Ripple Conference creates space for connection across difference

The student-led interfaith conference is in its ninth year and will be held Feb. 9-11.

How can members of the Elon university create a space on campus for people of all religious, spiritual and ethical identities to come together, engage in dialogue, and really listen to one another? Just ask Lucy Sneader ’24 and Rachel Curtis ’24, the co-directors of Elon University’s student-led Ripple Conference, who have set out to do just that.

“I wanted to have a role in shaping the way our campus understands interfaith work,” Curtis, a multifaith Intern at the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life shared. “Now more than ever, conversations, compassion, and understanding are integral aspects to navigating live while keeping in mind the respect and dignity of all. As I learn and grow, I hope to then point others in that direction. My hope is that Ripple starts this work for some and continues it for others.”

The Ripple Conference, now in its 9th year, is Elon’s student-led interfaith conference that encourages participants to engage in genuine and fun interfaith work, explore their own identities, ask tough questions and further engage in sustained interfaith on their own campuses. Throughout the conference, which will be held Feb. 9-11, participants will be invited to build community with one another to build skills to dialogue across difference.

Sneader believes those community-building spaces are of the utmost importance. “I am looking forward to creating a space where people can be themselves and help each other learn and see different perspectives of the world,” she said. “I am also looking forward to learning with everyone who comes to the conference while also making connections with people I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet and learn from.”

Elon’s Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life has long been seen as a preeminent practitioner of multifaith work on college campuses, and the staff is always engaged in creating opportunities for education, celebration, and meaning-making around religious identity.

“The Ripple Conference is a unique space for university students and religious and spiritual life advisors from across the region to come together, listen, and learn about emergent ideas and strategies that are significant to multifaith engagement in our time,” shared Rev. Kirstin C. Boswell, university chaplain and dean of multifaith engagement. “Our conference adviser works hard to support our student leadership in curating a space that is student-led, and relevant to the challenges and opportunities that this generation is facing.”

This year’s theme, Interfaith Around the World, is especially important to both Curtis and Sneader, who have both spent extensive time outside the United States.

“We are not as different as it seems,” explains Curtis. “Throughout my study abroad in Peru and Morocco, I have encountered enriching relationships with people from very different backgrounds from me. These have been some of my most valuable experiences as I have come to understand that though we may have different understandings of the world, many of these traditions point to similar values that I can relate deeply to.”

2024 Ripple Directors Lucy Sneader and Rachel Curtis outside the Numen Lumen Pavilion

Sneader, Curtis and the leadership team – Rocco Albano, Ryan Gibbons, Alex James, Hasan Khan, Caden Samuel, Madison Williams, and Morgan Williams – work together to design the entire conference experience.  From the theme and main speakers at the conference, to the logistics and marketing and public relations, to the content of breakout sessions, the community art project, and the Sacred Sounds coffee house, Ripple is student-led and staff-supported by conference advisor Hillary Zaken, interim assistant dean of multifaith engagement.

At the conference, participants will ask: how do different expressions of religious and spiritual identity vary around the world? What kind of diversity is there within each religious tradition?  And how does the practice of different religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions differ within diverse geographic regions?  This year, as part of the theme, the conference will incorporate a celebration of the Lunar New Year, a teaching Shabbat and a teaching Mass for the first time.

“Ripple means learning how identities and faith can come together, and even make the world a better place for everyone to live in,” shared Sneader. “We learn more when we have people with different perspectives and identities around us.”

More about the Ripple Conference:

Early Bird Registration for the Ripple Conference is now open and will run through Jan. 21.

Registration information can be found at Elon students, faculty, and staff are invited to reach out to conference adviser Hillary Zaken or co-directors Rachel Curtis or Lucy Sneader with questions, and for codes for discounted participation.

On the conference website, you can register, apply for leadership roles, and view other conference details as they become available. Opportunities include leading Breakout Sessions, Community Groups, Affinity Groups, or performing in the Sacred Sounds Coffee House.

For more information and updates about the Ripple Interfaith Conference, please follow Elon University’s Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life on Instagram and Facebook and visit the Truitt Center website or the Ripple Conference page.