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Religious Studies Professors Awarded Grants to Promote Diversity

BETHANY, W.Va. – Two Bethany College professors recently received four grants from the Interfaith Youth Core to promote diversity within the college.

Brooke Deal, professor and TW Philips Chair of Religious Studies, and Holly Hillgardner, associate professor of religious studies and Perry and Aleece Gresham Chair of Humanities, each received Educator Curricular Awards. These grants will be used to add the Interfaith Youth Core’s Civil Rights unit into Bethany’s RELS 100: Introduction to Religion: Texts, Contexts, Practices.

“Dr. Hillgardner and I have worked diligently to create a Religious Studies program that reflects our advocacy for social justice and interfaith appreciation,” Deal said. “These grants will provide resources to cultivate our knowledge that we will then share in the classroom and community.”

Together, Deal and Hillgardner received a Racial Equity and Interfaith Cooperation Award, which will be used to fund resources for the recently launched Bethany Ant-Racist Reading and Action Group. The group began last month with a curriculum developed by the American Bar Association that includes readings, videos, and podcast that focus on the Black American experience.

They also received the Interfaith Leadership Video Series Stipend. These stipends are designed for faculty to use and evaluate a curriculum that explores interfaith cooperation foundations and interfaith leaders, and examines the history of religious diversity in America, according to the Interfaith Leadership Youth Core.

“These grants give us support in teaching and living out our values at Bethany,” Hilgardner said. “We are helping to nurture the next generation of interfaith leaders, and we are giving students the opportunity to understand and embrace religious diversity and interfaith work for peace and justice.”

She and Deal are collaborating on curriculum for their Interreligious Ethics course, which is taught alongside Shaymaa Kullab, Bethany’s Palestinian Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant. Kulab also teaches Arabic language and culture from her home in the Gaza Strip.

“Bethany College’s Religious Studies faculty continue to be recognized for work both in their research and in the classroom,” Provost and Dean of Faculty Joe Lane said. “Their approach to teaching Religious Studies truly offers students opportunities to explore what they believe and to discover what they can do to make our world a much better place.  We are very proud of Dr. Deal and Dr. Hillgardner and look forward to seeing where their partnerships, including those with Interfaith Youth Core, may lead our program and our students.”

The Interfaith Youth Core is described on its website as a national nonprofit organization working toward an America where people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together.

ABOUT BETHANY COLLEGE

Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.

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