2020-2022 Multifaith Scholars

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JoyceLyn Bentley

Major: Cinema and Television Arts

Minor: Interreligious Studies

Mentor: Assistant Professor Ariela Marcus-Sells (Religious Studies)

Project Title: Then and Now: The History of Black Muslims in North Carolina

Proposed research: Bentley’s project will develop an oral history of the al-Razzaq Islamic Center in Durham, N.C., recording the narratives of its elders to preserve the important role of Black Muslim communities in local North Carolina history.

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Katie Grant

Major: Computer Science

Minors: Mathematics and Data Science, Interreligious Studies

Mentor: Professor Megan Squire (Computer Science)

Project Title: Analyzing Recruitment and Retention Techniques of Christian Identity Extremist Groups in an Online Context

Proposed research: Grant’s research will use social network analysis (SNA) techniques to illustrate the connections between Christian Identity, a religious group that has advanced anti-Semitic and racist ideologies and been linked to terrorist acts.

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Hallie Milstein

Major: Journalism

Minors: Professional Writing Studies, Interreligious Studies

Mentor: Associate Professor Geoffrey Claussen (Religious Studies)

Project Title: Jewish Identity and Wall Street

Proposed research: Milstein will use qualitative research methods to study the relationship between Jewish values and the New York financial industry, as well as the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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Alaa Suleiman

Major: Computer Science

Minors: Italian Studies, Interreligious Studies

Mentor: Associate Professor Evan Gatti (Art History)

Project Title: Religious Fabric

Proposed research: Suleiman’s research analyzes the intersections of materiality and religious symbolism, the exchange of textiles between Christianity and Islam, and issues of the display of textiles and clothing in museums, as well as historical influences on contemporary fashion.

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Emily Wilbourne

Major: Arts Administration

Minors: Dance, Business Administration, Interreligious Studies

Mentors: Assistant Professor Casey Avaunt (Dance) and Associate Professor Pamela Winfield (Religious Studies)

Project Title: The Influence of Japanese Imperialism on Buddhist Seungmu Dance in Korea

Proposed research: Wilbourne’s research will track the variation of religious implications in Korea’s Buddhist Seungmu dance from the fourteenth century to Japanese imperialism of the 1900s.

2019-2021 Multifaith Scholars

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Srija Dutta

Mentor: Amanda Tapler

Srija Dutta is a Public Health and International Global Studies (Middle East Concentration) double major with minors in Interreligious Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Atlanta, GA. Srija first became interested in religious studies when working extensively with refugees in Clarkston, GA, and her interest escalated as she completed her Public Health Practicum in a rural village in Jamkhed, Maharashtra. Being the daughter of first-generation immigrants, Srija strives to use her privilege in efforts to study and advance Women's Health outcomes within marginalized populations. Through her exposure to Hindu identities within her family, and her extensive studies of the Islamic faith through her Middle Eastern Studies courses, Srija developed an interest in analyzing and comparing the public health outcomes among religious communities-- bringing together her Public Health and International Studies majors. Being born in Kolkata, Srija made it a priority to conduct her research in a manner that would benefit those from her hometown who did not have the same privilege and opportunity that she did. Srija plans on conducting researchat Hamari Muskan, a nonprofit organization in rural India that focuses on aiding and providing support for women that actively part take in sex work. Through her research, Srija strives to create a sense of empowerment and sustainable health for these vulnerable women while actively conducting research to further her academic interests.

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Madison Gray

Mentor: Brian Pennington

Madison Gray is an Environmental and Sustainability Studies and Adventure Based Learning double major with an Interreligious Studies minor from Richmond, Virginia. She grew up in a secular household, and her interest in multifaith engagement began when transferred to a Catholic high school her sophomore year. Exposure to a new religious community piqued Madison's curiosity, inspiring her to apply for Multifaith Scholars to learn more about interfaith issues and religious diversity. Madison's research plans to incorporate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping in order to explore intersections between religion and environment at the Hindu-Buddhist Angkor Wat group of monuments in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

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Sarah Jane McDonald

Mentor: Mussa Idris

Sarah Jane (SJ) McDonald is a Religious Studies and International/Global Studies (Africa concentration) double major with minors in Leadership and Peace/Conflict Studies. Sarah Jane’s interest in religion and the ways faith traditions interact began in high school and has grown throughout her time at Elon through a variety of opportunities. Sarah Jane’s research centers around the role of religion in the lives of East African migrants, specifically refugees in Tanzania and Greensboro. Her project combines her study of Africa with a passion for refugees and will include ethnographic fieldwork while abroad in Tanzania.

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Kylee Smith

Mentor: Sandy Marshall

Kylee Smith is a Policy Studies major and with a double minor in Inter-Religious Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies from Sugar Land, TX. Kylee’s interest in multi-faith work began her senior year in high school when her school's diversity theme for the year was “Healing Islamaphobia.” This sparked her initial interest in gaining a better understanding of other religious traditions and working alongside those facing discrimination. She interned in Refugee Resettlement the Summer of 2018 where her experiences opened her eyes to the stigmatization, prejudice, and discrimination refugees in America face simply due to their religion. As a Multi-Faith Scholar, Kylee will conduct qualitative research amongst resettled Muslim migrants to understand what impact relocation to a secular and religiously diverse country has had on their religious views and practices.

2018-2020 Multifaith Scholars

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Marjorie Ann Foster

Mentors: Glenn Scott & Amy Allocco

Marjorie Anne Foster is a Journalism major and an InterReligious Encounters minor from Columbia, South Carolina. Marjorie Anne has always been interest in multi-faith work sense her early years of high school. In 2015, she spent a year traveling abroad and learning with diverse religious communities. Some of her travels included Nepal, India, Thailand, Peru and Swaziland. Through her travels and classroom endeavors, she has developed a deep respect for those of different faiths, particularly those practicing in their youth. Through her academics and personal pursuits, Marjorie Anne has seen the divide between the modern day faith practitioners and the way they are presented in the media. This has fueled her to research more about different faith communities and produce journalistic work that more appropriately reflects their modern-day lives and traditions. Marjorie Anne’s research as a Multi-faith Scholar will be focused on Muslim youths and the systems, structures and struggles they may face while at an American University. Her hope is to create a more accurate portrayal of these students live's in order to build a bridge between different individuals and combat the bias and negative attention these people groups may receive in the press.

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Kathryn Gerry

Mentor: Amy Allocco

Kathryn Gerry is a political science and international global studies (Middle East concentration) double major with minors in inter-religious studies and Asian studies from Boston, Massachusetts. Kathryn’s interest in religious studies emerged from her practice of yoga in high school. At Elon University she was introduced to and became passionate about the field of religion in academia. Through multiple religious studies classes, Kathryn developed an excitement for learning about the interactions of various religions with each other and the globalizing world. Her research as a Multi-Faith Scholar focuses on the phenomena of worker migration in the South Indian state of Kerala. Kathryn’s project will examine the implications of this migration and subsequent flows of ideas, practices, and money on social, religion, and economic landscapes in Kerala.

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Katie Hooker

Mentors: Brian Pennington & Amy Allocco

Katie Hooker is a Strategic Communications major and an Interreligious Studies minor from Medfield, MA. Katie's interest in interfaith work began in an introductory religion class at Elon and grew as she started to think about coursework through a personal lens. Katie's research as a Multifaith Scholar will focus on the impact of Christian Missionaries on indigenous religions in Haiti, such as Haitian Vodou. Before passing away in 2016, Katie's aunt travelled to Haiti over twenty times to build an orphanage and provide humanitarian aid alongside her church group. Katie is interested in how people of different religious backgrounds interact in the context of charity and missionary work and is excited to combine academic research with a personal interest.

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Hannah Thorpe

Mentor: Geoffrey Claussen

Hannah Thorpe is a junior from Annapolis, MD with majors in Religious Studies and Psychology and a minor in Political Science. Hannah has always been interested in the way religion quietly influenced our everyday lives, and especially the way people of different religious backgrounds interact. Hannah is interested in how prejudice plays a role in and among people who come from different traditions and how each tradition situates itself around inter religious encounters. This drove her to her Religious Studies major and to applying to the MultiFaith Scholars program at Elon. Her research centers around Jewish responses to NeoNazi movements in the United States.

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Sonya Walker

Mentors: Colin Donahue & Ariela Marcus-Sells

Sonya Walker is a religious studies and journalism double major from Church Creek, Maryland. She came to Elon with a dream of becoming a journalist but quickly was interested in multi-faith issues, especially surrounding Islam and its position within the world of journalism. Sonya’s research surrounds Islamophobia in the America airline industry with a focus on the intersections and representations of different religious traditions including Sikhism. Sonya looks forward to bringing together her interests in journalism and ethnography in this project and hopes to produce both scholarly and journalistic final pieces.

2017-2019 Multifaith Scholars

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Kristina Meyer

Mentor: Toddie Peters

Kristina Meyer is a religious studies and mathematics double major from Richmond, V.A. Kristina’s interest in multi-faith work began in high school when she began to befriend people who came from diverse religious backgrounds. In these interactions with her new friends, Kristina learned to appreciate what made her and her friends both similar and different from one another. This fueled her interest to be involved in various interfaith organizations and programs upon coming to Elon. Her involvement in these organizations has caused her to examine the difference between programmatic dialogue and actively addressing actual social issues. Kristina’s research as a Multi-faith Scholar will be focused on considering how justice-oriented interfaith organizations interact with faith communities to promote participation in social justice work for their participants and congregations.

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Styrling Rohr

Mentor: Amy Allocco

Styrling Rohr is a religious studies and anthropology double major from Cincinnati, O.H. Styrling was inspired to further her understanding of the world’s religions, particularly in Hinduism, after feeling like she had more to learn after her experience with religious studies in high school. Styrling is fascinated by the sometimes blurred lines that can exist between religious traditions and has further delved into this interest in religious diversity through her involvement in Periclean Scholars. In her work with Periclean Scholars, Styrling and her cohort have been working to push for inter-faith work and reconciliation efforts with a community partner on the ground in Sri Lanka. In her work as a Multi-faith Scholar, Styrling plans to analyze the ways in which South Asian musical and performance traditions may cross religious boundaries among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.

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Sophie Zinn

Mentor: Brian Pennington

Sophie Zinn is an international studies and political science double major from Indianapolis, I.N. Sophie became most interested in multi-faith engagement during her time in a Jesuit high school. As a Jewish woman, Sophie felt inspired by the diverse representation of religious backgrounds around her and leaned in to learning more about the world’s religions. One of her courses, “Social Justice and Decision Making,” furthered her interest in religious studies and after discovering many of the injustices of the world, Sophie became a strong advocate for universal human rights. As a Multi-faith Scholar, Sophie plans on investigating religion and secularism in the public sphere through research on migrant populations from Middle Eastern countries in Europe.