ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict celebrates student achievement

Parents, friends, faculty, and academic advisors gathered on April 25 to celebrate the accomplishments of students honored at Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict’s annual awards lunch.

The event recognized a range of student achievements: fellows who completed the Undergraduate Research Program; winners of the “Friends of the Center” research scholarship; and undergraduates who earned a Certificate in Religion and Conflict.

Yasmin Saikia, Center acting director and Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies, served as the ceremony’s emcee and began the event with a warm welcome to incoming students who will participate in next year’s cohort, as well as students who are celebrating the completion of a program. 

“Our student programs foster intellectual exchange and collaboration, and they support independent research—both of these efforts are embedded in the heart of the Center’s work,” said Saikia.

“We look forward to this event each year because it gives us the opportunity to meet students who are just starting their studies at the Center, and also to reunite groups that we’ve spent time with as they wrap up their work,” Saikia continued. “So whether you’re feeling eager or accomplished, we are pleased by the opportunity to work with you.”

“This event also provides an occasion to recognize the contributions other people make in the life of the Center throughout the year.”

“From our students and their families, to the academic and faculty advisors who support them, to the Friends of the Center—the donors whose generous support make these programs possible. Every award or fellowship recognized today is made possible by individuals in the community who are personally committed to advancing the research and education mission of the Center. We are all deeply grateful.” 

Undergraduate research fellows

First to be recognized were students who completed the Undergraduate Research Fellows Program. Students in the program take a special class with the Center’s director, John Carlson; meet with visiting scholars and practitioners, such as journalists Daniel Burke (CNN) and Anand Gopal (The New Yorker); and assist faculty in cutting edge research on the sources and dynamics of religion and conflict.

The program is open to students from any major, and this year’s group included students in global studies, psychology, economics, biological studies, political science, and religious studies.

“The seminar provides a unique opportunity for a diverse cohort of students, competitively selected from various majors, to explore the role of religion as it influences today’s most pressing issues,” said Carlson.

“We update the curriculum each year to ensure that the content presented in the course is relevant to students,” he continues, “Our hope in this program is to prepare students as they step into a complex world.”

This year, students explored the relationship of religion and violence; the configuration of religion and the secular; and the intersections among religion, national identity, and race in American life. They also critically examined the notion that religion is a source of conflict, as well as considered the ways that religion fosters social change and peace.

Students recognized for completing the fellows program this past year:

  • Hal Danesh, history, Jewish studies
  • Emily Delvecchio, political science
  • Morgan Kaus, religious studies
  • John Longo, economics
  • Lizbeth Meneses, psychology
  • Sumaita Mulk, biological sciences, political science
  • Daiva Scovil, political science, economics
  • Josephine Sherwood, global studies
  • Rachel Sondgeroth, religious studies, global studies
  • Madeline Stull, political science, religious studies
  • Alex Wakefield, economics

Learn more about the Undergraduate Research Fellows Program

Friends of the Center Research Awards

The centerpiece of the awards program are the winners of the Friends of the Center research awards. This award confers students — undergraduate and graduate — scholarships of up to $2,500 to pursue independent research on religion and conflict for their theses or dissertations, or to participate in peacebuilding programs overseas.

This summer, the 2019 winners will be conducting research in Iran, Korea, Italy, Ghana, Chicago, Serbia and Bosnia, and the Czech Republic.

The Center awarded eight scholarships this year: three to graduate students and five to undergraduate students:

  • Interested in peace-building and conflict management, Ayesha Ashan, an undergraduate student majoring in economics and sociology, will travel to Prague to participate in a three-week program with the American Institute for Political and Economic Systems. Ashan seeks to enhance her understanding of international affairs, comparative politics and economics, and human rights issues with the ambition of negotiating future international tensions.
  • Jeena James, a biological sciences major, will travel to Italy to study the migrant crisis and gather insights for her honors thesis on the refugee experience in Italy and the United States. James noted that she hopes to use the trip as a “stepping stone” for participating in future humanitarian aid opportunities. 
  • As an undergraduate student in journalism and mass communication, Irene Rubio seeks to explore the role of media and public policy as it contributes to building a more peaceable society. Rubio will use her award to attend the University of Chicago’s “Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program,” where she will learn best practices in how to create social change with a data-driven approach. 
  • Katherine Panopoulous, who is studying political science, will travel to Ghana for her research. Panopoulos’ project focuses on the philosophical underpinnings of peacebuilding mechanisms. During her time in Ghana, she hopes to evaluate the Ghana Peace Council as a case study of a national peace and conflict-building institution.
  • Finally, Madeline Stull, a history major, will travel between Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Croatia to gain first-hand knowledge about how survivors’ memories of the Balkan Wars effect their perception of peace. Stull’s honor’s thesis seeks to explore how war functions in survivors’ memories.

Other recipients of the Friends of the Center research awards were graduate students.

  • First is Peyman Asadzadehmamaghani, a doctoral student in political and global studies, whose work explores patterns of participation in revolutionary activism. His project examines religious and leftist groups in Iran and their organizational recruitment patterns to understand what makes some more effective at eliciting participation than others.
  • Fascinated by the motivations of Asian Protestant missionaries in their drive to convert Muslims in foreign countries, Jihye Jung, a doctoral student in political science, will travel to South Korea to conduct further research. Jung will administer interviews with Protestant groups who send missionaries to Muslim communities abroad in an effort to further understand their ambition and impact. 
  • Finally, Brett Goldberg, a doctoral student in justice studies, will conduct an independent study on peacebuilding theories and programs of restorative, transformative, and transitional justice. Goldberg’s research looks at gender-based violence, paying particular attention to how healthy masculinities and consent-based relationships are tangible projects of peacebuilding.

Learn more about the Friends of the Center research awards

Undergraduate Certificate in Religion and Conflict

The final part of the program featured students who earned an Undergraduate Certificate in Religion and Conflict. Similar to the fellow’s program, students from any major can earn a certificate by completing 18 credits of coursework studying regional, political, and cultural components of religion, conflict, and peace.

Since the program began 11 years ago, over 120 students have earned the certificate, and there 5 who earned it in the 2018-19 academic year across a wide scope of academic disciplines.

Those earning the certificate in the 2018-19 academic year are:

  • Hamad Alajmi, political science
  • Kayla Barnes, global health
  • BrieAnna Frank, journalism and mass communication, political science
  • Carolina Marques de Mesquita, political science, English
  • Janna Tobin, history, political science

Learn more about the Undergraduate Certificate in Religion and Conflict

“We congratulate all the students here today for their dedication to their studies,” concluded Saikia. “All of us at the Center are so proud, we wish you all good luck, and we expect great things from you!”

Browse photos from the event in this Facebook album