The United States is undergoing immense demographic changes. The immigrant share of the population is approaching a record high, according to the Pew Research Center; meanwhile, Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, and Christians—while still in the religious majority—are declining proportionally in contrast to Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and the religiously unaffiliated, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. In recent years, societal divisions have been laid bare through religiously motivated marginalization and violence, including sharp rises in incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Deep religious divides are also shaping and challenging our civic and professional communities. In higher ed, more attention to religious identity—alongside race, gender, and sexual identities—is needed as leaders advance diversity and inclusion on their campuses.
The Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS), led by Alyssa N. Rockenbach at North Carolina State University, Matthew J. Mayhew at The Ohio State University, and Interfaith Youth Core, queried students on 122 campuses when they entered college in 2015, again after their first year, and in their senior year in 2019. IDEALS findings—highlights of which are presented in this issue’s Research Corner—illuminate whether and how students are learning to build bridges across lines of religious difference and point to best practices for higher education leaders striving to address our nation’s deep divisions.