Interfaith Fellows

Interfaith Fellows Program

The yearlong Interfaith Fellows Program trains undergraduate students to become more knowledgeable about different religious traditions and more skilled at communicating with people from other religious backgrounds. The Center’s goal is to provide our Fellows (and eventually other students whom they help involve in campus interfaith events and programming) with the knowledge and skills to surmount the barriers of religious difference and to become interfaith leaders in whatever career trajectories the future might hold for them.

For more information, click here.

Interfaith Fellows 2019/20

Alyse Bartol

I’m Alyse and am a sophomore this year at UW and am super excited to be a part of this team this year! I’ve always been really interested in religion, but especially in how everyone’s view of their own religion shapes their lives and why our differences are a cause to celebrate—not judge. So I’m so happy to finally be able to talk to people my own age on their views on both religion and life. I think that, especially now, it’s becoming increasingly important, and needed, to understand ways of life other than your own. I don’t want to live in a bubble, and any way I can expand my views I want to try. I’m a passionate person and I try to carry that into everything I do. I am currently studying pre-Med at UW, and am leaning towards working in the ER department. I love music and singing and like to play my ukulele whenever I get the chance! I also love sports and being active, playing volleyball, and running. If I’m not doing one of those things, I’m probably with friends or doing something outdoors. I also love traveling, the ocean, and want to sail around the world someday. I love being busy and will find something to occupy my time if I’m not!

Yogev Ben-Yitschak

My name is Yogev and I am a senior studying Marketing and Digital Studies. I grew up in northern Israel, where I mainly practiced Judaism but had a lot of contact with Islam and Christianity in areas such as Jerusalem. I got involved with Hillel, the on-campus Jewish center, during my freshman year, and explored other Jewish organizations such as Chabad and Jewish Experience of Madison. Through my involvement in the ASM Student Government, I saw many issues on this campus that affected different religious communities in Madison and realized that only by working on interfaith cooperation can we join together to make a difference in this university. I have always been interested in other religions, attending various churches and mosques since I became a student, and Judaism will always play a huge role in my identity. I am honored to be a CRGC fellow and to work with the other CRGC fellows on thinking about our identities, collaborating on interfaith events, and working on issues that affect religious communities across campus!

Max Bibicoff

My name is Max and I am a senior studying Strategic Communication with a certificate in Jewish Studies. I have sought many opportunities to explore my Jewish identity over the past three years on campus, most recently spending the spring semester abroad studying at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Growing up in a suburb of a Connecticut, religious observance did not play a central role in my life. I was surrounded by many people who shared my family’s background, and I only began to question what it meant to be Jewish once I was older and getting ready to head off to college. Learning about different religious philosophies and spiritual practices fascinates me, and I am excited to have a role in building an understanding and compassionate climate for interreligious dialogue. I believe that true cooperation and understanding lie on the other side of unity, and I look forward to building bridges across different religious orientations.

Jacob Brevard

My name is Jacob Brevard and I am a sophomore majoring in Computer Science. I’m also pursuing a Certificate in Entrepreneurship. I have lived in 4 different states (WI, MI, IL, and WA) throughout various points in my life. I was brought up in a Catholic family, having many strong role models to follow in my faith. I received 3 holy sacraments in the Catholic faith: baptism, first communion, and confirmation. The deep connection between my family and God lead me to become interested in interreligious dialogue to not only grow in my faith but to learn about all faiths and what they believe in. The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry is a great opportunity which provides a safe place for students to hold these critical discussions. I am also a member on the University of Wisconsin Fishing Team and work in the Housing Assignments Office as a Housing Ambassador. I look forward to meeting many new people and deepening our understandings of each other and God. I look forward to meeting and getting to know all the CRGC fellows this year.

Noah Brown

Hi there, my name is Noah and I am a sophomore at UW–Madison majoring in History and Environmental Studies. I’m from Montclair, New Jersey and I am an American Jew with background in conservative and reconstructionist Jewish communities back in New Jersey, here in Madison, and in Israel. I am lucky enough to have been able to travel and study in Israel, where I participated in difficult and necessary conversations with leaders of Jewish, Palestinian, Bedouin, Christian, and Muslim communities. I see the CRGC fellowship as a unique opportunity and space to listen to and be heard by those who have a similar investment in sharing meaningful cultural experiences and coming together to make Madison a more welcoming and integrated community. I look forward to continuing discussions about faith, Israel, and cultural understanding at the CRGC and adding to the conversation my background as a Jew in America and in Israel.

Matthias Chan

My name’s Matthias and I’m a sophomore majoring in Computer Science at UW-Madison.  I was raised in a non-denominational Christian home in Wisconsin, and through high school and college I explored the many diverse beliefs and schools of thought in Christianity. I now identify as Unitarian Universalist.  In my free time, I have a passion  for studying world religions and talking to their practitioners about their beliefs and practices.  Through the CRGC, I hope to bring a greater awareness to faiths that students in Wisconsin are familiar with and unfamiliar with.  I want to show the students at UW-Madison new aspects and perspectives on the faiths they have seen growing up, and to help familiarize them with faiths that they may not have encountered before.  There are a great range of beliefs that I never knew about growing up in Wisconsin, and I’m excited to help bring awareness of those beliefs to the Madison student community!

Cole Cimoch

Hello, my name is Cole and I am a junior studying neurobiology and philosophy. For the first 12 years of my life I lived in Costa Mesa, California before moving to Franklin, Wisconsin. I have identified as a nondenominational Christian for the last six years and have participated in life groups, attended various churches and more recently been involved in CRU a Christian organization at UW Madison. Religious education is important because the modern world we live in is very divided and polarized. The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry creates a safe open space for important dialogues to take place, and these dialogues are essential in order to foster an inclusive community here at U-Madison. I am thrilled to be a CRGC fellow so I can learn more about other faith systems, and hopefully offer useful insights to our group discussions. Outside of CRGC I am an active member of best buddies and I am on the board of the undergraduate neuroscience society.

Nuha Dolby

My name is Nuha, and I’m a sophomore studying Biology and English, hoping to attend graduate school and receive a Ph.D. I was born and raised in NYC as a Muslim, so coming to UW-Madison and seeing a drastic decrease in diversity in my surroundings has been critical during my college experience. I’m half Bengali and half white, so the dichotomy between the two cultures I am a part of has also influenced me growing up. I’m also print editor at The Badger Herald, a student science writer at UW Communications, and work with autistic and mentally handicapped youth. 

Devorah Fisher

I am a senior majoring in Music Composition and pursuing a certificate in Middle Eastern Studies. I was born and raised in Milwaukee and attended religious Jewish schools for 12 years, where I learned all of the usual subjects in addition to Judaic Studies. Until coming to UW, I took my daily immersion in Jewish community for granted, but when I arrived on campus I truly began to appreciate the work that goes in to creating and sustaining a healthy and welcoming community. With each passing year, the importance of strengthening the bonds between the desperate sub-communities in our country, and in the world at large, become increasingly apparent to me, and the need to make the world a better, safer place becomes increasingly urgent. After being active in the Jewish community for years, I have turned to the Interfaith Fellowship Program as an exciting way of learning to connect my community to those of my neighbors.

Lilly Freemyer

My name is Lilly Freemyer and I am a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying Political Science. I am from Washington, D.C., where I was raised in an Episcopalian home. My religion was pressed upon me as a young child, but when I started attending an Episcopalian school at the age of nine, my faith journey was primarily left up to myself. In high school, I served as an acolyte at the Washington National Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, where, I would argue, my personal faith and my curiosity about other faith traditions expanded. I pursued the CRGC Interfaith Fellows Program in light of my First Year Interest Group, which circled around the city of Jerusalem and the three major religions that coincide in that holy city. I am looking forward to engaging in this reciprocal program because I am anxious to learn from other participants, in addition to talking about my personal experiences.

Sophie Gumble

My name is Sophie, and I am studying pre-nursing at UW with a plan to apply to the nursing school this coming school year, as well as pursuing a Health and the Humanities certificate. I grew up in a small town of about 2,000 people in southeastern Wisconsin, where many of my peers were Evangelical Christians, and, particularly because I grew up in an atheistic household, my main concept of religion came from what and who was around me. However, since coming to Madison and branching out and exploring, I have begun to understand what religion means to different communities, other individuals, and myself. In my experiences of understanding my own beliefs and who I am, I have been able to see others’ religious beliefs and practices, and I have become deeply interested in learning about different religions. I especially enjoyed attending an Interfaith Shabbat at UW-Hillel, in which the Shabbat service and dinner invited interfaith dialogue. I also have a particular interest in how faith, religion, and culture influence views of health, wellness, and healing within communities, and how it affects individual choices. I hope that my experience as a CRGC fellow will help to strengthen interfaith unity and understanding on campus, and help me better understand how religion and faith shape who we are.

Chloe Hattenhauer

My name is Chloe and I am a senior studying Political Science and Middle East studies. I grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, and attended Catholic school for most of my life and gained little insight into other faiths. However, I have always been very interested in Middle Eastern life and culture, which drove me to study Arabic as well as travel to Amman, Jordan for a summer language program. Through my studies at university, as well as my own experiences trying to learn about various faiths, I have developed a deep appreciation for all faiths and am always trying to learn more about them. I heard about CRGC through an email, and knew that the members of this group and I share similar passions for learning about and encouraging acceptance of all faiths. I am very excited to participate in such a great organization and look forward to promoting its goals on the UW Madison campus. 

Sam Henschel

Hello! My name is Sam and I’m a sophomore studying Political Science and Strategic Communication. As someone who grew up in a predominantly Catholic family but identifies as an atheist, I am interested in the implications of religious dialogue and religion as a whole, which is why I’m excited to be a part of this community. Throughout the course of my major, I’ve been able to compare and understand different religious groups, and I’m excited to learn more about the intersections of religious groups and how they interact on a global scale. I’m also looking forward to learning about the historical roots of religious groups and how they have changed over time. I hope that through being a fellow I can learn more about the beliefs of others and how we can use them to change the world. 

Asha Jain

Hi! I am a sophomore studying Biochemistry and Asian Languages and Cultures. I was born and raised Hindu, and like many others, my religion has become an integral part of my identity. Through my work with the CRGC, I hope to utilize my geographic and cultural background to facilitate interfaith discourse on our diverse campus. Outside of my academic interests, I enjoy traveling, photography, and hiking on nature paths.

Eryne Jenkins

My name is Eryne and I am a sophomore at UW-Madison. I am majoring in Biochemistry and pursuing a certificate in Public Policy with the intent of becoming a pharmacist. I grew up in Magnolia, Delaware, where I was raised in the Baptist Church. I continue to be involved in my faith community and am truly appreciative of the role my faith has in my life. In the midst of various challenges I face and uncertain situations, my faith has remained a constant and kept me grounded through it all. By transitioning to UW last fall, it was up to me to determine the role my Christian faith would play in my life in the absence of traditions that were instilled in me since childhood. I was able to find faith groups on campus and a supportive congregation that has supported my growth in and out of the church. I seek an understanding of the impact of other religions and beliefs on the lives of others. I believe active participation in interfaith dialogue to better understand the role of religion or the absence of formal religion in people’s lives is beneficial to all of us as we seek to eliminate marginalization and discrimination. In addition, as I pursue an education grounded with an international component as a Wisconsin International Scholar (WISc), it is increasingly important to understand national and international relations in the context of faith and religion. While we as a campus, nation, and as a globe continue working towards equity in other realms such as race and gender, I think it is also imperative that we look at religious equity. I am honored to be a CRGC fellow and look forward to being part of the interfaith dialogue among secular and religious communities. 

Ali Khan

I am double-majoring at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Political Science, focusing in International Relations, and Communication Arts, focusing in Media Studies. Raised my whole life in rural Wisconsin as a brown, bearded, Muslim child of immigrants in a post-9/11 America–now Trump’s America–has made a large impact on my identity. While constantly surrounded by a conservative white majority, I learned through interaction and connection that with storytelling others cannot only be tolerant of diversity, but appreciative of it. This cultivated my passion to use visual media as a tool for storytelling to spread awareness and engage people with issues that may seem unrelated to them. In my free time, I enjoy producing short films and music videos, writing poetry and screenplays, and designing diaspora-themed clothing. As a CRGC fellow, I advocate that interfaith work does not have to be limited to conversations with others from various backgrounds, but rather, it can extend to action and solidarity.

Ari Kirsch

My name is Ari and I am a sophomore majoring in Communication Arts. I grew up in South Bend, Indiana with my parents and older brother. Since arriving at UW, I’ve been very active in Hillel and I am currently an intern there for the Jewish Learning Fellowship Social Justice class. While I was very active in my Jewish community at home, I didn’t attend school with many people who shared my religion, so my constant exposure to many different religions sparked my interest in interfaith dialogue and this fellowship. I am looking forward to getting to know and learn from the other CRGC interfaith fellows!

Zheng Ma

My name is Zheng Ma, a sophomore who intends to major in Economics and Philosophy. As an international student who comes from China, I have been holding Confucian and Taoist beliefs for a long time. I am currently the president of the Ancient Religion Society and became one of the CRGC fellows at the end of my freshman year. I think religions offer different ways to interpret the world, which is quite attractive for me since I am always curious about the world. My great passion towards religions motivates me to become part of this wonderful program and I believe it is the best platform at UW-Madison to deeply interact with people who hold diverse beliefs and gain a better understandings of religious philosophy and the whole world.

Hassnaa Mohammed

My name is Hassnaa. I am a third year PhD student at the Design Studies department focusing on sacred and religious spaces in the United States. I grew up in a Muslim religious family in Cairo, Egypt and moved to the United States in 2011. With the Muslim community being extremely diverse in the United States, I struggled to find a community that matches my values and upbringing, especially on campus. Upon graduation, I found Islamic “third places,” a new type of religious organization that provides an informal social and educational atmosphere to support young American Muslims, to be closely aligned with my beliefs. Having experienced this atmosphere, I was inspired to go back to school and further study the effect of the physical space on people’s sense of belonging and mental wellbeing in religious spaces. I’m really excited about the CRGC’s Fellowship Program as I am hoping to understand more about other faiths, help support interfaith dialogues, and see some of the successful strategies implemented in third places on campus to enrich students’ lives and help build bridges across student groups.

Sophie Morris

My name is Sophie Morris and I am a sophomore majoring in Community Leadership and Non- Profit Management. I am from New Jersey and was raised in a Jewish household by two Israeli parents. Though I do not consider myself religious, I am very connected to my Israeli roots. Before coming to college, I did a gap year in Israel where I learned about the cultures of the many different groups of people who live in the Middle East. Before that, I was connected to Israel through my extended family who lives there. I took many trips there throughout my childhood and went to a Zionist summer camp as a child. I believe that different cultures and religions are not something to avoid—they should be embraced and appreciated, even if they are different than one’s own. It is so cool that people from different parts of the world live such different and unique lives! Through this fellowship, I hope to provide others with a new perspective of Israel and Judaism, while also learning about the cultures of others.

Bailey Nandory

My name is Bailey Nandory, and I am a junior double majoring in Classical Humanities and English-Creative Writing. I hope that these majors will take me into a career as a translator, scholar, and professor of ancient literature. I was raised in almost entirely Christian rural Wisconsin, by non-religious parents who both came from religious families, so while religion has played a small role in my life through my extended family, it was never a focal point in my upbringing, which may have actually catalyzed my curiosity in it. I love learning about other cultures, particularly the customs, rituals, and traditions that people follow and the roots in how they all began. As a future historian and lover of ancient texts, it is my goal to be a responsible historian who can appreciate religious doctrines as both historical artifacts and dynamic pieces of literature that play key roles in real peoples’ lives—I believe that this year as an Interfaith Fellow will help foster the best understanding and respect towards these principles, and I am really looking forward to it. When I am not obsessing over Archaic Greek lyric poetry, the Mesopotamians, or ancient Palmyrene funerary art, I am probably tutoring English, baking, volunteering with the BASES project, writing poetry, or playing bass. 

Isabella Owca

I am a third-year Political Science and Spanish student at UW-Madison pursuing a certificate religious studies and participating in cross country and track. I went to high school in Madison but continue to find new ways to love the city and the university with each year. I enjoy running, reading and watching Grey’s Anatomy. I first became interested in the interfaith fellowship after taking my first religious studies classes as a sophomore. I realized that religion is often misunderstood, misconstrued, or misused especially in the political sphere. As a political science major, I hope to understand how religion continues to play a role in politics around the world, and aim to better educate my peers in the subject. As someone with a religious background, I would like to learn more about my own religion, and better understand the broad spectrum of faith, religion and spirituality around the world. 

Ali Qureshi

Hello, my name is Ali, and I am a sophomore majoring in Neurobiology. I grew up in a city called Fort Wayne in northeast Indiana and was exposed to many different cultures and ethnicities at a young age from both my school and my city’s mosque. With my own background being a Muslim American, and many of my friends stemming from different religious and social backgrounds, I believe that both acceptance and dialogue in embracing each other’s differences is important to educate and unify us as fellow Badgers.

Niha Shamsi

My name is Niha, and I am a junior majoring in Nursing and getting a certificate in Global Health. I’m from a northwest Chicago suburb, and I come from a family of five. Some of my favorite hobbies include photography, creating art (whether it be paintings, drawings, or DIYs), and cooking. Growing up, even though I was raised as a Muslim, I had early exposure to different faiths with my mom’s whole family being Hindu and most of my childhood friends being Christian. Due to this, I have always been fascinated to learn about other religions and cultures, and I believe that this program provides an excellent opportunity for this. Learning about different faiths and having interfaith dialogue is essential in creating a more open and inclusive campus climate, and I am excited to be a part of a program that is dedicated to achieving this. As an Interfaith Fellow, I also look forward to advocating for social justice and providing a voice for marginalized groups at UW. 

Hannah Silver

My name is Hannah and I am a current sophomore studying Human Development and Family Studies with aspirations of someday becoming an elementary school teacher. I grew up in Chicago and attended a reform Jewish day school for the first 14 years of my life. I quickly became exposed to interfaith discussions and conversations when I enrolled in the largest, most diverse high school in the city. It was there that I witnessed the importance of diversity and saw firsthand how it can strengthen a community. Since arriving on campus, I have stayed involved with my Jewish community through internships and programs at Hillel but was looking for a place to continue interreligious dialogue as well. I am lucky to have stumbled upon the CRGC Interfaith Fellows Program and am honored to be a part of it. I look forward to expanding my religious knowledge and identity while meeting new people from diverse backgrounds. I cannot wait to see what is in store for us next!

Jackson Thiel

My name is Jackson and I’m a junior majoring in Political Science and Economics. I grew up in Oshkosh Wisconsin in a Catholic home, although I wouldn’t say religion has made a tremendous impact on how I live my life. I’m interested in the CRGC fellowship because I have seen the impact religion has made on other people’s lives and I want to better understand how religion affects people. I’ve seen religion’s ability to connect people to all over the world and I think there’s a lot to learn about how to connect people from different backgrounds. I hope to use my position to create a positive atmosphere on campus where people feel free to openly discuss topics of religion. It is my firm belief that everyone who is engaged in productive dialogue can grow from it and that’s what I want to bring to the CRGC. I look forward to helping different students and myself grow with our connection to religion.

Danielle Wendricks

My name is Danielle, but most people call me Dani, and I use she/her/hers pronouns. I am a junior double majoring in Community and Nonprofit Leadership and History with a certificate in Education Policy Studies. I was born and raised in Madison, and grew up attending an ELCA Lutheran church. Right now, I’d consider myself spiritual, and really enjoy attending Unitarian Universalist services. In January of 2019, I attended a Leadership Delegation to Israel and Palestine through UW-Madison’s Hillel. This trip was truly life changing, altering my perception on religion, and fostering a passion for exploring other religions. This trip was my first introduction to interfaith concepts, as I visited and learned about different religious people and places. Through my work with CRGC, I plan to study how religion influences, builds, and hinders community development. I also look forward to understanding and learning about the relationship between religion and public service, charity, and volunteerism, and how that might mirror and differ from the white savior complex. When I’m not in school, you can find me admiring sunflowers, advising students on civic engagement opportunities at the Morgridge Center for Public Service, participating in events and services at the Crossing, or reading a book curled up in my hammock.

Ben Wetherby

My name is Ben and I am a sophomore majoring in Finance. I grew up in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, a small town outside of the Twin Cities. I was raised as a Lutheran and volunteered at my church summer camp several times as a counselor and had the opportunity to discuss faith with my campers. During my freshman year at UW-Madison my understanding of Christianity grew significantly through my involvement with a Christian group on campus. However, I also realized how little I knew about other religious groups. I am eager to learn more about different religions and to improve my ability to participate in interreligious dialogue. Expanding religious knowledge removes communication barriers that may have previously existed, and I hope to connect with a diverse religious community this year. 

Alumni 2018/2019

Emma Cox

My name is Emma and I use she/her/hers pronouns. I am a senior studying Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a Certificate in Criminal Justice and I hope to attend law school after graduation. I spent the first six years of my life in Champaign, Illinois, where my family participated in a Presbyterian congregation. When my family moved to a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, my parents found themselves unable to locate a new place of worship that felt similar. I did not think much about religion until high school, where I then started to identify with atheism. At UW-Madison, I have not found myself in intentional spaces to discuss religious identities and beliefs, which is why I am thrilled to be a part of the CRGC’s Fellowship Program. I worked at the Multicultural Student Center on campus for two years, facilitating identity-based social justice dialogues in the community, and I hope to gain a more thorough understanding of how religion and faith shapes one’s identity and experiences.

Sooraj Dash

My name is Sooraj Dash, and I am a senior majoring in Economics and Political Science, along with a certificate in Entrepreneurship. I was born in India, grew up in Northern Ireland, and relocated to the United States six years ago to Brookfield, Wisconsin. I was brought up in a Hindu family, who are also followers of the Indian saint, Shirdi Sai Baba, who stood for the message of humanity being one. Due to these influences at home, I was strongly drawn to interreligious dialogue from a very young age, where I would frequently get into discussions with family and community members on how to construct a world where all communities could exist as one, peacefully. The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry is a platform which I feel can provide a space to discuss that message of coexistence and unity with the campus community. The message that I carry is that we may all be different in our beliefs, opinions, traditions and cultures, but we can come together through dialogue, discussion and understanding of each other to cultivate an environment of acceptance and coexistence. I hope in this fellowship that we set a direction towards this goal by holding workshops and discussion sections within the community where we educate each other about our beliefs while also setting an atmosphere of understanding. Aside from interreligious dialogue, I love sports, reading, music, fashion and photography. I love travelling the world and I look forward especially to visiting the Southern Hemisphere, which I have not yet been to. I am excited for my senior year of college, especially being a CRGC fellow!

Peyton David

I got involved in the CRGC after writing a feature for The Badger Herald. After attending an interfaith potluck with the CRGC and writing about interfaith dialogue, I became very interested in joining the group. Aside from increasing religious dialogue on campus and improving campus climate for students of minority religions, one goal for my fellowship is to partner with religious institutions around campus and create a homeless shelter that’s focused on building skills and making homelessness temporary. I’m also a managing editor at The Badger Herald, a brother of the community service fraternity, (Alpha Phi Omega-Beta Theta chapter), and a volunteer for student orientation. My hobbies include knitting in excess, baking in excess, running (not in excess), and going to the Madison farmer’s markets to sample cheese curds.

Adam Fendos

My name is Adam and I am an International Studies major and 2nd year student at UW-Madison. I was raised ELCA Christian but identify as atheist or agnostic. I was born and raised in Milwaukee and the inequalities I witnessed there pushed me towards a study of political science and economics, particularly of the Marxist tradition. I see the idea of religious tradition as a powerful tool for building unity but find that organized religion can just as easily divide a people. I spent the past summer studying Arabic and its connections to Islam in Fez, Morocco, and the previous winter I helped prepare Religious Education classes for Christian children in El Salvador. As a CRCG fellow I hope to participate in a discussion that can begin to reconcile the divisions I see in my community and abroad.

Erik Franze

My name is Erik and I am a junior majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies and pursuing a certificate in American Indian Studies. I grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin, which is just outside Milwaukee, and was raised in a progressive Presbyterian family. I am active on campus at Pres House, and especially passionate about the areas in which my faith intersects with social justice. I hope through my time at the CRGC to apply these interests of mine to work on campus and beyond, through interfaith collaboration with other fellows who have a similar drive to do good but who also have diverse backgrounds and ideas. I volunteer with an interfaith organization that conducts immigration detention center visitations, and I have learned there that interfaith connections foster greater compassion, sympathy, and progress in our shared world. I hope this year to be a part of a vibrant interfaith network of students like this with the CRGC. Outside of campus clubs like Model UN and debate, I spend my time in the outdoors running, swimming, backpacking, and doing photography.

Alyssa Hamrick

My name is Aly and I’m a sophomore currently studying History and Archaeology and hoping to eventually become a professor. I grew up in the Northern suburbs of Chicago in a diverse-but-mostly-Christian town and area. I was raised Presbyterian, but as I’ve been exposed to more spiritual walks of life in my first year of college I’ve begun exploring what religion means to me. As I come into my second year at UW, I’m eager to gain new perspectives on religion and in turn share those perspectives with those around me. Through my work with the CRGC and its interreligious outreach programs, I hope to create an environment in which those who are currently seeking out their own definition of spirituality can engage comfortably. It’s my hope that the Center and its dedication to open interfaith dialogue can foster healthy religious conversation on campus. Spirituality in its various forms can often be seen as a divisive topic, but it’s my intention to challenge myself and my peers at UW to focus on how it can work as a powerful force of unity.

Hannah Kwiatkowski

My name is Hannah. I am a sophomore at Edgewood College studying pre-nursing. I grew up in Madison and have worshipped at Westminster Presbyterian Church my whole life. Interfaith communication and partnership was a deeply valued part of my upbringing. I grew up with an amazingly open and accepting example set for me by my church through various service projects, sharing of buildings, and interfaith dinners with Tempel Bethel, Madinah Academy of Madison, and various groups from other Christian denominations. I hope that my experience at the CRGC will strengthen my understanding of other faiths and provide me with learning opportunities of faiths I have little experience with. In the same way, I hope that my knowledge of my own faith and the experiences I have had with interfaith partnership could benefit group discussions.

Emma Lai

My name is Emma and I am a second-year student at UW-Madison. I am double majoring in Economics and Psychology with a certificate in Religious Studies. Born and raised Catholic, I attended public school in Rockford, IL for 12 years. I became especially interested in my own faith and others’ after meeting my Muslim best friend in 6th grade, my journey through Existentialism starting in 8th grade, and later my senior Capstone research project on religious identity and productivity in 12th grade. Since arriving to campus, I have enjoyed my Catholic and Interfaith conversations in Badger Catholic’s Fides et Ratio and Hillel’s Necessity of Now Seminar. These interfaith conversations address the fundamental differences between individuals, drawing society closer together to create the foundation for a more flexible, globalized world. I am excited to be a part of these conversations as a CRGC fellow.

Katherine O'Brien

I am a senior majoring in International Studies with a certificate in Religious Studies. In 2015, after taking a gap year in which I travelled, worked, and explored my own interests, I started school at UW-Madison, living in Witte’s Multicultural Learning Community. Being on that floor with intelligent, self-aware, and informed people from across the world set a precedent for my college career. Since then I have focused on learning about international political movements and have become familiar with the histories of many marginalized groups. As I learned more and more about the injustices minority groups face, I sought outlet in which I could advocate for myself and others. Throughout the past three years I have been involved in the community as a PEOPLE tutor, with the university as a Conversational English Coordinator at the Greater University Tutoring Service, and with my campus community as a BRIDGE team leader. I hope that working with the CRGC will help me cement my leadership skills and grow in my ability to do compassionate activism. I was raised in Mequon, WI in a Catholic home by my mother and father and have two younger siblings. Since high school, I have studied Buddhism in personal and academic contexts, and have come to feel connection with the religion. I consider myself Buddhist Catholic. It is important to me to use those labels to pay respect to the traditions that inform my worldview.

Samuel Ropa

I am senior studying geography and cultural anthropology. I was raised in the Madison area by an Episcopalian mother and a Buddhist father, so my involvement in inter-religious dialogue is quite personal. During my first year at UW I lived in the International Learning Community (ILC), a community of international students, students of international studies and world language learners; here, I experienced firsthand how a diversity of perspectives can shape a strong community. After living in Varanasi, India in Fall 2017, where religious practice is a visible part of public life, I sought out the CRGC as a place to share my experience and explore religious visibility in my community. I was drawn to the Fellowship because it offers a space to have conversations like the ones that take place in my home and because, in the interfaith tradition, it considers pluralism and activism necessary to create cultural change. I look forward to thinking about religious identity and citizenship on campus with other CRGC Fellows this semester.

Noa Rose

My name is Noa and I am senior majoring in Neurobiology with a certificate in Jewish Studies. It is my hope to attend medical school following graduation. I am from St. Louis, MO and grew up in a conservative Jewish community. I attended a private Jewish day school through the 8th grade and continued to pursue my Jewish education through my synagogue’s religious school and youth group. My faith remains a strong component of my identity and I strive to stay connected to my Judaism through involvement both on and off campus. I am honored to be a CRCG fellow and I am eager to play a role in strengthening interfaith cooperation across campus.

Gwen Salm

I’m a junior majoring in biology and I hope to attend pharmacy or medical school after receiving my undergraduate degree. I grew up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and was raised Catholic. I now consider myself a humanist atheist and work as the Vice President for UW-Madison’s Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics. In a time when people are so divided, I believe that interfaith work is more important than ever. I am honored to be a part of the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry and look forward to working with a group of people with the same intentions of creating open-minded dialogue and spreading awareness.

Mishal Shah

Salam, Shalom, Namaste, Hello! My name is Mishal and I was born and brought up in Lahore, Pakistan. Growing up in Pakistan, which is predominantly (97%) Muslim, I was always surrounded by people who were very much like me. Coming to UW I experienced a drastic shift from being part of the majority to now suddenly being a marginalized group on campus. This change along with the increase in Islamophobia across the US inspired me to work to educate those who had perhaps never met a Muslim in their life to see us from a different perspective; one which is at least different than what the media portrays us to be.

My first interfaith experience was in grade 10 where despite the lack of diversity, an interfaith conference brought together Pakistani Muslims, Christians and Sikhs from all around the country to highlight our similarities while respecting our differences. I walked out of that two-day conference hopeful that I will be able to continue such conversations. Over these past 2 years that I have been at UW, my interest in interfaith cooperation has only grown. I am fortunate that I have met and formed relationships with students and faculty who are willing to learn from one another and work actively for a more inclusive society on campus. Last year CRGC was able to work towards such an inclusive society by getting the dining halls to provide Kosher and Halal food options for those who observe such dietary preferences. I’m hopeful that the platform CRGC has provided us with this year will aid to further advance the #RealUW and prove to everyone irrespective of their difference in belief, race or any identity that they too are welcome and belong here.

Ufaira Shaik

My name is Ufaira and I am currently majoring in biology. I went to a private religious school in Milwaukee that taught Arabic and Islamic Studies alongside the requisite courses like chemistry, calculus, and literature. Growing up in a Muslim household, I became more attuned to how my religion was portrayed. I quickly realized that the best way to combat the misinformation and misrepresentation of my faith was to have an open discussion with people of other beliefs. This led to my interest in interfaith dialogue. As I participated in various interfaith events, I realized how much we could get done if different religious groups worked together to affect a change on policy. Given the increased tensions between various religious groups, I believe the CRGC provides us with an important opportunity to collaborate while gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation towards those of a different faith.

Michelle Thomas

My name is Michelle and I major in International Studies with a certificate in Developmental Economics. Growing up as an Indian Orthodox Christian in Dubai, UAE, I had the opportunity to communicate and mingle with people from different faith backgrounds. From a young age, I was always interested in understanding my own faith and the philosophies of other religions. Attending Sunday School and Bible Studies throughout my childhood years gave me a strong background about my own faith. Being exposed to family and friends from different faith backgrounds such as Christianity, Hinduism and Islam enabled me to gain a keen interest in interfaith dialogues. I am currently involved with the student leadership team of the Navigators Campus Ministry on campus. Through the CRGC I hope to learn about different faiths that I have not been exposed to and the skills required for interfaith discussion facilitation and better cooperation. I am excited to learn about different faiths and finding the similarities despite some obvious differences. I believe that by facilitating interfaith dialogue and understanding, the community can grow and coexist harmoniously, paving the way for social change.

Alumni 2017/2018

Meghana Brandl

I’m a Senior majoring in History and want to eventually go on to get my Masters in International Relations and become a diplomat. I grew up in the suburbs of Austin, Texas in a mainly Catholic household with strong Hindu influences. I became an agnostic atheists at age 10 and am now the Outreach Chair of Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics. Through my work with the Center, I hope to get the secular community more involved in interfaith work.

Julia Brunson

My name is Julia Brunson, and I am a sophomore majoring in History. I am from the East Side of Milwaukee, and grew up within a reform Jewish community. During middle school and high school, I went to public school, and did not see many other Jewish students. When I began attending UW-Madison, the situation reversed. I now participate weekly at UW-Hillel and with other Jewish groups on campus.

I joined the CRGC because I think religious literacy and dialogue are crucial to creating a welcoming and knowledgeable atmosphere at UW-Madison. It is our duty as members of various faiths and beliefs to work with and for the sake of each other. Promoting dialogue, events, and shared experiences between all faiths creates a structure that is far more sturdy than one group standing on its own. It is also far more rewarding.

Zawadi Caroll

My name is Zawadi Carroll. I am a junior at UW-Madison hoping to double major in Industrial Engineering and Art History. I am from Washington, DC and was raised in the black Christian faith practicing both Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal tradition. I came to UW-Madison through the Posse Foundation with a cohort of 10 other students from the DC area. I work for the Campus Women’s Center, do African dance, and sing in my spare time. I am also passionate about plants, social justice, and holistic living. In DC, my church Turner Memorial AME frequently did combined services and choirs with the historic synagogue on Sixth and I street. Growing up around people of several different religious traditions was truly a blessing and undoubtedly shaped me into who I am today. I currently practice Christianity and aspects of African spirituality. Interfaith activities and dialogue were something that was common in my home city, so I am excited to continue that tradition here at the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry.

Kyra Fox

My name is Kyra Fox, and I am a senior majoring in International Studies and Psychology with a certificate in African Studies. Coming from an interfaith family, dialogue across difference has always been fundamental to how I construct my identity. My experiences with interreligious dialogue at UW have transformed my own set of beliefs – and I am eager to be challenged by this year’s CRGC Scholars. I am enticed by the challenge of finding harmony in what seems like insurmountable differences – religious, political, or otherwise – and more than ever, I sense the urgency of this task. I see religion as a space not only for worship, but also for social change. I hope that the CRGC can strengthen and amplify the voice of interfaith unity at UW, working to dismantle intolerance and injustice while showing that it is possible – and powerful – to unite in the face of those who would like to see us divided.

Zahiah Hammad

My name is Zahiah Hammad and I am a sophomore double majoring in Political Science and Journalism with a certificate in Gender Women Studies and African Studies. I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was raised in a Muslim home with a mother and father and five brothers. Since kindergarten I attended a private Islamic school that never made me feel like I was a part of a subordinate group. It was both a sheltered yet uplifting experience to be able to attend this school. From what I was able to learn in school to pushing myself to learn from my own experiences, I was able to shape the way I uniquely viewed religion based on spirituality, culture and my social life. I was taught that religion is what is perceived from the books inside a classroom, but outside a classroom I was able to recognize religion as a way of life that is distinct from person-to-person. Through finding more about myself, to balancing that with the traditional religion I was brought up with, I was able to view religion with a whole new perspective. The Interfaith Fellows Program is an opportunity for me to be able to learn about the ways different students view their relgion while being able to indulge in a community that will allow me to experience the different aspects that make religion what it is today.

Maddie Loss

My name is Maddie Loss and I am a sophomore in the School of Social Work with an intent to earn a Bachelor’s in Social Work. I am from McFarland, Wisconsin, a small suburb of Madison. My religious upbringing was in the United Church of Christ (UCC), a progressive, mainline protestant denomination. In the past few years I have formed a greater connection with my faith through mission trips, wider church conferences, the Crossing, and working in Outdoor Ministry in Green Lake, WI. As someone that is called towards a career in Christian ministry I believe that you are not just called to know the creeds of your own religion. Rather you are called to be able to work with and serve people of different backgrounds and individuals that follow different creeds. The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry has the ability to help facilitate more learning here on campus and I am honored to be a part of this endeavor and help it become a prominent part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hope Peterson

My name is Hope Peterson and I am a junior at UW Madison. I am double majoring in Environmental Studies and Psychology with a certificate in Southeast Asian Studies. I am from St. Croix Falls, a very small town in northwestern Wisconsin. Although I was raised with a Lutheran-Christian faith background, it was not until my second year of college that I began to take interest in various spiritual practices. Since then I have spent time studying Buddhism, different aspects of Christianity and many other spiritual topics/practices. As a Center for Religion and Global Citizenry Undergraduate Scholar, I am excited to expand the conversation of interfaith on campus, connecting others to its intense importance and relevance to themselves and this time.

Jeremy Sanford

My name is Jeremy Sanford and I am a sophomore double majoring in environmental studies and conservation biology. I’m from a town called Stafford, Virginia and was raised in a pretty Christian household. The CRGC program is interesting to me because there has been a rise in divisive rhetoric over the past decade or so, and a decent chunk of said rhetoric is in reference to religion. There are many places around campus where our differences are embraced, but I noticed few of them focused on religious difference (most likely due to the liberal/secular nature of universities). I think being part of this could be an amazing opportunity to spread awareness about the importance of interfaith communication and cooperation and to fight the rise of ignorance induced hatred of religious minorities.

Emma Sayner

My name is Emma Sayner, and I’m a senior from Northfield, MN. I am pursuing a double major in History and Political Science; my senior thesis examines the relationship between state politics and Holocaust memorialization in Communist Poland. My passion for pursuing social justice and human rights stems from my experiences growing up in an interfaith family. I am excited to learn from my fellow CRGC scholars and help strengthen interfaith cooperation across campus.

Jake Streek

My name is Jake Streeck, and I am a sophomore majoring in Spanish & probably International Studies. I am from Bayside, Wisconsin, where I was raised by a reformed Jewish mother and catholic father. Although I was born Jewish and had a Bar Mitzvah at 13, I have since been drawn toward secular humanism. My lack of religious identity is what makes religion so interesting to me, for although I do not subscribe to any one belief system, it is the belief systems of others that have crafted and will continue to craft so many aspects of global society. This is why I find it important to develop an understanding of other perspectives, and hence why I chose to apply for the CRGC program.

Vikram Suresh

My name is Vikram Suresh and I am a sophomore at UW-Madison. I am currently studying Biology with the intent of becoming a Physician Assistant. I come from Naperville, IL a suburb close to Chicago. I’m am honored to be a CRCG scholar, and I am very interested in interfaith-dialogue because in today’s political climate, I feel it is critical to understand and respect the religions and cultures of others. This opportunity excites me because I will get the chance to understand other religions from a personal perspective of other scholars, as well as get to share my experiences as a practicing Hindu. I look forward to gain a vast amount of knowledge about different religions from my peers, and am excited to see what the year holds!