Higher education institutions in the U.S. are well positioned to foster a strong commitment to bridging divides—as well as the skills to do so—among our nation’s future business and civic leaders. Colleges and universities provide a unique space for people with diverse beliefs to live, work, and interact in a sustained way. Therefore, there is much to learn from studying how students experience religious diversity and what steps educators should take to prepare them to hold leadership roles after college.
The Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) is the most comprehensive study of its kind, examining student perceptions of—and engagement with—religious diversity throughout college. From 2015-2019, this large-scale study followed a national sample of students enrolled at 122 diverse campuses, including liberal arts colleges, religiously affiliated institutions, and a variety of public universities. The survey asked questions about students’ commitment to bridging religious divides, interfaith friendships, on-campus experiences of religious diversity, knowledge of different religions, and attitudes toward people with different religious and political perspectives. Findings in this culminating IDEALS report answer a fundamental question: To what extent is the collegiate experience preparing students to be successful leaders in our religiously diverse society?