Centenary professor selected to participate in seminar on teaching interfaith understanding

Students in Dr. Chris Ciocchetti's 2016 Centenary in Paris course learn the history of the Grand Mosque of Paris from a guide.

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary College is pleased to announce that Dr. Chris Ciocchetti, chair of the philosophy department, has been selected from a competitive, national pool of nominees to participate in a faculty seminar on the teaching of interfaith understanding. The seminar is offered by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), with support from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Twenty-five faculty members will participate in the five-day Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar that will take place June 18–22, 2017, at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. The seminar will be led by two leading scholars: Eboo Patel, founder and president of IFYC, a Chicago-based organization building the interfaith movement on college campuses; and Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College and former dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion at Duke University. The program aims to broaden faculty members’ knowledge and strengthen their teaching of interfaith understanding, with the development of new courses and resources.

“Strengthening the teaching of interfaith understanding at colleges and universities is a high priority at a time when college enrollment—and American society—is becoming more diverse. Strengthening participation in American life with greater understanding of the distinctive contributions of different faiths is a key to America’s future success as a democracy,” said CIC President Richard Ekman. “The number of institutions that nominated faculty members to participate in the interfaith understanding seminar is most impressive.”

Ciocchetti believes that the workshop will help him understand a broader range of the intellectual and emotional challenges that college students face, and looks forward to the chance to work with faculty from 24 other colleges and universities to develop strategies for helping students claim their own set of beliefs and values and use these tools to shape their lives. Ciocchetti will also draw on the seminar to revamp the course he teaches during the College’s Centenary in Paris program.

“During my earlier experiences teaching in Centenary in Paris, students really enjoyed talking about the significance of death in Montparnasse Cemetery. It helped them think about what they wanted from college,” says Ciocchetti. “We also visited the Grand Mosque of Paris to get a taste of the range of beliefs and values in Paris. I could see we were just scratching the surface.”

Ciocchetti envisions some changes to the course that will allow students to get to know each other, share questions and doubts, and form a supportive community as they think through what they’re seeing in an unfamiliar location.

“We plan to visit a wide variety of sites in Paris,” explains Ciocchetti. “We will attend services in Notre Dame and discuss atheism and secularism in the cafes where Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre wrote. We plan to examine other currents in Parisian culture during trips to a mosque, a synagogue, a Buddhist temple, a Mormon temple, and maybe even a refugee camp. We will talk with people along the way learning about how their beliefs and values shape their lives.”

The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of 768 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on providing services to leaders of independent colleges and universities as well as conferences, seminars, and other programs that help institutions improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, and institutional visibility. CIC conducts the largest annual conference of college and university presidents and of chief academic officers. CIC also provides support to state associations that organize programs and generate contributions for their member colleges and universities. The Council is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.

A Chicago-based nonprofit organization, Interfaith Youth Core’s (IFYC) mission is to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Since its incorporation in 2002, IFYC has worked on five continents and with over 200 college and university campuses, trained thousands in the principles of interfaith leadership, and reached millions through the media. IFYC has worked with partners including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the White House, and the Office of Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan. Eboo Patel is the founder and president of IFYC.