tank” projects. We highly encourage interested campuses to contact Brian Anderson (brian@ifyc.org) to further develop their ideas.

Campus Innovation Grants Interest Form

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between the four types of grants? Should I apply for more than one?

The four types of grants should be seen as areas of focus for your grant applications, not separate grant opportunities. You will only apply for one area. These areas are as follows:

Starter Innovation Grants ($2000)

Past grant cycles have shown that campus innovation grants can serve as an effective catalyst to launch new initiatives and build buy-in, credibility, and prestige among key campus stakeholders for interfaith efforts. Therefore, grants of $2000 will be made available for institutions that are in the early stages of advancing campus interfaith efforts. Grant activities should advance one of the 9 Leadership Practices for Interfaith Excellence in Higher Education. Examples can include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating a new interfaith student organization.
  • Piloting a new interfaith program (e.g. ongoing dinner/dialogue series).
  • Embedding interfaith content into existing programs (e.g. a program for RAs to use in residence halls or Orientation Leaders to include in Welcome Week).

Student Leadership Development Grants ($4000)

Grants of $4000 will support campuses with an established history of interfaith programs in launching a new interfaith student leadership program or expanding an existing student leadership program. Grant activities should include an internal plan for facilitating participating students’ leadership development and an external plan for how these students will execute their leadership skills within the broader campus and/or community. Examples can include, but are not limited to:

  • Interfaith Fellows or Scholars programs.
  • Interfaith Peer Ministry within residence halls.
  • Interfaith leadership certificate program.

Staff and Faculty Professional Development Grants ($4000)

Grants of $4000 will support campuses with an established history of interfaith programs in launching initiatives to build capacity and competence in campus staff, faculty, and paraprofessionals to address and engage religious diversity. Examples can include, but are not limited to:

  • A religious literacy seminar series with book reading and discussion.
  • A campus-wide professional development day with follow-up workshops.
  • A series of trainings for faculty from diverse disciplines to incorporate interfaith leadership content into coursework.

IFYC has developed multiple resources, including the BRIDGE and Blended Learning curricula to assist campuses in this area. IFYC highly recommends using these resources as a starting point for training.

Creative Projects Grants ($4000)

Recognizing that not all impactful projects will fit into the previous three categories, additional grants of $4000 will support creative projects that advance interfaith cooperation as a campus-wide priority and/or within a specific new area of campus life. Projects should fall within the spirit of the 9 Leadership Practices for Interfaith Excellence in Higher Education, but think outside of the box. Be imaginative in scope but grounded in methodology and focus on one or two leadership practices.

Past projects that fall into this area include but are not limited to :

  • Benedictine University’s engagement of over 300 students in 25 general education courses in writing reflections based on hospitality in the Rule of St. Benedict. A selection of them were bound and distributed to the entire incoming first-year class.
  • Butler University’s use of campus climate data and social media campaigns to increase interfaith awareness.
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s application of interfaith leadership skills to gaming culture.

Grant projects must include tangible outcomes, and not solely be planning processes or “think tank” projects. We highly encourage interested campuses to contact Brian Anderson (brian@ifyc.org) to further develop their ideas.

What is the Campus Interfaith Inventory and why do I need to fill it out before applying?

Completing the Campus Interfaith Inventory (CII) is an institutional tool that tracks interfaith efforts across all areas of campus life, using the Leadership Practices for Interfaith Excellence as a guiding framework. The CII is required for all applicants to reflect on where you have existing assets for interfaith cooperation on campus and where there are areas for growth. Please make sure that you or a representative of your campus has completed the CII before starting the application, and that you have access to your inventory responses, as some grant application questions pertain directly to the inventory. If you need support to complete the CII for your campus, please contact Rob LeLaurin at robert@ifyc.org.

What can or can’t I use my funding to do?

Funds should be used for project expenses, which can include but are not limited to the following:

  • Program supplies (food, books, printing costs, room rentals, speaker fees, etc.).
  • Travel expenses if your project focuses on site visits within your community or to other institutions.
  • Stipends (e.g. for student interns, interfaith fellows, or staff/faculty project leads)

Funds should not be used for the following:

  • Costs associated with bringing IFYC staff to campus.
  • Furniture or equipment as a standalone project unless these are incorporated into a larger programmatic strategy.
  • Indirect or overhead costs. The entirety of the grant funds should go directly to project expenses.
How much of the grant is allowed to go toward indirect costs?

IFYC makes grants toward a range of programs at different financial levels. We expect that the entirety of the funds from grants under $10,000 will go directly to project expenses. If you have any questions, we will be happy to discuss this with you.

When is the application due?

The application will be live on January 15th, 2020. All applications and supporting documents are due March 15th, 2020.

When will recipients be notified?

IFYC staff will contact all recipients by mid-April, 2020 with an award letter and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to be signed.

What support do I receive from IFYC?

Grantees will have the opportunity to convene virtually to share best practices, workshop challenges, and learn from one another’s experiences throughout the year. There will be a summer orientation webinar for all grantees. During the fall and spring semester, multiple (optional) cohort calls will enable grantees to connect with each other about addressing common challenges and celebrating successes. Last, but not least, you will receive monthly email updates with information on IFYC programs, webinars, and in-person trainings.

Grantees will also have access to coaching and support from IFYC staff to assist in their grant implementation. One-on-one phone calls are encouraged to troubleshoot challenges and brainstorm program design.

IFYC can support grantees through the IFYC Alumni Speakers Bureau, a nationwide network of diverse religious and nonreligious young leaders who have completed intensive interfaith leadership training and are excited to spread the message of interfaith cooperation far and wide. Alumni are available to speak at events and deliver IFYC trainings.

What resources do you have available to me?

We recommend looking at our resources page. There you can click on the “I’m looking for…” to filter our resources to find support for developing student programs, engaging different worldview communities, IDEALS reports, and more.

If you are looking for content to use in a classroom or a professional development training, we recommend our Blended Learning and BRIDGE Curricula.

If you want specific support for assessment, check out our Assessment Toolkit.

Who do I contact if I have more questions?

If you have questions about your grant application, please contact Katherine O’Brien at katherineo@ifyc.org.

If you have questions about the Campus Interfaith Inventory, please contact Rob LeLaurin at robert@ifyc.org.