Three professors in the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences were recently awarded an impressive grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for a comprehensive, long-term project centered around examining religious diversity and coexistence in the Front Range region.
Entitled “Living Together: Finding Democratic Diversity and Religious Coexistence in Colorado Springs and the Front Range,” the project consists of many components, including the making of a documentary film, the addition of a postdoctoral fellow(s), research opportunities, a book of essays, guest speakers, forums, student participation and a Center. The initiative is spearheaded by Distinguished Professor of History Paul Harvey, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life Jeffrey Scholes, and Assistant Professor of Anthropology George Bayuga.
“We also want to initiate conversations amongst scholars who have worked on religion and politics in this area – as well as community dialogues with various constituencies in the city and region – and use those dialogues as a springboard to produce a robust interaction between people and groups who might not normally be in conversation with one another,” said Harvey. “With those, we hope to model the kinds of civic and intellectual dialogues which have become increasingly fraught and difficult, nationally, during this time of polarization and invective that has come to dominate national discourse on religion and politics.”
Another key part of the project is the establishment of the Center for the Study of Evangelicalism, which will be the first of its kind in the world and act as a destination for analysis and exploration of the history and culture of evangelicalism nationally and globally from varying perspectives.
“Given the large role that evangelicals have played in the national and local body politic over the last several decades, along with the deep political divisions that we are currently witnessing in the U.S., a Center that can serve as a hub for scholars and community leaders to examine evangelicalism from varied angles is desperately needed,” noted Scholes.
The concept for “Living Together” initially came from Bayuga, after Scholes and Harvey decided to pursue the grant and invited him to join the project.
“When we first started discussing this project, I told Paul Harvey that a regular question I got asked since moving here was, ‘how is Colorado Springs as a place to live?’” explained Bayuga. “These questions were not about the weather or the landscape, but how I felt as a queer person of color living here. After a few years of getting to know the city and its cultural diversity, I started to think about how those questions folks asked me in 2020 tended to overlook and even obscure a vibrant space of exchange, growth and civic transformation.”
With Harvey and Scholes both familiar with receiving similar questions on the city’s environment over the years, they immediately saw the potential for such a project and felt it was ideal for the grant.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to turn a critical eye toward the city I’ve decided to call home and enrich the often unnuanced narratives that brush over Colorado Springs and hide its thriving communities,” Bayuga said.
“Serving our community does not mean only supporting profitable industries, but it also means creating an opportunity for humanistic engagement,” he added. “Colorado Springs evangelical nonprofits comprise more than two billion dollars of local economic activity that spans charity, education and politics. ‘Living Together’ gives our students the opportunity to engage and dialogue with community actors about the kind of leadership and skills they need to support their work in sectors that are human focused and human driven.”
The project is expected to take place over the next three to four years, with the bulk of the events and activities commencing in the 2024-2025 academic year.
“Developed in response to the Luce Foundation’s recent request for proposals for projects seeking to advance public knowledge on democracy, race, and religion in America, “Living Together” is well-positioned to deepen scholarly and public conversations about religious diversity and social transformation in the economically dynamic region of Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain West. We are delighted to have the opportunity to support the work of this project, and look forward to learning from it,” said Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Program Director for Religion and Theology at the Henry Luce Foundation.
About the UCCS College of Letters, Arts & Sciences
The College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at UCCS is the university’s largest college, enrolling nearly 6,000 students across 21 departments and programs. The college offers 19 majors and 53 minors in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Students can also choose from five accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degrees, nine full master’s degrees and three Ph.D. degrees, as well as pre-medical and pre-law programs. The mission of the college is to position graduates for success in their personal and professional lives, with a focus on thinking, creating and communicating — skills vital to employers and graduate and professional schools. Learn more about the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at UCCS.
About the Henry Luce Foundation
The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to deepen knowledge and understanding in pursuit of a more democratic and just world. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission by nurturing knowledge communities and institutions, fostering dialogue across divides, enriching public discourse, amplifying diverse voices, and investing in leadership development.