Alumna recognized for research about N.C. Sikh community

Melina Oliverio '16 was named first runner-up for the ASIANetwork's Marianna McJimsey Award, which recognizes top student papers focused on Asia. 

Extensive research by Melina Oliverio ’16 of a Sikh community in Durham has led to her being named first runner-up for prestigious student paper award from ASIANetwork, a consortium of 160 North American colleges focused on strengthening Asian studies within the liberal arts. 

Oliverio, an Honors Fellow who majored in religious studies and international studies, was named first runner-up for ASIANetwork’s Marianna McJimsey Award, which recognizes top student papers focused on Asian studies. Oliverio’s paper, “Migration and Identity: Gender Dynamics and Religious Participation among Sikh Women in North Carolina,” stemmed from her Honors Fellow thesis research under Amy Allocco, associate professor of religious studies. 

Oliverio said the paper resulted from about 18 months of research starting with a focus on a gurudwara, a Sikh temple of worship, in Durham that expanded to include interviews with first- and second-generation members of the Sikh community. Her paper zeroed in on how gender is enacted and discussed within their religious community. 

They explain gender within the context of ‘home,’ which is both in India, their home country, and the United States, their new home,” Oliverio explains. “Participants often revealed that their migration to the United States has helped them form hybrid and interlocking religious and gender identities, which they describe as allowing them to practice Sikhism and its egalitarian practices more fully in the United States than in India.”

While at Elon, Oliverio was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and often considered the nation’s most prestigious honor society, and in spring 2016 received the PERCS Outstanding Ethnography Award, one of Elon’s annual leadership awards. Oliverio is now a first-year student at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., and hopes to pursue a career in international law, human rights law or immigration and refugee law. 

ASIANetwork seeks to promote Asia within the framework of a liberal arts education “to help prepare succeeding generations of undergraduates for a world in which Asian societies play prominent roles in an ever more interdependent world.” The annual prize honors the service of Marianna McJimsey, the first executive director of ASIANetwork and the first editor of ASIANetwork Exchange.