Interfaith open house provides inclusive space

 Interfaith open house provides inclusive space

For many students, college can be a time of self discovery, realization and growth. The “ah-ha” moments that come with this journey through education can happen at any time, and are often occurring as the world changes simultaneously.

Grand Valley State University has ever-expanding programs and resources for the purpose of embracing diversity and change, many falling under the Division of Inclusion and Equity.

One of the newest social justice centers within the Division of Inclusion and Equity, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, welcomed students with their open house event on the Cook Carillon Tower lawn Tuesday, Aug. 30.

For the event, 17 campus organizations set up tables to give students an opportunity to experience what interfaith engagement is about.

Faith-based, secular and spiritual organizations passed out information and conversation at the event, along with academic information about the religious studies program, and other campus inclusion initiatives.

Students played classic Midwestern lawn games like “jumbo Jenga” and “cornhole,” enjoyed various treats and had open and engaging discussion around the tables at the event.

Groups such as the Muslim Student Association exchanged conversation with Campus Ministries, all while talking and sharing with other students who stopped to enjoy the weather between classes.

Questions were candid as student, Sydney Watson, tended the interfaith table and explained what interfaith meant to her.

“It’s about people from different religions and non-religions coming together peacefully for the common good,” Watson said.

While Watson engaged students at the interfaith table, Katie Gordon, Kaufman Interfaith Institute program manager, was chatting with students and organizations all around the lawn.

Gordon said a group of students from the English language systems program attended the event merely as a chance to practice their language skills. The open house though, Watson said, ended up being a place for them take part in enriching dialogue about diversity and learning rather than just a practice.

A similar event took place in the past as the spiritual life fair, but this year’s event was meant to be a more inclusive resource for all students to explore religious and non-religious ideas.

Many students attended the open house as a chance to ask genuine questions of one another and to broaden their understanding of others.

“One of the most exciting things that happens every year at this event is that it’s a chance for student organizations to get together, and to know and learn about each other in a way they hadn’t before,” Gordon said.

For more information about Interfaith at GVSU, visit