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Three Vassar College representatives participate in the inaugural Interfaith Leadership Institute, hosted by the White House.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY— Two Vassar College students, sophomore Sebastian Demean Dumulesc ’13 and freshman Katilau Mbindyo ’14, as well as Michelle Jackson, the college’s Tanenbaum Inter-Religious Fellow, were selected to attend the first national Interfaith Leadership Institute in Washington, DC, to be hosted by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from October 22-26. Upwards of two hundred student leaders and one hundred college staffers from around the country will participate in the program, which will be led by the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core.

Students in the Interfaith Leadership Institute will receive training in three focal areas: 1) How to speak out about issues of religious prejudice or conflict on campus and in the news, 2) How to  mobilize communities to take action, and  3)  How to sustain efforts to create a lasting impact in the fabric of campus life.  The college and university staff members participating in the institute's concurrent training track will advance their abilities to launch new interfaith programs, build on existing ones, and support student leaders in these initiatives.

The Interfaith Leadership Institute follows from the June 2010 national conference “Advancing Interfaith and Community Service on College and University Campuses," held at the White House and attended by Rev. Samuel Speers, Vassar’s Director of Religious and Spiritual Life. Speers joined more than 120 leading scholars, academics, university presidents, chaplains, students, and religious and community leaders at the conference, ranging from presidents of evangelical and Catholic colleges, to Muslim and Buddhist chaplains, as well as representatives of Hindu and Jewish student organizations.

About the Vassar participants in the Interfaith Leadership Institute

Sebastian Demean Dumulesc is an economics and political science double major, and an international student from Romania. About his acceptance to the leadership institute, Dumulesc said, “What I think stood out in my application was my family's Christian background in Romania, living out our faith under an oppressive communist regime. There were times when free expression of religious belief was not welcomed, and my family and I have experienced those times abundantly.” Dumulesc is a member of the Vassar Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which he represents on the college’s Inter-Religious Council.

Katilau Mbindyo hails from Houston, Texas, and is an intern in Vassar’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Mbindyo sees the interfaith institute as a way to, “gain an understanding of interfaith cooperation, and how such a program can be successfully incorporated into the Vassar community and the rest of the world.”

Michelle Jackson is the Tanenbaum Inter-Religious Fellow in Vassar’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, as. In 2009 Jackson completed her Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. “Our office is very excited about how the leadership institute will help us continue to expand and strengthen Vassar’s inter-religious programming," said Jackson. "Just as importantly, it will help us deepen our students' fluency in the ways religious thought and practice are an integral part of a Vassar education.”

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, October 20, 2010