UT at Forefront of White House Initiative

Presidential initiative incorporates interfaith education on college campuses.

Published: Mar 18, 2011
Watch video from Eboo Patel's visit

The University of Tampa is at the forefront of a presidential initiative to incorporate interfaith education on college campuses.

The week the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships announced the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, UT launched its partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core with a talk by its founder, Eboo Patel.

A Chicago-based nonprofit fueling the interfaith youth movement, the Interfaith Youth Core is a model for the White House plan, which asks university presidents to commit to promoting interfaith cooperation and community service on their campuses. The University of Tampa has begun a one-year commitment with the Interfaith Youth Core to build the framework for a sustainable interfaith leadership program.

Patel’s dream is for interfaith leadership and interfaith literacy to be hallmarks of a college education. He told a University of Tampa crowd on March 15, gathered in the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values, that he was energized to be in a place that was piloting the movement.

“I can tell you that I can’t think of another campus in the country that has the combination of your dedication of an aspirational vision and a beautiful, powerful, physical building in which you are the proof that we are better together,” said Patel, who sits on the Advisory Council at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Leaders from the Interfaith Youth Core came to campus in mid-February for a dialogue with select campus leaders as well as members of the Resource Team for Faith, Values and Spirituality, which includes students, faculty and staff. On Tuesday, Patel met with President Ronald L. Vaughn, had lunch with faculty and staff members and engaged with student leaders at an intimate dinner.

Patel is one of U.S. News and World Report’s Top Leaders of 2009, an Ashoka Fellow and Rhodes scholar who has a doctorate from Oxford University in the sociology of religion. He has shared his vision at gatherings like the Clinton Global Initiative, TED conference and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

“You show at the University of Tampa that Hindus and Humanists, Buddhists and Baha’is, Pentecostals and Presbyterians, gay folks and straight folks, that what you do is work together,” Patel said. ”You work together to improve your campus and improve your community.”

The University is working with the Interfaith Youth Core to enhance current interfaith programming and launch new initiatives for the fall.