What Is the Wilmette Institute’s University Initiative?
Wilmette Institute’s plans are still developing, but currently we are pursuing five lines of action:
1. The Institute plans to develop one or two blended courses on the Faith, probably as it relates to social issues. The course(s) will meet one weekend (or possibly two) at Green Acre Bahá’í School in Maine for the actual face to face class time, and the rest of each course will occur over the internet. They will be worth 3 credits, so they will be standard university courses. Once they are developed, we’ll send out information about the titles and contents. But students will have to arrange with their advisors to get credit from their school, because it is a non-local course (we have an Articulation Agreement with United Theological Seminary, but it may or may not be relevant). We’ll be able to provide students information how to do that, including an extensive syllabus showing how the course works; that’s usually what a university needs. Historically. most students who have approached their schools for credit have received it.
2. The Institute will have 2 completely online courses available to take in June-July (Bahá’í Theology and Introduction to Islam), 2 completely online course in the fall (The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction and Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind), and 2 more in the spring (to be determined: one probably will be Introduction to Interfaith Dialogue). They won’t require time at Green Acre; they’re in addition to the blended courses. We will be able to release the information about them in March. Again, students will have to talk to their advisors to arrange the credit. We hope some of them will contact friends who might be interested in taking a Bahá’í course with them.
3. The Wilmette Institute can provide an academic lecturer to speak about the Faith on campus next fall or next spring (and possibly even later this semester). Most likely, she or he will be one of the instructors of one of the blended or fully online courses and will speak about a subject related to one of the courses, but we could provide speakers on other subjects as well. This might be one way to build interest in the courses. We are beginning to work on a Wilmette Institute “speakers bureau” for this purpose. Once the Wilmette Institute hires a marketing associate, s/he can use social media to publicize the lectures and follow up with information over social media about the courses. A Bahá’í college club can help a lot to make a lecture possible, but we want to reach out to campuses with no Bahá’ís as well.
4. The Institute can provide individual classes on aspects of the Faith that can be added to existing courses, such as a Bahá’í class or two in a world religions course. There are two ways to do this; (1), have the lecturer come to campus to speak to the course, and naturally s/he could also give one of the campus-wide lectures in point #3; or (2), have the lecturer appear via web video. We will draw up a list of possible speakers and topics in the next month.
5. Donate a collection of academically oriented Bahá’í books to the library. The Institute has prepared a list of about 30 books. If contact with the library is made and we are informed which books the library already has, we can order the collection and donate it.
Currently, Wilmette Institute faculty and staff are completing syllabi, planning the logistics of supplying lectures, drawing up a speakers list, and drafting routine emails describing our efforts. Any ways Bahá’ís can help, and any suggestions they can give, would be greatly appreciated.