In January 2019, educators from across the country came together in Cambridge, MA for a weekend-long convening to learn about and discuss using the case study method to educate about issues of religious pluralism. With generous grants from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the Pluralism Project was able to bring together more than 50 professors, scholars and teachers who have been or are interested in using the case study method to educate about issues of religious pluralism. Sessions focused on practical applications and demonstrations with ample time for discussion and feedback.
On April 13, 2010, the Pluralism Project convened a case study workshop at the Center for the Study of World Religions to consider the application of the case method to the teaching of religion and theology. Approximately 40 Harvard faculty, staff, and students from across the University, Pluralism Project staff and student researchers, local community leaders, and selected faculty from outside institutions discussed a new case entitled “Adding Eid” that explores the issue of adding the Muslim holiday of Eid to the Cambridge Public School system calendar. Dr. Willis Emmons of the C. Roland Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard Business School facilitated this case study discussion. After the case study, Dr. Diana Eck moderated a panel discussion on teaching with case studies in religious studies and theological education. Panelists included Justus Baird from Auburn Theological Seminary, Shana Sippy from Carleton College, and Willis Emmons from Harvard Business School. The day concluded with a reception and further conversation about the case method.
On November 5, 2007, the Pluralism Project convened a case studies workshop at the Center for the Study of World Religions. Twenty Harvard faculty and doctoral candidates from Harvard Graduate School, Harvard Divinity School and the Kennedy School of Government participated in a workshop on the case study method. As an example, Dr. Eck utilized the case developed by our senior researcher, Ellie Pierce, entitled “A Mosque in Palos Heights.” This case explores the problems and promise of pluralism in Palos Heights, Illinois where a mosque foundation was offered $200,000 by the city council to walk away from a real estate deal with a local church.
In addition, Mayor Dean Koldenhoven, former mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois and protagonist of the case study, spoke with the gathering of students about the case. Many of the students who attended this event were part of Dr. Eck’s “Religion in Multicultural America: Case Studies in Religious Pluralism” course this semester, where this case study was examined.
Mayor Koldenhoven brought to life his role in the mosque controversy: against popular opinion, he supported the mosque foundation’s plans to purchase a local church. In 2002, he received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for his actions. We are grateful to Mayor Dean Koldenhoven for traveling from Palos Heights, Illinois to speak with us and to the Center for the Study of World Religions for sponsoring and hosting this event.