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Officials to launch center for interfaith, spiritual life this fall

Lexi Critchett | Assistant Photo Editor
The H Street entrance to the University Student Center, which will house the new center.

Division for Student Affairs officials will launch the Center for Interfaith and Spiritual Life this fall in an effort to expand religious and spiritual programming on campus, according to a University release published Monday.

The center aims to bolster interfaith education and programming through workshops, meditation and education, per the release. The announcement states that the office has a similar mission to an “office that used to exist at GW,” but the release did not specify which office.

Officials earlier this month removed the “religious life” tab on Multicultural Student Services Center’s website, according to internet archives. The tab contained information on interfaith events and programming that the MSSC used to host, including Interfaith Week. In April, officials hosted the annual week after canceling the original January programming set to be run by the MSSC. The University’s programming collaborated with student religious organizations like GW Hillel and GW Catholics but some students felt there was an absence of programming centered on Islam and other faiths.

Community members and former MSSC staff reported in February that the office has faced staffing concerns after the sudden resignation of MSSC Director Dustin Pickett and other staff departures. Robert Zayd KiaNouri-Zigmund, the graduate assistant for religious and spiritual life, left the MSSC  after the cancellation of Interfaith Week.

Officials’ implementation of the Center for Interfaith and Spiritual Life is a part of the University’s “Strengthening Our Community in Challenging Times” plan — which officials released in January to review campus free speech policies and religious programming in response to campus tensions over the war on Gaza. University President Ellen Granberg said the center will strengthen spiritual education at the University and allow students from different faiths to engage in respectful dialogue.

“The Center for Interfaith and Spiritual Life at GW marks an important milestone in our efforts to build a more inclusive and tolerant community at GW,” Granberg said in the release.

The center will collaborate with the MSSC along with religious organizations on campus like the GW Department of Religion, GW Hillel, GW Chabad and the Newman Center, according to the release. The center will include Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Jewish, Muslim and Presbyterian programming and any additional faiths that community members request.

The release states DSA has begun recruiting leadership for the new center, including a University chaplain to oversee a multi-faith chaplaincy program, a director to oversee daily operations and a program coordinator to organize events. Officials have posted all three job listings on the University’s Office of Human Resource Management & Development website.

DSA will also hire an affiliate-based council of chaplains to serve as “spiritual mentors” according to the release.

Dean of Students Colette Coleman said the center will allow for “enhanced programming” and is part of the University’s efforts to strengthen community on campus.

“As we continue to feel the effects of conflict around the world and here on campus, the founding of the center has become imperative,” Coleman said in the release.

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