Interreligious Research Fellows (2019-2020)

click here to read more about the Interreligious Research Fellows (IRF) Program

Dr. Hans GustafsonLaura Bru

IRF Cohort Facilitator

Program Manager

Director, Jay Phillips Center
Adj. Professor, Theology

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Center for Student Achievement


Grant Pederson

Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona
Majors: Philosophy and Classical Languages
Minors: Theology
Research Project: "Influence of Muslim Philosophers on Duns Scotus"
Project Description: This project investigates the 12th and 13th century Arab-Western European cultural exchange insofar as it facilitated the influences of Islamic philosophy on Scholastic Western philosophy. It is well known that Muslims preserved the works of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and transmitted his work to western Europeans for the first time since antiquity, but the influence of the Muslim philosophers themselves on Scholastics has been studied less. I will examine the influence of Muslim philosophers, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), on the Scholastic thinker Duns Scotus, with a special focus on his philosophy of divine attributes. My method will include reading primary sources in Latin and English translation of Scotus and his Muslim influences, with an eye to their similarities and references.

Faculty Mentor: Gloria Frost (Philosophy)

Grant Pederson - Grant Pederson

Rabia Sheikh

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Majors: Biology
Minors: Chemistry
Research Project: "Editing for the Abrahamic God: An Ethical and Religious Case for using CRISPR at the Embryonic Stage"
Project Description: The study of biology continues to develop at a rapid pace. One exciting development is the introduction of gene editing tools such as CRISPR, which allows for the insertion, deletion, and replication of DNA in very specific ways. With this powerful tool comes the debate about its appropriate and responsible use, whether in adults, children, or embryos. This study explores and articulates ethical and religious arguments for using CRISPR at the embryonic stage. In particular, I will investigate religious views – especially insofar as they are supported by their authoritative texts – from the Abrahamic traditions. I will also conduct interviews of religious leaders, biologists, and bioethicists on the topic of gene editing and other related topics. 

Faculty Mentor: Paul Wojda (Theology) and Kerri Carlson (Biology)


Rabia Sheikh - Rabia Sheikh

Dominique Stewart

Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica
Majors: Actuarial Science, French
Minors: Interreligious Studies and Comparative Theology
Research Project: "A Religious Rendezvous: The Encounter of Jamaican Hindus and Early Rastafari"
Project Description: This research project will be exploring one of the core principles of Rastafari – IyanI (“I and I”) – and its relationship to the Hindu concept of mokṣa, specifically how they are related historically and how they actualize in the practice of the lived faiths. IyanI recognizes the oneness of the Divine and how every human being is bound together by love and estranged by evil and suffering. Along similar lines, mokṣa is understood by many referring to the release of the individual into the greater divine. The Rastafari movement grew out of this self-awareness of black people and their position in colonial society. After the crowning of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I, the founders of Rastafari began to circulate the good news that the black liberator had come in the form of the newly crowned monarch. Selassie’s crowning came to be seen as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies when read through a black lens. However, scholars tend to leave out the impact Hinduism had on the early formation of some of Rastafari’s dogmas. This research project explores the contact and exchange of the long-standing Hindu community in Jamaica with the early Rastafari movement and how that contact contributed to the formation of IyanI. Many scholars of Rastafari focus on the black consciousness in the early movement as well as the Christian doctrines that contributed to its core principles. However, little recognition is paid to the importance of Hinduism’s contribution to the basic teachings of Rastafari. It is my hope that this project will demonstrate the important role Hinduism played in forming a central principle of Rastafari.

Faculty Mentor: Ted Ulrich (Theology)

Dissemination of Research:

  • “A Religious Rendezvous: The Early Encounter between the Rasta and Hindu Conceptions of the Divine.” Paper presented at the Upper Midwest Regional American Academy of Religion / Society for Biblical Literature Virtual Conference, 4 Apr 2020.


Dominique Stewart - Dominique Stewart