Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

New Program to Improve Interfaith Dialogue

The Religion department introduces a new certificate program for students of Augustana to receive. The Interreligious Leadership Certificate program(IRLD) will help students better engage in interfaith discussion throughout different aspects of life from work to home.
According to Dr. Cyrus Zargar, associate professor in the Religion department and director of the Interreligious Leadership program, the idea of an IRLD program first came about thanks to Pastor Richard Priggie. Pastor Priggie began advocating for Interfaith dialogue on campus and with the help of faculty, administrators and students the campus was able to become a climate centered on Interfaith dialogue.
The IRLD program draws from classes that are already taught in the Religion department, as well as some new classes in Business (Organizational Leadership) and one in Communications (Intercultural Communication). Both of these can be taken as electives for the program. Dr. Jason Mahn, associate professor in the Religion Department, discussed what type of material students in the program will be taught. He said, “Both knowledge and skills. Knowledge will be some of the basics of different religious traditions, and gaining an appreciation and respect for different traditions.”
In order to receive the Interreligious Leadership Certificate students must complete four courses, have an internship through CORE, and go through Campus Ministries’ Faith Zone training. Leaders of the program hope that not only Religion students take interest in this certificate, but students from all different majors. Dr. Mahn talked about the second important thing that students will learn, skills. About this he said, “Even more important for this program of study would be skills. Like how to talk about religion in a way that diffuses conflict and generate empathy.”
Ethan Conley-Keck is a junior, Religion and Anthropology major, and Chinese minor. After attending the Religion department’s Open House on Wednesday and hearing about the program, Conley-Keck said the he is “Pretty set on the program,” and that there is “No harm in doing it.” This certificate does not take the place of a major or minor, but instead gives students another way to make their resumes stronger in the future.
Dr. Zargar’s hopes for this program include “Helping our campus become even more invested in interfaith dialogue and intercultural awareness. We are good, maybe even one of the best campuses at this, but there is always room to grow.”
Applying to this program is very simple. If interested, students need only email Dr. Zargar with a letter of intent that include “A description of the ways in which study and leadership in interreligious dialogue will contribute to your personal career goals.” Once students are accepted they may apply for the IRLD Fellowship, available only to two first or second years. This is a $750 fellowship that will fund tuition and travel for internship preparation. Applications for the fellowship are due by 5 p.m. on the second Monday of Spring term.

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New Program to Improve Interfaith Dialogue