Quiet Learning

“Quiet Learning” by Abhishek Sundaram
CC by-nc-nd 2.0

What is it?

The Religion in the Public Sphere Service-Learning Course (RLG426H1) is an upper-year course for majors and specialists in the study of religion, and other qualified undergraduates. In their University-arranged placements, students experience first-hand how religion enters the public sphere in such areas as non-profit organizations, education, public policy, and health care.

This course provides students with the opportunity to engage in public service that allows them to observe the dynamics of religious diversity in the public sphere.

Goals of this public service are to have students participate in the process of developing policy, communications, and programming in public, professional settings where religion is a focus (or at least an element) of the work at hand. Students will critically reflect on their experience of working with professionals and their “clients” in public settings where religious diversity is at play.

How does it work?

  • A 40-hour placement over 10 weeks
  • Readings and seminars
  • Journal entries

Where are the placements?

Placement organizations have included

  • Toronto Rehab Spiritual Care Services
  • Canadian Council of Churches
  • Jewish Nature Centre of Canada’s Kavanah community garden project
  • Primate’s World Relief Development Fund
  • U of T’s Multi- Faith Centre
  • Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association
  • Caravan of Hope (ambulances to El Salvador, supported by Toronto city councillor Joe Mihevc)
  • Tony Blair Faith Foundation
  • St Jamestown Community Corner
  • Borden Ladner Gervais, a law firm looking at the issue of the wearing of the niqab in court
  • An interfaith women’s discussion group on domestic violence established by MPP Cheri diNovo.

We hope to continue working with these partners, as well as finding new opportunities. We also welcome suggestions from any student who has a particular organization in which they are interested – we can then approach the organization to see whether they are able to participate.

Course Learning Goals

Students will:

  • learn to identify and analyse implicit and explicit instances of religion in the public sphere
  • engage with the work of public institutions in which issues of religious diversity are directly or indirectly addressed and will complete projects appropriate to those institutions
  • develop knowledge of the significance of religion within public life in Toronto, its impact on the urban landscape and within the social, cultural and economic fabric of the city
  • be encouraged to reflect on the past and present nature of religion in the public sphere
  • explore the significance of key concepts in the academic study of religion such as class, gender, race and ethnicity, private and public as experienced in their service-learning placement


  1. Permission is required to join this course. You will need to submit an application (link to form is at the top of the right-hand column of this page), and an interview will be scheduled with the course instructor in early September. You will not be guaranteed a place on the course until after this interview.
  2. Places are limited. Applications will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.


Contact the Department for the Study of Religion Undergraduate Administrator: religion.undergrad@utoronto.ca or (416) 978-2395.

Winter 2018 Applications