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Project aims to build bridges between students of all faiths at University of Utah

Posted at 7:31 AM, Sep 05, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — As the new school year is in full swing, the University of Utah is working on a project to build bridges between students of all faiths and religious backgrounds.

Dr. Eboo Patel will serve as an Impact Scholar at the university for the next two years. He has three words to sum up his mission.

"Respect, relate, cooperate!" he exclaimed.

Patel is the founder and president of the group "Interfaith America" and has been working closely with the school's Department of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

“We really believe in shared values," he said. "Hospitality, compassion, service. We believe that people from all religions, whether you’re a Latter-day Saint or whether you’re a Muslim, or whether you are an atheist, you value those things.”

A Rhodes scholar, author of five books and a member of President Obama‘s inaugural Faith Council, Dr. Patel hopes to share his expertise and experience with the University of Utah community.

“Building a diverse democracy is hard! Political philosophers, for centuries, said that it was impossible," Patel reflected. “We need to make sure that we are able to look at our past square in the face and build a better future! And we need to celebrate our achievements.”

The EDI Department is encouraging students to think about a question during the course of the semester.

"What is interfaith cooperation?" explained Mary Ann Villarreal, V.P. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Utah.

Villarreal believes that by asking the tough questions, students at the University of Utah will be able to better serve and build communities around them, in Utah and beyond.

"I believe that our teams in our division are equipped to be the people to lead in hard conversations, but also in the best community building, that is best for the state of Utah," she said.