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Food for Thought: CSU students build interfaith understanding

Collegian | Lauren Mascardo
Colorado State University students pass around the Food for Thought core agreements sheet before reading them together and talking to each other Nov. 16.

On Nov. 16, Colorado State University’s Multifaith and Belief Initiatives organized Food for Thought, striving to encourage unique and vulnerable conversations in supportive spaces where equal representation is valued. It allowed students of different religious backgrounds to be more open and positively promote mutual peace and understanding.

Students gathered at The Foundry to enjoy a meal and have a conversation on relationships and their connection to faith. This event cultivated dialogue on how varying religious beliefs can define one’s understanding of relationships and other aspects of their lives.


Laura Nelson was the facilitator for the discussion and has served as the president for the Fort Collins Interfaith Council for the past six years. She spoke about the importance of a space in which students of differing spiritualities can create deeper connections and listen to religious views with an open mind.

“Look at all the things we have in common,” Nelson said. “Look at all the things we can learn from each other. Even if we disagree, someone sharing something that feels very counter to the core of my beliefs also helps me understand my own beliefs.”

Elizabeth Sink was one of the event organizers and works in the department of communication studies, teaching classes ranging from dialogue to religious, spiritual and secular identity work. She has recognized how people on campus look for a responsive and open space where genuine and fruitful conversations can be had.

“We come at relationships through these big human categories like grief and shame, so we can form relationship solidarity, senses of belonging and trust,” Sink said. “Nobody’s made to be here, so the conversations are even more rich because of it.”

Before the discussion, Nelson established the understanding that Food for Thought is a supportive space with good intentions; it works to openly speak about religion and spirituality in a more inclusive environment, providing a voice for marginalized religious communities.

“(Religion and spirituality) are huge things for people. They influence how you vote and who you hang out with and what you think of other people. I think it is a total disservice if we are leaving this aspect out.” –Elizabeth Sink, event organizer for Food for Thought

“Folks with minoritized religious identity on this campus talk about not feeling like they belong in the same way that majority identities do,” Nelson said. “We have had folks from minoritized but different religious identities talk about how wonderful it is to hear each other talk because the experience is so similar.”

Sink said there needs to be more visibility for religion and spirituality because they are normally dismissed on public campuses such as CSU. She highlighted the value of bringing more attention to an individual’s religious identity, as it significantly shapes who they are.  

“(Religion and spirituality) are huge things for people,” Sink said. “They influence how you vote and who you hang out with and what you think of other people. I think it is a total disservice if we are leaving this aspect out.” 


Nelson said she hopes Food for Thought will soon become an experience primarily led by students. She said that with further training, students can facilitate these important interreligious conversations in the future.  

“Our goal moving forward would be to have folks who have the experience get some extra training and then run it,” Nelson said. “There are now students who not only have the experience of how to be in interfaith dialogue but also know how to lead it.” 

Anna Saathoff is a junior at CSU and has attended past Food for Thought discussions throughout the semester. She said she trusts that this program will continue to progress as a supportive place where those of diverse beliefs can engage in constructive and open dialogue. The next Food for Thought will be Nov. 30.

“I hope to see a lot more dialogue and listening, especially on campus,” Saathoff said. “We’re sharing out what we’re learning and how we are learning to listen and care about people who have different beliefs than us.” 

Reach Sananda Chandy at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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