Elon launches Multifaith Scholars program

Amy Allocco, associate professor of religious studies, will direct fellowship program for juniors and seniors to promote research and community engagement.

This spring, the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society (CSRCS) will welcome its first cohort of Multifaith Scholars.

Made possible by a 2016 seed grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, the Multifaith Scholars program will offer a two-year, experientially rich, and academically rigorous educational opportunity for juniors and seniors who show great potential as intellectually curious and socially engaged multifaith leaders.

Five students in their sophomore year will be selected each year to pursue coursework, mentored undergraduate research, and co-curricular engagement with local communities that will promote multifaith learning and reflection on multifaith issues. The fellowship will provide each student $5,000 annually during their final two years at Elon.

Multifaith Scholars will each work one-on-one with a faculty mentor who will direct their research projects and advise them as they develop the skills and creativity that will help them proactively pursue leadership in a religiously diverse world. They will also participate in learning and community engagement opportunities as a cohort that will expose them to new worldviews and offer them space to reflect on these perspectives and on religious diversity more broadly.

Senior Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs Tim Peeples has announced that Amy Allocco, associate professor of religious studies, will serve a three-year term as the founding director of the program. Allocco expressed her enthusiasm for the meaningful work with religious communities in the region that the fellowship will make possible for students. “Multifaith scholars will be involved in crafting and establishing a community-based program dedicated to knowledge and engagement across lines of difference,” Allocco said. “I am very excited to be a part of this opportunity for Elon to forge deeper ties with residents and communities of faith in the area.”

Students across all majors are eligible to apply. Those selected who complete the Multifaith Scholars program will possess a uniquely strong foundation to enter multifaith work of many kinds—including through employment in higher education, through positions within the expanding network of interfaith organizations in urban centers across the U.S., through coordinating outreach for communities of faith and non-profits, and in a growing number of governmental and non-governmental positions across the globe fostering relationships across religions and cultures.

​Brian Pennington, director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society and a professor of religious studies, emphasized Elon’s deepening investment in education about the role of religion in the world. “The Multifaith Scholars program,” Pennington said, “expands the University’s commitment to providing both the academic and experiential preparation necessary for graduating students prepared to face the challenges of leadership in a religiously diverse, globalizing world.” He added, “The enthusiasm and the intellectual engagement with religious difference that these students will bring to the program will significantly expand and enhance the efforts the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society to cultivate critical thinking about religion and spirituality.”

Pennington noted that the Multifaith Scholars program will also help cohort the many students interested in doing undergraduate research on the intersection of religious communities. As examples of the kind of work these scholars might do, he pointed to the Honors Thesis research conducted by Melina Oliverio ’17, who studied gender dynamics among Sikh communities in Durham, N.C., Audrey Griffith ’18, who conducted more than 40 interviews with women of varying religious commitments in Chennai, India in January 2017 with funding from Elon’s Center for Research on Global Engagement, and Lumen scholar Brianna Birchett ’18, who has conducted two field research excursions to South India to study how conceptions about women dedicated to the goddess Yellamma vary across social boundaries. “This program will now give us a mechanism for formalizing undergraduate research on religious pluralism and creating a community of students doing that work,” Pennington said.

Further information about the program and application forms can be found at http://www.elon.edu/e-web/academics/studyofreligion/multifaithscholars.xhtml