BRUNSWICK — A new Bowdoin College fellowship hopes to shape students into more effective leaders.

Eduardo Pazos Palma, director of religious and spiritual life at the college, will be overseeing the new Multifaith Fellowship. He chose four fellows from the nearly 30 students who applied.

Pazos Palma said one of his goals for the fellowship is to have students read portions of the sacred texts of major world religions. Local religious leaders will also likely meet with the group during its first eight sessions.

“I think it’s really important for them to have read pieces of the Koran, the Bible, the Hebrew Bible, Buddhist writings, Hindu writings, Native American views around spirituality,” Pazos Palma said. “It makes for a much (richer) experience and also it just increases their language and their ability to relate to other people.”

The second half of the fellowship will be conducted during the spring semester, and will task fellows with doing a campus engagement project.

Pazos Palma said he’s not entirely sure what that piece will mean yet, as he wants to give students the freedom to choose what to do. Bringing a speaker to campus, photographing spiritual activities around Bowdoin, or writing an article for the school newspaper could all be options. 

The fellowship was made possible through a $4,000 grant from the Chicago-based nonprofit Interfaith Youth Core. According to the organization’s website, its mission is “to make interfaith cooperation a social norm.”

A portion of the money will go towards paying each of the fellows a stipend, which Pazos Palma said is important because it allows them to participate without worrying about how the fellowship might interfere with their work schedules.

The grant from Interfaith Youth Core is known as an “innovation grant,” he added, designed for colleges doing something “around interfaith engagement.”

In the “polarized” world of today, Pazos Palma said it is easy for people to take a “tribalistic” approach to life and only hang out with others who share their views.

One of the reasons he had the idea for the fellowship is because he believes in a “globalized world,” which requires people to have a knowledge of different religions.

If a student is going to continue on to be a leader of a multi-national company, for instance, Pazos Palma said the role would require them to know about different religious holidays such as Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah and Easter.

“Even if those (customs) don’t necessarily mean anything to you, they certainly mean a lot of things to a lot of other people, and it’s certainly important for us as effective leaders to know what that means,” he said.

He also said the benefits of the fellowship will stretch beyond religious knowledge.

“The tools that you learn of inter-group engagement applies to everything,” he said. “And it starts with knowing and educating yourself; if we want to live in a less polarized society, education is key.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Eduardo Pazos Palma, director of religious and spiritual life at Bowdoin College, has launched a new Multifaith Fellowship this year.