How to Weave Worldview into Online Orientation

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

The world is in upheaval, and that won’t stop when school starts again in the fall. But higher education is positioned to address thorny challenges and there is so much to look forward to: new students, new opportunities, and new ways of connecting.  

The new academic year is around the corner, students are enrolling, and faculty are preparing for their classes to be online. Before all of that ensues, universities will need to facilitate orientation programs online, welcome their culturally and religiously diverse student body, and prepare to connect them to their digital campus.  

As you redesign your orientation programs, I implore you to designate time for students to share their beliefs, traditions, ways of knowing, and create opportunities for them to engage across lines of religious, spiritual, and secular differences. Establishing a culture that welcomes questions, seeks understanding, and holds diverse ideological perspectives intension is not only beneficial for the campus community you are building but also a skill set required of the 21st-century workforce. Now, amid so much uncertainty, we have the opportunity through these digital platforms to comprehensively build a sense of belonging, inclusivity, meaning, and purpose. So, how do you highlight the mission, academic rigor, diversity of your campus, and create engagement opportunities for all of our students? And how do you do this well?  

As you consider your orientation model for the summer and fall, I’d like to share with you a few ways to embed and create opportunities to increase your campus’s interfaith literacy, and engage across lines of religious difference: 

Foster Genuine Human Connection  

Although at the start it might feel unrealistic, it is extremely important that each student feel seen and have an opportunity to connect with at least one person. As the saying goes, one person really makes a difference. Utilizing the Engagement Modules, in our Building Regular Interfaith Dialogue through Generous Engagement (BRIDGE) curriculum is a wonderful way to do this. Create break out rooms and provide opportunities for students to talk to one another.   

Tell Students Who You Are 

When you introduce yourself, share personal information. I would share, my name is Janett I. Cordoves, I am a first-generation college student and I live in Chicago. I am Christian and love teaching others how to dance.” Think about how you introduce yourself and do not leave your religious, spiritual, or secular identity out. Many times, during orientation activities we engage topics such as socioeconomic status, gender, and race, but not religion. This is a fragmented approach and one that leaves students feeling confused and unwelcomed.  Tell your students who you are, they will appreciate your honesty and vulnerability.   

Embed Resources and Activities Students Can Pursue Further  

During orientation, you are introducing resources that both generate conversation at the moment and provide ways for students to deepen their learning outside of orientation if something piques their interest. One such set of resources is IFYC’s Interfaith Leadership Video Series. You can use the Defining Interfaith Leadership video, which highlights various individuals and traditions who have engaged in interfaith cooperation. I would also recommend using the Exploring Social Capital video, which discusses the differences between diversity and pluralism, bonded and bridged social capital, and their impact in society. These videos can establish a starting point for a conversation about homogeneous and heterogenous communities and building bridges with individuals who do not have the same value system you hold. They are also a great prompt for students to consider what they can do to increase their interfaith literacy within their own communities.  

Promote Community and Accountability 

Lead with your mission and clearly share who you are and what you believe. Share examples of how students will know and observe these values and create ways to hold each other accountable to them. In this segment, share how your campus welcomes those of various religious, spiritual, and secular backgrounds and how they can connect with religious and non-religious student groups, advisors, mentors.  

Create a Ritual 

Ritual is often used to connote a religious practice, but we have many civic rituals as well – singing the national anthem before sporting events, parades, and commencements. Think of a ritual as a practice or observation to convey meaning. Creating ritual within a community is important, particularly in a digital space, in which you as a facilitator have little control over people’s physical surroundings. You have an opportunity to create something where everyone, because of the digital platform, can participate and see themselves belonging to your campus. This is amazing! During your digital orientation consider taking a class photo, creating a new hand sign, sharing university designed backgrounds, or singing and recording your school song. 

As a past Director of New Student and Family programs, I prioritized exposing and highlighting the rich diversity of the campus I was situated in. I utilized tools like Comevo and Campus Labs to deliver and track engagement, provide dynamic discussion boards, facilitate a virtual sense of belonging by tailoring emails, host faculty, and staff introductions videos, establish hashtags for the various components of the one-day, three-day or week-long orientation program.  The National Orientation Directors Association (NODA) has led much of this work for some time now by highlighting e-portfolios to enhance scavenger hunts, transcriptions, and translations attentive to the various student and family needs of our institutions. These historically optional experiences for primary transfer and international students are now the norm for the entire incoming class. 

I recognize that some of these examples are a bit unconventional, but I believe these types of online engagements are necessary to ensure students feel welcomed, have an opportunity to wrestle with various perspectives, engage with people who think differently than they do, make a friend, and feel proud to be a part of the campus community.  As you reconfigure your orientation programs please do not shy away from engaging religious diversity and providing your students with the opportunities to develop the necessary skill set for the 21st-century workforce. You don’t have to do this alone; we are here to assist you.

Please email janett@ifyc.org with questions and comments. 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

North Carolina is not alone in regard to macro-level efforts by state governments to increase access to vaccines, subverted by micro-level actions by individuals.
A través de mi experiencia, sé que las familias hispanas han sido gravemente, y desproporcionadamente, afectadas por la pandemia, y los datos de la Encuesta sobre Diversidad Religiosa y Vacunas de 2021 de PRRI-IFYC lo corroboran.
"It is permissible within our religion to defer, or to make up your fast later if you're feeling sick."
From experience, I know that Hispanic families had been greatly, and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and survey data from the 2021 PRRI-IFYC Religious Diversity and Vaccine Survey corroborates this.
As the last few days of Ramadan are upon us – take our interactive quiz to find out how much you really know about this holy month.
We weren’t sure what to expect or how to navigate the complexities of getting to know colleagues from a distance, but IFYC team members Silma and Nadia welcomed us into their homes, their traditions, and their faith.
As the final project for the class, we wanted to do something that would make our campus a more inclusive, interreligious place.
IFYC is collecting prayers and meditations from diverse faiths to show our solidarity with the people of India, as well as links to charitable organizations that people can support.
Generally, tradition holds that the body is to be cremated or buried as quickly as possible – within 24 hours for Hindus, Jains and Muslims, and within three days for Sikhs. This need for rapid disposal has also contributed to the current crisis.
“Humanitarian Day embodies why Islam is relevant in America today. It’s why many Black Muslims embraced Islam, to be part of the solution, not only in their personal lives, but in their communities." - Margari Aziza Hill, MuslimARC
Recently, I asked a group of IFYC Alumni to share what they do in one sentence. I love their responses because they capture who they are so well.
As a nurse and a physician occupying different spheres in relation to the patient, Anastasia and I held comparable but also differing views about the role of religion and interfaith in the realm of patient care.
El movimiento necesita artistas, educadores, trabajadores de la salud, padres, funcionarios electos, científicos, clérigos, directores generales, y cuantas personas sea posible para hablar en contra de la injusticia donde sea que la veamos.
The scholarship covers the students’ tuition, as well as housing and living assistance while they pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees across all 18 of Columbia’s schools and affiliates.
En esta foto del sábado 9 de mayo de 2020, el Rev. Fabián Arias lleva a cabo un servicio en casa, al lado de los restos de Raúl Luis López quien murió de COVID-19 el mes previo, en el barrio Corona del distrito de Queens en Nueva York.
It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.