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Tufts Receives Grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to Launch New Curricular Track in Interfaith Civic Studies

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The AVDF grant will catalyze the development of a six-course sequence in interfaith civic studies at Tufts.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 1, 2021
CONTACT: Jen McAndrew
jennifer.mcandrew@tufts.edu | 617.627.2029

Tufts University students will soon have more opportunities to explore the complex relationships between faith and civic life in a religiously diverse world, thanks to a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (AVDF). Building on its undergraduate Civic Studies major, the only one of its kind, Tufts University will launch a new interdisciplinary curriculum track in interfaith civic studies.  This two-year project represents an innovative collaboration between the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts’ School of Arts & Sciences Department of Religion, and the Tufts University Chaplaincy.

The AVDF grant will catalyze the development of a 6-course sequence in interfaith civic studies at Tufts, provide opportunities for faculty professional development and course design, support a cadre of new “student interfaith ambassadors,” and support a Resident Fellow to facilitate interdisciplinary, interfaith discussions at Tufts.

Peter Levine, Tisch College Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs, who is the lead principal investigator, notes, “Religious traditions, identities, institutions, and conflicts are central to civic life. This generous grant will allow Tufts to develop new insights about the relationships between faith and civic life and to educate students to be effective and ethical contributors in a religiously diverse world.”

Co-principal investigator Brian Hatcher, former Chair of the Department of Religion, adds, “The Department of Religion is excited to join with the Tufts Chaplaincy and Tisch College to develop this new initiative to promote Interfaith Studies at Tufts and Beyond. Thanks to the generous support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, we hope to explore new avenues for integrating the academic study of religion with lived, practical approaches for promoting awareness, knowledge, and engagement among faith communities. Our aim is to help prepare students to address the challenges of interfaith collaboration and religious contestation and to find ways to foster reflection on the role of religion in civic life."

University Chaplain and co-principal investigator Elyse Nelson Winger is committed to centering student voices in all phases of the initiative. She says, “I am thrilled that our students and University Chaplaincy team are a vital part of this new initiative.  Through experiential learning, community-building, and co-curricular programming, the Interfaith Ambassador Program will equip students from different religious, spiritual, and philosophical backgrounds to ‘live the questions’ most pertinent to interfaith engagement.” 

Jennifer Howe Peace, Senior Researcher at Tisch College and co-founder of the Interreligious/Interfaith Studies Program Unit at the American Academy of Religions, will work with colleagues across departments to design an introduction to interfaith civic studies course and coordinate the grant.  Peace comments, “Young people are eager to creatively tackle the dilemmas and opportunities of living in religiously diverse societies. This grant gives us an opportunity to harness the expertise already at Tufts to educate a new generation of civically-minded leaders with a nuanced understanding of interfaith relations.”