Drea Parker and Jason Smith are delighted to share with you the names and biographies of the recipients of the 2014 Young Adult Scholarship. They are thrilled with this cohort of scholars, and look forward to introducing them to you further in Detroit!
Ellie founded an interfaith dialogue at West Texas A&M, and from that experience grew a desire to work in the higher education promoting the interfaith movement. Over the past year she completed her Masters in History, and a year serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Multicultural Initiative at Salt Lake Community College. Ellie was honored to be chosen as a Chair to assist in the establishment of the Young Adult Council for the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable. To date, Ellie has had the privilege of attending Interfaith Youth Core’s Interfaith Leadership Institute and the first Alumni Gathering. Ellie was again humbled and honored to be chosen this year as a NAIN Young Adult Scholar.
Esther Boyd is the Interfaith Program Coordinator at Johns Hopkins University, working in multifaith chaplaincy. She holds an M.A. in Religion and Literature from Yale University, and focuses on multifaith education and religious literacy. These interests were cultivated through her studies and the founding of Yale Divinity School’s Open Party, a group for students interested in humanist and interfaith work. Esther is also the Communications Director for State of Formation, an online publication for emerging ethical and religious leaders looking to foster greater interreligious collaboration and understanding. She was ordained as a Humanist Celebrant earlier this year.
Mitch Connelly is Director of Youth Ministries at First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln NE. While working with youth and young adults over the past 5 years Mitch has worked to develop and provide a variety of experiential learning opportunities for students and their families. The hope and focus of this approach is that through interfaith worship experiences, face-to-face conversations with religious leaders and spiritual practitioners as well as the development of inter-generational relationships with members of our own faith community students will engage in a process of self-discovery that is rooted in authentic conversation and the sharing of new perspectives.
A proud Southerner, crafter, and native of Nashville, Tennessee, Kiela Crabtree was raised in both the Catholic and Baha’i faiths, an upbringing which has inspired her interest in interfaith. Attending college at Sewanee: The University of the South brought along the realization that interfaith does not come naturally to everyone, and Kiela has worked to introduce the interfaith perspective to campus. Since the formation of Sewanee Interfaith in 2013, Kiela and her fellow student leaders have begun to shape a student organization with the mission of facilitating interfaith education and discussion in an environment with little previous exposure.
Emily Farthing is attending Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon majoring in religious studies and fine art. She is President of the Interfaith Prayer Service International and currently serving on the church board of Eugene’s First Congregational Church. An advocate for the homeless in her community, she organizes and oversees food and shelter services through coordinated community and interfaith efforts. She is involved with Community Supported Shelters, (CSS) taking donated and recycled materials to build efficient living structures. An avid cyclist and runner, this is her second summer creating a cycling fundraiser for the Interfaith Prayer Service International: Eat, Pray, Bike.
What does it mean to be human? Noorin Fazal, a religious educator and curriculum designer from Vancouver, Canada, believes that this question lies at the heart of interfaith education. Noorin began teaching within the Shia Ismaili Muslim community in 2009 upon completion of the Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP), a double Master’s program based in London, United Kingdom. Noorin’s graduate work focused on critical questioning and virtue ethics pedagogy. Noorin has developed interfaith programs and educational resources in partnership with a variety of organizations in Canada and the United States, including the InterSpiritual Centre for Vancouver Society, the National Film Board of Canada, Project Interfaith, and the Interfaith Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements. For the 2013-2014 academic year, Noorin moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to launch a religious education program for youth aged 12-18.
Adam Gerstenfeld is entering his third-year at the University of Florida where he is studying International Studies and Telecommunications. He began his interfaith journey during his 2nd year, where he led UF’s first cross-religious organization, the Interfaith Cabinet. Now, he is the co-founder of Interfaith Ambassadors, a service-centered interfaith club that aims to motivate young leaders to seize volunteering opportunities throughout the community. After college, Adam plans on working in diplomacy and public affairs in the state department. In his free time, Adam loves photography, rock climbing and practicing yoga.
Jack Gordon is a professional media producer and photographer who for the past decade has created projects in support of domestically and international community development programs. Coming from a family with Jewish, Christian, and Bahá’í relatives, Jack has a deeply personal understanding of the importance of building positive interfaith relationships. He currently serves on the Board of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington as a representative for the DC area Bahá’í community. He has also been lead organizer of the annual DC Young Adult Faith Leaders Summit. www.faithinactiondc.com.
Margaret Evans Koella
Maggie Koella is co-president of Sewanee Interfaith at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. A math major and philosophy minor at the University, Maggie discovered her passion for interfaith work while volunteering at her church, and joined Sewanee Interfaith immediately upon its creation. She hopes to serve her college campus by facilitating interfaith dialogue in a safe environment and offering opportunities for her fellow students to do outreach work in an interfaith context. Holding the view that the future of peace-work lies in interfaith dialogue, Maggie hopes to make a career out of her conviction post-graduation.
Ayesha Malik was born in Lahore, Pakistan and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She is currently a student at Eastern Washington University studying Marketing & Religious Studies. Malik is the current President of the Compassionate Interfaith Society.
Cody Carolina Musselman
Cody is a Master of Theological Studies candidate at Harvard Divinity School and a research associate for Harvard’s Pluralism Project. Her studies are concentrated on religions of the Americas and American religious history. She obtained a BA in religious studies from Kalamazoo College. During her time at Kalamazoo, she studied abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand with the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute. For the past several years she has worked as an outdoor education instructor. In the future Cody aims to pursue doctoral study in religion.
Seán Rose (@SeanVRose) is an experienced interfaith educator, facilitator, and trainer. A Christian, he studied International Development at University in Norwich (UK), where he was elected to run cross-campus social action campaigns, and founded the Catholic Student Society. Seán was selected for IFYC’s international Faiths Act Fellowship, and his work was recognized with a local community award. He engaged hundreds of young people through service projects and workshops, and presented at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions (Australia). As Schools Officer and Training Associate at 3FF (formerly Three Faiths Forum), Seán delivered bespoke interfaith training in the USA, UK, Sweden, and Poland, and facilitated UN award-winning education workshops in high schools, reaching 5,000+ students. Seán facilitates e-learning on the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Face to Faith education program, working with students in 19 countries, is a trained Soliya Connect Program facilitator, and is on the Board of the Young Spirit Foundation. He has a passion for education, building religious and cultural understanding, and social justice. Originally from London (UK), he now lives in California.
Andrew Skinner is from Clayton, Georgia, in rural appalachia. He began a student-led interfaith program at his high school, Rabun Gap School. The program centers around all day immersions in Atlanta with high school youth groups of different religions. He also started Inspire: A Global Conversation, an Atlanta-based initiative which strives to connect young faith communities and open up opportunities for more interfaith partnerships. Andrew has turned over both initiatives to other young adults and is now simply enjoying the friendships he has made through his work.
Liza Veilleux is from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a rising Junior at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Liza has been involved in interfaith work since her sophomore year of high school. She participated in an interfaith camp in the summer between her sophomore and junior year of high school. Since then Liza has served on a youth interfaith council with Mecklenburg Ministries, an interfaith organization in Charlotte. She is now involved with interfaith at Furman as a part of their Furman Interfaith Youth Core. In January of last year she attended the national Interfaith Youth Core conference in Atlanta and had the opportunity to meet students from college campuses everywhere who are doing great things for interfaith across the country. Interfaith has become such an important part of her life and she is excited to continue to learn more about what it is all about.
Wendy Webber is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she was a founding member of an atheist, agnostic, and multifaith community that continues to foster interbelief dialogues and initiatives on campus. For the past year she traveled the world with Pathfinders Project, a humanist service trip, and is now helping to create the related permanent Humanist Service Corps. Wendy writes about religion, atheism, and interbelief primarily for her blog (interbelief.com) and State of Formation. When she is able, she plays tennis, takes photos, and enjoys offbeat museums.