Student Interfaith Research and Leadership Program

Current Members

Bernie DonlonBernie Donlon, from Owatonna, Minnesota, is a junior at the College of Saint Benedict who pursuing majors in both communication and theology. While at CSB/SJU Bernie has served as a campus minister on the retreats team at SJU’s Campus Ministry and as the Student Activities Representative on CSB Senate, and she is currently an executive board member of PRiSM, sings in the CSB/SJU Chamber Choir, and is a co-facilitator for Becoming Community Dialogue Groups. 



Maria SchruppMaria Schrupp, from Chanhassen, Minnesota, is a senior at the College of Saint Benedict who is pursuing a major in sociology with a concentration in anthropology and a minor in Hispanic studies. During her time at CSB/SJU, Maria has held leadership positions with the Cultural Affairs Board, Climate Justice Club, and Community Kitchen. Additionally, she has received scholarships to complete anthropological research in Santiago, Chile, and to attend the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change.

About the Program

The Jay Phillips Center’s Student Interfaith Research and Leadership Program, which serves students enrolled at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, promotes advanced interfaith learning for prospective interfaith leaders and the interfaith civic engagement that potential leaders should have. Through research and civic engagement, participants attain a) advanced knowledge and understanding of cultural and religious diversity in the United States, especially in Minnesota; b) best practices for dialogue between and among people of different faith traditions (and with people unaffiliated with any faith tradition); and c) the leadership skills needed to respond to and lead in complex interreligious situations on campus, in the wider community, and in professional settings. 

While participants in the Student Interfaith Research and Leadership Program do research about different religions and meet with representatives of different religious communities in Central Minnesota and beyond, much of their research focuses on a) how students from underrepresented religious communities experience the religious environment of these Roman Catholic institutions; b) whether and to what extent they feel respect for their religious traditions from other members of the college community; c) how they are contributing to the vitality of cultural and religious life in the CSB/SJU community and how their contributions might be enhanced and increased; and d) whether and to what extent the spiritual needs of these students are being met at CSB/SJU and how they think they might be better served here.  As a result of their research and interfaith engagement, participants in the Student Interfaith Research Leadership Program share their findings with interested parties at CSB/SJU, e.g. with those working in offices of Campus Ministry, Student Development and Intercultural and International Student Services, as well as in public forums. 

In addition to the above-mentioned interfaith research and engagement, participants in the Student Interfaith Research and Leadership Program meet with members of different student clubs and student-led organizations at CSB/SJU to explore how the Jay Phillips Center might help them incorporate interfaith activities into their events. Our center’s student leaders have already helped various student clubs and organizations in this respect, and they stand ready to help others, even those clubs and organizations that might not appear, at first glance, to be likely partners for interfaith work. 

Funding for this program provided by the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota