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Toward a Field of Interfaith Studies: Course Sequences, Pedagogies, and Best Practices Conference Report 2014

Religion continues to play a key role in both domestic and international affairs and religious diversity is increasing on college and university campuses. As a result, institutions of higher education continue to look for holistic ways to foster interfaith cooperation and pluralism on their campuses. Of increasing interest is how to engage interfaith issues in the classroom and the possibilities of a burgeoning field of interfaith or interreligious studies. If there is indeed a growing field of interfaith studies, what are the learning outcomes of such a field? What might it look like to develop course sequences that achieve those learning outcomes? How might faculty from disparate fields share theoretical insights and effective pedagogical practices?

On January 23-24, 2014 over 100 faculty, administrators, and religious life professionals from more than 40 colleges and universities gathered at New York University (NYU) to examine these and other questions, share best practices and challenges, and gain insights to take back to their campuses. The gathering, Toward a Field of Interfaith Studies: Course Sequences, Pedagogies, and Best Practices was co-hosted by Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership at NYU. Introduction 1 Toward a Field of Interfaith Studies Conference Schedule 3 Context: The Emerging Field of Interfaith Studies 6 Interfaith Studies and Institutional Context 8 Location of Interfaith Studies within University Curriculum 11 Building Course Sequences within Interfaith Studies 13 Pedagogies for Teaching Interfaith Studies 15 Measuring Interfaith Learning 18 Conclusion 20 3 The gathering was inspired by a grant to IFYC from the Teagle Foundation focused on gathering faculty interested in interfaith studies curriculum, and providing grants to campuses to launch interfaith studies course sequences. The Carnegie Corporation of New York supported NYU’s partnership on the project.

The initial intention was to gather 30-50 participants from a handful of campuses. However, the response to the invitation-only gathering was overwhelming and in turn the conference had over 100 participants. Campuses sent delegations including faculty, department chairs, provosts, academic deans, university presidents, and religious life professionals. The conference represented much of the diversity within American higher education, including public universities, private research universities, and both religiously-affiliated and secular liberal arts colleges. While the majority of the faculty were from religious studies or theology departments, in attendance were faculty from a breadth of fields, including philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history, education, business, economics, physics, and biology. In attendance were both senior scholars who have been exploring these issues for many years, as well as pre-tenure faculty interested in bringing fresh perspectives to the conversation.

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