Whittier College Receives Grant to Enact Interfaith Action Plan

August 4, 2023

Whittier College has plans to bolster engagement with religious diversity on campus, and a new grant will aid in that goal.

As part of attending the 2023 Institute on Teaching and Learning for Campus-wide Interfaith Excellence, the College recently received a $3,000 grant sponsored by Interfaith America and the American Association of Colleges and Universities to create and implement an interfaith action plan.

The plan goal: Enhance campus culture and practices of holistic wellness in a diverse, equitable, inclusive and justice-seeking environment — including religion and spirituality — by reimagining and expanding Whittier’s campus resources, events and spaces.  

The plan is a joint staff and faculty collaborative venture that represents different departments on campus. While Whittier College is a secular institution with a Quaker heritage, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Rosemary P. Carbine said the interfaith action plan honors Whittier’s mission statement to embrace diversity in a complex global society as well as the synergy and intentionality around diversity on campus.

“Embracing diversity includes embracing religious diversity or the diversity of worldviews, whether religious, spiritual, secular, or interfaith,” Carbine said.

Along with Carbine, Whittier’s attendees at the virtual conference included Student Success and Belonging Director Brittney Plascencia-Saldana, Office of Equity and Inclusion Director Francisco Gomez, Counseling Center Director Dr. Rebecca Eberle-Romberger and Director of Development Joshua Canada. Other members of the team who were vital to applying for the grant include Associate Vice President and Dean Kay Sanders, former Office of Equity and Inclusion Director Jennifer Guerra and Interim VP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Henry Gee.

“This was an opportunity to bring everyone together to converse and coordinate more collectively and efficiently,” Canada said of the conference.

As a result of attending all the sessions, the Whittier officials developed several key priorities in the action plan, such as making more interfaith spaces accessible. This includes physical spaces, such as the Poet Peace Garden helmed by Eberle-Romberger and the UniHealth Peer Health Educator Fellows.

The interfaith action plan also calls for curricular and co-curricular spaces such as yoga taught by the fellows that combine a physical workout with spiritual learning.

“Folks don't need to be religious to engage in these practices, but we want to ensure religious contextualization for these practices,” Carbine said.

The plan has also set as an objective the expansion of the interfaith film screening and discussion series and the creation of a centralized directory of religious communities in the local area. Carbine said she hopes the directory will encourage students to get connected with their preferred religious community while attending Whittier College and participate in experiential learning about religious diversity, whether through site visits or field trips, service learning, internships and more.