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Thursday, June 23 • 15:00 - 16:00
CON08.08c - Faith on Campus: Understanding the Impact of Religious Identity on Student Accommodation and Inclusion

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In recent years there has been a notable increase in the attention accorded in newspaper and magazine stories to the role of religion in higher education (Hill 2011). Despite this popular interest in the religious beliefs of undergraduate students as well as public debates about the role of religious accommodation in public, nominally secular educational institutions, social scientific scholarship on the religious lives of students and the role of religion on college and university campuses has been limited (Mayrl and Oeur 2009). Indeed, Nicholas Bowman and Cynthia Smedley have argued that religious affiliation constitutes an important – yet often overlooked – form of identity that may influence student satisfaction, engagement and inclusion within their campus community. They term those students from marginalized religious groups as “the forgotten minority” within the scholarship on teaching and learning in higher education (2013).

Based on mixed-methods research conducted with undergraduate students at McMaster University, the goal of this presentation is to share our preliminary findings and present a nuanced understanding of student religious and spiritual belief and practice in Canadian higher education, and to explore what effect this may have on students' experiences both within the university classroom and in the broader campus environment. It will also examine more specifically the implementation of a Policy on Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous, and Spiritual Observances (RISO), which came into effect on September 1, 2015 at McMaster University. The degree to which the new policy has been taken up by students at McMaster, as well as the effectiveness of the policy in addressing students’ accommodation needs will be discussed. Participant outcomes include learning about the existing literature on student religious identity in higher education, some of the concerns articulated by religious/spiritual students relating to their experience on campus, as well as the process for requesting academic accommodation on religious grounds.

avatar for Michael Agnew

Michael Agnew

Postdoctoral Fellow, McMaster University
Michael Agnew is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL) at McMaster University. He received his PhD in Religious Studies from McMaster University in 2015.

Saly Halawa

Saly Halawa is a third year student enrolled in the Honours Bachelor of Health Sciences program at McMaster University. She is the current Interfaith Coordinator for the McMaster Student Union's Diversity Services.

Thursday June 23, 2016 15:00 - 16:00 EDT
UCC 61

Attendees (7)