Student life beyond the classroom is an important part of the collegiate experience at each of the roughly 2,600 accredited colleges and universities throughout the United States. A host of student-run organizations cater to the interests and needs of students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Programs are designed for political activism, community service, arts activities, sports, and various hobbies.
Organizations representing numerous world cultures, ethnic groups and world religions bring together students on campus for mutual support, camaraderie, special lectures and performances, and educational outreach to other students. In most cases, these organizations are local and independent, with the exception of the Greek system of fraternity and sorority chapters, having little contact with similar organizations on other campuses across the nation.
Some organizations, however, do participate in a national membership structure designed to ensure communication and consistency among campus leaders and to coordinate programs and services on a nationwide basis. For example, the following national organizations serve sizeable student constituencies of Christians, Interfaith participants, Jews, and Muslims, helping them succeed academically and socially at a critical stage of life.
Council for Ecumenical Student Christian Ministry
The CESCM shares in the vision of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF). At the 1995 WSCF General Assembly in Côte D’Ivoire, the CESCM affiliated as a member movement, joining student Christian movements from more than 80 countries. The CESCM is composed of staff and university students from participating denominations, including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), The United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. The organization operates with the intention of “mainline” Protestant denominations to work cooperatively with Roman Catholics, historic Black denominations, and Hispanic, Asian American and Native American communities in the U.S.
World Student Christian Federation
The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) is a global federation of student Christian groups. WSCF was founded in 1895 by the North American evangelist and global ecumenist John R. Mott. Mott's ecumenical vision and missionary zeal also contributed to the beginnings of the World Council of Churches. WSCF is ecumenical, welcoming people from all Christian traditions and encouraging dialogue between students of different traditions. WSCF has members from Protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions and from other faiths. The local and national groups that make up the federation are largely known as Student Christian Movements (SCMs). Today, WSCF has over one-hundred affiliated national movements which span the six WSCF regions: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North America. From the outset, WSCF has been crucial in the formation of leaders for the ecumenical movement.
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, founded in 1923 at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana by Rabbi Benjamin Frankel, is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, with chapters at more than 500 colleges and universities. Hillel provides opportunities for Jewish undergraduate and graduate students to explore and celebrate their Jewish identity in a pluralistic, welcoming and inclusive environment, where they are encouraged to grow intellectually, spiritually and socially. Hillel helps students find a balance in being distinctively Jewish and universally human by encouraging them to pursue tzedek (social justice), tikkun olam (repairing the world) and Jewish learning.
Multi Faith Groups
Religions for Peace Global Youth Network
Founded in 1970, Religions for Peace is the largest international coalition of representatives from the world’s great religions dedicated to promoting peace. The organization is organized on several levels: the International Secretariat in New York, Regional Conferences in Europe and Asia, more than 75 affiliates at the national level, and a number of local units. Religions for Peace enjoys consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The Global Youth Network gained full momentum in 2006 when six regional inter-religious youth networks were launched in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, the Global Youth Network is developing pilot programs to confront some of our most urgent challenges—building peace, addressing environmental issues, and coping with the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
United Religions Initiative
United Religions Initiative (URI) was founded in 2000 by an extraordinary global community committed to promoting enduring, daily interfaith cooperation and to ending religiously motivated violence. Today, the URI includes thousands of members in over 65 countries representing more that 100 religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions. URI membership groups are called Cooperation Circles because they are created by people of different traditions who come together to initiate acts of interfaith cooperation.
URI's youth work is geared towards young people ages 13 to 35. Connecting this work is a set of shared core values, including interfaith dialogue and exchange, service-learning, leadership/mentorship, and deepening roots. URI's global network of peacebuilders is working to address local, regional, and global community concerns.
Muslim Student Association
Established in January 1963 on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. & Canada (MSA National) continues to serve Muslim students during their college and university careers by developing programs that help translate faith into action, for the betterment of the community and society at large. MSA National is a non-profit organization that strives to facilitate networking, educating, and empowering the students of today to be leaders of tomorrow's community. MSA National organizes dozens of events and programs annually. In addition, MSA National develops tools and resources to facilitate information sharing and unite students across North America. Coordinated activities include the annual Fast-A-Thon and Islam Awareness Week on 150 campuses in 25 cities.