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University of Michigan School of Information


UMSI staff volunteer project contributes to new campus resource

Thursday, 02/04/2021

Faculty and other members of the university community who schedule events, major talks or other campus activities have a new web resource to help with their planning, thanks to a project undertaken by a group of UMSI staff. The university’s Office of the Provost provides a list of major holidays, cultural events and religious holidays on its website. While not intended as a comprehensive list of all holidays, its goal is to help avoid conflicts with the academic calendar.

Many of these holidays are now hyperlinked to an online collection of information sheets that were compiled by a team of staff members at the School of Information with input from religious leaders and community organizations. “This is a joint partnership of the School of Information staff, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Office of the Provost,” said Provost Susan Collins in a memo to division heads. 

While the University of Michigan, as a public institution, does not observe religious holidays, the school does ask those who schedule events to take reasonable and appropriate steps to support members of the community who choose to engage in religious observances.

Barbara Smith, senior assistant to the Dean at the School of Information, led the project team of volunteers. “Our team offered to undertake the project of creating fact sheets for each of the holidays on the U-M Religious Holidays calendar,” she said. “Holidays are important to each of us, but we often don’t understand the significance of different religious practices and how they impact one another. Our goal was to provide a tool to increase awareness among the U-M Community and to provide a resource that would aid in planning events.”

Each fact sheet focuses on a single holiday, providing a description, pronunciation, common practices, foods traditionally eaten or abstained, campus resources, and an appropriate greeting that could be used when greeting a colleague or friend.

“By better understanding how holidays are celebrated, the U-M Community can strive to be more inclusive and welcoming of our colleagues and friends and help us have mutual respect and honor for people’s faith observances,” Smith said.

Other members of the UMSI staff who participated in the research, design and creation of the fact sheets were Jacques Chestnut, Rebecca Epstein, Claudia Leo, James Reitz, Colum Slevin, and Todd Stuart.

As most religions contain multiple sects, and practices within sects may differ, the authors of the Fact Sheets have attempted to generally describe events that are likely to be celebrated in many different ways. Feedback on the information provided is welcomed at