IDEALS Symposium Spotlight: Darnell Cole and Shafiqa Ahmadi from the University of Southern California

Dr. Darnell Cole (left) and Dr. Shafiqa Ahmadi (right)

This is part of a series featuring IDEALS research awardees presenting at the IDEALS Research Symposium in Atlanta on September 13–14.

Shafiqa Ahmadi is Associate Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice and the Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

Darnell Cole is Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

Presentation Title: Muslim Student Experiences with Campus Insensitivity, Coercion and Negative Interworldview Engagement: Considering Race, Citizenship, and Campus Environment

Abstract: This study examines the negative experiences of Muslim and non-Muslim students on college campuses and the extent that the organizational/structural features of the institution play a role in the spiritual climate. The study uses the multidimensional campus climate framework established by Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, and Allen (1999) and adapts a fifth dimension — the organizational/structure dimension taken from Milem, Chang, and Antonio (2005). Through a series of analysis of variance (ANOVAs) and multilevel models, the study found that faculty culture plays a significant role in spiritual development. This study helps advance scholarship by helping understand the different factors that shape the student experience, and Muslim student experience in particular.


Q1: Why are you interested in worldview diversity and/or interfaith engagement?

Shafiqa Ahmadi: My interest in worldview diversity and interfaith engagement started in 2001 when I was in my last year of law school. The horrific events of 9/11 occurred in 2001 and as Muslim woman I experienced first-hand how people who did not understand worldview diversity and interfaith engagement could act and the negative impact it would have on me, other Muslims students, and Muslim community. Prior to 9/11, I was interested in issues related to Muslim students in higher education, but after 9/11 I realized that working together in solidarity with various faith groups and understanding the intersections of our identities that we bring to our work is much more powerful, than only focusing on our own religious and spiritual faith.

The horrific events of 9/11 occurred in 2001 and as Muslim woman I experienced first-hand how people who did not understand worldview diversity and interfaith engagement could act and the negative impact it would have on me, other Muslims students, and Muslim community.

Q2: How do your personal research interests align or intersect with IDEALS research? In what unique ways do your personal research interests extend the work of IDEALS?

Darnell Cole: My research interest in religion and spirituality started after 9/11. I wanted to learn more about faith development and spirituality from multiple viewpoints. I wanted to know more about people whose worldview differed from my own. I also wanted to know how can we create community and understanding when we hold such different worldviews. These interest points sparked my research curiosity about interfaith engagement and dialogue. The opportunity offered through IDEALS provided survey tool needed for me to explore key research questions about the role of post-secondary institutions in promoting interfaith engagement for minoritized religious populations.

My research interest in religion and spirituality started after 9/11. I wanted to learn more about faith development and spirituality from multiple viewpoints. I wanted to know more about people whose worldview differed from my own.

Shafiqa Ahmadi: My research interest in religion and spirituality started when I was an undergraduate student at Indiana University Bloomington. As a Muslim woman, I was raised with a positive and supportive view of Islam and Muslim women. Attending IU, Bloomington was the first time I was faced with so many stereotypes of Muslims and Muslim women in particular. As an undergraduate, I started researching the experiences and perspectives of Muslim women who wear hijab on college campuses. This first research project started my passion for conducting research on Muslim students in postsecondary institutions and the laws and policies that assist or inhibit their personal and educational success. Using the IDEALS data set offers an opportunity to better understand the relationship between Muslim student experiences and post-secondary organizational structures and systems.

Using the IDEALS data set offers an opportunity to better understand the relationship between Muslim student experiences and post-secondary organizational structures and systems.

Q3: Who is the key audience for your IDEALS-related research? How do you see this audience leveraging IDEALS research to increase understanding/engagement of worldview diversity and interfaith engagement?

Group response: The key audience for our IDEALS-related research is student and academic affairs professional at post-secondary institutions. These professionals can leverage IDEALS-related research to change institutional policy, institute trainings, re-think curricular goals, and organize meaningful interfaith engagement and dialogue in- and out-of-the classroom.


About the Symposium

The IDEALS Research Symposium will occur on September 13–14 in Atlanta. The Symposium will be a unique gathering where scholars and campus educators can come together to explore cutting-edge research with an emphasis on practical application, build a community of practitioners who have shared learning and language from the IDEALS project, and work to make meaning of the information together.

The gathering will highlight the work of the IDEALS Research Awards, bridge research with campus practice, and feature nationally renowned speakers, including IFYC’s Dr. Eboo Patel, and the Co-Principal Investigators for IDEALS, Dr. Matthew Mayhew and Dr. Alyssa Rockenbach. The program will include engaging and interactive workshops, in-depth discussions of IDEALS findings, and ample opportunities for networking and connecting with peers at other campuses.