A new Initiative engaging diverse worldviews at VT
A campus interfaith effort was a key recommendation from an interfaith consultant hired in 2017 to analyze the spiritual culture at Virginia Tech. Kelly Shushok recommended the university increase the frequency and intensity of opportunities to gather people with diverging views so that attitudes, knowledge, and relationships grow among diverse groups of people. Upon the campus visit and recommendation from the Interfaith Youth Core in 2018, an Interfaith Advisory Council (IFAC) was formed in 2018- 2019.
Having the mission to develop a plan for interfaith engagement at Virginia Tech, the council came up with a set of Strategic Outcomes to help guide the implementation and assessment of the Interfaith Plan. The Interfaith Advisory Council continued its work in support of implementation through the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years, with an extended membership bringing perspectives from several diverse worldviews and increased participation of students.
The Dean of Students Office at Virginia Tech has been awarded a Campus Innovation Grant from the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) in 2019 to support the university’s interfaith outreach, benefiting diversity and inclusion efforts as well as the holistic well-being of students. The Campus Innovation Grant allows institutions like Virginia Tech to kick off their interfaith work in a meaningful and transformative way.
The grant aimed to implement sustainable programs supporting religious pluralism. The award jump-started a campus interfaith effort, implemented after hiring the inaugural Program Director for Interfaith Leadership & Holistic Development, Dr. Najla Mouchrek.
The IFYC Campus Innovation Grant, in conjunction with a donation from the Hokie Family Fund, is supporting an interfaith leadership training program for students called Common Ground. This experience involved undergraduate and graduate students diving deep in conversations about beliefs, identities, values, and service through the interfaith perspective. The inaugural cohort completed their training in 2020. Watch below a video with the Common Ground students’ Statement of Beliefs.
Since 2019, the campus community is being engaged through events such as Interfaith Dialogues (Brown Bag Lunches and Evening Dialogues for Students), dinners, and through a newsletter: Interfaith Circle. Watch below a video about the opportunities for engagement for students, faculty, staff & community members.
For the 2020-21 academic year, the program was granted a new Campus Innovation Award from IFYC, this time to develop an Interfaith Professional Development Program for faculty and staff. In Fall 2020, students founded the first interfaith student organization on campus — Synergy: Interfaith Collective at Virginia Tech. Plans to advance interfaith engagement include launching Aurora, an interfaith living-learning community on campus (Fall 2021), and expanding student leadership. In Spring 2021, 33 faculty, staff, and community members who completed the Interfaith Professional Development Program were certified and received the badge “Interfaith & Worldview Diversity“.
For the 2021-2022 AY, a leadership transition is in progress. A team representing Virginia Tech Interfaith Initiatives was selected to participate in the prestigious Institute on Interfaith Excellence promoted by the Association of American Colleges & University and Interfaith Youth Core. The interfaith program was also granted a new award to continue advancing interfaith engagement on campus.
In Spring 2021, our program director Dr. Najla Mouchrek presented on the interfaith initiatives for students, faculty, staff, and community members at the 2021 Advancing Diversity Summit. The video brings a comprehensive introduction to the interfaith program at VT and invites the whole community to engage.
The students writing and signing this statement of beliefs compose the inaugural cohort of Common Ground – Interfaith Leadership Training, part of the Interfaith Program at Virginia Tech. Interfaith leaders work to promote constructive dialogue and build relationships across lines of difference. (read more)
“With interfaith, we are able to set aside our own prejudices, assumptions, and beliefs for a moment as we engage in civil dialogue with one another.” Our valued interfaith student leader Michelle Morris shared her experience in the Virginia Tech Hokie Family Newsletter. Click to read the full article with her perspective (read more).
As students interact across faith identities they will increase and apply their capacity for complex thinking and critical reflection.
Students will grow through intrapersonal and interpersonal opportunities that ultimately deepen their connections to each other and the values that undergird their faith identity.
Students will develop the agency to become the creators of their own interfaith experiences as they facilitate leadership and mentorship with others.
Students will embrace their capacity to create and sustain environments where dissent and difference between faith traditions, values, perspectives, and ideas are appreciated.
As students make meaning of the world through interfaith engagement, they will courageously challenge narratives and systems that limit beliefs and expressions within our community and beyond.
Virginia Tech Interfaith Advisory Council (2019). Plan for Interfaith Engagement. Internal document.
Virginia Tech News (September 3, 2019). Dean of Students Office awarded Campus Innovation Grant from the Interfaith Youth Core. Written by Jane Nunn. Graphic by Rachel DeBusk. Available at https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2019/09/090419-dsa-interfaithgrant.html.