The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge
Part of a reflection series presented by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge is an initiative of the White House with support from the Department of Education, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
For many, college years include experiences that challenge long held assumptions about the world and our place in it. Part of that challenge can include building bridges of understanding alongside rising leaders from different religious and non-religious traditions through service. Based on the recommendation of the inaugural President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, President Obama established the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which brings together students and educators, colleges and universities, faith and community organizations, and others to strengthen campuses and communities through the power of faith and service.
Now in its sixth year, more than 500 schools have been or are currently involved in the challenge. Currently 12 percent of American college students who attend schools with more than 1,000 students are attending a participating school. This includes schools in 43 states, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.
The challenge has not been restricted to one model of higher education. Instead it has flourished in a variety of settings including large research universities, four-year colleges, tribal colleges, career colleges, and historically black colleges and universities. Each institution provides a unique perspective on what it means to have an interfaith engagement component to community service. The make-up of the student body, the resources of the institution and faculty, the nature of the community, and the traditions of the school have resulted in unique programs at each school.
In 2015, educators and students from around the world were invited to join the conversation about interfaith service. As a result, more than 70 people from 24 countries participated in the Fifth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge gathering. This tradition continued into the Sixth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge where we had 60 international guests representing 31 countries joining the nearly 600 faculty, staff, students, and college presidents at Gallaudet University.
The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge provides a platform though which service connects people from different religious and non-religious back-grounds to tackle community challenges together. American colleges, community colleges, and universities have often been at the forefront of solving our nation’s greatest challenges. The White House is calling on higher education to make the vision for interfaith cooperation a reality on campuses across the country.