Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit organization, recently awarded Tusculum a $4,000 grant to fund a series of events that will broaden the understanding of other faiths. Through roundtable discussions, movies, sharing of personal faith journeys and visits by students to places of worship to which they might not have had firsthand exposure, Tusculum is continuing to nurture an environment that focuses on the similarities among students versus their differences.
“Tusculum welcomes students of all faiths and encourages conversations that break down walls, dispel stereotypes and illuminate common humanity,” said Dr. James Hurley, Tusculum’s president. “We are blessed to have faculty, staff and students from varied backgrounds, and these new programs will demonstrate in an additional way what a gift that diversity is.”
The university plans to hold one interfaith activity per month during the academic year. All of them are designed to connect students of different faiths in a personal way, with a focus on developing deeper relationships.
Dr. Ronda Gentry, executive director of student persistence and engagement and assistant professor of religious studies, said this is a helpful process because some students might have spent their entire lives in an area where a few faith traditions tended to be dominant and others were scarce.
One program the university will hold is a discussion about symbols of each faith.
“This event will take the time to explore different faith symbols, what they mean and why they are important,” Gentry said. “The symbols will then be available for student use on campus as they choose to practice their faith. This shows Tusculum’s continuing commitment to the faith practices of all students.”
Gentry, who will serve as project lead with Taylor Rigatti, Tusculum’s coordinator of multicultural affairs and educational programs, will be well-positioned to participate in this initiative. In June, she is attending a multidisciplinary seminar at DePaul University in Chicago that fosters the growth of interfaith understanding.