2019 Cohort


Check out the amazing public scholarship being done by our inaugural training cohort.


vicki Brennan
University of Vermont

Vicki L. Brennan is an anthropologist who studies religion, sound, music, and urban space in Africa and the African Diaspora. She is currently an Associate Professor of Religion and the Director of African Studies at the University of Vermont. Her research is based on more than fifteen years of field research in southwest Nigeria, primarily in Lagos and Ibadan. She has also conducted research in Nigerian immigrant and African American communities in the United States. Her book, Singing Yoruba Christianity (Indiana UP, 2018), examines how members of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church Movement in Lagos, Nigeria use music, dance, and other media as a means of producing moral community and reinforcing ethical values and modes of self-making. She is currently researching how claims to urban space by members of religious communities in Lagos, Nigeria are produced, circulated, experienced, and contested through sound. She is also writing an ethnographic biography of a Nigerian-American visual artist.



Case Western Reserve University

Brian Clites is a professor at Case Western Reserve University. He is an expert in clergy sexual abuse, and he has spent the last eight years interviewing Catholic survivors in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Illinois. In his upcoming book, Surviving Soul Murder, Clites explains how survivors have transformed their pain into legal and political reforms, and how the Catholic scandal has changed the way that other Americans think about sexual assault.



Alison Melnick Dyer
Bates College

Alison Melnick Dyer is Assistant Professor of Asian Religions at Bates College. She is an expert on gender and Tibetan Buddhism. She is currently writing a book about the life of Mingyur Peldrön, an 18th century Buddhist nun and religious leader. Melnick Dyer is especially interested in the ways that privilege influences gender in religious communities. She earned her B.A. at the University of Michigan and her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Virginia.



Rebecca Epstein-Levi

Rebecca Epstein-Levi is the Mellon Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at Vanderbilt University. She’s an expert on Jewish sexual ethics, and is working on a book project on sex, risk, and rabbinic text. She has written for Feminist Studies in Religion, the Jewish Theological Seminary’s newsletter Gleanings, StyleWise Blog, and State of Formation. In her copious free time, she enjoys cooking unnecessarily complicated meals and sharpening her overly large collection of kitchen knives.



Shreena Gandhi
Michigan State University

Shreena Niketa Gandhi is a multi-faceted cultural historian of religion with expertise in religion, race, the Americas and Hinduism. Trained at Swarthmore, Harvard and the University of Florida, Professor Gandhi currently teaches at Michigan State University, where she starts of the first few weeks of all her classes introducing students to the concept of structural white supremacy and why that is important for a better understanding religion in the U.S. Her research and public scholarship are on the history of yoga, and she is revising a manuscript on this using the framework of white supremacy and cultural appropriation. Through her scholarship, she hopes to make all Americans from all backgrounds better understand how we have all benefited and suffered because of systematic white supremacy and racism, and her scholarship on yoga is one illustration of this system. Professor Gandhi is also a part of a multi-year collaborative project on intersectional Hinduism, which is supported through the American Academy of Religion and partially funded through the Wabash Center.



sajida Jalalzai
Trinity University (San Antonio, TX)

Dr. Sajida Jalalzai is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She is an expert in the study of North American Islam. Jalalzai earned her PhD from Columbia University, specializing in American Religions. She is currently writing a book on Muslim leadership education in three Protestant Christian seminaries in the United States and Canada: Hartford Seminary, Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, and Claremont School of Theology. She examines these programs’ contributions to the creation of new professional fields, such as Muslim chaplaincy, and also questions the interfaith logics that they promote. Finally, her work questions how the secular state helps shape concepts of religion.



Brett Krutzsch
Haverford College

Dr. Brett Krutzsch is a professor at Haverford College. He is an expert on LGBTQ politics and religion in the United States. He is the author of the 2019 book Dying to Be Normal: Gay Martyrs and the Transformation of American Sexual Politics from Oxford University Press. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Newsday, Medium, the Advocate, and he has been featured on NPR.



Tia Noelle Pratt
Aquinas Center

Tia Noelle Pratt, PhD is a sociologist of religion specializing in systemic racism in the Catholic Church. For twenty years, Dr. Pratt has researched and written about how systemic racism impacts African-American Catholic identity. Dr. Pratt is currently the inaugural Scholar-in-Residence at the Aquinas Center in Philadelphia, PA. She is also the President and Director of Research at TNPratt & Associates, LLC. She is currently working on a book project with funding from the Louisville Institute and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Her work has been featured in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Young American Catholics, and American Parishes.



Kayla Renée Wheeler
Grand Valley State University

Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler is an assistant professor at Grand Valley State University. She is an expert in contemporary Black Islam in the United States. Dr. Wheeler is writing a book on the history of Black Muslim fashion in the United States. The book is based on five years of research, including interviewing Black Muslim fashion designers and attending fashion shows in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Newark. Dr. Wheeler is also the creator of the Black Islam Syllabus, a free resource guide that highlights the experiences of Muslims of African descent. Her writing has been featured in Sapelo Square and The Conversation.