United Campus Ministry (UCM) and the OU Office of Diversity and Inclusion sponsored two Ohio University undergraduate studentsparticipation in an Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI) in Atlanta in January. ILIs are organized by Interfaith Youth Core and their purpose is to train university students, faculty, staff and administration to be movement builders for interfaith cooperation and action. Over a hundred students, from all and no religious affiliations, came together to learn skills and strategies to overcome challenges in interfaith organizing through programs and movements like Better Together, which has been active at OU since 2011. “We’ve been very fortunate to be able to send students to this training the last few years and to build sustainability into our interfaith efforts,” said UCM Campus Minister Evan Young. “At the ILI students learn how to voice their values, engage with others across faith traditions, and act together on shared values to tackle pressing community issues like poverty and the environment.
Philip Morehead identifies as Jewish and is a junior Health Services Administration major from Athens.  Olivia Simkins Bullock of Sylvania, Ohio identifies as Buddhist and is a sophomore majoring in Geography and East Asian Studies.  Both students participated in the weekend-long ILI in Atlanta in late January 2013, and will become leaders of the Better Together campaign at OU. “The Interfaith Leadership Institute was life-changing and I’m excited to move the campaign forward and get more students aware of and excited about it,” said Morehead. Bullock reflected, “I was excited to see atheist and agnostic students represented at the Institute, proving this interfaith movement is truly inclusive.” This semester, Better Together at OU’s goal is to “Raise a Ton of Food” for the Southeast Ohio Foodbank. Upcoming events include a Dance Better Together Masquerade Ball and Fundraiser in Baker Center’s Bobcat Student Lounge on Wednesday, February 20, 7pm – 9pm. The event will feature DJ Barticus and is free and open to all students, who are encouraged to bring a dollar donation for the Foodbank.  Students will also partner again with Monday Creek Watershed Restoration Project to Serve Better Together on Sunday, April 14 at a watershed clean-up project. Transportation and pizza will be provided.  The Better Together student steering committee meets Sunday nights at UCM.
In 2012, Ohio University’s Better Together campaign received the Best Campus Impact award in the nationwide 2012 Better Together initiative, which took place on more than 100 college campuses during the 2011-12 academic year.  The Better Together campaign is supported by United Campus Ministry and is a partner in the Ohio University White House Interfaith Service Campus Challenge with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Residential Housing. Highlights of the year-long Better Together campaign include an Annual 9-11 Interfaith Peace Walk, community service projects, Interfaith Impact weekly discussion group, Interfaith Passport, speakers, panels and other events.
“Ohio University should very proud of the fact that our students are being recognized nationally as leaders in the interfaith movement, which seeks to build bridges across persistent divisions between faith traditions through shared experiences of service to the community. UCM looks forward to continuing our support of Better Together and making more opportunities for leadership development available to students,” said Melissa Wales, advisor to Better Together at OU and Executive Director of United Campus Ministry.
For more information or to learn how you can participate, contact bettertogetherou@gmail.com or call 740-593-7301.

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