Student Spotlight: Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel
Major: Transfer

Eboo Patel is a man on a mission – a really big mission.

He is the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based organization building the interfaith movement on college campuses. He founded IFYC in 2002 as a way to connect young people of all faiths through community service and, in a big way, build cooperation in a world often divided by religion.

“There are a lot of people who believe we are better apart, whether that's Muslims and Christians or blacks and whites or Americans and Arabs,” he said. “I believe we are better together. In a variety of ways, I make that idea reality.”

That idea has inspired the Rhodes Scholar and former College of DuPage student to take many bold steps in a career even he admits can be hard to wrap your head around.

Internationally, Patel's organization has partnered with the New Delhi-based Kutumb Foundation to tackle issues like education, women's health, the environment and conflict resolution. He has partnered with the London-based Three Faiths Forum to start social action projects on their campuses. Closer to home, IFYC has teamed with One Chicago, One Nation, a philanthropic collaborative spearheading Better Together events throughout the area.

“We want to create a movement in America with tens of thousands of college students who are committed to the idea that we're better together,” said Patel, whose outreach vision has captured the attention of people in high places, including President Barack Obama.

Patel served on the inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an opportunity he attributed to friends, peers and contemporaries who likely recommended the activist, writer and teacher with a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University. He also serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations, on the Board of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, on the National Committee of the Aga Khan Foundation USA, and on the Department of Homeland Security’s Faith-based Advisory Council.

Patel delivered closing remarks at the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum and has spoken at the TED Conference, the Clinton Global Initiative, and universities around the world. He is an affiliate of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and its pioneering study of America's changing religious landscape.

Named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News and World Report in 2009, he is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, NPR and CNN. Patel is a Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum and an Ashoka Fellow, part of a select group of social entrepreneurs whose ideas are changing the world. He was named by Islamica Magazine as one of 10 young Muslim visionaries shaping Islam in America and was chosen by Harvard’s Kennedy School Review as one of five future policy leaders to watch.

Both Patel and IFYC were honored with the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom of Worship Medal in 2009 and Eboo was recently awarded the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize, an award given to an individual to enhance awareness of the crucial role of religious dialogue in the pursuit of peace.

In his book, “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation,” Patel chronicles his personal journey, from a young boy growing up in Glen Ellyn to a young man discovering his global purpose.

“We are all many possible people. How we become who we are has everything to do with which of those possibilities is nurtured,” he said. “College of DuPage helped nurture the intellectually curious, ethically focused Eboo Patel.”

“Acts of Faith” won the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion. He also published “Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America” and “Interfaith Leadership: A Prime.”

In 2018, Patel’s latest book, “Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise,” was published by Princeton University. It examines broader questions about religious diversity in cultural, political and economic life. In its review, Publishers Weekly said, “Readers will be rewarded with Patel’s rich perspective on religious diversity in America as he champions the strength of its civic identity and the possibility of religious pluralism in the years to come.”

“ ‘Out of Many Faiths’ demonstrates how the genius of the American experiment lies in its empowerment of people of all creeds, ethnicities and convictions,” Patel said.  

The son of COD Accounting Professor Rukshad Patel explored many college subjects during his high school years.

“Here was this wonderful resource right around the corner from where we lived,” he said, recalling the classes, the professors, even some of the lectures that became his introduction to some really big ideas.

“I am personally glad that what I got to do at College of DuPage was wander off the beaten path of typical professions, to whet my intellectual appetite a little bit, and then to follow that path to where it would lead me.”

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