Interfaith Youth Core

Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) is committed to establishing interfaith cooperation as a social norm. By partnering with higher education to elevate this civic priority, IFYC is helping to prepare students for leadership in a religiously diverse world.

Project Purpose

While many campuses have made great strides in fostering interfaith cooperation and pluralism through co-curricular programming, IFYC is exploring how interfaith engagement can be addressed in the college classroom as part of a more comprehensive preparation for global citizenship. This project supports campus efforts to bridge the liberal arts and pre-professional education in business, nursing, and other fields to prepare students for the complexities of the modern workplace, particularly those related to religious diversity.

Project Activities

IFYC collaborated with partner colleges and universities in developing course sequences that use an interfaith studies approach to bridge liberal arts education and pre-professional preparation. IFYC awarded sub-grants to 16 institutions through a competitive RFP process. In addition, IFYC consulted with faculty and acted as a convener of the campus partners. 

The participating campuses were as follows: Augustana College, Barton College, Bethany College, Bridgewater College, Cabrini University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hofstra University, Loras College, Regis University, Shenandoah University, Texas Wesleyan University, University of St. Joseph, University of St. Thomas, University of the West, and Utah State University. These campuses represent the diversity of American higher education in terms of institutional type (e.g., residential liberal arts colleges, research universities); sources of funding (private, public); and denominational affiliation. 

Successes

By the fall 2018 semester, fourteen of the sixteen campuses will have formally approved and launched their programs. Several campuses built their redesigned coursework into their core curricula, enabling them to reach all their incoming undergraduates. The remaining two campuses continue to work through assessment and design, with the launch of integrated programs anticipated within the next few years.

Lessons Learned

Be flexible about curricular format. The participating campuses launched or revised six certificates, five minors, two concentrations, and two course sequences. Campuses chose a program format that worked best for their context, current course offerings, faculty capacity or interest, and the likelihood of student interest and recruitment.

Focus on transformation rather than addition. Campuses sought to redesign current curricular offerings and bridge courses in the humanities and social sciences to pre-professional majors to ensure that the newly launched programs were financially sustainable given the prevailing distribution of faculty. 

For example, Bridgewater College launched a 10-credit concentration in interfaith studies based on already existing professional courses and incorporated interfaith components with grant support. The concentration requires an introductory course in interfaith studies and a capstone seminar, along with two courses from a pre-professional major that have been revised to incorporate elements from interfaith studies. For instance, pre-health students interested in the interfaith studies concentration have the option of taking courses in neuroethics, religious ethics, or the sociology of birth and death to satisfy requirements for both major and concentration. As Nancy Klancher, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Bridgewater College observes, “The interfaith studies concentration is made up of already-existing courses with interfaith components added in. This is because our faculty cannot add courses whenever they wish to their teaching loads. This is the case at many small liberal arts colleges. Faculty typically have full teaching loads that serve the college’s general education and departmental curricula foremost.”

Similarly, Cabrini University reshaped its existing 18-credit social justice minor by incorporating an interfaith studies course sequence and connecting the minor to pre-professional coursework in business and other fields. For instance, international business and marketing courses were revised to incorporate a module in interfaith studies to satisfy requirements for both the business degree and the social justice minor.

In another case, Barton College had two siloed sets of programming: preexisting curricular offerings that brought interfaith studies into courses focused on healthcare, and co-curricular opportunities for students to engage with religious diversity. With support from the grant, Barton College launched an 18-credit minor in interfaith studies that leverages its curricular offerings and requires a co-curricular portfolio component where students practice the competencies and skills they are developing in the classroom and reflect on how these skills might relate to their professional lives after graduation. As part of the new minor, students are required to complete at least 12 credits from a pre-selected list of five courses in religious studies or philosophy and at least three credits of applied learning (for instance, a business course on modeling consumer behavior for business majors or a course on health, healing, and religion for health majors). 

Link to broader institutional priorities and initiatives. Campuses benefited from connecting the curricular redesign work supported by IFYC to broader institutional initiatives and to efforts to ensure students graduate in a timely fashion. Several minors, certificates, or concentrations developed with grant support relied in part on courses that meet general education or other graduation requirements, making it easier and more attractive for students to complete the new course sequence and prepare themselves for a career in a religiously diverse workplace. 

For example, the University of Saint Joseph launched a 12-credit certificate in interfaith leadership, with the introductory course to the certificate required of all incoming students, and all other elective courses in the certificate meeting general education distribution requirements. Two of the current elective course options for the certificate are psychology courses revised to incorporate interfaith elements and better support the nursing curriculum. The University of Saint Joseph is now working to encourage pre-professional faculty in fields outside of nursing to develop courses in collaboration with their liberal arts colleagues that could be revised to satisfy both major and certificate requirements. They have also revised the certificate’s capstone course to be more broadly encompassing of pre-professional fields outside of nursing. 

Opportunities for faculty professional development matter. Faculty benefited from workshops and retreats where they worked with colleagues across multiple schools or departments and interacted with working professionals to reconceive their curricular offerings. 

For example, Regis University hosted a three-day interfaith teaching workshop that featured, among other activities, faculty conversations with doctors, interns, and chaplains at a local Catholic hospital about their experiences with religious difference in the hospital setting and what they wish they had learned to prepare them for these experiences. Drawing upon the health care professionals’ input, workshop participants revised or created ten courses that incorporate elements of interfaith studies, with about half of these courses satisfying general education distribution requirements. Regis hopes to build on this effort by engaging faculty from business in redesigning courses to incorporate interfaith perspectives, and long-term, to launch an interfaith studies interdisciplinary minor. 

Similarly, University of Saint Thomas held a workshop series on the relevance of religious literacy for leadership and flourishing in the professions, providing a forum for faculty and professionals to network and learn from one another. One such workshop included two senior level managers from local Fortune 200 companies who served as consultants to offer feedback to faculty on the curricular revisions. These two consultants confirmed the value and need for religious literacy in business education for dealing with co-workers, customers, and vendors around the world. The dialogue and relationship-building of the workshops laid the groundwork for a new minor in interreligious studies and comparative theology. The minor consists of three required courses and two electives, with the latter providing linkages to the business curriculum. Workshop participants from the business school revised four courses to meet the requirements for both the business major as well as the new minor. These courses include “Leadership, Religions, and the Workplace” and “Inclusive Leadership for the Diverse Workplace” co-taught by business and theology faculty; a unit for the Accounting 311 course which asks students to reflect on how the Abrahamic traditions’ ethical resources might influence approaches to business practices and profitability; and a unit in Business Law 625 entitled “A Business Interest” based on a real-life scenario involving a business owner wanting to sell part of his business to a Muslim colleague and runs into a conflict about charging interest. 

In yet another case, Shenandoah University launched a new certificate in Religious Diversity and Leadership in the Professions, where students in seven pre-professional tracks can complete a four-course sequence that will better prepare them to navigate religious diversity in their careers. Faculty benefited from interaction with local industry leaders in a series of workshops as they moved through the curricular development process. Two of the four courses in the certificate are taught in religion and satisfy general education requirements. The other two courses are taught within the student's professional field, one introducing them to how religious diversity shapes their profession and the other an advanced course or internship in which they can apply the knowledge and skills for navigating religious diversity within their professional field. For instance, for the pre-professional area of nursing, students can take courses on global health, medical ethics, and spirituality in patient care to satisfy requirements for both major and certificate.

Multi-campus initiatives provide built-in peer learning and support. The cross-campus convenings organized by IFYC promoted peer learning and encouraged participants to stay the course as they worked on making curricular inroads at their campuses. For example, Augustana College credits the internship component built into its interreligious certificate program to lessons learned from internships that connect academic and experiential learning at Loras College. The two colleges are planning to create a joint January term course for their respective programs after Augustana completes its changes to its academic calendar. Similarly, the University of Saint Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus College are looking to share resources and internship sites, co-host events, and conduct joint research – using a methodology developed by Texas Wesleyan University – into the needs and demands of the business community in the Twin Cities.

Resources

See examples of learning outcomes, reading assignments, classroom activities, and case studies developed by faculty participating in this project for courses in business and health.