Sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), with support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the seminar will include 26 faculty members from independent colleges across the country, including Dr. Merritt. The professors will participate in a five-day study, July 31 through August 4, titled “Teaching Interfaith Understanding,” at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
The seminar will be led by two prominent scholars: Eboo Patel, founder and president of IFYC, a Chicago-based organization building the interfaith movement on college campuses, and Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College, former dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and onetime Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion at Duke University. The purpose of their efforts will be to broaden the professors’ knowledge and strengthen their teaching of interfaith understanding with the development of new courses and resources.
“Strengthening the teaching of interfaith understanding at colleges and universities is a high priority at a time when college enrollment — and American society — is becoming more diverse,” said CIC president Richard Ekman. “Strengthening participation in American life with greater understanding of the distinctive contributions of different faiths is a key to America’s future success as a democracy. The number of institutions that nominated faculty members to participate in the interfaith understanding seminar is most impressive.”
Dr. Merritt is professor and dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Bluefield College. He is also faculty advisor for school’s Honors Program, Alpha Chi National Honor Society, and student literary magazine, The Bluestone Review. As an active member of the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT), he has served that organization as vice president and a member of the Executive Council. He has also received the NAPT’s Distinguished Service Award and presented workshops at NAPT annual conferences.
In addition, Dr. Merritt has served on the executive committee of the Virginias Collegiate Honors Council; participated in the Appalachian College Association’s Access, Retention and Completion Institute for Latino Student Success; attended a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar in Ireland; taught classes at Jiangsu Second Normal University in China; and published two collections of poetry.
The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of 765 non-profit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the CIC is the major national organization that focuses on providing services to leaders of independent colleges and universities, as well as conferences, seminars, and other programs that help institutions improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, and institutional visibility.
Interfaith Youth Core’s mission is to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Since its incorporation in 2002, IFYC has worked on five continents and with more than 200 college and university campuses, trained thousands in the principles of interfaith leadership, and reached millions through the media. IFYC has worked with partners including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the White House, and the Office of Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan.