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Religious Life at Hendrix announces new structure

CONWAY, Ark. (August 11, 2017) – Hendrix College Religious Life is restructuring to include greater support for interfaith programming, with the naming of Dr. Robert Williamson, associate professor of Religious Studies, as the first director of the Interfaith Initiative at Hendrix.

“With the Interfaith Initiative, we seek to bring people together in ways that encourage relationships to develop organically,” says the Rev. J.J. Whitney, director of the Office of Religious Life. “I’m confident that with Dr. Williamson’s leadership, we will see even more growth in understanding among people of different faiths.”

Religious Life at Hendrix includes the Office of the Chaplain; the Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics, and Calling; and the Interfaith Initiative. Whitney says having a staff member dedicated to interfaith community at Hendrix will help Religious Life connect with even more students.

“There’s a two-pronged purpose to Religious Life at Hendrix: to help students dig deeply into their own faith, and to promote interfaith work among different religious identities, including students who are nonreligious,” she said.

While the Miller Center’s programs are open to all students, its roots in the College’s relationship to the United Methodist Church mean that some of its programs are specifically designed for those from Christian backgrounds. “We really saw a need to have dedicated leadership for interfaith work,” Whitney said.  A common thread in Religious Life at Hendrix is an emphasis on service, so all students, regardless of faith background, are encouraged to find ways to come together to serve others.

The Interfaith Initiative, together with the student group Hendrix Interfaith, will host a weekly Thursday night interfaith meal focused on building appreciation and understanding among students with a diversity of religious, spiritual, and philosophical commitments. In addition, the Initiative will take a religiously diverse group of students on a service-learning trip to a Muslim school in Belize, host a regional interfaith conference including students from five area colleges, and cosponsor an academic course on interfaith leadership with the Religious Studies department. As part of the restructuring, the Service Scholars program, which encourages students to make leadership through volunteer service a part of their future, will move from the Miller Center to the Interfaith Initiative.

“After a year as the director of the Miller Center, I’m excited to take on this new role with the Interfaith Initiative,” said Williamson. “We have already laid the groundwork for vibrant interfaith community through the work of the Miller Center and the Chaplain’s Office. This new, dedicated program will position Hendrix to be a national leader in interfaith work, particularly among United Methodist-related colleges. At the start of the fall semester, our student leaders will be participating in the Interfaith Leadership Institute, hosted by the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago. I look forward to the exciting things we will do together to develop interfaith community in the years come.”

Williamson’s work has already been recognized by Interfaith Youth Core (, which works with more than 200 college and university campuses on five continents.

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit