Interreligious Research Fellows

applications for 2020-2021 cohort:

  • April 5, 2020: Priority Deadline
IRFLOGO - Interreligious Research Fellows

The Interreligious Fellows program is a one-year (two semester) program for UST students that allows them to design and implement an academically rigorous, closely mentored, research project that examines and engages the encounter between, among, and/or within religious communities and people with various religious identities (including secular, nonreligious, and spiritual worldviews and ways of life). This program is open to students from all majors who are interested in engaging religious diversity, increasing their religious literacy, understanding the complexity of religion and interreligious issues, and promoting the public understanding of religion through their research. Fellows receive $2,250 in funding, join a cohort that meets regularly to support each other’s research projects and to cultivate interreligious leadership, and have the option to collaborate with a community organization to carry out an interreligious Community-Engaged Research (CEnR) project.

The 2019-2020 IRF pilot program is supported by a generous grant from the
Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota.

Fellows will receive a $2250 stipend and will be eligble to apply to for an extra $500 to support approved project expenses as needed. For approved project expsenses, funding will be released as needed. Each fellow will work with a faculty mentor (or co-mentors) in an academic area relevant to their project. Mentors will also receive a stipend (see below).

Fellows are also eligible to apply for up to $750 additional funding through the Research Travel Grant, which is designed to give students funding that allows them to travel, either domestically or internationally, to locations outside of the Twin Cities in order to complete or enhance their research. Fellows are also eligible to apply for a Conference Travel Grant, which funds student travel to present their research at an academic conference.

The student fellows will make up a small cohort that meets regularly during the academic year (J-term excluded), guided by the director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, to build a sense of community among the research team, develop as interreligious leaders, and receive support in their research projects. The cohort component of IRF is inspired by the Multifaith Scholars Program at Elon University (North Carolina).

This model to “build community among groups of undergraduate researchers” is included among the Ten Salient Practices of Undergraduate Research Mentors by Jenny Olin Shanahan, Elizabeth Ackley-Holbrook, Eric Hall, Kearsley Stewart & Helen Walkington (2015): DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2015.1126162.

Successful applicants will undertake research projects on topics that examine aspects of interreligious encounter, either historically and/or in the contemporary world. Their projects will engage local communities, have a constructive application, or promote the public understanding of religion and our interreligious relations in a meaningful way. "Interreligious,” in the context of this program, is defined broadly to refer to encounters that take place (and relations that exist) between, within, and/or among groups with significant difference in worldview or lifeway (including religious, non-religious, and secular traditions). Click here for resources about the academic field of interreligious studies

For instance, a project might analyze local interfaith organizations or initiatives and critically assess their impact, viability, and sustainability. A project might also produce deliverables such as educational or training materials (video, website, case studies, etc.) that promote constructive interreligious understanding. Other projects might research historical and contemporary dimensions of interreligious encounter, the interfaith movement, interfaith conflict and peacebuilding, or the intersection of multiple religious traditions with contemporary issues, academic disciplines, or professions (e.g., environmental sustainability, neuroscience, health care, law, journalism, education, science, social work, justice and peace studies, government, public policy, politics, sociology, etc.). Before applying, students are encouraged to discuss project ideas with the director of the program: Dr. Hans Gustafson (

Required Training: Interreligious Research Fellows are required to complete Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) training through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI Program). Click here to begin the process through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program office at St. Thomas. Projects that work with human participants must receive approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to beginning their research. Click here to read more.

Promoting the Public Understanding of (Inter)Religious Relations: Fellows are required to present their projects in a manner that promotes the public understanding of religion and/or interreligious relations. To satisfy this requirement, they will present their work in a poster session called Inquiry in early May.

Community-Engaged Research invites community partners and organizations to participate in all aspects of the research process. Through this collaborative approach, research can be more equitable and representative, can produce results that are more relevant to stakeholders, and can contribute to significant social change.

Community-Engaged Research benefit a community organization, a specific population, and/or the community at large. They involve community partners in the design and implementation of research projects. As such, they should demonstrate respect for the contributions made by community partners, serve the common good, and adhere to the principle of "doing no harm" to the communities involved.

Interreligious Research Fellows have the option to partner with a local community organization to research a question or set of questions beneficial to that partner while also of interest and developmentally significant for the student researcher. For example, community partners might include interfaith organizations, religious communities, advocacy groups, and non-profits. A project might assess the effectiveness of an organization’s particular program that fosters interreligious dialogue, collect qualitative participant-observation data on an initiative, or measure the religious identities, stories, and/or narratives of clients served, to name a few.

If you are interested in CEnR, please contact Dr. Hans Gustafson ( to begin the conversation and learn about some of the community partners interested in collaborating with you.

This program provides space for the cohort of fellows to reflect on the normative and self-implicating dimensions of researching interreligious encounter. This includes opportunities designed to recognize and cultivate various leadership competencies such as self-storytelling, capacity inventorying, vocational discernment, and others. Projects that involve Community-Engaged Research also provide leadership oppourtunites from the  community organization collaborator.

Student must:

  • have completed 32 credits
  • be enrolled as a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of St. Thomas during the academic year in which you will be an Interfaith Research Fellow
  • be able to devote 200 hours of work towards their project and cohort meetings over the course of the academic year (about 10 hours/week each semester, excluding J-Term)

The Interreligious Research Fellows (IRF) program is an outstanding opportunity for faculty to mentor energetic and committed students for a year while earning a $750 stipend. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to engage and contribute to the growing interdisciplinary field of interreligious studies.

Successful mentorship of an Interreligious Research Fellow involves academic oversight of the student’s project and support for the student’s personal growth. Mentors are expected to:

  • provide guidance and oversee a year-long (about 200 hours) undergraduate research project
  • set aside adequate time to hold substantive meetings with the student throughout the year to guide the student, assess the project’s progress, address areas of concern, suggest subsequent academic activities, and direct the research in a timely manner
  • provide feedback that is constructive, critical, clear, prompt, substantive, and developmental
  • assist the scholar in preparation of an application for the Institutional Review Board (IRB), if the project entails working with human subjects
  • assist the student in creating their final poster for Inquiry, and other application presentations or deliverables that promote the public understanding of (inter)religious encounter in some way (public presentation, video resource, workshop, website, report for community partner)
  • comply with IRF policies, deadlines, and expectations and be available to discuss project progress, and to alert of any hindrances, with the IRF cohort director (

To apply, please follow these steps:

  1. Review this webpage carefully. Consider scheduleing an in-person or ZOOM meeting with cohort director, Dr. Hans Gustafson, to discuss your ideas, potential faculty mentors, and the application process by emailing him at Before the meeting, you may identify potential faculty mentors and even begin to discuss your ideas with them.
  2. Work with your faculty mentor (and community partner if applicable) to develop a research proposal. If your proposal is a community-based project, work with the cohort director to communicate with the community partner.
  3. Submit your completedf proposal template and and application (buttons on the right of this page) along with other required materials (e.g., copy of your academic transcript) to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program office by stated deadline.
  4. Make sure your faculty mentor submits a letter of endorsement by the stated deadline (if your proposal is a community-based project, ensure that your community partner submits a letter of support for your project by the stated deadline)