Simpson-Sponsored Event Showcases Rich Diversity in Iowa, Metro Area

For years Simpson College has been committed to strengthening interfaith understanding and positive engagement.

Its ongoing relationship with Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) exemplifies this commitment.

Since IFYC first began offering Interfaith Leadership Institutes (ILIs) in 2010, Simpson has sent faculty, staff and students to these training events in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

Simpson representatives won’t have to travel nearly as far for this year’s event. IFYC is coming to Des Moines April 6-8 as part of a three-day celebration of religious diversity in the metro area and in Iowa.

The event, called the Iowa Interfaith Exchange, is a collaborative effort among Simpson, Drake and the Des Moines Area Religious Council.

The timing is perfect for Simpson, which is launching the Interfaith Fellows Program this fall. This unique scholarship opportunity provides funding for students of all faith perspectives who are committed to enhancing interfaith engagement. For more information:

The Iowa Interfaith Exchange is free and open to the public. Eboo Patel, IFYC’s founder and the author of several best-selling books, will give the keynote address at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 7.

More than 45 different panels and presentations about religious diversity in Iowa will follow in the remaining day and a half, with Simpson students, faculty, staff, and alumni presenting at several of them.

Simpson-related sessions include:

*Alumna Nadia Ali ‘13, will speak with state Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad and CAIR-Iowa Executive Director Miriam Amer about the challenges and rewards of being Muslim in Iowa today. Seth Andersen, director of Simpson’s Culver Center, will moderate this panel.

*Heidi Berger, associate professor of Mathematics, JJ Butts, associate professor of English, and Mimi Kammer, assistant professor of Theatre, will discuss the relevance of interfaith awareness to their own work. All have attended previous IFYC ILIs.

* Simpson student Shawn Schossow will participate in a panel about atheists, agnostics and the religiously unaffiliated (often called the “nones” for selecting “none of the above” when asked about their religious identity).

*Simpson student Maddy Kersten will partner with Maeve Callan, associate professor of Religion, to make the case for basic religious literacy as part of a K-12 education.

*Kersten will join her fellow Simpson students Andrea Casaretto, Kay Fee, Sarah Heiderstadt, Jordan Perry and Tatianna Riesenberg in a panel discussion about interfaith at Simpson, moderated by Simpson chaplain Mara Bailey.

*Simpson alumni Madie Fielder-Carlson ‘12, Annie Fullas ‘14 and Jacob McClain ‘16 will share how learning about religious diversity and becoming an interfaith leader helped them discover their career paths.

Fielder-Carlson attended IFYC’s first ILI, held at the White House and Georgetown University, with Professor Callan.

“Simpson helped Madie, Annie and Jacob discern their callings and become passionate advocates for greater interfaith understanding,” Callan said. “They are excited about coming back to speak at this event and are even more excited about Simpson’s new Interfaith Fellows Program.”

As Fullas put it, “We owe it to ourselves to not only understand and engage those with different belief systems, but to also identify how those systems, working together, can construct cultures of peace. Interfaith education prepares us with the literacy we need to succeed as thoughtful, global citizens – both professionally and personally.”

To see the schedule of events and to register:


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