Elon’s third class of Multifaith Scholars named

Through this two-year program, five rising juniors will participate in a combination of coursework, undergraduate research and community engagement in multifaith contexts.

From left, Kylee Smith, Sarah Jane McDonald, Madison Gray, Srija Dutta, and Anna Daniel
Five rising juniors have been named as members of the third class of Multifaith Scholars. Selected in a competitive application and interview process, students in this multidisciplinary cohort will pursue academic coursework, undertake faculty-mentored undergraduate research projects, and participate in community engagement partnerships with local religious communities during their junior and senior years.

Each scholar will be awarded $5,000 annually to support creative and engaged research and global study in topics connected with religious diversity and multifaith encounter.

Amy Allocco, the program’s director and an associate professor of religious studies, will work with all of the students and their faculty mentors as they develop their projects and pursue their research, which will focus on sites of encounter, both domestic and international. “The selection committee was very impressed with the quality of this year’s applicants, who show exceptional promise as undergraduate researchers and leaders in multifaith engagement. I look forward to working with them over the next two years as their projects develop and they advance our partnership with the local Muslim community through the Burlington Masjid,” Allocco said.

The 2019-21 Multifaith Scholars

Anna Daniel

Majors: Religious Studies and Statistics
Minors: Middle East Studies
Mentor: Andrew Monteith, assistant professor of religious studies

Proposed project: Daniel’s work will use archival resources to study the Ku Klux Klan in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, examining their religious ideology and activities as they relate to the Klan’s goal of creating a racio-religious hierarchy.

Srija Dutta

Majors: Public Health Studies and International & Global Studies, Middle East focus
Minors: Interreligious Studies and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Mentor: Amanda Tapler, senior lecturer in public health studies

Proposed project: Dutta's work involves a research collaboration with Hamari Muskan, an anti-trafficking organization in Kolkata, India, that works to empower vulnerable children, adolescents, and women, focused on public health outcomes for Muslim and Hindu women.

Madison Gray

Major: Environmental & Sustainability Studies
Minors: Interreligious Studies
Mentor: Brian Pennington, director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society, and professor of religious studies 

Gray's multidisciplinary project will employ Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and survey instruments to explore the intersections between ecology and conservation in light of the diverse religious histories at the Hindu-Buddhist Angkor Wat group of monuments in Cambodia.

Sarah Jane McDonald

Majors: Religious Studies and International & Global Studies, Africa focus
Minors: Peace and Conflict Studies and Leadership Studies
Mentor: Mussa Idris, assistant professor of anthropology

McDonald’s work considers the role of religion in the lives of migrants in East Africa, with a specific focus on refugees in Tanzania, among whom she will conduct ethnographic fieldwork.

Kylee Smith

Majors: Policy Studies
Minors: Interreligious Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies
Mentor: Sandy Marshall, assistant professor of geography

Smith's project will entail qualitative research among recently resettled Muslim migrants in the United States in order to understand the impact that their relocation to this secular and religiously diverse context has on their religious views and practices.

Graduating Multifaith Scholars, from left, Styrling Rohr, Kristina Meyer and Sophie Zinn with Associate Professor Amy Allocco, second from right.
​These students join the program’s previous two cohorts of Multifaith Scholars, who have spent this academic year engaged in focused undergraduate research, study abroad experiences, internships, presenting at conferences, and developing scholarly publications.

The Multifaith Scholars program recently celebrated the research work of the first cohort of graduating seniors, Kristina Meyer, Styrling Rohr and Sophie Zinn, at a well-attended event in the Isabella Cannon Room that drew members of the campus community as well as the local religious communities that the program has developed partnerships with.

All three of these scholars have spent this academic year presenting their work in various venues, preparing journal articles for submission, and sharing their findings with the communities and organizations that facilitated their research.  

Junior Multifaith Scholar Sonya Walker, right, enjoying the communal meal (langar) with friends at the Sikh Gurudwara of North Carolina in April 2019.
​All five of the current juniors will dedicate their summers to their Multifaith Scholars undergraduate research projects, which will be carried out in contexts as diverse as Miami’s Haitian community, among Muslim college students in the North Carolina, in Charlottesville’s Jewish community, in communities in South India whose social and religious fabric is affected by worker migration to the Gulf, and among Muslims and Sikhs who are affected by profiling in the U.S. airline industry.

Established with a 2016 seed grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, the Multifaith Scholars program is a two-year, closely mentored, experientially rich, and academically rigorous educational opportunity for juniors and seniors who show great potential as intellectually curious and socially engaged multifaith leaders. The program is administered by the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society.

More information can be found on the Center’s website https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/csrcs/multifaith-scholars/.