An anthropology professor at Utah State University plans to study the religious diversity environment on campus by interviewing students about their faith experiences.

Given the challenges faced by Christian and Jewish students at campuses across the country, this may be one diversity effort worth following.

It is Bonnie Glass-Coffin’s hope that the study will reveal what programs the university should develop to promote religious diversity on campus.

“We want to ask students, faculty, staff and administrators about our particular campus climate, so we know the right kinds of programs to develop,” she said.

During the interview, students are asked how they feel about religious and spiritual issues, if they feel their spiritual needs are being met, and how others view their religion, according to Glass-Coffin. She wants to know if there is a desire for conversations crossing lines of religion in the public university setting.

“We have a lot of history, expertise, people and offices who are committed to creating a climate of diversity, safety, inclusion and support for many kinds of diversity on campus,” Glass-Coffin said. “But we don’t have any history talking about religious diversity.”

Glass-Coffin wants to improve students’ religious literacy and their ability to have difficult discussions with those of a different background, especially in today’s diverse and conflict-filled world.

Michelle Bogdan, director of the Access and Diversity Center, believes it is important for Student Services to not only promote cultural, racial, ethnic and sexual orientation diversity, but also spiritual diversity amongst faith-based and non-believers.

“Academics is part of your experience as a college student, but you have a lot of other experiences outside of the classroom that are going to form a lot of your belief and perspective when you graduate and go on to your career,” she said.

Ivy Bias is a freshman majoring in biology who doesn’t identify herself as religious. She has found the culture at USU is predominantly LDS, and said she believes it’s important for USU to create a more open environment.

“I think it would encourage people to think for themselves instead of just listening to what their parents tell them,” she said.

Glass-Coffin said one concern about the study is it would be just another opportunity to bash Mormons, but the research is for everyone, both the minorities and the majority. She said even though LDS students are the majority, they still sometimes feel like professors bash their religion.

“Everything is being done to ensure all voices are being heard, from Mormons to atheists,” she said. “Questions of spirituality concern everyone.”

Bogdan said any program they implement will be ineffective if there is exclusion.