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President Lambert leads Elon team at White House session on interfaith cooperation through service

President Leo M. Lambert was part of a panel discussion on Aug. 3 at the White House kickoff of President Barack Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. About 200 colleges and universities across the nation were selected for the initiative, which seeks to foster interfaith cooperation and understanding through service.

President Leo M. Lambert makes opening remarks at the White House panel discussion.

President Lambert was one of four people selected for an opening panel discussion on service as a solution to community issues. The panel also includes Asim Mishra, Deputy Chief of Staff, Corporation for National and Community Service; Zeenat Rahman, Deputy Director, Center for Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, USAID; and Aditi Singh, a student at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign.

“At Elon, interfaith issues are key components of our programs to prepare students to be global citizens and leaders,” Lambert says. “In the 21st century, it is impossible to be a liberally educated person without understanding the religions of the world and their importance to societies.”

Joining Lambert and representing Elon at the kickoff event were Mary Morrison, director of Elon’s Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, and Phil Smith, associate chaplain and director of religious life.

Since his inauguration, President Obama has emphasized interfaith cooperation and community service – “interfaith service” for short – as an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good. American colleges, community colleges, and universities have often been at the forefront of solving our nation’s greatest challenges. The White House is encouraging institutions of higher education to make the vision for interfaith cooperation and community service a reality on campuses across the country. Colleges and universities in the challenge commit to a year of interfaith and community service programming.

As part of its response to the president’s Campus Challenge, Elon will launch a variety of interfaith service and engagement initiatives, including the following:

Service Initiative 1: Interfaith Habitat for Humanity House
Through a collaborative effort between the Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the local Alamance County Habitat for Humanity Affiliate, and several student organizations, Elon will construct its 21st home as its first “Interfaith House.” One day per month during the academic year (September –April) the construction team will be composed of intentionally recruited students, staff, and faculty of diverse religious traditions. At the conclusion of each workday, reflection around the service will be facilitated by a trained (IFYC’s Better Together training) student leader.

Service Initiative 2: Campus Kitchen Interfaith Meal Packing Event
The Campus Kitchen at Elon University will sponsor the annual Stop Hunger Now meal packing event for students, alumni, faculty and staff as part of Homecoming events. This year intentional effort will be made to recruit individuals and student organizations of diverse faith backgrounds to serve together at this event. In addition, a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is scheduled in November. Part of the week-long event will include a panel of community partners from a variety of faith-based organizations that are addressing hunger and homelessness in the community.

Service Initiative 3: Better Together Interfaith Service Event
Elon’s new student organization Better Together: An Interfaith Movement, will host a spring 2012 service event also in the area of hunger and homelessness.

Service Initiative 4: Interfaith Service Immersion in Azrou, Morocco
A group of about 12 students with two faculty/staff advisors will spend one week living in home-stays and serving with local community agencies in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco. In partnership with the Moroccan based Bridge of Cultures organization, majority Christian participants complete service alongside their majority Muslim host families and community members.

Engagement Initiative 1: Religion at the Crossroads
Religion at the Crossroads will be a bi-annual event offered by the Religious Studies Department, designed to highlight the multi-disciplinary and diverse nature of religious studies for a broad audience. During the 2011-2012 academic year Religion at the Crossroads will offer two panel discussions that invite interfaith discussion.

Engagement Initiative 2: Interfaith Youth Core Engagement
Through a grant Elon has already secured from the Teagle Foundation, the university will contract with Interfaith Youth Core to aid in analyzing Elon's campus community’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors relative to multi-faith understanding and interfaith cooperation. IFYC will run the “Measuring Interfaith Cooperation on Campus” (MICC) Student Survey throughout campus, synthesize and analyze findings, conduct 3-5 focus groups with student, faculty, and staff and analyze that data, followed by 4-6 one-on-one asset mapping interviews with key stakeholders from across university (in areas of campus programs, communications/policy, mission and vision, and curriculum). Finally they will compile data from interviews, focus groups, and MICC survey to chart current assets and based on that research they will provide recommendations for advancing interfaith cooperation at Elon.

Engagement Initiative 3: Better Together Multi-faith Living Learning Community
A collaborative effort between the Truitt Center for Religious & Spiritual Life and the Office of Residence Life will debut “Better Together: A Multi-faith Community” in the Fall of 2011, beginning with 11 residents housed in a wing of one of Elon's newest residence halls. The residents will be composed of numerous faith traditions and will participate in community activities together and will have times of guided reflection surrounding the benefits and challenges encountered in this intentional interfaith community.

Engagement Initiative 4: Religious Diversity Module in first-year General Studies Course
Every first-year student at Elon takes a first year seminar course called the global experience. This year, Religious Studies faculty will write a module on religious diversity and will attend the global experience faculty retreat to teach faculty about the module and how to use it in their classes. The same faculty will also offer guest lectures to the classes which are all taught in the same four time slots so that classes may join together to hear one pod lecture. The lecture will be an interactive opportunity for students to put what they have learned from the module into practice in interaction and lively dialogue with their classmates and faculty.

Engagement Initiative 5: Better Together presents “The Real Religulous: Mainstream Misconceptions of Religion”
Better Together: An Interfaith Movement will present a panel discussion during featuring 3-4 panelists composed of Elon faculty and community leaders that specialize in the fields of Communications, Religion, and Politics. The panel will facilitate community conversation around the social stigmas, stereotypes, and popular beliefs on Islam, Judaism, Human Secularism and Catholicism.

Elon has been named to The President’s Community Service Honor Roll for five consecutive years, and is in the process of planning a multi-faith center, which will be housed in a new pavilion planned for construction in the Academic Village. The Numen Lumen Pavilion will be a place for prayer, meditation and reflection in the heart of campus, respecting the differing customs of students' religious and spiritual traditions. The multi-faith center will encourage a robust dialogue about religion on campus, exploring what unites us in our common humanity and promoting the values served by deeper interfaith collaboration.

Dan Anderson,
9/21/2011 5:20 PM