Dr. Kelly Hayes and Religious Studies major Alondra Arriaga-Rosales are working together on a project to strengthen the Religious Studies department’s ties with religious communities in central Indiana. With funding from IUPUI’s Community Engagement Program, this year-long project explores how the department can institutionalize our relationships with local religious communities in more intentional, enduring, and equitable ways that benefit not only our students, but also our community partners.
For decades now, Religious Studies faculty have built high impact, community engaged components into our courses, most often in the form of visits to local religious communities. Over the last twenty years, we have taken student groups to Hindu celebrations, Wiccan rites, Muslim congregational prayers, Jewish Sabbaths, Catholic masses, Buddhist chanting meditations, and created many other experiential learning activities for our students. These provide valuable real-world experience and opportunities for students to engage with the community around them, thus fulfilling IUPUI’s mission as an urban university committed to the community.
These experiences prove to be transformational for our students and their value has long been clear to us as faculty. Religious communities have welcomed us and have graciously taken on a role as educators of our students. However, over the years, we have become uncomfortable with the inequity of the relationship. We believe this is an opportune moment to carefully think through our relationships with local religious communities with an eye to reciprocating their generosity. Ultimately, this project will contribute to IUPUI’s mission of community engagement, DEI, student retention, recruitment, as well as high impact teaching practices.
Dr. Hayes and Alondra are in the preliminary stages of information gathering now and are meeting with the department’s faculty members to discover how they are engaging with local religious communities in their research, teaching, and service. Later stages of the project will involve brainstorming sessions with our local community partners as well as a final report that outlines common goals, expectations, and outcomes for community-engaged projects that will benefit IUPUI students.