2018-2019 Interfaith Fellows

Interfaith Fellows

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 2021/22

Shuaib Aljabaly

Hello! My name is Shuaib Aljabaly and I am a senior at UW-Madison studying Computer Sciences. I was born in Yemen and moved with my family to America at a very early age. Growing up in a Muslim Household in Coldwater, MI, I attended English school on weekdays and Islamic Arabic school on weekends. Religion is the most important thing to me, but it wasn’t until I came here to campus that I began to ask myself the serious questions, seeing how strong my faith really was. Coming to Madison, WI, I’ve met Muslims and non-Muslims of very different cultures and want to continue these conversations, mixing my knowledge of Islam with others’. Having conversations with friends and teammates here at UW has led me to realize that the way to counter misinformation and Islamophobia is to have open-minded discussion on different beliefs. I am excited about the CRGC fellowship and the chance to exchange in dialogue with other fellows to make a change on campus.

Kristina Fiedler

Hello! My name is Kristina Fiedler and I am from Chicago. I am currently a Junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying Environmental Science and German. I was raised as a Missouri Synod Lutheran with some Brazilian spiritual flares. In high school, I developed a passion for learning about other cultures, languages, and belief systems. Through my friends and teachers, I accumulated knowledge on Islam, Baha’i-ism, Agnosticism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. My exploration led me to reflect on my own faith. I now identify as Theist with an increasing interest in Buddhism as a philosophical guide. A theist believes in a higher power but does not ascribe to any particular religion or set of practices. As the pandemic comes to somewhat of an end, I am excited to meet new people and have conversations that can engage my curiosity. As a Fellow, I am eager to utilize and share my passions for research and discovery. I am most looking forward to the interfaith dialogue that I will take part in as a CRGC Fellow and I am excited to continue diversifying my spiritual horizons.

Genevieve Grade

Hello! My name is Genevieve, and this year I’ll be a junior studying sociology, public policy, and education services. I grew up in Waunakee, Wisconsin with one devoutly Lutheran parent, the other a committed Unitarian Universalist. My childhood experience exploring and participating in these two faiths gave religion a place of prominence in my life early on. As I grew, I became interested in the interfaith work emphasized by my UU congregation, and when I entered college, I found myself drawn even closer to Christianity. The spring semester of my sophomore year, I interned at Nehemiah, a local faith-based nonprofit. There, I worked on developing and promoting an educational course on both white Christian churches’ past complicity in racism as well as their capacity for positive social change. The experience was personally groundbreaking, and I remain committed to examining the social impact of not only my own two religions, but that of religion as a whole. I could not be more excited to engage with and learn from the Interfaith Fellows program this year! Outside of the CRGC, I enjoy throwing pottery, baking, and cuddling my housemates’ cats.

Josh Hall

My name is Josh Hall and I am a junior majoring in Biology on a Pre-Med track. I was born and raised in De Pere, Wisconsin, a suburb of Green Bay. My parents are Catholic and Lutheran respectively, and I grew up attending the Catholic Church. When I was 17, I was Confirmed, and upon leaving to attend college at UW-Madison, began exploring my faith. In high school, I had little involvement with religious groups, but I now look forward to being an Interfaith Fellow and engaging in conversation with those of different faiths. The dialogue from the CRGC will be an important addition to my academic experience as a STEM student in Madison and I hope it will help me as a professional when pursuing a career in medicine. I am excited to gain a greater understanding of my own faith, and how faith affects the lives of those around me.

Alisha Jones

Hi! My name is Alisha, and I use she/her pronouns. I am a senior studying cultural anthropology at UW with specific interests in identity, group behavior, and human/civil rights issues. Although I am from Fort Worth, TX, where the dominant religion is Christianity, I do not self-identify as a Christian (more agnostic than anything). Both on an academic and personal level, I love learning about the experiences of religious people and how this shapes their perceptions of the world around them. In addition, I am excited to gain fieldwork and writing experience, improve my ability to communicate across cultural boundaries, develop a more holistic grasp on the variety of ways in which religion manifests itself in the Madison community, and engage in meaningful interfaith dialogues.

Jaitri Joshi

My name is Jaitri Joshi, and I am a senior studying Biochemistry and Life Science communications. I grew up in Maple Grove, Minnesota. I was raised in a Hindu household and was able to see the fluidity of basic values in Hinduism that my parents have brought with them along their journey across continents. As a minority religion in America, it has been interesting to immerse myself into the religious experiences and celebrations of other groups and share what I have learned about my own faith. The teachings of my parents were supplemented by a Sunday school called Hindu-American Temple School led by passionate volunteers that allowed the application of faith-based concepts and history into our actions in today’s world. Faith is such an important facet of many lives, and to truly understand each other and the decisions we make, having discussions surrounding this can help us empathize and grow us a community- and I hope to do just that as a CRGC Fellow this year.

Jaskiran Kaur Sandhu

Hello! My name is Jaskiran Kaur Sandhu, and I am a rising junior majoring in Biology. I am from Madison, WI, and I am a Sikh. My faith has become a prominent aspect of my life because of my parents and family. Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I would visit the Gurudwara (the Sikh temple) every week and attend Punjabi School, where I learned about Sikh history and the Punjabi/Gurmukhi language. Growing up as a Sikh, I realized over time how little is known about my religion. This became even more clear after the Oak Creek Sikh Temple shooting in 2012. From this tragedy, I learned how one’s ignorance can lead to harm, but also why spreading awareness and creating opportunities for interreligious dialogue can be so valuable. As a CRGC fellow, I am excited to meet students and learn about their different faiths while sharing knowledge about mine, have meaningful conversations about the role of religion in our lives, and create a space to discuss issues in our society such as the ignorance and misconceptions regarding different faiths.

Allie Kutsch

My name is Allie and I am a senior studying Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies with certificates in Entrepreneurship and Digital Studies to make it more business/marketing focused. I am from Racine, Wisconsin (south of Milwaukee) where I attended Catholic schooling from K-12. I was raised in a Catholic household, and because of Catholic school, I attended church twice a week and took a wide variety of religion classes through the years. I was confirmed my junior year of high school and love Sunday Mass, especially when my entire family goes. Even though I attended Catholic school all my life, I did not truly start practicing my faith until my freshman year of high school, when I witnessed God’s ability to grant miracles. I only had an overview of other religions in my World Religions class, but I am excited to dive deeper into the difference in beliefs that exist among them. As a college student, I have been able to strengthen my religion independently of my family through an all-women’s non-denominational bible study, Delight, and through friends who share varying views of faith. I am excited to participate in important conversations with everyone this semester and to share my views of the Catholic faith with others.

Sofia Lissuzzo

My name is Sofia, and I am a junior at UW-Madison studying Neurobiology and Religious Studies. I am from the Chicago area and although I wasn’t taken to church by my family when I was young, I started attending a Presbyterian church as a young adult. My faith is something that is ever important and evolving for me and it has always been a curiosity to me to see how others are affected by their spirituality. I am excited for my experience as a CRGC fellow to further my understanding of other faiths and how they play a role in others’ lives.

Matthew Nangle

My name is Matthew Nangle and I am a sophomore studying Genetics, Anthropology, and Arabic with hopes of attending graduate school to pursue Biological Anthropology. I was raised in Wisconsin and grew up in a Lutheran household with parents from Lutheran and Catholic backgrounds. Growing up, faith wasn’t a major part of my life but in recent years I’ve dedicated time to deciding for myself what faith means to me. Because of this I’ve developed a passion for theology and I readily adopt ideas from a range of Judeo-Christian thinkers. I greatly enjoy learning about the evolution of belief systems and along with my passion for complex systems of belief and their histories, I look forward to learning more about how faith impacts individuals. Through the CRGC fellowship program I hope to learn more from others about what influence their faith has had on their values and daily lives, while continuing to encourage interfaith curiosity.

Yaakov Segal

Hello! My name is Yaakov Segal. I have lived in Israel, California, and mostly Minnesota. I’m here at Madison studying Political Science and Jewish studies. I am Jewish and was raised in a Jewish family. I feel that Judaism is a large part of who I am as a person and want to share what that means for me with others. I want to be able to teach about my traditions and learn from others about theirs. I’m super excited to be part of a program that allows me to do that.

Tahseen Shaik

Hello! My name is Tahseen Shaik and I am a senior studying Neurobiology at UW-Madison. I was born in Andhra Pradesh, India and grew up in Wisconsin. I grew up in a Muslim household but was surrounded my various faiths both here and in India. I learned about my religion by studying and applying it every day growing up; it was very important to my upbringing, molding my morals and identity. And I learned about other religions and cultures from family friends, neighbors, and the community — which taught me to appreciate the similarities and differences among religions. As a CRGC fellow, I hope to explore more conversations, learn from my peers, and share my experiences. I am excited to be a part of a program that encourages knowledge and understanding of others.

Pengying Sun

My name is Pengying Sun. I am a sophomore double-majoring in Neurobiology and Nutritional Science on a pre-med track, while pursuing certificates in Biocore and Southeast Asian Studies. I was born and raised in a Mahayana Buddhism family. Years ago, I got the opportunity to learn about Theravada Buddhism and have become more and more fascinated by it. My daily meditation practice allows me to train my mind not to be disturbed by the impermanent surroundings but to be self-conscious of my sense bases and to maintain the clarity of insight. My meditation retreat experience at various monasteries in China and Thailand have fueled my passion to delve deeper into Buddhism. Meditation is also a subject I am passionate about in academia. I am particularly interested in how different types of meditation can be harnessed as tools to enhance human brain function and promote mental well-being. Being a Buddhist has inspired me in every aspect of my life. I am thrilled to be a CRGC fellow, to learn more about other faith systems, and hopefully offer useful insights as a Buddhist and meditation practitioner.

Kasturi Thorat

Namaste! My name is Kasturi, and I was born and brought up in Nashik, India. I am a senior studying Global Health. I grew up in a Hindu household and I identify as a Hindu. Growing up in India, I have had the chance to coexist with people of different faiths and this experience has made me who I am today. My interest in interfaith dialogue arises from feeling left out after I moved to the US for college. Back home I did not realize how easy it was to stay connected to your belief system. After moving to the US, I felt the need to connect with people who wouldn’t shy away from or avoid conversations about faith. Being a fellow with CRGC is a great opportunity to have insightful conversations and learn more about different faiths. My goal is to utilize this chance to educate people more about my culture, religion, and faith. I strongly believe that we are all spiritual beings, and our faith is how we connect with our spiritual self. We might be walking different paths, but our destination is the same.

Storay Wardak

Hi, my name is Storay! I transferred this semester to UW Madison as a junior, and I’m pursuing a double major in religious studies and philosophy. I was born in Peshawar Pakistan, but my family and I are Afghan; we came to the US as refugees when I was young, and I’ve grown up here since. My family and I are practicing Muslims, so faith is a large part of my life. I’ve had my share of experiences growing up as a minority and those experiences have always pushed me to learn more about my own and other people’s faiths, cultures, and religions. Progress of any kind starts with clean intentions and a good conversation. I hope to have many of those this year in pursuit of a better understanding of other fellows and their traditions, and I’m looking forward to learning how we can all grow in empathy for one another as people in this community, as well as globally.

Caitlin Wienkes

Fall 2021 will begin my sixth year studying engineering at UW-Madison. Out of the 130 or so credits I have taken during my undergraduate career, my favorite courses have been those studying cultures and religions. Instead of extending my graduation date any further by taking classes that do not count for my major, I decided to pursue this interest by applying for the Interfaith Fellowship. I grew up in rural, southwest Wisconsin in a largely Catholic community. As I have grown into my own person, I no longer identify with any religion; however, I am excited to participate in interreligious dialogue. I do not know that I have much information to offer, but I will ask so many questions to learn more about the world for my own benefit, to make others question or confirm their beliefs, and to take the information I gain and share it with my peers.

Interfaith Fellows 2020/21

Mukadas Abdullah

My name is Mukadas, and I am a Senior studying Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I was born in Moscow, Russia and have grown up in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Growing up in two different continents, I have met and been around people of different faiths. This has given me exposure to different religions , but also has sparked my curiosity to better understand other faiths. As someone who grew up and practices Islam, in countries which are not majority Muslim I had to understand my faith for myself. I hope to learn more about different faiths through being a CRGC fellow, and fostering dialogues that may be difficult but necessary in understanding those faiths.  

Anna Aversa

Hello! My name is Anna and I am a junior majoring in Journalism and pursuing a certificate in Religious Studies. I am from Cedarburg, Wisconsin (just north of Milwaukee) where the population is predominantly Christian. I was raised in a Catholic household and went to weekly Christian Formation classes as well as attended mass every Sunday. After being Confirmed at age 17 I began to take my faith into my own hands, asking questions about my religion. After my Confirmation I grew stronger in my faith, by attending Catholic conferences, camps, and eventually Christian groups on campus. As I grew older I became fascinated by religions outside of my own. Understanding other religions allows me to understand others better. I look forward to learning more through the Interfaith Fellowship Program and participating in important conversations surrounding religion. 

Bryce Couperus

Hello! My name is Bryce and I am a Junior studying Russian and Criminal Justice. I was raised in a strong Christian home and am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Religion has always been an important part of my life and has shaped my worldview and the person I am today. I actively participate in my local congregation where I currently serve as an instructor for Sunday meetings. Among other religious opportunities, I previously had the unique experience of living in Russia and Kazakhstan for two years as a volunteer. During my time there I was able to interact with individuals from a variety of diverse backgrounds, which has left a profound impact on my life and has fueled a desire to learn of other religions and cultures. I am excited to be able to connect and interact with other fellows and individuals throughout the upcoming year as we learn from each other’s experiences and encourage understanding and cooperation between different faith groups and beliefs.

Ethan Dickler

My name is Ethan Dickler. I am a senior English literature major with a certificate in European Studies. I am interested in religious pluralism in the United States and how it works. I grew up in a Judeo-Christian family where religious debate was the subtext to every conversation. My mother is Catholic, while my father is Jewish, so I am always interested in learning about new ideas concerning toleration and interfaith. Although I went to Catholic school and identify as Catholic, I am familiar with Jewish culture and customs. Prior to college, religion was never a primary concern of my own. However, upon learning about my faith’s history and community in Madison, I began practicing more regularly. As an Interfaith Fellow, I am excited to discuss religion with peers from different religions and backgrounds. I especially look forward to speaking about my own experiences with religious turmoil and finding methods to ease tensions and learn how to coexist with other customs and cultures without erasing my own personal beliefs and ideas.

Osama Fattouh

My name is Osama and I am a junior majoring in Neurobiology. Growing up in a town called Middleton, I was one of few Muslims that lived in the town. Being one of the few Muslims, I faced challenges that not many of my friends had to face. However, those challenges made me a stronger person and helped me appreciate my religious identity even more. A part of appreciating my religious identity came through my mosque where I was able to meet other Muslims and learn more about my religion. I was also exposed to a number of cultures and ethnicities. I hope that my experience with interfaith conversation, knowledge of Islam, and challenges I’ve faced with religious identity that I can provide more to the conversation. I am proud to be a CRGC fellow and I am looking forward to learning more about other religions. I will do everything I can to help strengthen the dialogue and make everyone feel welcome. In this day and age interfaith dialogue is even more important than before and we must continue participating in it.

Calvin Floyd

Hi there, my name is Calvin Floyd and I’ll be a junior this fall studying History, Environmental Studies, and European Studies. I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan and grew up in a Baptist church which gave me a strong foundation in my faith. Since coming to UW-Madison, I’ve been surrounded by many faiths and cultures and I’ve taken an interest in exploring each of those as much as possible, as I find it not only helps me in my faith journey, but it helps to make this special school a more welcoming and inclusive community. This past winter, I was honored to travel to the Middle East as a member of the 2020 Student Leadership Delegation to Israel. While in Israel, we carried out enriching conversations with Israelis and Palestinians of varying faith backgrounds and cultural experiences, and explored the region’s many holy sites. This experience showed me how rich difficult conversations can be and how much one can grow through empathetically learning about experiences that differ from your own. I’m excited to continue those conversations here on campus while meeting the other CRGC fellows and growing in community together.

Jake Henry

Hi! I’m Jake, I’m a Junior majoring in Microbiology from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I grew up in a very Reform Jewish Congregation, and this upbringing formed a lot of the ideas and values that I still hold to this day. Interfaith dialogue matters a lot to me because religion is in the world all around us, and it permeates social issues and political dialogues. My synagogue made me aware of this when we learned about world religions in Sunday school and how the differences and similarities of these faith practices impacted politics in their time and region of the globe. I was able to see the power of interfaith dialogue when my congregation partnered with other faith groups (as well as other non-faith-oriented groups) to protect same sex marriage in Minnesota. Seeing the successful, positive changes that were accomplished through interfaith partnerships made me realize how much I wanted to participate in and learn from interfaith groups. On a smaller scale, I’m a science major stuck in STEM classes all the time and getting a chance to learn about religions is exciting to me because it’s content that I normally wouldn’t be exposed to in my classes.

Azariah Horowitz

My name is Azariah Horowitz and I am a junior majoring in Spanish and French with a certificate in Hebrew/Jewish Studies. I grew up in a Jewish household, attending Jewish elementary school in Milwaukee, before switching to public school for middle and high school. Although my immediate family has always practiced Judaism, my mother grew up Lutheran and converted to Judaism after I was born. I have family members on my dad’s side who are Orthodox Jews living in Jerusalem, and other family members on my mom’s side who hadn’t really met many Jews at all before my mom and dad started dating. Before starting college at Madison, I spent three months in Israel learning Hebrew in a program for new immigrants and Palestinians entering the Israeli university system. I currently teach Hebrew School to a class of fifth graders at a synagogue off campus in Madison, as well as attending weekly Shabbat services and other programs at Hillel on campus. I plan on teaching in public elementary school eventually, and I think it is super important that teachers try their best to understand the cultural and religious backgrounds of their kids. I am super excited to be a part of CRGC and to be able to have conversations with people from all different faiths!

Grace Landrum

My name is Grace and I use she/her/hers pronouns. I am currently a sophomore studying Social Welfare with plans to major in Social Work. I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and Green Bay, Wisconsin and was raised by parents who grew up in Catholic and Baptist homes respectively. Throughout my childhood and adolescence I attended Baptist, Non-Denominational Christian, and Methodist churches. Since starting college at UW-Madison I have been exploring what faith means to me and how it impacts my life. With hopes to work in the field of Social Work, I know that understanding my own relation to faith and that of others is important to being a better person and professional. I am excited to participate in the CRGC fellowship program and listen and learn from others as well as contribute to discussion!

Kally Leidig

Hi! My name is Kally and I am a senior studying political science, economics, and environmental studies. I grew up in suburbs near northern Minneapolis and was raised in a moderately religious family. As time went on, I became rather disenchanted with my church and started exploring alternatives. My interest in religion and belief systems has continued to grow despite me now considering myself an atheist. I am excited to learn more about new perspectives both foreign and familiar to me. It especially fascinates me how people relate or reconcile political preferences with morals and values. 

Aerin Leigh

My name is Aerin Leigh and I am a Junior studying Communication Arts and Political Science. I grew up in St. Louis Missouri where I was raised as a Reform Jew. Judaism has become an integral part of how I see myself and the rest of the world. In high school, I was a part of many dialogue regarding diversity in all aspects of identity and I look forward to continuing that work as a CRGC fellow!

Lina Liu

Hello, my name is Lina and I am from Shawano, Wisconsin. This fall, I will be a junior studying mathematics. All my life, I have been raised in a Buddhist household however I would question how the values of Buddhism were supposed to be lived out from a young age. For about 15 years, I have been on the fence about religion and faith but during freshman year, I was brought to Christ as my values and beliefs were put to the test. I now identify as a non-denominational Christian although my family still identifies as Buddhist. For the purposed of having healthy conversations with friends and family from other faith-backgrounds, I am excited to be part of the Interfaith Fellows Program. 

Aitan Maeir

My name is Aitan Maeir and I use him/he/his pronouns. I come from a northeastern suburb of Chicago called Skokie. Religiously, I come from a modern orthodox Jewish household and I, myself, also identify as modern orthodox. I am a current sophomore and I am majoring in psychology, minoring in Jewish studies and on a pre-med track. I have attended Jewish parochial schools for my whole life and due to my experience in parochial school and my religious community, I continue to be enamored by religion and the multitude of profound impacts that it has on my life and society in general. I am really grateful for the work that the CRGC does and I am so glad that I have the opportunity to be a part of this fellowship. I am really looking forward to educating myself more about other religions that I have not been exposed to prior. I contend that learning from my peers who belong to respective religions is the best way to learn about their religions. Outside of CRGC, I am greatly involved in UW’s Chabad on campus. In addition, I serve on the executive board of BAFI (Badger Alliance For Israel). I am excited to meet the other fellows and learn from them!

Anusha Mehta

Hi my name is Anusha Mehta and I have a sophomore studying Health Promotion Health Equity, on the Pre-PA track. I was brought up in a Hindu Jain environment, and have continued to follow those religious principles and values throughout my life. The strong connection that I have built with god has led me to gain a passion for interfaith, especially to learn about different religious and cultural perspectives, as well as engaging in cooperative, informative and positive interactions to bring together our communities. I am excited about the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry fellowship to learn more about the interfaith and be able to spread that knowledge with my peers in the Madison area. I truly believe that interfaith is a key factor in uniting the people of this country, and a great first step is simply starting the conversation! 

Yaseen Najeeb

My name is Yaseen Najeeb and I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin Madison, studying political science. I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I was raised in a Muslim home. Religion has always been a major part of my life and I have deep ties with my mosque and the Muslim community in Milwaukee. I attended Sunday school for five years in middle school and stayed connected with my mosque and religious leaders throughout high school. Throughout high school, I served on the executive national committee for the Muslim Youth of North America, an organization that hosted camps for Muslim youth nationally many times a year. After highschool, I decided to take a gap year at DarusSalam seminary where I learned modern standard Arabic and explored my faith at a deeper level.  I pursued the CRGC Interfaith Fellows Program because I believe the other members of this group share the same passion for knowledge and understanding as I have. I am excited to participate in such a great organization.

Maya Reinfeldt

My name is Maya Reinfeldt. I’m a junior at UW Madison studying Russian Literature and International Studies. This is quite fitting, since I am a Madison native, but grew up in a strongly bicultural family. I’ve spoken Russian fluently since I was a child, and was raised Russian Orthodox. As I grew older, reading about and participating in this faith helped me feel a deeper, more profound connection to Russia without having lived there. This led me to believe that religion and faith are inextricably human qualities, and have the power to connect people from all across the globe in the pursuit of a common good. I believe faith can be explored and shared through literature, travel, and interpersonal interactions. It’s my goal as an Interfaith Fellow to learn as much as I can about other faiths and the emotions and beliefs they elicit, as well as encourage my fellow students to engage in positive, productive cross-faith discussions. I will always believe in the power of faith to heal and to unite, and I hope to help bring this joy to our campus.

Laura Rodriguez-Alvarez

Hey Badgers! My name is Laura Rodriguez-Alvarez and I am a fifth year studying Biological Systems Engineering. I was born in Colombia and like many Latinx communities, raised in a Catholic home. My exposure to other religions only occurred after I moved to Madison, Wisconsin permanently 12 years ago. My step-dad is a non-denominational Christian and since moving here, my mother and I have also been non-denominational Christians. I stopped going to church a long time ago but since coming to college, I have engaged with peers from a variety of religious backgrounds thanks to BRIDGE, an organization aimed at helping international students connect with the community on campus. My exposure to the variety of religious backgrounds on campus has sparked my interest in learning more about the different belief systems. I look forward to improving my ability to understand global religious belief systems through the CRGC Fellowship in order to be able to create more inclusive spaces in the future. 

Simran Kaur Sandhu

My name is Simran, and I am a junior majoring in Biology at UW and I’m pursuing certificates in Environmental Studies and Global Health. I was born and raised in Madison, WI. I’m a proud Baby Badger. My parents immigrated from Punjab, India to join my aunt and uncle who were here in the United States in the early 90s, along with my mom’s parents and the rest of her siblings. I grew up in a Sikh household and was surrounded by my big extended family. Instead of two siblings and two parents, it was like growing up with seventeen siblings and twelve parents. I like to bike and run, paint, read, and eat lots of food (I’m a big foodie). Being a Sikh has always been an integral part of who I am and has been the guide for who I’d like to become. The word ‘Sikh’ means ‘student’ and this philosophy is the essence of my desire to understand what life is about. Becoming a CRGC Fellow was something I chose to pursue because it brings together individuals with diverse beliefs and creates a space for interfaith dialogue, which makes for a unique and enriching learning environment. I’m excited and grateful to share life stories with my fellow students and hope that we connect in deep and inspiring ways.

Ben Sevart

My name is Ben and I am a junior studying Mathematics and Religious Studies. I am from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. I grew up in an atheist household, so religion was not a part of my life as a child, yet I have found a secular appreciation for it through my studies here at UW-Madison and by working at a local synagogue. My academic interests lie primarily in the religious traditions of India. As a fellow with the CRGC, I hope to explore the ways that religious communities and leaders in Madison and beyond have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led many state and local governments to force the cancellation of in-person religious services. Through this issue, I want to explore deeper questions about religious freedom and the role of the state. I look forward to meeting the other Fellows, learning about their faiths, and contributing to the interfaith dialogue that is so important in a pluralistic society.

Milan Stolpman

My name is Milan Stolpman and I am a junior majoring in Microbiology with certificates in Global Health and Sustainability. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and attended a diverse high school, where I interacted with peers from a wide array of backgrounds. My relationship with religion has been a dynamic one, as my dad was raised Christian in a standard Midwestern suburb and my mom was raised Hindu in Bangalore, India. While I am Catholic, because of my household, my world has always been a combination of unique aspects of two cultures and religions, and interfaith/cultural dialogue has always been a central facet of my life. As I have grown in college, I have come to realize the importance of religion in the world—how it brings people together, pushes people apart, and continues to shape the global landscape. In this process, I have developed a newfound passion for exploring my own relationship with religion and discussing faith with my peers. I was thrilled to discover a forum dedicated to religious/inter-faith dialogue through the CRGC, and I am looking forward to being a fellow this year!

Danielle Wendricks

My name is Danielle, but most people call me Dani, and I use she/her/hers pronouns. I am a senior 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. I visited and learned about different religious people and places. I was a fellow in the Fall of 2019, but was gone Spring of 2020 as I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark on a Brittingham Viking scholarship. I am excited to be back with a new cohort of folks, and continue 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. 

Amy Yadev

Hi, my name is Amanjot (Amy), and I am a rising junior studying biology. I am from Wisconsin, and my family and I currently practice Sikhism. Growing up, I learned a lot about my faith from my parents and by visiting the Sikh Temple at least once per week. My religion has influenced many decisions I have made; however, I started to question the role of religion in my life as I became older. For example, in 2012, following a mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of WI in Oak Creek, I wondered how an act of violence and hate could happen inside a house of worship. By being a part of the CRGC as an interfaith fellow, I hope to spearhead dialogue about how we can respect all religions and achieve the peace and mutual understanding we all strive for. Additionally, engaging with others about their lived experiences with or without religion is critical for me to expand my religious knowledge and connection. This fellowship will also provide me with a method to address social justice issues by engaging with a topic that helps people cross barriers and come together. Outside of school, I love to dance (I am a part of a competitive Bhangra dance team!), read, cook and explore new places such as parks and cities! I am excited to be a CRGC interfaith fellow this year and experience all that being a fellow has to offer.

Alumni 2019/20

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.

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. 

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. 

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!