Introducing the NAIN 2011 Young Adult Scholars

These are the Young Adult Scholarship Recipients for the NAINConnect 2011 in Phoenix, AZ, July 24 – 26
Co-host – Arizona InterFaith Movement

Be sure to register for the connect to meet these outstanding young leaders of the interfaith movement in North America.  Register here.

Angela Butel is a rising junior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. She is originally from Kansas City, MO. At Macalester, she is an Anthropology major, with concentrations in Human Rights and Humanitarianism and African Studies and a minor in French. She is involved in interfaith work on- and off-campus, serving as a member of the Macalester Multifaith Council, a co-chair of Mac Catholics, and an Emerging Organizer for the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition of Minnesota. In addition to these interfaith activities, she works for Amicus, an organization providing transitional services to ex-offenders, and is involved in her campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Kristy Bergman became interested in interfaith issues while completing her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs at the University of Regina.  At the time, she was primarily interested in the ways in which religion impacts global politics and the potential contributions of interfaith dialogue initiatives to conflict resolution.  Now, working in the field of international relief and development with Canadian Lutheran World Relief, an agency based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, her interest has expanded to include interfaith dynamics in that field.  Kristy recently traveled to Kenya to participate in meetings of Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA), an African-based movement that promotes peace through grassroots development projects undertaken collectively by local faith groups.  Kristy is also involved with the Manitoba Interfaith Council.

Vanessa Gomez Brake is the Director of Operations & Outreach at the Chaplaincy Institute for Arts & Interfaith Ministries (ChI) in Berkeley, California. ChI is an interfaith seminary re-visioning theological education to serve a pluralistic world.  For several years, Vanessa has also served as Research Assistant for the Abrahamic Family Reunion, a project that offers ways to use psychological and spiritual approaches in reconciling conflicts among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. She is active in the Bay Area as a community educator, peacemaker and participant in a variety of interfaith activities. Vanessa obtained a B.A. in Religious Studies and Psychology from Arizona State University. From there she went on to the Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution at George Mason University to receive a M.S. As a graduate student she worked at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy & Conflict Resolution. Her capstone project was a collaboration with the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and dealt with the creation of an interactive curriculum for middle school students in DC area, based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Six Principles of Nonviolence.’ Her studies of religion and interfaith work have taken her across the US and internationally to Japan, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Australia.

Joshua Cook is an undergraduate student at Syracuse University studying Religion. He co-founded the first entirely student based interfaith group on campus and has worked to connect students with local progressive community organizations like Women Transcending Boundaries and the Syracuse Peace Council. His academic work focuses on what the late Thomas Barry called the “Ecozoic Era,” a time when the world’s great religious traditions would have to re-define themselves in order to face the social and ecological challenges our world faces. This fuels his interfaith work with conviction that the most fundamental thing we have in common, our earth, needs us all to cooperate now more than ever.

Honna Eichler graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity in 2010. She is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is a representative of the Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group in the Chicago Presbytery. Honna was Program Associate for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions and managed aspects of the program for the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne, Australia. After finishing seminary, she helped coordinate the Chicago portion of the Global Institute of Theology, which was hosted by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Honna currently blogs for State of Formation works for Interfaith Worker Justice.

Katherine Allen King became interested in interfaith issues at a very early age.  Growing up in a family composed of practically every faith tradition dotting the American landscape, from Protestant to Orthodox, Roman Catholic to Reform Jewish, even Islamic (from Turkey) to Islamic (from Iran), interfaith dialog wasn’t a foreign concept reserved for the ivory towers of academia. It was nightly dinner conversation.  Raised a liturgical Christian in the Episcopal church, she attended 12 years of Catholic school where she was introduced to a love of liberation theology and church history.  She also developed a particular passion for sacred music that was fostered during years of studying the violin.  She has studied at the Brevard Music Center, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts, the North Carolina School of the Arts, as well as Furman University where she received degrees in both music and religion.  It was during her college years when she was given the opportunity to more broadly investigate world religions while studying abroad in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Italy.  Although a native of Charleston, she currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina where she is an owner and manager of Kings Cross Consulting, a technology and online services business.  She performs with the Foothills Philharmonic and Carolina Pops orchestras and is a member of the board of the Roper Mountain Science Center.  On the local and state levels, Katherine serves on the board of the Greenville Interfaith Forum as well as the steering committee of the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina where she works with others to encourage interfaith understanding, respect, and cooperation in pursuit of a just society.  A self-described progressive traditionalist, she finds her current spiritual home in a Baptist congregation affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists.  Katherine and her husband Soren enjoy the adventure of raising their two young and curious sons, Henry (4) and William (7).

Craig Phillips began his activities in interfaith relations during an internship with the World Conference of Religions for Peace in 2008. Upon completion, Craig enrolled in Hartford Seminary in the MA Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations program. He is currently at the end of his studies, and is writing his thesis on the topic of cultural relativism and the issue of universality in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from an Islamic perspective. Craig has also been serving as program coordinator for the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut since 2009, developing and coordinating projects that serve both the Muslim and non-Muslim community of Connecticut. Craig works as the social media coordinator at his home institution, Hartford Seminary, and plans to expand this work upon completion of his studies. Craig has lived in India, and spent considerable time in Nepal, Egypt, Iran, and Turkey. In the summer of 2011 Craig travelled to Poland for a Fellowship at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE). Craig plans to combine his diverse experiences and education for a career in active thought and practice of both interfaith and inter-cultural relations globally.

Anne Marie Roderick grew up in New York City and is a recent graduate of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana where she studied Religion and Creative Writing.  During her time at Earlham, Anne Marie was active in the Earlham Christian Fellowship and in organizing religious life events on campus.  She helped foster interfaith dialogue and cooperation on campus through participation in the Interfaith Youth Core’s Fellows Alliance program during her sophomore year and through other initiatives later on.  Anne Marie is passionate about making her faith relevant for the world through peace-building and social justice work.  Next year, she will move to Washington, DC to participate in a yearlong internship program with Sojourners magazine.  She hopes to attend Divinity school the following year.

Sana Saeed is the Program Manager for the Interfaith Youth Action Group (IYAG) an initiative of the organizations 9/11 Unity Walk and ML Resources Social Vision (building on the previous works of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation), which aims to empower high school students from diverse backgrounds to become leaders in interfaith dialogue and service, guiding them to create their own year-long community service initiatives with both a local and global expression, using the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals as their platform. Saeed also works as the Director of Youth Programs at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA managing social justice, spiritual and service programs for 200 high-school and middle-school youth.  She is also a consultant on youth organizing, activism, and online social networking in Washington D.C. Saeed previously worked as the Campus Program Coordinator for the American Islamic Congress and as the Program Associate for Clergy Beyond Borders. Early in her career she also worked with the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution as a Graduate Research Assistant focusing on development and religious conflicts. In 2008, she completed her M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia. In her spare time she travels and blogs about her adventures, which have recently been commented on by the Travel Channel and published in Go Gallivanting, an online travel magazine for women. She also volunteers with a group of friends to host a monthly fundraising event at the Hillyer Art Space with Voices Organizing for International Change, Empowerment and Support (VOICES) to raise funds for organizations supporting youth activism globally that use hip-hop and the arts as tools for empowering youth.

Brad Seligmann is a recent graduate of Xavier University and currently runs an urban food pantry as an AmeriCorps volunteer. While at Xavier he founded the Xavier Interfaith Club, and worked directly with Xavier administrators to increase support for students of all faith traditions. One major milestone was the creation of a neutral, multi-faith prayer room on campus. During the 2008-2009 academic year Brad was a Fellow with the Interfaith Youth Core, receiving training in the IFYC model of interfaith service. Brad has been a youth leadership coordinator for the Metro Cincinnati Interfaith Youth group (MCIY) since the group’s founding in 2007. MCIY is a service-learning high school youth group sponsored by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati, a coalition of 17 religious judicatories which acts as a unified voice for social justice “to forgo the luxury of separate ways when a common path can be found.” In August Brad will join the Ginsberg Center at the University of Michigan as the Director of Interfaith Action, an initiative which brings students together through service and dialogue to strengthen understanding of religious diversity while creating a safer, more supportive and more inclusive campus. Brad’s other interests include agricultural sustainability, alternative energy, and gardening.

In addition, our 2010-11 interns, introduced in the NAINews Late Fall 2010 edition, will be attending the Connect.  Here is a reminder of their bios.

Andrea (Drea) Parker has served NAIN as the Communications Assistant Intern.  You have seen her posts on the NAIN blog and Facebook page.  She is a senior at Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC, earning her Bachelor’s in World’s Religions.

She finds from her studies of religions, that different paths tend to speak the same truth.  It is her hope to extract the core teachings intertwined in all the world’s religions, and follow these with her heart, sharing what she learns with the world, thereby creating a bridge to connect them.

Drea lives fully through her lifetime of studying consciousness, practicality and awareness. A former Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, she offers wedding officiating, Spiritual Counseling / Mentoring, Conscious Revealing exercises, private integrated reflexology treatments and Reiki treatments as a Reiki Master.

Ursala Knudsen-Latta has served NAIN as Program/Young Adult Intern. has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Religions and Theology (Religion and Society), which involved studying, amongst other topics, Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations and Hindu-Muslim relations.  She was President of the Manchester University Religions and Theology Society, and Secretary of the Board of the Anchorage Interfaith Council.

She has a strong background in program planning for non-profit organizations.  When she began her degree at Manchester University, there was no society for the students of religion so she decided to found an interfaith society focused on education.  She founded RATS (Religion and Theology Society), to create and strengthen bonds between the students of religion and religious groups in Manchester.  In order to create an effective and active society, she had to research the administrative requirements, and liaise with each religious community in order to build support.  She decided upon the most effective structure for the society’s committee, wrote a constitution and created an ethos of hard work and support.  She created a calendar of events for the academic year.  Her organizational skills and motivation made RATS a great success, allowing the society to increase its interfaith work.  Upon her return to Anchorage, Alaska, her background in founding RATS led to her being invited to found the sub-committee on Youth Events within the Anchorage Interfaith Council.

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