NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Research Advancing Identities and Student Experiences Center recently completed a five-year memorandum of understanding with Convergence Strategies, a nonprofit organization focused on anti-racism and resolving structural inequity as it pertains to religious, secular and spiritual matters. 

Through this partnership, the RAISE Center will host a Convergence Strategies faculty research fellow and jointly pursue grant and research projects. The goal of the partnership is to better understand the ways in which college students develop their religious and spiritual identities, as well as their understanding of other religions and faiths.

From SFA’s end, the partnership was spearheaded by Dr. Pietro A. Sasso, RAISE Center director and assistant professor of human services and educational leadership.

“This new partnership with Convergence Strategies will allow us to host a faculty research fellow who will advance research about the religious, secular and spiritual identities of college students,” Sasso said. “This will also allow us to pursue grant funding for future research to better understand the complex ways in which students conceptualize their own identities and as an approach to facilitate increased interfaith understanding.”

Dr. J. Cody Nielsen, executive director of Convergence Strategies and the RAISE Center’s first research fellow, is ready to put the partnership in motion.   

“The opportunities to embark on nationally minded research and to approach grant makers regarding efforts to understand religious, secular and spiritual identity is something we’re really excited about,” he said. 

Other facets of the partnership include at least one jointly created scholarly product per year, cosponsored programming and educational outreach. 

The RAISE Center was established in spring 2022 to “revivify research and outreach about college students and explore how identity develops through their formative college experiences.”

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