Keuka College’s Interfaith Youth Core: A Model in the Making

Members are writing an action plan for intentional interfaith work on campus.

Monday, December 31, 2018

In just its second year of existence, Keuka College’s Interfaith Youth Core is building bridges, both within campus boundaries and beyond.

“It’s hard to conceptualize how far we’ve come in the last 18 to 20 months,” says College Chaplain Eric Detar, who helped found the chapter. “We’ve been on a very intentional 18-month journey.”

Chaplain Detar outlined the goals and progress of the initiative at a public presentation in September, along with members Malcolm Tyler-Knight ’19, Adriana Stoddard ’19, Alexis Frederick ’21, and Joshua Kenna ’21.

Also on hand were Associate Director of Intercultural Affairs Jamyra Young, a member of the IFYC working team and co-chair of the College’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, and College Trustee Don Wertman – the latter of whom is such a firm believer in the Interfaith mission that he sponsored a trip for the College’s IFYC members to Chicago this summer to attend the national organization’s Interfaith Leadership Institute.

Chicago is home base to IFYC, the global interfaith youth movement founded in 2002 by Eboo Patel. Don and his wife, Christine, heard Patel speak about a decade ago and urged College leaders to bring him to campus. That dream was realized last year when Patel took the stage at Norton Chapel to deliver the 29th annual Carl and Fanny Fribolin Lecture.

“Eboo provided an exciting moment on our campus,” Chaplain Detar said. “He spoke about the diversity, inclusion, and equity we are looking for in our campus community.”

Keuka College IFYC members used that “exciting moment” as inspiration in building their own presence on campus and are now at work writing an action plan for intentional interfaith work at the College.

Adriana says the group brought back a number of lessons from the Chicago conference, including the distinction between diversity and pluralism.

“Respecting diversity means recognizing differences,” she said at the public presentation. “Pluralism means actually going out and engaging with these different constituencies – taking that further step to address and correct injustices.”

Alexis cited the conference’s “welcoming environment,” and noted how willing students at colleges with established IFYC organizations were to share their experiences.

“One thing we learned is that it’s OK to be curious about other people’s religions,” she said.

Aside from selection to the IFYC national conference and leadership institute in Chicago, Keuka College’s IFYC was also selected to participate in an "Empowering Interfaith Excellence" conference in Boston (one of 10 colleges selected out of 30 applicants), and received a $5,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation to continue its work.

Chaplain Detar says the College’s IFYC members are building a model not just for themselves but, potentially for similar campuses around the country.

“IFYC believes we could be a national model for small colleges,” he said. “A small, private school in the Finger Lakes could be a model – we are very excited about that!”