The Multifaith Scholars consists of Elon University juniors and seniors who will participate in a mentored undergraduate research program related to interreligious studies. Scholars design their own research project to devote time to, and undertake a major or minor in religious or interreligious studies. Scholars will receive a $5,000 grant annually to support their research and academic development.
“I often see a great deal of growth and transformation over the course of the two years,” Director of the Multifaith program Amy Allocco said. “I'm really excited to work with this particular cohort of students as they advance their projects and begin that transformational learning that happens at the confluence of deep mentoring, undergraduate research and global engagement.”
Sophomore Kaelyn Rosenberg developed an interest in fantasy and horror when she watched TV as a kid. She said she observed the programs she watched to see how they related and influenced the world. In her freshman year, she took a class that spiked her interest in religion and applied the same observational mindset to interreligious studies, which ended up being her minor.
“Before Elon, I don't think I've really ever thought about how much influence religion has over American society and the rest of the world,” Rosenberg said.
A cinema and television arts major, Rosenberg’s research will focus on the occurrences of Christianity used, and sometimes weaponized, to portray vampires in video media and how it applies outside of media. Her plan for her project, “Vampire Media as a Reflection of Christian Values and Prejudices,” is to create a mini-documentary covering her findings.
Jasper Serenity Meyers
Junior Jasper Serenity Meyers said she was inspired by the book, “The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt to major in classical studies. One of Meyers’ study interests is in Greek and Roman mythology.
Her research, titled “Between the Monstrous and the Modest, a Symposium of Female Same Sex Erotic Encounters in the Ancient Mediterranean Religious Landscape,” examines the way that lesbian relations and sexuality were portrayed in Greek and Roman religious and astrological texts, specifically mythology. She will investigate two types of female homoeroticism — masculine and feminine women who love women — and why masculine lesbians were considered bad.
Meyers said she has personal stakes in the matter because of the way the trend has persisted into modern day.
“Not just as an academic, but as a lesbian, I owe it to my fellow sisters to do this work of uncovering social biases that have existed long before they were born and is ultimately not their fault,” Meyers said.
Sophomore Hunter Siegel, a double-major in international & global studies and political science,grew up as a Reform Jew – he attended Jewish high school, participated in youth group programming and led Sunday school. He said that Judaism encourages questioning what one knows. Judaism’s tenet of questioning and investigating the world, paired with a variety of experiences, has given him the attitude and skills of a researcher.
Siegel's research titled “Examining the Relationship between Religious Identity/Ideology, Political Identity/Ideology, and Pro-Environmental Orientation in American Christians, Muslims, and Jews,” will investigate how environmental values are affected by religious and political identities.
“I'm a very curious and investigative person in the way that carries over to religion,” Siegel said. “The Multifaith Scholars program is an amazing way to learn more about the world, the people and cultures within.”
Sophomore Kiara Cronin’s passions lie in learning social policy and social justice, as she said she wants to make substantial changes to better the lives of people in the future. Cronin, a human service studies major, said that her own religious identities have helped form her value of community and that learning about diverse religions and cultures is crucial to helping people.
“I think that learning about different religions, people's cultures and different places around the world is important if you want to serve people,” Cronin said. “Because you need to be able to understand people, recognize differences and respect differences.”
Cronin’s research, “How Generation Z is Deconstructing Traditional Faith Practices,” will culminate into a podcast mini-series, where she looks into the ways that Generation Z has pulled away from the Christian faith. She will compare Gen-X to Gen-Z, observing different values and the role that media has played in the shift, as well as conducting a literature review, which is research based on previously published works.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, sophomore Sandoh Ahmadu struggled with mental health. He tried a variety of coping mechanisms, until he experienced meditation, which has since stuck with him. Ahmadu said that it was originally more secular, or non-religious, meditation until he began reading and adapting more Buddhist perspectives.
Ahmadu, a psychology major, will research the seven chakras, well-known through Buddhism and Hinduism, as a connection to different emotions. Titled “Bridging West & East: An Alternative for Emotional Regulation,” he will see the extent that Buddhist traditions tie to European and American neurobiological findings. Ahmadu plans on traveling to India as part of his research.
“My research is finding a way to bridge the language of the east with the language of the west so that we can all find a way to just be mentally and emotionally okay,” Ahmadu said.
Sophomore Grace London is a biochemistry major with a pre-med studies track. She plans to work in medicine, which means working with people from different backgrounds.
London’s research focuses on ways to improve and further develop the program. Her project is titled “Elon Nursing on Spirituality and Religion” and will review how Elon Nursing teaches religion and spirituality with the hopes of suggesting improvements for the program in the future. She said she believes medicine has a lot to do with interreligious studies since it can be difficult to separate religion from a patient.
“I'm hoping I can really influence Elon to make some changes in their curriculum, obviously, if those changes are needed,” London said. “Cultural competency is such a hot topic right now for good reason, so Elon is looking to make these changes.”