Matt Crowley/The AS Review
On paper, religion and college don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, especially when one considers the rowdy, liberal nature of Western. To find out how religious and non-religious students alike handle the situation, ASP Civil Controversy will hold a two-hour discussion panel, “Faith and College: Do They Mix?” looking at the effect college can have on one’s spirituality and religious practices. The dialogue will take place this Thursday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m. in VU 567.
The event is part of a series of dialogues that Civil Controversy is sponsoring this year. ASP Civil Controversy Coordinator Calen Winn hopes that as a result, eventually on-campus discussion and communication will become stronger.
“I started the dialogue series because I wanted to provide a semi-structured space where the [Western] community could come together to talk about issues that affect our lives in a safe environment,” said Winn.
Winn, with volunteer support, will be spearheading the discussion, which will explore “the juxtaposition of the liberal university setting with religious faith and how the institution, the environment and/or campus religious or atheistic clubs have affected peoples beliefs and choices about how they practice their religious faith or lack thereof,” according to Winn. The topic is one not often discussed on campus, and will hopefully give both religious and non-religious students some valuable insight.
Although she is now the president of the Chabad Student Jewish Organization, senior Natalie Mickey admitted she was a bit lost when she first came to Bellingham.
“My main worry was finding a Jewish community center,” she said. For many students that took active roles in their religious communities in high school, coming to college means starting back at square one.
For Carly White, square one meant a little more than just finding a place to fit in. Previously a Christian, White became involved with the Latter Day Saints Church after a friend referred her to it. Now she is president of the LDS Student Association at Western and takes regular classes at the LDS Institute of Religion located on Highland Drive just outside of campus.
White said she often deals with skepticism, and admits that the LDSSA tries to “lay low” and “not cause too much of a scene.” Many students see LDS as a peculiar religion, and she said she is often asked about the church and its beliefs.
For both women, the problems posed by coming to Western didn’t involve any sort of conflict on a moral level.
Rather, it meant finding a place where they could not only worship, but hang out and socialize with other students and members of their church. In Mickey’s case, finding Chabad was a blessing because it “focuses on getting Jewish students together,” and routinely participates in some of the main tenets of Judaism, especially charity.
“I think what’s helped me most is finding a group to belong to,” she said.
White agreed, adding that there are therapeutic benefits as well.
“Going to the institute, it kind of gives me something to look forward to each week,” she said. “And if I’m having a really bad day, I can just go home and read scriptures, it’s kind of like meditation. It gives me a way to take a break and sort everything through.”
If there’s one thing college did change for them, it is time.
“I try to set aside my studying for a day other than Sunday,” admitted White. “But I usually end up studying for a few hours regardless.”
While it will certainly be interesting to see what conflicts other students have encountered on campus, it doesn’t appear to have had any negative effect on these two students. If anything, it’s allowed them to strengthen their faith while becoming more involved in their respective churches, showing, for now, that faith and college do mix.
For more information on various religious clubs on campus, visit as.wwu.edu/clubs.