GW joins Obama faith challenge

The University outlined four approaches to better integrate religious groups on campus including service projects, social programming, reflective conversations and academic presentations.

Associate Vice President and Dean for Student Academic Services Helen Cannaday Saulny said the University has been looking at how to increase support for religious needs since President Barack Obama’s faith-based service challenge was launched at GW in August.

“We’re not necessarily becoming more religious, we’re becoming more interested in connecting people of different faiths and the same passion for service,” Saulny said.

In August, the University hosted more than 400 representatives and 30 presidents from colleges across the country for the national kickoff of Obama’s yearlong interfaith community service challenge.

Tim Kane, associate director for inclusion initiatives, spent the summer reaching out to students, faculty and the community to develop GW’s campus plan promoting conversations on religious diversity.

Kane created a new Interfaith Student Executive Board comprising students from the Muslim Student Association, Jewish Student Association, Newman Catholic Student Center, Canterbury Club Episcopal Student Ministry, Satyam Hindu Awareness and the Student Association. Kane said he is seeking to represent as many faiths as possible, including students that don’t identify with a religious group at all.

“By getting to know people from diverse faith perspectives, members of the GW community will have the opportunity to enrich campus life one relationship at a time,” he said.

The Interfaith Student Executive Board, which is still in the planning stage, will promote existing service projects such as Martin Luther King Day of Service and alternative break trips.

Kane said the University plans to add new programs with faith-based elements, such as an interfaith pancake breakfast hosted by Provost Steven Lerman, world café-style gatherings hosted by the GW Housing Program and presentations featuring faith leaders in the community.

The third annual Freshman Day of Service featured a speech by interfaith activist Eboo Patel, the University’s first effort to promote faith-based service this year.

Kane said as GW works to meet the president’s faith-themed service challenge, the University will make more opportunities available for religious reflection in existing community service programming.

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