The Wilmette Institute Expanding: Bulletin 2—How Its University Initiative Will Work

by Robert H. Stockman

In February the Wilmette Institute announced that it is expanding its reach into universities with new initiatives. The expansion is the result of a large five-year financial commitment. As the Institute’s plans develop, it is pursuing five lines of action.

Green Acre Baha'i School

Green Acre Bahá’í School
Eliot, Maine, USA

First Line of Action. The Institute is developing one (and possibly two) blended course on the Bahá’í Faith, probably on social issues. The course(s) will meet one or two weekends at Green Acre Bahá’í School in Maine for significant face-to-face class time. The remainder of each course will occur over the internet. The courses will be worth 3 credits, which is standard for university courses. Once they are developed, the Institute will send out information about the titles and contents.

Students will have to arrange with their advisors to receive credit for the courses from their college or university because they are non-local courses. The Institute will provide students with information about how to do that and a syllabus showing how the course works. Historically, most students who have approached their schools for credit for Wilmette Institute courses have received it.

Second Line of Action. In addition to the one or two blended courses being developed, the Wilmette Institute is also working on six online courses for college credit. In time for Summer 2019 courses (June-July 2019), the Wilmette Institute will have two completely online courses available:

  • Bahá’í Theology
  • Introduction to Islam

By Fall 2019, the Institute will roll out two additional online course:

  • The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction
  • Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind

By Spring 2020, two additional online courses will be ready:

  • Introduction to Interfaith Dialogue
  • TBA

The Institute will release information about the six online courses in March 2019. Unlike the blended courses in the first line of action, the online courses for credit will not require one or two weekends of residency at the Green Acre Bahá’í School. But, as with the blended courses, students will need to talk to their advisors to arrange course credit. We hope some Bahá’í students will encourage friends to take a Bahá’í course with them.

Third Line of Action. Blended and online courses are only two lines of action. Yet another involves a speakers’ bureau to facilitate the process of advertising the courses. Possibly by the Spring and Summer of 2019 and certainly by the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020, the Wilmette Institute will be able to provide academic lecturers to speak about the Bahá’í Faith on campuses to build interest in its courses. Most likely, the lecturers will be drawn from the instructors of one of the blended or online courses and will speak about a subject related to one of the courses being offered for credit. However, the Institute can provide speakers on other subjects as well. After the Wilmette Institute hires a marketing associate, that person will use social media to publicize the lectures and follow up with information about the courses. A Bahá’í college club can help a great deal to make a lecture possible, but the Wilmette Institute also plans to reach out to campuses with no Bahá’ís.

Baha'i texts on a bookshelf

Fourth Line of Action. A fourth line of action will involve the Wilmette Institute’s providing individual classes on aspects of the Bahá’í Faith that can be added to existing courses. For example, a natural for such Bahá’í classes would be providing one or two sessions on the Bahá’í Faith in a world religions course. Such classes could be accomplished in one or two ways: One would be to have a lecturer come to a campus to speak to the course (this lecturer could also give one of the campus-wide lectures outlined in the third line of action above). A second way would to be to have the lecturer participate in the course via web video. The Institute is drawing up a list of possible speakers and topics, which will be available in April 2019.

Fifth Line of Action. The Wilmette Institute’s fifth line of action is donating collections of some thirty academically oriented Bahá’í books to college and university libraries. If Bahá’ís on campuses contact with their libraries and then provide the Wilmette Institute with a list of books that the library already has, the Institute will order the collection of Bahá’í books and donate it to the library.

Currently, Wilmette Institute faculty and staff are completing syllabi, planning the logistics of supplying lectures, drawing up a speakers’ list, and drafting routine emails describing the Institute’s efforts. Any way in which Bahá’ís can help, and any suggestions they can give, would be greatly appreciated. Please contact the Wilmette Institute’s Director at: rstockman@wilmetteinstitute.org.