Student-owned business aids the Interfaith Center in Oxford

Under a new executive director, the Interfaith Center is introducing a variety of changes intended to bring more students into their building across from King Library in Oxford.

Kerri Cissna, a Miami entrepreneurship professor and executive director of the Interfaith Center since last August, said that she has been trying to shift the center’s focus to students.

This year, the center has rented out space on the first and second floors to a student-owned business where students can make and sell art. Until July, the space had been previously rented to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, an addiction and mental health clinic.

“I think we’re going to survive this year, but we’re trying to figure out what is a sustainable business model for this place,” Cissna said.

The Interfaith Center, a non-profit organization previously known as The Campus Ministry Center that rebranded in 2014, strives to make people from all different religious backgrounds feel welcomed through conversation, education and social action. It hosts events, speakers and activities to generate community engagement.

Miami students Julian Bradley and Genevieve Gerenz opened the College Artisans Shop last week in the rooms on the first and second floors of the Interfaith Center.

The pair began making jewelry in their dorm rooms and selling it in Armstrong last year. They wanted a permanent space where all students could make and sell their art.

“It’s not like we were trying to fill a niche,” Gerenz said. “We realized there was a need, so we filled our own need. Of course other people are going to have the same problem.”

As well, in January, Cissna promoted two student interns to work as co-directors rather than hire a director. They have designed events to cater to student interest, including a Barbie-themed lunch and musical meditation.

“All the events that we hold don’t necessarily have to be around the interfaith theme,” Onur Tektas, the finance director of the Interfaith Center, said. “We can do pretty much whatever we want and it can happen naturally. The conversations can happen naturally.”

This article was originally published by the Oxford Observer, a digital publication of content by Miami University students.

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