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Inspired by NEXT, Student Takes Charge of Pluralism Week

April 8, 2013


Anam Virani, a first-generation Muslim American, talks about the interfaith work she is doing at Wofford College during Imagine What's NEXT.


Inspired by speakers at Imagine What’s NEXT, Katie Engsberg went back to Washington University determined to get involved in interfaith work. The 18-year-old ended up in charge of the 2013 Pluralism Week.

“It was NEXT that got me inspired and involved, but I don't think it was a specific presentation so much as seeing college students suddenly able to take action because I had wanted to do something for several years but wasn't sure how to get started. I guess I figured out that I had to just start somewhere and figure out where to go from that point,” Engsberg said.  She said she wrote up plans for the event she was already organizing for Pluralism Week, and she got progressively more excited as the weekend at NEXT went on.

{C}Katie Engsberg

“It was wonderful to see students involving themselves in ministry of various forms,” she said.

She was especially impressed with a speech by Anam Virani, a first-generation Muslim American who talked about the interfaith work she is doing at Wofford College.

“It was so powerful to see everyone interested in what she had to say,” Engsberg said.

“Originally, a girl named Gaby was in charge of Pluralism Week 2013, but over Christmas break she stepped down and asked me to take over,” Engsberg said.

Pluralism Week at Washington University in St. Louis consists of a series of events, spread out over seven days, that are designed to help students (and staff) learn about the various religions in an educational, accepting environment.

“I find that college students, at least, tend to enjoy discovering more about others' beliefs, and Pluralism Week is supposed to be a setting specifically designed for that,” she said. The week was observed Feb. 25-March 3.

“I will definitely get involved again, and I am considering volunteering to be president of Inter-Beliefs Council, whose former president recently stepped down,” she said. Engsberg is a member of Eureka United Methodist Church in Eureka, Mo., but attends Grace United Methodist Church in St. Louis while at school. She is a part of Grace’s campus ministry.

The first night of NEXT, Engsberg said she planned a panel discussion-type event and was going to make it part of Pluralism Week. “When Gaby stepped down, I went from planning one event to planning a week's worth of them,” she added.

When she had three events planned for the week, she went to the Inter-Faith Campus Ministers Association (IFCMA), and they found interested parties to help.

“We had meetings and plotted out more events and basically planned things as a group. I mostly coordinated everybody,” she said.