Our Campus Climate
Utah State University is a land grant, public university in the intermountain west—which is the least religiously diverse region in the United States. Although our more than 28,000 students come from all 50 states and more than 80 countries, about 72% of our students are originally from Utah. About 70% of our incoming freshmen identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). As recent participation in the nationwide IDEALS survey reveals, the majority of our students are very interested in the role of religion on campus.
But, unlike students at many more urban universities, USU students have few opportunities to engage daily with those who are religiously “different” than they are. Even though religious diversity does exist in this environment, our recent campus-climate research [insert hyperlink] revealed that most members of the USU community—whether members of the LDS faith or not—prefer to hide their religious identities except when interacting with those whom they know for a fact to be “like them.” The reasons for this intentional “closeting” are different for members of the majority religion than for those who have other religious (or non-religious) commitments, but few in our study felt safe enough to share this foundational aspect of their lives. The Utah State University Interfaith Initiative works to provide these “safe-spaces” for authentic sharing, while building capacity for engaging respectfully, and for coming together to build community across religious differences.