Newly-elected Programs in Religion, Interfaith and Spirituality Matters co-chairs and College juniors Julie Berez and Mia Garuccio plan to increase PRISM’s visibility on campus and continue interfaith dialogue.

Credit: Samaira Sirajee / The Daily Pennsylvanian

College juniors Julie Berez and Mia Garuccio have recently been elected Programs in Religion, Interfaith and Spirituality Matters co-chairs. The DP sat down with them to talk about their journey, past experiences and future goals.

Daily Pennsylvanian: So, what does PRISM do?
Julie Berez: PRISM has a dual mission. First, it’s to be an umbrella group for religious life on campus, and second, to facilitate interfaith [dialogue]. We do that through dialogue programming and social events.
Mia Garuccio: As far as being an umbrella group, we are really into advocacy, figuring out … the needs of our groups [and] trying to explain those to bigger groups on campus like the Undergraduate Assembly or administrators. We also work a lot with funding. PRISM has funding from the Vice Provost from the Faith Fund, so that’s our other big mission because groups like Student Activities Council will rarely fund religious events.

DP: What are your short-term and long-term goals?
MG: One thing we really want to focus on is figuring out the individual needs of each group because we’ve been adding some new constituents. Short-term, we really want to meet with all of the people we’re looking out for.
JB: We’re trying to build a bigger presence on campus so that we can more actively advocate for groups and so that people know that there’s an outlet and a place to go for interfaith [activities] on campus. We’re also trying to strengthen our service arm.

DP: Why did you decide to run for chair?
MG: I’m co-chair of Faith Fund as I said, so seeing that has made me realize the potential for doing interfaith work on campus. Through the Faith Fund, religious groups come together and collaborate on events and offer suggestions, and I think that’s a really amazing resource to have. I just saw PRISM as being able to do that and expand it.
JB: I was very active in my Jewish community in high school, but was also very interested in why religion seemed to cause conflict in a lot of cases and how you can use dialogue, discussion and service to bring different groups together, because the core foundations of these religions were morals and community building. What really drew me to PRISM is the idea of building an interfaith community where people can use their own religious beliefs, knowledge and texts to share with others, build greater understanding on campus, allow people to bounce ideas off of each other and get a stronger basis in their own faith by learning about others.

DP: How long have you been working with PRISM?
JB: I’ve been working with PRISM since freshman year. I started as programming chair, and then I was vice chair, and now co-chair.
MG: During my freshman year, I got involved with my own religious community, the Penn Catholic Student Association, so that’s how I got connected to PRISM … . This year I am co-chair of the Faith Fund and now co-chair of PRISM.

DP: Why did you decide to become involved?
MG: Both of us have similar experiences as far as being interested in interfaith work. At home, we’re both really active in our own respective religious groups. Coming to Penn, I continued that by being really involved in Catholic events. One thing that’s unique about Penn is how many really active religious groups there are here. I saw that as something I was interested in as far as figuring out where people have things in common.

DP: What’s been the most rewarding part of being involved?
JB: The people that I’ve gotten to meet through it. I think it’s given me such a better understanding of some of the vibrant groups on campus.
MG: I have to agree. Generally the people PRISM draws in are all really passionate about their religion, so when you get them all in an environment where they can talk about what they believe and feel strongly about, that’s a really moving thing. Being involved in a group that allows for that is really awesome.

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