This profile was last updated in 2009
The Dartmouth Inter-Faith Living and Learning Community grew out of the vision of Kurt Nelson, Multi-Faith Program Advisor since 2007. Through his work, using storytelling and other practices, the student Multi-Faith Council began to see significant growth. The group was becoming so large that it was difficult to find time for more casual relationship-building, and thus the idea for a space for outside engagement was born. Nelson was inspired by the Multi-Faith Living and Learning residential community at Wellesley College, and saw that through Dartmouth’s strong pre-existing affinity housing program, an interfaith residential community could be a natural outgrowth. The program was pitched in February of 2008, and a mere month later the implementation of the program began. The first round of applications was nearly three times the number of spots available in the program, demonstrating the clear enthusiasm for the idea. The Inter-Faith Living and Learning Community hosted its first group of residents beginning in the fall term of 2008.
“The Dartmouth Inter-Faith Living and Learning Community seeks to bring together students from a diversity of religious and moral traditions, ranging from the breadth of the world’s religious traditions to agnostics, seekers, humanists and the ‘spiritual but not religious.’ The group will make a commitment to the experience of living together and learning from one another. There will be many informal opportunities for conversation, participation and listening as well as weekly structured discussion. By building spiritual and philosophical understanding in an ongoing and relaxed setting, participants will have the opportunity to develop lasting relationships across faith lines.”
Currently, eleven students live in single rooms on the bottom floor of an undergraduate dormitory, Ripley Hall. Many of the students come from a mixed religious background or self identify as seekers, and over half of the students do not identify as traditionally religious. Of the residents, three came out of the Multi-Faith Council. The Community shares an undergraduate advisor with another non-affinity floor of the building, but the undergraduate advisor is trained in dealing sensitively with faith questions and concerns. The Multi-Faith Program Advisor also serves the residents through weekly gatherings and one-on-one discussions.
Activities and Schedule
The residents meet weekly for one hour to share in structured discussion time, and the topics are generally student-generated. Students share personal spiritual autobiographies, and discussions also tend to focus on intersections and tensions between faith and science. The Multi-Faith Council hosts a variety of campus-wide events, from panels and discussions to movies. Dartmouth also hosts a multi-faith summer retreat and a Faith in Action alternative spring break program. Each of the communities has the opportunity to participate in an annual MLK community faith celebration.
The primary goals of the community are being met in the current arrangement, with an intentionally small group of residents and significant time for unstructured interaction and sharing. For the future, some goals include more faculty engagement with the community, and overall broader participation in events and service activities across the campus. The Multi-Faith Council would like to work to facilitate more intergroup interaction between standing campus religious organizations, particularly around environmental initiatives and sacred spaces, as well as bring together faith commitments and service, helping to create more meaningfully engaged service-learning experiences.