University enters President Obama’s interfaith and community service challenge

Talking about religion can seem taboo, especially among people from different religious backgrounds. But a committee from Case Western Reserve University wants to get people talking—and serving the community—through the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

Last week the committee, composed of students, faculty and staff from a variety of disciplines and interests, submitted a plan for The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. This national challenge, spurred by President Obama’s commitment to interfaith cooperation and community service, will recognize university students from all backgrounds coming together to help those in need.

The plans will be reviewed, and select institutions will be invited to the White House in August to network, learn from one another and be recognized for their commitment to interfaith service. From there, institutions will launch and execute their initiatives throughout the 2011-12 academic year and will submit final reports on their progress by May 1. Initiatives will then be evaluated by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Corporation for National and Community Service; the White House will recognize the best of the best next summer.

Here at Case Western Reserve University, 15 student organizations and more than 20 university offices and institutions will play a role in the challenge, including the President’s Office, the Center for Community Partnerships, the Center for Civic Engagement & Learning (CCEL), the Interreligious Council, Greek Life and Undergraduate Student Government, among others.

The university’s service priority will be domestic poverty and educational opportunity, through which faculty, students and staff “collaborate on community service projects that address local needs caused by dislocation and poverty, with a focus on homelessness and refugees,” according to the plan. To accomplish this, they will capitalize on projects already in the works (Homeless Stand Down, refugee work organized by student groups, Case for Community Day, Saturdays of Service, etc.) and introduce a new student retreat for students of different faiths.

The projects will “emphasize opportunities for reflection and dialogue when students can not only share their personal motivations for engagement in service but also talk about service and its relationship to social change,” according to the plan. “The collaborative projects can serve as catalysts for deeper discussions that go beyond the immediate impact of a service project and lead to discussions about belief systems, societal and global issues and social justice.”

To improve interfaith engagement across campus, the program will include initiatives such as establishing an interfaith task force and student board, training student leaders to include religious pluralism, incorporating interfaith discussions during university events and more.

“Campus diversity and the university’s dedication to community are strengths that can be maximized by a concerted effort to bring campus members of diverse faith traditions together to learn from one another while serving the larger community,” according to the plan.

For more information, stay tuned to The Daily or contact Mayo Bulloch, director of Educational Enhancement Programs and chair of the Share the Vision committee.  To read more about the President’s Challenge, see