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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Like many people, Sarah M. Harris ’11 is in search of deeper spiritual meaning. So when the opportunity to live in an environment surrounded by other students also looking for a faith-based connection, she jumped at the chance to be included.
The Interfaith Living and Learning Community debuted this term as a special interest residential option for students and is geared toward those who either associate themselves with a particular faith or are simply interested in conversations about faith, religion and spirituality. Students that choose to live on the Interfaith floor make a commitment to the experience of living together and learning from one another.
The students agree to participate in various informal activities and structured discussions as part of their living arrangement with the goal of building spiritual and philosophical understanding of each other through faith.
“Living here has definitely been helpful and taught me a lot about what faith really is and how we view it in our society,” said Harris, a cognitive science major. “Religion can be very divisive, but talking about what we believe with people we respect is beneficial to everyone and can be a really good way to bring people together.”
The Interfaith floor went from an idea to a reality in just over a month earlier this spring, said Kurt Nelson, multi-faith program advisor for the Tucker Foundation. Through Nelson’s work with the Multi-Faith Council at Tucker, an idea developed that students strongly connected to their faith or those seeking a connection might want to live with each other. With the support of the Office of Residential Life, the ground floor of Ripley Hall became the Interfaith Living and Learning Community.
The floor consists of 11 single rooms and the students are split almost evenly between men and women. When the floor was advertised in April seeking applicants for the 11 spaces, more than 30 applied. Open to students on all levels of the faith spectrum, the floor is home to Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Agnostics or those who are seeking a spiritual path.
“I had to make a lot of hard decisions,” Nelson said. “I tried to get a good balance of traditions and genders. But it’s a good problem to have.”
There are few hard and fast rules on the Interfaith floor but one definite no-no is any attempt to convert someone to another's beliefs. However none of the participants have crossed that line.
“I think most people have this misconception that the floor is ‘religious’ and that you have to be ‘religious’ in order to be on the floor,” said Ahmad S. Nazeri ’11, a Muslim and the undergraduate advisor for the floor. “However, that’s not true. It’s a floor that welcomes and encourages ideas, thoughts and beliefs of a diverse student group. This term, we have students who range from agnostic to those looking for a religion to others like myself who consider themselves part of a specific religion.”
Samuel M. Lloyd ’11 said being a member of the Multi-Faith Council played a key role in his decision to move to the floor. Although he grew up in a Christian household, he doesn’t associate himself with any one faith.
“I found so much value in the ability to hear others speak about their religious and spiritual experiences and how those have shaped their opinions and mental framework – because I could relate them to my own experiences,” Lloyd said. “In my view, faith and spirituality are such intimate phenomena that the opportunity to live with others as interested in opening up to discuss these topics as I am was too perfect to pass up.”
After the success of the first term, Nelson said there are plans to expand on the events and programming available to students that live on the floor. However, the number of residents on the Interfaith floor will likely stay the same.
“I think right now it is exactly where we want it to be,” Nelson said.
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