Elon announces fifth Multifaith Scholars cohort

Through a two-year fellows program, the five rising juniors of this interdisciplinary cohort will participate in specialized coursework, faculty-mentored undergraduate research, campus leadership, and community engagement in multifaith contexts.

Five rising juniors have been named members of the fifth class of Multifaith Scholars, a two-year fellows program for juniors and seniors that offers a closely mentored, experientially rich, and intellectually rigorous educational opportunity for cohort members.

After a highly selective application and interview process, students of this multidisciplinary program will be awarded $5,000 annually to support research and study in global contexts connected with religious diversity and multireligious societies. Students who show great potential as academically curious and socially engaged multifaith leaders committed to their own ongoing development and the enhancement of their local and global communities are selected in the Spring of their second year.

Amy Allocco, an associate professor of religious studies, has directed the Multifaith Scholars program since it was established in 2016. She notes that this year’s class is exceptionally strong and that their projects bring additional disciplinary diversity to the cohort. “The selection committee was impressed by the incredible richness of these scholars’ proposed projects,” Allocco said. “Moreover, they each spoke compellingly about what they hope to contribute to and how they will benefit from the cohorted experience that the Multifaith Scholars program offers.”

In addition to pursuing faculty-mentored undergraduate research and undertaking academic coursework, the scholars will extend the program’s ongoing community partnership with the Burlington Masjid.

The 2021-23 Multifaith Scholars

Darsev Kaur

Major: Religious Studies

Minors: Asian Studies, Leadership Studies

Mentor: Associate Professor Amy Allocco, Religious Studies

Project Title: “Analyzing Devotional Sikh Worship and Everyday Religiosity in Keshgarh Sahib Gurudwara”

Proposed research: Kaur’s research focuses on everyday Sikh religiosity and will analyze the significance of devotional practices performed during congregational worship at the Keshgarh Sahib Gurudwara and related sites in Punjab, India.

Aidan Melinson

Majors: English: Creative Writing, Religious Studies

Minor: History

Mentor: Associate Professor Drew Perry, English

Project Title: “Crossing with Crows: Reconciling Christianity with Neopaganism in the Shadow of Grief”

Proposed research: Melinson’s project will combine creative writing and interreligious studies to produce a collection of creative pieces that reflect on Irish-Catholic culture, pre-Christian Ireland, and his own identities against the backdrop of personal loss.

Peyton Rohlfs

Majors: Literature, Religious Studies

Minor: Criminal Justice Studies

Mentor: Assistant Professor Dinidu Karunanayake, English

Project Title: “Crossroads of Nationalism and Religious Identity: Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalism and Cultural Memory in the Sri Lankan American Diasporic Community in Staten Island”

Proposed research: Rohlfs’ research will examine the formation of Buddhist cultural memory as it intersects with religious identity and nationalism  within the Sri Lankan diaspora community in Staten Island, New York’s “Little Sri Lanka.”

Madelyn Starr

Majors: International and Global Studies: Middle East Concentration, Religious Studies

Minors: Political Science, Middle East Studies

Mentor: Associate Professor Amy Allocco, Religious Studies

Project Title: “Creating Narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Through Everyday Materiality in Religious Contexts

Proposed research: Starr will conduct ethnographic fieldwork in Jerusalem and record the “material memories” that Israelis and Palestinians attach to everyday objects in order to understand their experiences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Emerson Wells

Major: Environmental & Ecological Studies

Minor: Interreligious Studies

Mentor: Assistant Professor Robert Perdue, Sociology and Anthropology

Project Title: “Examining Mountain Identity in Appalachia and Bhutan”

Proposed research: Wells will utilize environmental sociology to examine the relationship between mountain identity and religious traditions in the southern Appalachian mountains and Bhutan.

These students join the two current classes of Multifaith Scholars, who have spent the year engaged in undergraduate research, presenting virtually at academic conferences, and developing scholarly publications. The program is preparing to celebrate the exceptional work of the graduating seniors. Srija Dutta, Madison Gray, Sarah Jane McDonald, and Kylee Smith have all produced outstanding research projects analyzing multifaith topics ranging from the faith identity of Tanzanian refugees in Greensboro to the survivals of Cambodia’s religious practices among multiple generations of refugees living in the United States.

Brian Pennington, Director of Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, which houses the Multifaith Scholars program, praised this year’s seniors for the adjustments they were able to make during the pandemic. “COVID-19 presented a set of obstacles that students researchers at Elon have never faced before,” Pennington said. “To a person, each of these graduating seniors exhibited determination and intellectual agility to produce truly impressive original research in spite of the circumstances.”

More information about the Multifaith Scholars program can be found on the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society website: https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/csrcs/multifaith-scholars/.