WILSON, N.C. — September 11, 2018 — Barton College is excited to welcome Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, as the featured speaker for its inaugural Interfaith Leadership Lecture on Tuesday, Sept. 25. The topic of his lecture will be “Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise.” Dr. Patel recognizes America as the most religiously devout country in the Western world and the most religiously diverse nation on the planet. During his lecture, he will address such questions as “Will America’s identity as a Judeo-Christian nation shift as citizens of different backgrounds grow in numbers and influence? In what ways will minority religious communities themselves change as they take root in American soil?”
The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in Howard Chapel on the Barton campus. A reception and book signing with Patel will follow at 8:30 p.m. in the Willis N. Hackney Library. This signature event is open to the public at no charge, and the community is invited to attend.
Motivated by the idea that religion should be a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division, and inspired by his identity as an American Muslim, Patel has learned to navigate a religiously diverse social landscape. For more than 15 years, he has worked with governments, social sector organizations, and college and university campuses to help make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Patel served on President Obama’s inaugural Faith Council and is the author of “Acts of Faith, Sacred Ground” and “Interfaith Leadership: A Primer.” He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. Currently, Patel spends most of his time on the road, doing what he loves: meeting students, educators, and community leaders to talk about the complex landscape of religious diversity and the power of interfaith cooperation in the 21st century. These details and more about Eboo Patel and Interfaith Youth Core are found at www.ifyc.org.
The Interfaith Leadership Lecture is co-sponsored by the Allan R. Sharp Religion in Life Series, the Victor R. Small Writers Series, the Heritage Lecture Series the Barton College First-Year Seminar Program, the Willis N. Hackney Library, and the Barton College Friends of Hackney Library.
About the Lecture Series —
The vision for this new lecture series came from Dr. Jane Webster, professor of religion and philosophy, and director of the Barton College Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, after attending a 2015 seminar about Interfaith Leadership. “Following discussion with colleagues at Barton, we realized that there were many more ways to engage religious diversity on campus,” explained Webster. “If we can develop appreciative knowledge, learn to communicate effectively, and collaborate for the common good in the midst of religious difference, we can learn to do it anywhere.”
Within the School of Humanities, the Religion and Philosophy faculty appreciated the need for Barton students to develop skills in working and communicating with others across cultural divides. And, as a result, they redesigned the major to include interfaith leadership skills and knowledge. They also developed a cross-disciplinary Interfaith Leadership minor, so that students in professional programs (such as nursing, business, social work, and health promotions) can learn how to apply these skills in their own context.
“We think our students will have a competitive edge when seeking employment with a minor in Interfaith Leadership,” continued Webster. “Future employers will know that they will have the skills to communicate across lines of difference, show empathy, and make decisions for the common good.”
In addition to the Interfaith Leadership minor, an Interfaith Leadership student club was established on campus during the 2017-2018 academic year. The club’s mission is to raise awareness about religious diversity and the value of pluralism; it plans to carry out educational events and service projects that promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. Also, Barton’s First-Year Seminar this fall will include a substantial learning unit, linking the importance of engaging people who are different with developing emotional intelligence.
Patel will deliver the “First-Year Keynote Address” to freshmen during his visit. And, while on campus, Patel will meet with students over lunch and in the classroom. During his time on campus, Patel also will meet with faculty and staff, and administrators and trustees.
“We look forward to welcoming Dr. Patel to Barton College,” Webster noted. “From personal experience, I know he is an inspiring storyteller with a clear and powerful message, a message that we all need to hear at this time when we all feel so divided.”
Webster invites members of the community to let her know of their interest and support beyond Patel’s visit. “We think that this initiative, integrated as it is throughout the curriculum and addressing so many of our students’ and community’s needs, has the potential for significant transformative learning — something we can all support.”
For additional information about the program, please contact Dr. Jane Webster, professor of religion and philosophy, and director of the Barton College Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, at 252-6440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.