Building Robust & Inclusive Democracy

Tufts University receives grant from Interfaith America for new first-year program and course

Advancing Religious Pluralism grant supports interfaith dialogue and civic learning.
Barnum Hall in the background with the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life sign in the foreground

First-year students arriving to Tufts University next fall will have new opportunities to engage in interfaith dialogue, community partnerships, site visits, and a new civic studies course, thanks to an Advancing Religious Pluralism (ARP) grant issued by Interfaith America and funded by the Templeton Religion Trust.

The new funding will support a collaboration between the Tufts University Chaplaincy and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, and is intended to expand and strengthen the University’s “strategic plans, programs, initiatives, resources, and personnel across the institution that equip students to engage across lines of religious differences to contribute to a sustainable and thriving democracy.” 

Tufts was selected as one of eight grantees from a competitive group of more than 80 applications. University Chaplain Elyse Nelson Winger said, “Receiving this grant is an affirmation of the University Chaplaincy’s and Tisch College’s shared work over the past several years in creating new opportunities for students to learn and lead at Tufts, and we are excited to begin a new phase of experiential programming and curricular offerings that center student interests and questions related to living on a religiously and philosophically diverse campus.”

Peter Levine, Tisch College Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs, said, “Working on religious pluralism allows students, faculty and staff to explore religious organizations and movements as powerful components of civic life and to develop skills and values for living together in societies that are diverse religiously and in many other ways. Those skills are essential for preserving and strengthening democracy in the USA and around the world.”

Nora Bond, Associate Director for Programs at the University Chaplaincy, will be working closely on the first-year experience, service and community-based components to the project. She says, “We know that the first year of college is an important time for normalizing engaging across difference, that students want to explore Boston, and that the best interfaith work begins with our hands – engaging in the community, coming together, and meeting people. This grant lets us deeply explore a model that has potential to prepare Tufts students as early as possible for interfaith engagement.” 

Tufts University’s three-part project includes: organizing service projects for first-year students who are participating in a campus pre-orientation program; hosting monthly visits from September 2024-March 2025 to local religious and cultural sites; and offering a Spring 2025 class to all interested Tufts undergraduate students. Entitled Religious Diversity, Interfaith Engagement and Campus Life. The funding will also allow the University Chaplaincy to hire student coordinators for projects and cover program costs for the year of programming.

The University is dedicated to expanding opportunities to support civic engagement and deep learning across difference, and this grant will support that commitment.