Council of Independent Colleges Awards Ursinus Funding to Expand Interfaith Programming

The NetVUE (Network for Vocation and Undergraduate Education) Program Development Grant, for $47,850 over two years, seeks to deepen the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students.

This project builds upon the college’s current collaboration with Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) with the goal of ultimately creating permanent support on campus for interfaith studies, spiritual life and vocational exploration. IFYC is a national nonprofit organization working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Its founder, Eboo Patel, is delivering one of two Davis Visiting Professorship of Judeo-Christian Values lectures during the spring 2019 semester.

NetVUE-funded activities will equip faculty to incorporate a multi faith-based approach to vocational discernment in a variety of courses and programs, develop experiential learning initiatives and foster meaningful exchanges between students of different faith traditions.

“We want to encourage students early in their academic careers to think about how to act on their values and passions in their life after college,” said Nathan Rein, an associate professor of religious studies and an assistant dean of academic affairs. “It dovetails so well with our new open questions core curriculum, particularly What Should Matter to Me? and What Will I Do? Vocation is the line that connects those two questions.”

Rein says the collaboration with IFYC and the funding from the NetVUE grant strengthens the college’s capacity to more effectively support students from a wide variety of faith traditions.

“We’re asking students to explore interfaith collaboration and talk and think more about religious diversity while also being more intentional and thoughtful when considering their lives after graduation,” said Meredith Goldsmith, a professor of English and an associate dean of academic affairs.

Joining Rein and Goldsmith in leading the implementation of programs funded by the NetVUE grant are: Rebecca Evans, an associate professor of politics and co-director of the Melrose Center for Global Civic Engagement; Sharon Hansen, director of career and post-graduate development; Melissa Hardin, assistant dean for international education; Alexandria Frisch, assistant professor of Jewish studies and coordinator of Jewish life; Rev. Terri Ofori, college chaplain and director of religious and spiritual life; Christian Rice, a visiting assistant professor of philosophy and religion and assistant dean for civic engagement; Mark Schneider, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college; Angela Upright ’17, program coordinator in the chaplain’s office; and Danielle Widmann Abraham, an assistant professor of religious studies.

This marks the second piece of major funding awarded to the college this month that is supporting the establishment of campuswide interfaith- and vocation-linked programs. The Harold C. Smith Foundation approved a new $862,000 implementation grant to help Ursinus strengthen the role of faith and vocational discernment on campus, building on the work first initiated under a pilot program launched last summer. —By Ed Moorhouse