Posted on May 5th, 2023 by wheelerr
Over the last academic year, two students Kayla McVeigh and Alondra Arriaga-Rosales, have been working as Religious Studies Community Engagement Associates (CEAs) with Dr. Kelly Hayes. As Community Engagement Associates Alondra and Kayla work with their faculty mentor on a community-centered project, conducting interviews, compiling a list of community contacts, and creating a final report of their findings. Their project’s goal is to survey how IUPUI faculty are engaging with local religious communities and to use that information to create opportunities for students. So far, Alondra and Kayla have conducted over twelve interviews with both faculty and community contacts.
For Alondra, the most meaningful part of the project is being able to connect with the religious studies professors and deepen her relationships with them. In fact, her interview with Dr. Arthur Farnsley led to her working for the Lilly Endowment. As a CEA with experience from the Religious Studies Program, Alondra has a strength in cultural competency and navigating religious community spaces. Lilly Endowment invited her as a notetaker to an event they hosted for Latinx/Hispanic pastoral leaders. Before this project, Alondra was hesitant to continue a Religious Studies bachelor’s degree because she was unsure as to how she would use it for a career. Working on this project has opened the door to many opportunities such as this very significant experience working with Lilly Endowment.
Kayla is excited about the next stage of the project – “now that we’ve done the foundational work, we can bring students outside of the classroom and get them engaged in meaningful community work.” This project is a wonderful opportunity to challenge traditional academic models of learning by going beyond the classroom. This kind of work comes from relationships formed between communities and faculty that have a long history of partnership and trust. Alondra and Kayla have gained much insight into the amount of work and ongoing maintenance that community collaboration necessitates. Our faculty have set the foundation for their students and now we hope to continue building and strengthening the relationship between local communities and the university.