Miami staff and faculty contribute to religious diversity book

indoor seal in the Armstrong student center at Miami University with open book on it

By Rachel Berry

headshot of Tarah TruebloodTarah Trueblood, director of the Center for American and World Cultures at Miami University, co-wrote a chapter in the book “Educating about Religious Diversity and Interfaith Engagement.”

Her portion described her work at the University of North Florida (UNF) implementing Cultural Competency Pursuit (CCP), a professional development program dedicated to all aspects of diversity. Trueblood said students’ religious and secular identities are not often talked about, and she wanted to create a program where students could discuss their worldview among other diversity topics.

She soon learned UNF had no comprehensive diversity training program, so she sought to create her own.

“I didn’t want to do just a freestanding program,” Trueblood said. “I wanted people to understand [religion] is another aspect of diversity that we need to be serious about, so that’s why I wanted it as part of a larger vision about diversity and inclusion.”

Trueblood started CCP for university employees in Student Affairs, and it was later rolled out to students and faculty campus-wide.

The 18-hour curriculum begins with a hands-on workshop that introduces diversity and inclusion in higher education and how socially constructed identities create barriers and situations of exclusions. The workshop concludes with strategies to overcome such barriers and become more inclusive.

After the introductory workshop, the program is divided into five different diversity areas including military veteran identity, disability, race and ethnicity, religion/secular identity, and international/domestic relations. Finally, participants take a capstone, which requires them to create a project or implement something in their office, department, or organization that would move inclusion forward.

CCP is one of the only programs of its kind in the country. Trueblood’s chapter in the book was co-written by Ariel Ennis, who implemented a program at New York University (NYU) focused solely on religious identity. The chapter compares the two programs, one focused on religion and secular identities individually and one examining them in the larger context of diversity.

One of the personal benefits of contributing to the book, Trueblood said, was that “It gave me the opportunity to reflect on the work that I did with these amazing colleagues from different social identities.”

Kathleen Goodman, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Miami, is one of the book’s three editors with Mary Ellen Giess and Eboo Patel.