Just southeast of the new 2,600-seat Auditorium on the Glendale Campus sat a square hole in the ground.
In October 2010, it became the 2,350 square-foot Interfaith Chapel, a place where students, faculty, and staff can reflect, meditate, pray, hold services, or just find some quiet time. It is located in the new quad area on the campus, close to all the academic buildings, the newly-opened Recreation and Wellness Hall, and the Ramada. It is truly at the center of campus and will become a meeting place, an intersection of roads, a place of importance beyond the academic and social worlds. It is a symbol-not just of the special space, but of the special relationship that made it possible.
Since MWU opened in Arizona in 1996, a fruitful partnership with local Chanen Construction Company has been a critical ingredient to its success.
In addition to supporting the University's major fundraising events for student scholarships, and even endowing a scholarship of their own, they have built every one of the more than 25 buildings on the Glendale Campus, beginning with the 65,000 square foot Sahuaro Hall in 1996. The signature desert earth bricks of the University¹s buildings have won many construction industry awards, and are a symbol of both the beauty and function of the desert.
The new Interfaith Chapel reflects the same balance of beauty and function.
And once again, Chanen Construction Company is an important partner as the new project unfolds. This time, the project has an added significance. The team at Chanen feels strongly that the chapel at Midwestern University will become a center for spiritual development on campus, as well as provide a framework for students to expand their opportunities to explore spirituality.
They cite a recent study of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, Spirituality and Higher Education: a National Study of College Students' Search for Meaning and Purpose, which found that college students view their spiritual development as a critical part of their college experience and are looking for universities to support this quest for development. This study contradicts common wisdom that sees universities as secular institutions without a spiritual side. That is one of the reasons why the team at Chanen supports this project so strongly, and is devoted to finding opportunities to create the chapel at the lowest possible cost.
Steven R. Chanen, President of Chanen Construction, notes that, "while the academic curricula at Midwestern University focuses on the rational, empirical and analytic aspects of study, it has been shown, particularly for people in the Western World, that spirituality and religion cause people to be more, not less, rational. The non-denominational chapel will afford students of varied religious backgrounds the opportunity for solace, reflection, prayer and spiritual development in the beautiful setting of the Midwestern University Glendale Campus, all close to classes and living facilities."
He shared his own personal experience as well: "When I started my undergraduate work many years ago in a new city, one of my first goals was to find a local place of worship on the campus where I did not know one person. This was integral to my adjustment to university life and a source of friends to this day."
As the new chapel takes shape, the Chanens are working to control construction costs and obtain donations, in-kind gifts, and "at-cost" work. They are asking the many community organizations, vendors, and health care partners of Midwestern University to join their family and contractors in supporting this special project at the spiritual core of the community's future medical professionals.
And the small square building at the center of campus will stand as a reminder of both the road that led to this special place, and the road yet to come.