History of Collaboration
Bennett College is a small, private, historically black liberal arts college for women. With approximately 750 students, its small size facilitates collaboration between and among units. However, in-depth collaboration between internationalization and multicultural/diversity education—for which Bennett does not have a designated administrator—had not occurred.
Catalyst for Advancing Collaborative Efforts
Bennett is becoming a more religiously diverse community, particularly with more Muslim faculty, staff, and students. Therefore, the institution recognized the need to better educate the community about this and other faith traditions.
Bennett approached their project through the lens of religious diversity in a global context.
The team used a variety of programs and activities, including focused dialogues, film series, book discussions, and community engagement that:
- Explored similarities that link all world religions.
- Explored differences among various faith traditions, specifically those observed by members of the Bennett community.
The biggest impact of this work on Bennett’s campus has been the increased comfort in engaging the campus community in difficult dialogues around sensitive topics. The Bennett team learned that it is perhaps best to provide consistent avenues for increased exposure to challenging or sensitive topic areas, thereby moving individuals beyond their comfort zone at a tolerable pace. This increased understanding of how to successfully approach and manage challenging conversations and expose the campus community to sensitive topics has enabled the team to explore new topics for future dialogues.
Sustaining Efforts and Next Steps
Bennett is committed to identifying long-term programming that can foster the interfaith dialogues and cooperation, both locally and internationally. Bennett is currently exploring difficult dialogues around other sensitive topics, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities, and the project team believes the lessons learned and skills gained through facilitating the AHITW project has laid the groundwork for this discourse.