Undergraduate Learning and Interreligious Understanding at Georgetown University
May 18, 2016
What knowledge do undergraduates have of diverse religious traditions? How open are they to engaging with the religious traditions of others? And how does the undergraduate experience—inside and outside the classroom—shape patterns of interreligious understanding over time? Two Georgetown University research centers—the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS)—carried out a four-year longitudinal study to address these basic questions. Their findings revealed that while in general, the basic religious beliefs of students did not change substantially during college, their attitudes towards those of other faiths became more open and accepting. Thus it appears that for many students, their religious beliefs—or lack of them—solidified, leaving them less likely to look beyond their own belief systems for answers to life’s questions. Increased confidence in their own values and identities allowed them to interact with more respect and understanding with those from another perspective or background. This report provides an overview of the study and highlights key findings.