Frances Sweeney Speaks on AAC&U/IFYC Panel, “The Interfaith Imperative: Engaging Religious Diversity in Higher Education”


Vice President for Mission at Saint Mary's College Frances Sweeney ’86, PhD, participated on a panel last Tuesday for a national discussion on interfaith cooperation in higher education.  The webinar, “The Interfaith Imperative,” was  hosted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).  Sweeney said that embracing religious diversity is even more critical at a religious institution because of its commitment to students’ “holistic development.”

“Imagine a quilt,” Sweeney said. “For us, interfaith cooperation is an essential thread in that quilt when we talk about the fullness of student identity and of student development. It’s that sense of wonder and wholeness that we need when we teach students to think about respect for themselves and one another.”

Sweeney, who also co-chairs with Dr. Barbara McGraw, Director for the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism, the Committee for Interfaith and Religious Cooperation for Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), noted that with grant support from AAC&U and IFYC, through the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, the committee has an action plan for institutional, curricular, and co-curricular activities related to religious diversity and interfaith cooperation. The committee has worked with other committees of CCIE and especially the Mission & Ministry Center and a highly committed group of student leaders. Sweeney noted, “this is part of Saint Mary’s richness as a Lasallian Catholic institution, to affirm our students and each other in our fullness of being… the intersectionality of identity is the most important part to understand ourselves and others with empathy and respect.”  

The webinar discussion was led by Janett I. Cordovés, director of higher education partnerships at IFYC, and Dawn M. Whitehead, vice president of the office of global citizenship for campus, community, and careers at AAC&U. Other panelists included David Keck, Chaplain of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Kelly Dunlop, Associate Director of Center for Campus Involvement at the University of Michigan. 

AAC&U is a global membership organization dedicated to advancing undergraduate liberal education. IFYC is a nonprofit organization that partners with higher education institutions and corporations to enhance interfaith cooperation.

Read an article about Professor Sweeney’s role at the webinar in Diverse Issues in Higher Education here.