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Engaging Religious and Worldview Diversity: A Snapshot of Promising Practices

Highlights from the Campus Interfaith Inventory Data 2016-2017

The United States today is one of the most religiously diverse societies in modern history. This diversity is not good or bad in itself ― it is merely a fact. What ultimately matters is how we address it. We have the power to determine whether diversity strengthens the fabric of our society or divides us. Today, as we see daily in the news, the diversity that characterizes American life is accompanied by alarming levels of polarization and tension. Interfaith Youth Core is committed to changing this narrative and pursuing the “energetic engagement of diversity toward a positive end” of pluralism. We are committed to building an America where people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together.

College campuses, as places where educators and students engage the complex ideas that will shape our country’s future, play a critical role in addressing divides between different religious and worldview identities. On campus, students can explore diversity and difference both intellectually and through personal experience. Campuses have the potential to model the highest ideals of civil society, training students to become civic leaders and engage religious and worldview diversity toward positive ends.

And yet, Higher Education currently lacks benchmarks for clear, practice-based models for addressing religious diversity. While engaged in various ways, religious and worldview diversity is not yet clearly or consistently understood by the field as an integral part of campus diversity and inclusion work. Interfaith cooperation is too often still seen as a niche interest, rather than a value and skillset that is essential for all college graduates today.

The Campus Interfaith Inventory is a groundbreaking new project that seeks to fill this gap by highlighting how campuses are engaging in religious and worldview diversity work and identifying both promising practices and emerging priorities at the institutions that drive these efforts. For institutions that have not yet begun to proactively engage religious diversity, these findings offer a foundation for beginning those efforts or integrating them into other diversity priorities. The Inventory explores how religious and worldview diversity issues are engaged across the campus environment ― through curricular and co-curricular strategy, policies, programs, and practices ― and is built upon the nine Leadership Practices for Interfaith Excellence in Higher Education. The leadership practices framework seeks to articulate the most effective strategies for campus interfaith work, and was developed based on Interfaith Youth Core’s work with hundreds of campuses over the past decade. These leadership practices are a set of hypotheses based on years of experience with practitioners around the country, and will be further investigated through empirical data from the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS). 86% of the Inventory participants agree or strongly agree that these leadership practices are a useful framework for their institution in thinking about advancing interfaith excellence on campus.

 

How to Use This Report

Campus educators can use this report to gather insights from religious and worldview diversity work happening across the field and apply them to your own campus environments. By learning about the efforts of other institutions, you can benchmark your campus and initiate conversations with campus stakeholders about increasing investment in this work. Furthermore, through this tool you can surface high-level objectives to address in your institution’s strategic plans. Throughout the report, you will see a variety of campus examples; although these are context specific, they can serve as models as you deepen this work at your own institution.

If you have questions about the data or how to use it for planning next steps at your institution, visit www.ifyc.org/coaching to get in touch with an IFYC coach who can support you in that process.