Susquehanna University Takes Part in Obama’s Interfaith Campus Challenge
Published on January 3, 2012
Susquehanna University is focusing an array of community events and service-learning programs to meet the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, in which colleges commit to a year of interfaith community service programming.
Under the Campus Challenge, participants from diverse backgrounds come together to tackle community issues, such as homelessness or the environment. While helping the community at large, participants can expand and strengthen their own relationships.
Susquehanna is meeting the President’s challenge by expanding current service initiatives centered on local hunger and poverty and adding a service-learning component to help students reflect on their experiences. The university is strengthening its connection to Haven Ministry, a homeless shelter in Sunbury, by having an interfaith group of students prepare dinner there on a regular basis. They follow up with discussions about the role of faith in motivating people for service, the importance of interfaith cooperation, and religious diversity on campus and in the community.
The school is also deliberately involving international students—especially those who follow religious traditions underrepresented on campus—in these projects and discussions. Challenge-related activities will draw parallels with other Susquehanna service programs that address poverty and hunger further afield, including relief trips to Central America, the Philippines and New Orleans, among others, and the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge.
“In our local communities, it is hunger and poverty that truly challenge the health and happiness of our citizens,” said Kate Palley, Susquehanna’s director of Jewish life. “Since many of our students are from Pennsylvania, they know about these issues and are passionate about combating them. Many of our students are also first-generation college students and are seeking ways in which to serve those who are not as fortunate.”
The Office of the Chaplain and the Center for Jewish Life have scheduled lectures and panel discussions on the diversity of faith, including a panel last September composed of Palley, The Rev. Mark Wm. Radecke, university chaplain, and Muslim scholar Sanaullah Kirmani, discussing traditions of community service within each of their respective faiths.
“Advancing dialogue between different faiths, and between students with varied backgrounds, will strengthen our commitment to diversity in general,” Palley said. “It will also strengthen our commitment to religious diversity, and a deep understanding of how our faiths shape how we see the world, and how they can connect us as individuals.”
Susquehanna’s Challenge programming is organized by the Office of the Chaplain and the Center for Civic Engagement, with support from the university’s Religious Life Council, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Lutheran Student Movement, ELCA Student Advocacy Team, SU Quakers Worship Group, Catholic Campus Ministries, Hillel Student Organization and International Student Services.
“In discussing differences between our faith backgrounds, we will also discover the many similarities between our traditions, especially when it comes to performing community service,” Palley said. “Our hope is that, as the year progresses and our efforts become more widely known in the community, other local religious institutions will join our initiative.”
Karen M. Jones