Convene - Discover - Disseminate

Boniuk Institute Strategic Plan

In 2023, under new university leadership, the Boniuk Institute received an expanded charge—to become a premier interdisciplinary research and scholarly institute focusing on religious pluralism and tolerance.
To that end, the Institute embarked on a lengthy strategic planning process, the result of which is a three-part plan that will move us toward that goal: the Institute will Discover new knowledge through original research; Convene thought leaders across disciplines and sectors; and Disseminate knowledge based on our research among relevant local, national, and global communities in order to promote meaningful change.

Discover New Knowledge Through Original Research

Key Research Questions
In a time of religious and political strife worldwide, the Boniuk Institute provides a platform for the religions of the world to come together under a common framework to provide a voice of reason.

The Boniuk Institute will conduct and sponsor original multidisciplinary research in order to understand the conditions that lead to robust religious tolerance and pluralism, as well as those that lead to religious intolerance, conflict, and discrimination through the following initiatives:


Research Focus: In what ways to religious tolerance, pluralism, and understanding look different in different sectors of society and different parts of the world?

The Global Religious Pluralism Initiative will be a multiyear global data collection effort involving scholars from different disciplines in a focused effort to analyze and understand how the conditions and consequences of religious tolerance, understanding, and pluralism shape and are shaped by interactions, practices, policies, discourse, and trends at each level of society around the world.

A Global Re-Granting Initiative will sponsor original research from scholars from different disciplines conducting global studies of religious diversity, collaboration, and conflict at the intersection of societal levels within and among institutional domains, such as government, education, science and medicine, workplaces, and religious organizations. The Institute will synthesize the findings of these projects and use them to make research-informed contributions to our understanding of how religious tolerance and pluralism work across nations and contexts, and how to foster socially beneficial pluralism and reduce religious conflict and discrimination.


Research Focus: What is the civic capacity of Houston’s religious communities? To what extent do Houston’s religious communities work together for the common good of our city?

The Mapping the Civic Capacity of Houston’s Religious Communities Initiative will map the collective civic capacity of Houston’s religious communities, their approaches to inequality, and how they see religious pluralism and tolerance as relevant to their work. This focus on a local context will allow the Institute to apply its research and scholarship directly, while at the same time increasing the civic capacity of religious communities in its home city of Houston, Texas. 


To further expand the work of the Boniuk Institute, and to broaden its research focus and intellectual discovery, the Boniuk Institute will also develop two - four research centers comprised of multiple scholars and faculty at Rice University and beyond. Proposed centers include: a Center on Religion and Public Life and a Center on Religion, Science, Health, and Environment. 

Convene Top Minds from Across Disciplines and Sectors

The Boniuk Institute will bring together faculty, advisors, and students from across disciplines and sectors in a variety of ways:


An Annual Scholarly Convening will host both emerging and established scholars to energize the intellectual climate around issues of religious pluralism and spur faculty from different disciplines to work together to study this issue.

Each spring, the Boniuk Institute will host a Senior Scholar for a fellowship and award that honors excellence in public scholarship on religious pluralism and tolerance and/ or work to combat religious conflict and discrimination.

In collaboration with Rice University's Baker Institute, the Boniuk Institute will re-institute the Bryan J. and June B. Zwan Visiting Distinguished Scholar Series, which will bring high-level scholars to the Rice University campus to speak on issues related to religion and public policy.


The Boniuk Institute will provide opportunities for academic and professional growth for Graduate and Undergraduate Research Scholars and Postdoctoral Fellows in all aspects of the research and outreach process.

Students in the Boniuk Institute's Reading Religion Graduate Salon explore the most current and relevant literature on issues related to religious pluralism, violence, discrimination, as well as religion in the public sphere from different disciplinary perspectives. As a group, students explore the ways in which each text expands our understanding of these topics, and receive practical training in communicating scholarly topics to a public audience.

The Boniuk Institute Religion and Public Life Program's Weekly Scholars Meeting serves junior scholars by allowing undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to present works in progress and provide opportunities for them to connect with senior scholars. Scholars Meetings also serve to build a visible community of scholars and acclimate junior scholars to the development of cross-disciplinary connections.


The Boniuk Institute will expand its Faculty Advisory Board, which is comprised of interdisciplinary Rice University scholars and serves as a robust resource to Institute leadership in the formulation of the goals, direction, and objectives of the Institute. Faculty advisors also select fellowship recipients, and contribute advice and oversight to Institute centers and programs.

The Institute will also expands its External Advisory Board, which is comprised of a diverse group of professional, community leaders, and practitioners from across a wide variety of sectors and domains, who serve as a resource to Institute leadership in the formulation of goals, direction, and objectives. External advisors also provide advice to the director on matters of external relations, public, and community affairs.

Disseminate Knowledge Gained from Original Research and Scholarship

The Boniuk Institute will expand its existing outreach products and create new offerings that connect its original research and scholarship with relevant local, national, and global communities in order to promote change via the following programs:


Educator Professional Development workshops provide continuing education to secondary social studies educators in religious literacy while exploring topics in religion via classroom-ready scholarly training sessions.

The Boniuk Institute Religion and Public Life Program's Religious and Civic Leader Gatherings bring together faith and community leaders in an intimate setting to discuss timely issues, engage with Institute research, and share resources.


The Institute and its Religion and Public Life Program will continue to produce the Religion Unmuted podcast, which explores the ways that religion is lived in the world in unlikely places with a focus of bringing women's voices to the intersection of religion and public life.

Regular public communications include an Annual Report, regular Newsletter, a refreshed Website, and a Social Media presence. Each of these outlets will highlight the work of the Institute and its Centers, share Institute research, review current literature on relevant topics, and promote upcoming events.