2017-2018 Fellows

Saadia Ahmad‘s immersion into interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding began during her journey as a Muslim at a Catholic college. Through regularly attending Catholic worship services, taking theology courses, serving on the Campus Ministry Pastoral Council, and building relationships with Catholic priests who continue to be sources of support, she experienced her own Islamic faith deepening in an unprecedented way. Since graduating Providence College in 2014, Saadia has been studying, practicing, and writing about ways to engage with religious diversity more productively and pluralistically in a world often torn apart by religion. She has worked with organizations that seek to build bridges across lines of difference, including Kids4Peace, Soliya, the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Nigeria, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, and Harvard University’s Pluralism Project. Her articles on interfaith dialogue, religious diversity, and relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been published in The Boston Globe, America Media, The Huffington Post, and The Richmond Times. Saadia is completing her Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution at the University of Massachusetts Boston and is searching for interfaith career opportunities in the Boston area.

 

Nathan Bakken, originally from Seattle, WA, has found home in Boston, MA. Raised Roman Catholic, Nathan stands firm in the intersection of Christianity and Esoteric Spirituality. They earned their Master of Divinity, and Master Certificate in Religious Conflict Transformation, from Boston University School of Theology with particular focus in trans-centric queer theologies, the impact of rape culture on Christian rhetoric, queer spiritual practice, and the intersection of pop culture and theology. As a recent seminary graduate, Nathan is currently working as a barista, an educator, and is developing their skills as a public theologian. They keep Sabbath with hiking, baking bread, local brewery tours, and tarot readings.

 

Reverend Dr. Daniel F. Flores I am a third-generation Mexican-American with deep roots in South Texas. My wife and I are both ordained United Methodist clergy. I met her at an Assemblies of God youth convention when were both teenagers. When we reached college-age, we married and in a few short years answered the call to ministry. While studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I cross-enrolled in a Pentecostalism course at Harvard Divinity School. I also took a course in Mishnah at Hebrew College. These two experiences influenced me to become a United Methodist. I later earned an MDiv at Princeton Theological Seminary and PhD in American Religion & Culture at Drew University. Much of what I have learned about other faiths may be credited to my wife. She earned her MAR in Hebrew Bible at Yale University Divinity School and now teaches World Religions at the same college where I work. My official appointed role is a Public Services Librarian and History Instructor. Although my ministry is not expressly religious in nature, religion plays a definitive role. I have become an unofficial ecumenical advocate for a diverse population of college students.

 

Hans Gustafson is the director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, where he also teaches courses in the area of (inter)religious studies and theology. He is the author of several articles and chapters, the book Finding All Things in God: Pansacramentality and Doing Theology Interreligiously (Pickwick 2016, Lutterworth 2017), and is editor of the forthcoming Learning from Other Religions: Leaving Room for Holy Envy (Palgrave, 2018).He holds M.A. degrees in philosophy and theology, and a Ph.D. degree in religion. He resides in Minnesota with his wife and three young sons.

 

Nathan Kamesar is in his final year of study at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where he serves as the President of the Reconstructionist Student Association and was honored with the Tikkun Olam Award for service to the college community. Nathan is Rabbinic Intern at Hillel at Drexel University, and has spent much of the past four years serving as a rabbinic presence at Society Hill Synagogue. Nathan earned his M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania and was selected by his classmates to be his program’s graduation speaker. Before rabbinical school, Nathan was an attorney at the law firm Skadden Arps, having earned his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. Previously, Nathan served two years with AmeriCorps*VISTA in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Nathan is graduated from the University of Oregon in 2004 with a degree in Economics. He loves teaching, reading, basketball, music, and life.

 

Harleen Kaur is a writer, traveler, and aspiring-academic who aims to use the power of voice and narrative to transform communities into empowered bodies for change. Drawing inspiration from Sikh history and Gurbani (Sikh scripture), Harleen has cultivated her understanding of how Sikh liberation is connected to that of other communities in the United States. Growing up in Wisconsin, the Sikh community was central to her understanding of identity, particularly when her childhood gurdwara was attacked by a neo-Nazi in 2012. As an Education Director for Camp Sikh Virsa, she prioritizes utilizing youth community spaces as a way to connect Sikh values to the larger struggle for racial justice in the US. Harleen is currently a PhD student in Sociology at the University of California Los Angeles where she does research on challenging the monolithic narratives surrounding diasporic identity, as well as the notion of collective suffering and trauma that is often weaved into that narrative.

 

Emily Ling is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity in the Global & Community Engagement track at BU School of Theology. A native Texan, she spent most of the past decade in Austin striving to reform the criminal justice system by working at nonprofits that advocated on behalf of the incarcerated community. She is hoping to pair her previous graduate degree in public policy with her seminary education in order to cultivate better bridges between faith communities and the work of healing & restorative justice in the world. She also is passionate about sustainable agriculture and food justice, and is a discerning candidate for Deacon in the United Methodist Church. At BU, she serves as the Program Administrator for the Religion and Conflict Transformation program, and as the secretary for The Prophet, the student publication of BUSTH. She finds joy in national parks, live jazz, and dinner parties with friends.

 

Rev. David H. Messner is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah where he was called in 2012. He was born and raised as a UU. His ministry is committed to growing personal spiritual lives, liberal religious communities and a public way of doing church. His prior professional life was in management consulting, strategic planning and partnership development. He earned his MDiv from the University of Chicago, his MBA from Yale University and a BA in psychology from Reed College. He is a Graduate Fellow in Religion at Emory University, in the field of ethics and society, his scholarly interests include the way institutions shape individual moral choice and action. He is married with two kids and they all live (along with a giant dog, rabbit and spider) on Skidaway Island, Georgia.

 

J. Cody Nielsen is Founder and Executive Director of Convergence and Executive Director of the Wesley Foundation, a Boston Cambridge Ministry of Higher Education. Cody previously served as Expert in Residence for Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Initiatives at NASPA and is former President of the National Campus Ministry Association. Cody’s passion is integration of higher education with religious, secular, and spiritual identity diversity work. Cody is pursuing a Ph.D in Higher Education Administration at Iowa State University and holds Master’s degrees in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Northern Iowa and Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. He frequently blogs and offers consultation for universities regarding strategic thinking around religious, secular, and spiritual identity. His 2013-2015 study Multifaith in the Public University, a Louisville Foundation funded initiative, explores over 25 public and private universities in the United States and Canada regarding their policies, practices, and initiatives to support campus climates.

 

Micah Norman-Pace grew up in Texas and moved to Boston in 2015 to start the MDiv program at BU School of Theology. He is now entering his third and final year of the program and is in the Global and Community Engagement Track and the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program. Micah’s interests revolve around religious pluralism and tolerance, specifically strategies for engaging difference that are sustainable and inclusive. He is also interested in the history and current trends of American Evangelicalism. As a former Southern Baptist, he looks for ways his previous context is included and excluded from the table of interfaith dialogue. Micah is the president of the Interfaith Club at BUSTH and identifies as a Christian Humanist, or in his own words “it’s complicated.” Micah is on staff at the Boston Theological Institute as the Internal Projects Coordinator where he helps to facilitate interfaith engagement between religious institutions in Boston.

 

salemSalem Pearce is the Congregational Organizer at T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, where she manages programs in both the U.S. and Israel. She is also in her final year at Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Boston. During her time there, she has served as the rabbinic intern at Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue and at the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, and she was the Community Organizer at Temple Israel of Boston. Before going to rabbinical school, Salem lived and worked in Washington, D.C., as a fundraiser for several nonprofit organizations and volunteered for and served on the board of the DC Rape Crisis Center. A native Texan, Salem received a B.A. in Classics from the University of Texas at Austin. She now lives in Brooklyn.

 

Méli Solomon is a Master of Jewish Liberal Studies candidate at Hebrew College.  The program’s focus on Global Interreligious Studies perfectly matches her interests.  Her personal engagement with Judaism has been a gradual development, starting in the 1980s.  More publicly, she has completed her BA in Fine Art at Oberlin College (1984) and an MBA at Northeastern University (1997).  The degrees have been matched with significant management and entrepreneurial experience working in the arts and business.  In 2009 she moved to Berlin Germany in order to immerse herself in another culture.  Besides work as a trainer and editor, she volunteered at the conservative egalitarian synagogue and contributed to Jewish and interfaith activities.  Having been in synagogue leadership positions, Méli is the Coordinator for the emergent Friends of Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue and Masorti Germany organization in Berlin.  To explore the observance of those following an Abrahamic faith, she has been conducting the ‘Talking with God’ project since 2014.  She continues to run workshops and publish articles based on this research.  Newly back in her hometown of Boston after 20 years, she is excited to get involved in interfaith leadership work, especially field research and interaction that inspires community development and bridge-building.  Connecting knowledge and action is an ongoing passion.  She is honored to be a State of Formation Blogging Fellow.

 

Andrew Webber is currently a rabbinical student at Hebrew College. In 2012, he graduated magna cum laude from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Arts in Religion. Originally from the Northwest, he graduated cum laude from Linfield College in 2010 majoring in Religion with Biblical Emphasis. Most recently, he taught philosophy, religion, and history at a New England boarding school, and, in collaboration with students, he made Judaism a presence on campus while creating a pluralistic and welcoming environment for Jews of all backgrounds. Andrew is an avid listener of podcasts and loves talking politics and philosophy. He enjoys cooking and starting his day with several cups of strong coffee, as well as exploring the museums and bookstores of Boston with his wonderful wife, Ariana.

 

Wendy Webber is a humanist and interfaith activist and writer. She is the Programs Coordinator at Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB), a humanist charity and service organization. Her connection to FBB started when she spent a year with Pathfinders Project, an international humanist service project designed to find the location to launch FBB’s Humanist Service Corps. She then served as the Humanist Disaster Response Coordinator and Beyond Belief Network Coordinator for FBB, and Humanist Service Corps: Ghana Co-Administrator. Wendy is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she was a founding member of an atheist, agnostic, and multifaith community that continues to foster interbelief dialogues and initiatives on campus. She continues to speak and lead interfaith workshops at interfaith and humanist conferences. Wendy writes about religion, humanism, and interbelief engagement. Her writing has been published on and offline including The Humanist Magazine, her blog (interbelief.com), and NonProphet Status.

 

Nora Zaki is a Master’s of Divinity graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School with a concentration in Islamic Studies, Arabic, and chaplaincy.  Her Master’s thesis was about translating pastoral care for chaplaincy into an Islamic spiritual approach and hence, conducted ethnography in Cairo and Chicago of a Sufi spiritual order, called the Naqshabandis.  She has lived and studied in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.  She speaks fluent Arabic.  Nora is interested in chaplaincy and academia and cares about social justice.  While in Tampa, FL, she is working with the Progressive Caucus of the Tampa Democrats to better her city and elect officials who care about all of the people. Nora is also currently completing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Tampa General Hospital where she works in the Pastoral Care Unit with chaplains.  CPE is a form of theological education that takes place in clinical settings. She is the first Muslim to be working as a student chaplain at Tampa General Hospital. Her hobbies include running, Zumba, yoga and watching foreign soap operas, especially Arabic and Turkish ones! She loves libraries and tries to be a good library patron, especially of public libraries.

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