Worldviews: An American Religious and Cultural Diversity Seminar

The Worldviews Seminar is conducted each year over six consecutive days during the third week of June on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn in Dearborn, Michigan.  The Seminar is led by university scholars and theologians and informed by the Pluralism Project’s extensive research on religious diversity in Metropolitan Detroit.  Emphasis is placed on what people believe and do — and how that gives meaning to their lives and world.

The uniqueness of the Worldviews Seminar is its combination of classroom instruction and visits to religious centers.  During each Seminar, approximately 15 world religions and cultural traditions are covered in the discussions. Seminar participants then visit worship sites during the week where they are hosted by local religious leaders and practitioners.

For more information, contact Prof. Ivy Forsythe-Brown.


General Seminar Information

Seminar participants include graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, seminary students, religious and community leaders, and the general public. This unique combination of participants provides an engaging format for class discussions.

Goal of the Seminar

The goal of the Seminar is to assist individuals to:       

  • understand the role of religion in American life
  • discover the diversity of religions in the U.S.
  • develop skills to function as a citizen in a multi-religious nation
  • learn the concepts and vocabulary of the religions studied sufficiently to be able to engage in intelligent dialog with members of those religions
  • learn the practices of the religions studied sufficiently to be able to be an informed visitor in those religious settings


Seminar Experience

The six days of the Worldviews Seminar follow a similar structure.  Each day begins with continental breakfast in the atrium of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) Building at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Classroom presentations combine lecture, discussion, films, music, and a  display of maps, posters, and books.  At noon, the Seminar group adjourns for lunch on campus.  The early afternoon features films, discussions, and  occasional guest speakers.  The group then boards an air-conditioned bus for the day’s visit to religious centers for conversations with their leaders and members. Several sites include observing or participating in religious rituals and having a meal with the religious community. 

Sites visited during recent Worldviews Seminars have included the following:

American Indian Health and Family Services (Native American Tradition)

Basilica of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church (Christianity)

Gurdwara Sahib-Hidden Falls (Sikh)

Bharatiya Temple (Hindu)

Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara (Buddhist)

Islamic Center of America (Islam)

Temple Israel (Jewish)

Seminar Instructor

Andrew Durdin, Ph.D. (University of Chicago Divinity School) is a lecturer in Religious Studies and the Humanities at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He teaches RELS/HUM 201: Religions of the World and RELS 401: Religion in Contemporary U.S. Culture (aka the Worldviews Seminar).

His research focuses on the social conditions of religious pluralism in both ancient and modern contexts with an emphasis on how religious practitioners attempt to interpret and apply these larger conditions to their own understandings of their religious traditions. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgia State University.


The Worldviews Seminar was created in 2002 by the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Michigan-Dearborn in partnership with the Episcopal Church, the Pluralism Project, and other local religious organizations in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001.  The goal of the seminar was to acquaint people with the perspectives and cultural identities of the rich religious and cultural diversity in southeastern Michigan and to explore different models of dialogue.  Over the past 16 years nearly 400 people have attended the six day Worldviews Seminar.

Contact Information

Undergraduate and graduate students of the University of Michigan Dearborn or guest students from other institutions: register for Religious Studies 401 or 501 (Religion in Contemporary American Culture) and complete the required written assignments.  Contact Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown for permission to register. 

Graduate Seminary credit is available for those who register with Ecumenical Theological Seminary, 2930 Woodward Avenue, Detroit MI 48201, 313-831-5200 and complete the required written assignments.  Please contact the seminary to get information about additional requirements and costs for the course.

Sponsors and Partnerships

Sponsored by:

University of Michigan-Dearborn College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters

Center for Ethnic and Religious Studies

In partnership with:

The Pluralism Project

Ecumenical Theological Seminary

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan

Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit (IFLC)

Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro-Detroit (WISDOM)


Back to top of page