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Philosophy, Religion Students Collaborate in “Interfaith America Magazine” Publishing

Aerial view of the University of Indianapolis at sunset.

Students at the University of Indianapolis, Cassara Randall and Ethan Lohman, recently had their work published in the Interfaith America Magazine. Dr. James Willis, Assistant Professor of Practice for Religion at the University of Indianapolis, mentored these students and assisted them with the publication. Dr. Willis said, “In the summer of 2022, I attended a conference on Teaching Interfaith Understanding with Interfaith America. One of my goals from the conference was to develop different perspectives in order to teach FYS182: Love, Death, and Religion to incoming first-year students. While at the conference, I had a brief discussion with the editor of Interfaith America Magazine where I pitched the idea of writing with my students.”

Writing was important to Dr. Willis, as he stated that it was an “integral” part to his FYS course. “One of the skills needed in college is strong writing, so I wanted to equip my students for later success,” Dr. Willis said. “I mentored their writing advancement through a series of low-stakes ‘experience portfolios’ where they would recall and reflect on their various experiences with religious groups in the Indianapolis area. I also wanted to provide a different avenue for writing improvement.”

Ethan Lohman was proud of his accomplishment and the doors that will open moving forward. “Being published in Interfaith America was a monumental achievement for me, fulfilling a lifelong dream I had since childhood—to become both an author and an actor,” Ethan said. “The realization of the first half of this dream has now begun, igniting within me an unparalleled sense of accomplishment. This incredible milestone would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance and astute guidance of Dr. Willis. He played the role of my agent, introducing me to a publisher and facilitating the publication process while I focused on crafting the accompanying story. I am profoundly grateful to him for his support.”

Not only did this experience help Ethan with research skills, but it also helped him with his confidence when it comes to his writing. “Dr. Willis has undeniably shaped my future, providing me with a launching pad and invaluable writing experience,” Ethan said. “Now, I can confidently present my work to anyone curious about my writing skills, allowing them to judge for themselves. In all this is just the first opportunity that UIndy has given me, and I can’t wait for more.”

“Whereas it’s common to write with professors in graduate school, it is far less common to write with professors as undergraduates,” stated Dr. Willis. “I hope all of my students benefited from the experience and from the possibility of publishing at the national level. Together, Cassara and Ethan demonstrate two different takes on the class which show personal and academic growth. I am especially proud of Cassara and Ethan’s accomplishment!”