Teaching Interfaith Understanding Seminar Updates

In June 2023, CIC and Interfaith America held a multidisciplinary seminar on Teaching Interfaith Understanding for full-time faculty members at CIC member colleges and universities at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. This long-running seminar series, generously funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc., seeks to broaden faculty members’ knowledge and perspective to help them strengthen the teaching of interfaith understanding, develop new courses and other resources, and join a network of faculty members who are committed to teaching this subject. Twenty-one faculty members from a broad range of disciplines including religious studies, biology, music, and philosophy were selected to participate in the seminar that took place June 18–22, 2023, and was led by Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College (VT), and Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith America.

During the week, participants examined the substantial theoretical questions inherent in teaching interfaith understanding and explored the practical work of translating these ideas into courses. Along with seminar presentations of case studies identified by the small groups for discussion, participants also had dedicated time to share resources and to engage with their fellow faculty members about teaching strategies, discuss syllabi suggestions, and share with each other the activities going on across their own campuses. As Catherine Wright, associate professor of religion and philosophy and director of Collaborative for the Common Good at Wingate University (NC) explained, “I was pleasantly surprised that this seminar was keenly focused on developing our own leadership capacities and this was exactly what I needed to keep building the institute I founded on campus, The Collaborative for the Common Good. Even the field trip helped me reflect on our best practices on campus for building thriving communities — and how faith traditions play a key role.”

group photo on stairs
The group gathered at DePaul University (IL) for the 2023 Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar.

The importance of site visits as an impactful pedagogical tool was also highlighted, and the seminar was able to incorporate into its schedule a visit to the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAM), a local organization that fosters health, wellness, and healing by fostering social change, arts programing, and operates a holistic center.

CIC and Interfaith America will partner on a seminar for Teaching Interfaith Understanding again in June 2024. Details about the seminar and the nomination process will be announced in Fall 2023.

participants outdoors at site visit
The seminar included a visit to the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAM) to highlight the importance of site visits as an impactful pedagogical tool.