Interreligious Engagement Initiative

As part of UVU's commitment to educating the whole person, the university has prioritized the effort to shape the university as an inclusive institution, a place in which people of all faiths, or those choosing no faith,will be welcomed and supported.

Interreligious Engagement Initiative

Background & Mission                  

The Interreligious Engagement Initiative is a project designed to support a variety of academic and engagement activities related to the study and practice of religion in comparative and cross-cultural contexts. Programming will support events and projects related to religious understanding through academic dialogue and scholarship, and community engagement through targeted outreach programs. Intercultural understanding is an educational imperative in higher education and is among the core values of Utah Valley University. Because religion lies at the heart of cultural identity and relationships, the university is committed to finding ways to facilitate dialogue across religious and related ideological lines.
As part of UVU's commitment to educating the whole person, the university has prioritized the effort to shape the university as an inclusive institution, a place in which people of all faiths, or those choosing no faith, will be welcomed and supported.
The institution is also committed to educating the whole student by providing meaningful activities that contribute to their physical, academic, social, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Given the importance of religion in our community and on the national and international stage, the academy in general, and UVU in particular, has an obligation to address this fact in an open, healthy, and educationally productive manner. The university is committed to innovation and leadership in directions appropriate to our place and institutional profile.
Reflection Center                          

The UVU Reflection Center provides space for meditation, prayer, reflection, or other forms of individual religious expression. The center accommodates students, faculty, and staff from a diversity of faith traditions and ideological perspectives. In addition to providing quiet space, the center will host reading groups, lectures, workshops, and other activities related to the mission of the center. Located in the forthcoming Student Life & Wellness Building, the Reflection Center will be divided into three spaces:
  • Enclosed space for silent prayer, meditation, and reflection
  • Enclosed space for verbalized prayer and other appropriate forms of religious expression
  • Convening space for lectures, student club meetings, discussion groups, etc.

Reflection Center Advisory Board

  • Brian Birch (co-chair), Associate VP for Academic Affairs, Director, Religious Studies Program, UVU
  • Linda P. Walton (co-chair), President, Utah Valley Ministerial Association, Utah Valley Interfaith Club
  • Alan Bachman, Chair, Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable
  • Father David Bittmenn, Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
  • Caru Das, Director, Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork 
  • Amy Grubbs, Director of Campus Recreation & Wellness, UVU
  • Val Hale, President and CEO, Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce 
  • Tami Harris, Chaplain, The Heritage School
  • Rev. Dean Jackson, Pastor, Rock Canyon Church 
  • Craig Klein, Assistant VP for Community College Programs, UVU
  • Ruhul Kuddus, President, Utah Valley Islamic Council 
  • Kena Matthews, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity
  • Cameron Martin, Vice President for University Relations, Utah Valley University 
  • Bob Rasmussen, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Utah Valley University 
  • Pastor Russ Robinson, First Baptist Church of Provo
  • Shad Sorenson, Dean of Students, UVU
  • Blair Van Dyke, Advisor, Interfaith Student Club, Orem LDS Institute of Religion 

Interfaith Student Council 

The Interfaith Student Council supports and facilities activities for students from a variety of backgrounds and faith traditions. The council is comprised of student representatives from UVU clubs and associations with the aim of collaboration and partnership on projects of common interest. 

Participating Clubs

  • Utah Valley Interfaith Club 
  • Saudi Student Association 
  • Latter-day Saint Student Association 
  • InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
  • Baptist Student Club
  • Orthodox Student Club 

Academic Events 

Eighteenth Annual Religion and the Humanities Conference 
Religious Disagreement 
September 19-20, 2013 
The philosophical community is currently experiencing a vibrant debate on the theoretical dimensions of disagreement. The recent volume edited by Richard Feldman and Ted Warfield entitled Disagreement has renewed a rich discussion that has interesting applications to conversations surrounding religious diversity and heterodoxy. This conference will explore the relationship between external and internal forms of disagreement relative to religious traditions and communities.
Intersecting Convictions: 
Core Beliefs & Civil Dialogue

March 1, 2013
This conference was designed to examine and model the highest standards of interreligious engagement free from coercion, disrespect, and uncivil exchange. Human history is marred by conflict rooted in religious differences. A key component in the advancement of humanity toward mutual respect and peaceful coexistence is the practice of interreligious diplomacy between competing traditions. Productive engagement across religious lines includes the exploration of foundational principles and points of contact. The event gathered representatives from Jewish, Latter-day Saint, Atheist, and Evangelical Christian perspectives to examine the ways in which their core beliefs intersect and diverge.

Perspectives on the Mormon Moment 
February 13th, 2013 
The 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney was accompanied by unprecedented attention to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dubbed by Newsweek Magazine as the 'Mormon Moment,' The Book of Mormon Musical, California's Proposition 8, and the elevated profile of prominent Latter-day Saints provided a unique opportunity to observe the successes and challenges of this dynamic religious tradition. This lecture and panel featured a group of scholars and journalists who addressed issues related to the rise of Mormonism and the forces that have shaped its development as a distinctive Christian faith.

Seventeenth Annual Religion and the Humanities Conference 
Religious Diversity & the Art of Civil Dialogue 
September 21, 2012 
Religious Diversity and the Art of Civil Dialogue was a symposium devoted to the exploration of strategies and methods for negotiating religion in a pluralistic society. Recent events have demonstrated the ongoing challenges of interreligious encounter and the need to explore various forms of engagement. The symposium facilitated an interdisciplinary discussion on religious identity and the public integrity of religious communities in American social life. Journalists, theologians, political scientists, conflict resolution specialists, and religious studies scholars gathered to focus on critical issues in this debate with the aim of contributing to a more healthy dialogue across social and ideological boundaries. 
Other Events

Unresolvable: The Kingdom of God on Earth 
Film Screening and Panel Discussion 
November 14th, 2012 
Co-Sponsors: Foundation for Religious Diplomacy

Cultural & Religious Pluralism: 
A Festival of Lights, Music & Unity 
Salt Lake Main Library 
November 29, 2012 
Co-Sponsors: City Library, Utah State University, University of Utah, 
Westminster College, Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, etc.

First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty 
Film Screening & Panel Discussion 
Utah Valley University 
November 2, 2012 
Co-Sponsor: Center for Constitutional Studies, UVU

Student Workshop on Catholic & Mormon Thought
Bishop John C. Wester and President Matthew Holland
September 18, 2012
Partners: Orem Institute of Religion 

Ramadan Iftar Dinner 
Utah Valley University 
August 9, 2012
Co-Sponsors: Utah Valley Islamic Council, Office of Engaged Learning,
Center for Global & Intercultural Engagement

The Bradley Center facilitates age-based peer group support for those suffering loss through the death of a loved one. The Center is working in partnership with UVU's Community & Continuing Education programs and has begun preparations for support groups in the forthcoming Community Engagement Center.
The Foundation for Religious Diplomacy is an organization designed to build trust between religious communities through the healthy exchange of ideas and convictions. UVU co-sponsors events with FRD provides student internships to the foundation to work on research and dialogue activities with various faith communities. 
The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy hosts educators, scholars, journalists, religious leaders, and others in collaboration with the International Visitor Leader Program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. UVU hosts groups with a particular interest in religious culture and diversity and how the study of religions functions in higher education. During the 2012-13 school-year, the university hosted governmental and religious visitors from Iraq, Canada, Africa, and Syria. 

Utah Valley Interfaith is a student-led organization that provides information on local religious communities and facilitates charitable and service activities across the region. The group advocates for religious freedom and provides leadership in applying the Golden Rule across faith communities.

for more information, contact Brian Birch at