Students’ experiences in residence life are often some of the most transformative parts of their time in college. Roommates and hall mates form strong bonds through the shared experience of communal living in college. Living in close quarters with those of different faiths can teach students first-hand about different beliefs and values, dietary practices, and ways of practicing and worshipping. With this in mind, professionals at a number of colleges and universities have ventured into the creation of interfaith living communities. Many of these communities incorporate intentional dialogue and collaborative projects between residents, to solidify community and promote interfaith cooperation across campus. This resource provides examples of interfaith communities (both on campus and in external campus affiliated housing) and gives recommendations for incorporating interfaith into residence life on your own campus.
Why Res Life?
Private and public institutions alike are increasingly engaging interfaith topics, each within the appropriate context for their institution. Educators are prioritizing spiritual development and interfaith engagement as part of the holistic development of responsible and resilient members of society. Interfaith residence life programs provide a casual environment for students to engage with one another around the big questions of life and consider how their beliefs interact with those of others. Interfaith relationships built through residence life programs help to build the movement of interfaith cooperation, and to strengthen religiously diverse communities.
Interfaith in Residence Life: Campus Examples
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY Interfaith House
The Interfaith House at Colgate University was established in 2013 with the goal to build a culture of interfaith dialogue across Colgate’s campus. Colgate offers ‘interest houses’ to its students, and a group of six student leaders of different religious and secular identities advocated for one of the houses to be allocated as an interfaith house. Currently, thirty students identifying as Christian, Jewish, atheist, Muslims, and Buddhists reside in the house. Residents work with the Office of the Chaplains and the Office of Residential Life to facilitate discussions and plan interfaith events.
In addition to regular religious holiday celebrations, residents also plan social events and philanthropic projects like the annual Crop Walk, as well as participate in regular dialogues open to faculty and students. Interfaith House residents also organize a monthly children’s program at the Colgate University Bookstore.
Rollins College, Winter Park, FL
Interfaith Floor The Interfaith Advisory Council, comprised of faculty and staff at Rollins College, surveyed around 200 students concerning their perception of religious climate on campus. From the information gathered, the IAC determined that an interfaith space on campus would foster a safe and inclusive environment for different religious, spiritual, and secular identities. The IAC then worked to establish the Interfaith Hall, an Interfaith Living Learning Community (LLC) on campus. The Interfaith Hall is a student-run initiative that encourages spiritual exploration and intentional collaboration on topics of shared concern.
Residents of the LLC also founded the Interfaith Club in 2010, which invites students from the broader campus to participate in events and dialogues hosted by Interfaith Hall residents.
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
The Muslim and SChalom (Jewish) Floor at the University of Southern California is an interfaith community within the Parkside Apartments residence on USC’s campus. The Office of Residential Education runs the floor, with support from the Office of Religious Life and two Residence Advisors. The floor is open to students of every year, background, and major. The floor originated when two communities – one for Jewish students, the other for Muslim – were assigned to the same floor. From there, intentional programming and engagement fostered the development of an interfaith community, “to provide a space with Muslim and Jewish can truly live their faith and are encouraged to reach out, explore, and discuss the faiths of others.”
The Muslim/Jewish Floor is a substance-free floor and is designed apartment-style, allowing students to keep Kosher and Halal, and includes appropriate spaces for daily prayers. In addition to an interfaith-friendly space, members of the two communities regularly come together for discussions and collaborate in event programming.