Bringing It

Bringing It #82: Community Partnerships & Spring Reads

March 23, 2022

Dear friends,

We hope this letter finds you enjoying the start of Spring. This week, we are happy to share with you information about a new book and a new short film that grew out of two partnerships: one between the American Association of Colleges and Universities and Interfaith Youth Core that is centered upon liberal education and equity in higher ed, and the other between a Philadelphia public school and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to these community updates, we also share in this week’s letter some spring reading recommendations from BT2P team members. If you have news, projects, or opportunities that you’d like to share with this community, please send a message to [email protected]

Interfaith Cooperation for Our Times: Educating Citizens for a Diverse Democracy

Our friends Janett I. Cordovés of Interfaith Youth Core and Dawn Michelle Whitehead of the American Association of Colleges and Universities have shared with us the following information about an exciting partnership and recent e-book publication:

Dear Colleagues,

While the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) have collaborated over the years, they formed a formal partnership in 2018 to advance interfaith cooperation in the broader context of quality liberal education and equity in higher education. This partnership, the Interfaith Leadership in Higher Education initiative, prioritizes the importance of religious identity, worldview diversity, and interfaith cooperation and leadership to equip the next generation of leaders to improve campus climate and culture to be more inclusive of religious diversity. Through the institute model and continued professional development and networking, the initiative builds faculty and staff capacity to transform experiences with difference into engaged encounters that minimize polarization and increase engagement across lines of religious, spiritual, and secular differences.

Interfaith Cooperation for Our Times: Educating Citizens for a Diverse Democracy highlights the work of colleges and universities that participated in the annual summer Institute on Teaching and Learning for Campus-Wide Interfaith Excellence (IIE), held as part of the Interfaith Leadership in Higher Education initiative and offered in conjunction with AAC&U’s Institute on Engaged and Integrative Learning (IEIL). The over 40 participating institutions subsequently implemented action plans on their campuses to advance this work. The IIE curriculum and supplemental professional development provided sustained support throughout the grant cycle anchored in these four key areas:

  1. Religious diversity and interfaith studies in the curriculum: pedagogies, content, and methods for teaching interfaith topics, engaging interfaith in the core curriculum, and building interfaith studies programs.
  2. Religious identity and campus diversity priorities: opportunities, challenges, and strategies for integrating religious identity into campus diversity commitments, programs, and policies.
  3. Interfaith competency and literacy among faculty and staff: equipping faculty and staff with the knowledge and skills needed to proactively engage and support religious diversity and encourage interfaith cooperation across campus.
  4. Cross-curricular and campus-wide strategic planning for interfaith cooperation: creating an integrated cross-curricular and campus-wide strategy for prioritizing interfaith cooperation in sustainable ways.

In centering quality and equity in this partnership, AAC&U and IFYC are working with institutions to advance civic skills for students by increasing understanding of religious differences to reduce prejudice, strengthen social cohesion to minimize opportunities for identity-based conflict, bridge social capital to address social issues, and create opportunities to foster the continuity of identity communities and to reduce isolation. We are also working with institutions to share narratives that highlight how campuses work across lines of religious difference and pursue interfaith cooperation throughout the United States. Our work at AAC&U and IFYC not only increases the religious and interfaith literacy of our campus partners but also prepares faculty, staff, administrators, and students to become knowledgeable, educated professionals and engaged citizens.

Interfaith Cooperation for Our Times: Educating Citizens for a Diverse Democracy can be downloaded for free here: and applications for the 2022 Institute on Interfaith Excellence are now open! You can find more information here.

In gratitude,
Janett and Dawn

University-Assisted Community School partnerships

The work of our friends at the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships was recently featured in a short-doc from Freethink Media. This film focuses on the successful partnership between the public Paul Robeson High School and the Ivy League institution in its neighborhood. The benefits of this University-Assisted Community School (UACS) partnership to both the Robeson community and Penn students, faculty, and staff have been powerful, and are illustrative of the potential of UACS for reimagining and significantly changing education for the better.

What We’re Reading

Currently I’m thoroughly enjoying a thoughtful and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny exploration of moral philosophy written by the creator of the television series The Good Place, Michael Schur. In his new book How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question, Schur discusses virtue ethics, utilitarianism, deontology, and other philosophical theories in a light, conversational tone that is both engaging and accessible. He looks at some of the most important ethical questions of our time – like “Should I punch my friend in the face for no reason?” and “Am I a bad person if I don’t return my shopping cart to the rack?” – by talking through what Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and others might advise given their approaches to moral philosophy. I would definitely consider this as a text for a future undergrad seminar. Plus you can enjoy class prep by watching The Good Place (Season 2, Episode 6 – “The Trolley Problem” is a great place to start).
-Todd

This month is Women’s History Month and April is National Poetry Month, so lately I’ve visited our local libraries to check out new poetry collections from women. Currently I’ve been reading Dialogues with Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon. The poems in Agodon’s fourth collection dive into deep topics: environmental collapse, violent politics, complex relationships, and mental health. Somehow this poet manages to engage with suffering beautifully, with emotional vulnerability and dark humor shining through their verse. The seven sections of this collection build upon each other well, resulting not in an overwhelming sense of loss or doom but instead providing a buoy of hope that hardships can be weathered and learned from.
– Kelly

I’ve found Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together an indispensable exploration of both racism and the worsening crisis of class inequality—because she shows how deeply they have been fused together. White Americans’ fear of the rights and humanity of Black Americans, McGhee writes, at once enforces racial injustice and undermines security and prosperity for Americans of all races. For in the twisted, zero-sum logic of white supremacy, it is better to do without public goods—nice schools, better health, strong unions, even community pools—than to share them with Black and brown neighbors. McGhee is unsparing in her analysis of the ways that economic elites weaponize this racism against the needs of all working people. But her call for a “solidarity dividend” is inspiring, and so is her empathy in the stories and portraits that carry her argument forward. This is a great book.
– David

Thank you for staying in touch, contributing to our work, and for all the work that you do,

David, Gianna, Kelly, and Todd