Past Visiting Scholars at the Boisi Center

A list of many of the visiting scholars at the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life since 2000.

Visiting Scholars

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Thomas Santa Maria (AY 2020-2023)

Tom Santa Maria is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University specializing in the religious and cultural history of Early Modern Europe, especially Italy. In particular, he focuses on Early Modern Catholicism and the ministries, thoughts, and activities of the early Society of Jesus in the decades following the Council of Trent. His dissertation presents the history of Catholicism’s relationship to the senses as deeply ambivalent. Should the senses be trusted as tools that move the mind to God and profit the soul leading to eternal life, or guarded as the gates of sin that incite the body to lust and damn the soul leading to eternal death?Before Yale, Tom completed a Master’s degree in Theological Studies at Boston College. Prior to that he attended the College of the Holy Cross where I completed the honors course in history, classics, and Catholic Studies.

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Rachelle Reinhart, PhD (AY 2020-2022)

Rachelle holds a doctorate in sociology from Boston University, where she currently teaches courses in religion, community, and social theory. Her recent research explores how young adult Catholics find a sense of meaning and belonging across three Catholic churches in downtown Boston: St. Cecilia’s, a parish church operated by the Archdiocese of Boston; The Paulist Center, a service church operated by a religious order of evangelical missionaries; and St. Clement’s, a Eucharistic shrine operated by a liturgical order of devout priests and brothers. From this research, she finds that each institutional setting adapts its own modes of interaction to communicate the resonant message via aspirational calls to action. Through these mechanisms, ritual memory is transfor med into directed actions that bring the faithful into feelings of moral obligation and commitment to their shared interpretation of community. Rachelle also serves as Catholic Chaplain at Brandeis University, where she helps students navigate the often deeply private commitments and dilemmas that come with religious faith and emerging adulthood. She received her MA in Comparative History from Brandeis University and BA in Philosophy with highest honors from Smith College.


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Massimiliano Proietti (October 2021 - February 2022)

Massimiliano Proietti is a PhD candidate at the Foundation for Religious Studies of Bologna, where he is currently carrying out research on the implementation of the liturgical reform after Vatican II, focusing especially on the activity of the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia (1964-1969). Before Bologna, Massimiliano completed a Master’s degree (2018) in Religious Studies at the University of Rome La Sapienza, discussing a dissertation about Origins and Meanings of the Roman Stational Liturgy (IV-VI c.), in which he studied the evolution of liturgical practice in the plural religious context of Rome in the late Antiquity. Prior to that, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree (2015) in History of Christianity at the University of Rome with a dissertation on The Homilies of Paul VI during Vatican II. Since 2020 he has been appointed “Subject Expert” in the field of History of Christianity and Churches at the University of Rome La Sapienza.


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Erick Berrelleza, S.J. (AY 2019-2021)

The Religious Lives of Latino Immigrants: Geographies and Shifting Landscapes in the New South

Erick Berrelleza is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Boston University. While at the Boisi Center, Erick will be writing on his dissertation research, which is an ethnographic project attempting to explore the lived religious experiences of immigrants from Latin America in the United States. Drawing on in-depth interviews, observation and participation in the field, Berrelleza's project will examine how beliefs are expressed in everyday embodied practices and how those practices shape and are shaped by the experience of migration and the physical places in which they take place. 

Berrelleza's study will go beyond previous research on individual lived religion by considering the rapidly growing group of Latin American immigrants in the United States. The most comprehensive study of individual lived religion narratives conducted to date privileges the stories of people who are “well educated and relatively well off.” Thus, many stories of Latinos are absent from the literature. Because of Berrelleza's interest in individual religious practices in relation to places of arrival, this will be a comparative study with a rural site and an urban site in North Carolina. Engaging a comparative project provides the opportunity to investigate how places of arrival with both shared and unique structural conditions enable and constrain religious practices for a marginalized population.

The Boisi Center is excited to welcome Erick Berrelleza during the next academic year, 2019-2020. Berrelleza presented previous research at a luncheon colloquium in the fall of 2018 on Gentrification in an Urban Church.


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Ines W. Jindra (AY 2019-2020)

Ines W. Jindra is currently an associate professor of social work in the department of sociology and social work at Gordon College, and a visiting scholar at the Boisi Center for the academic year of 2019-2020. Prior to coming to Gordon College and the Boisi Center, she has taught at Spring Arbor University in Michigan and was a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

She is interested in narrative biographical research, in homelessness, poverty, and urban issues, as well as in religious conversion and the role of faith-based social welfare organizations, and is the author of A New Model of Religious Conversion (Brill, 2014) and other articles on religious conversion, biographical sociology, and nonprofits.

While at the Boisi Center, she will be working on a book project on religion, religious conversion and biographical trajectories of residents of three homeless shelters, using narrative biographical interviews. The goal is to understand how residents use the “religious tools” provided by some of the shelters and how they connect these to their own faith journeys and biographical trajectories.

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Jenn-Chyun Mark Shieh (August 2018; January/February 2019)

Jenn-Chyun Mark Shieh is an associate professor at Tajen University in Taiwan. He was a Fulbright Senior Research Grantee as well as a Yale University Visiting Scholar in Yale Center for Faith and Culture from 2016 to 2017. Shieh studies politics and diversity in liberal democracies as well as questions of pluralism, religious education, and spirituality from a transcultural and comparative perspective. Shieh received his Ph.D. from the Division of Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University.


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Christian Henkel (September 2018)

Christian Henkel is a Researcher and the Executive Director at the Institute for Ecumenical and Interreligious Research at Tuebingen University in Germany. His interests focus on political theology and its connections with questions of migration, digitization, and faith-based community organizing. Recent publications include, “Turn over the table? Practices of faith-based lobbying for undocumented migrants" In Menschenrechte in der Katholischen Kirche. Ed. by Marianne Heimbach-Steins. and "On Charismatic Influencers and Christian Filter-Bubbles" In forum erwachsenenbildung 51.2, pp. 31–35. Henkel received his Ph.D. from the University of Muenster (Germany).

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Mara Willard (2017-2018)

Dr. Mara Willard is an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, where she also is affiliated with Jewish Studies and Women's and Gender Studies. Aboard-appointed member of the American Academy of Religion's Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion, her research focuses on the intersection of religion, ethics, and politics in the twentieth century. Her first book, Politics after the Death of God (currently under review by Oxford University Press), presents a fresh reading of Hannah Arendt, demonstrating that Arendt's diagnoses and proposed cures for modern state violence made creative use of intra-and post-Christian theological debates. 

While at Boston College, Willard will also advance her research on the so-called "Crisis in the Church" of 2002. This book project considers how lay and clerical initiatives for ecclesial reform in response to the clergy sex abuse scandal were conditioned by Catholic practices and priorities as well as class and cultural shifts of post-war Catholicism.

Willard received a B.A. with distinction from Swarthmore College, holds an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School and Ph.D. from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, and has vivid childhood memories of sitting in traffic on Boston College game days. She is living for the year in the town of Arlington, with her spouse Chris Railey and their two boys, ages 9 and 6.


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Scott Spurlock (April 2017)

Scott Spurlock is a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow. His research focuses on the relationship between religious identity and secular society, particularly in historically Reformed communities. He is co-editor of two book series ‘Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World’ (Palgrave Macmillan) and ‘Scottish Religious Cultures: Historical Perspectives’ (Edinburgh University Press), and editor of the peer-reviewed Records of the Scottish Church History Society. Scott is currently co-authoring a book with Professor Crawford Gribben (Queen’s University Belfast) on the American Redoubt and religiously-motivated withdrawal from mainstream American culture for Oxford University Press. 


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Francesco Frau (December 2015 - March 2016)

Francesco Frau graduated from the University of Cagliari, Italy in 2014 receiving a B.A. degree in political science, with a dissertation entitled "Daring to Hope: Don Andrea Gallo's Political Thought." Currently he studies international relations as a master’s student at the University of Cagliari. His dissertation explores the role of liberation theology in Latin America's society and politics. While at the Boisi Center, his work will focus on the birth of Black liberation theology in the United States.  Francesco will be at the Boisi Center from December 2015 - March 2016.


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Peter Terem (Spring 2015)

Peter Terem is a professor in and chair of the Department of International Relations and Diplomacy as well as Vice Dean for Science and Research at Matej Bel University in Baska Bystrica, Slovakia. While at the Boisi Center, his work will focus on the theoretical sources that have shaped American foreign and security policy, with special attention devoted to the understanding of the political and military role of nuclear weapons. Among other things, he hopes to better understand the potential and limitations of liberal and neoliberal approaches to American foreign and security policy. He would further like to become better acquainted with the quantitative approaches commonly used by American scholars in the field of International Relations. He expects this to aid his pedagogical work with students and ability to supervise theses and dissertations; to help him in his research regarding international relations with regard to the Slovak Republic; and to give him an expertise that will aid his work with Slovakian government ministries and European NGOs. Finally, he is prepared to offer to young American graduate students an opportunity to carry out research in Central Europe.


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Paulina Napierala (Spring 2015)

Paulina Napierala is an assistant professor at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. As a Kosciuszko Foundation grantee at the Boisi Center, she is working on a book concerning the role of religion in the American public sphere. The book is designed to introduce Polish students to questions surrounding the relationship between church and state, religion and the public sphere, and religion and politics in the United States. It will present a history of religious pluralism, the development of American civil religion, an analysis of the role conservative and liberal churches intend to play in American politics, and the development of the American Religious Right. Napierala is also continuing her comparative studies concerning Polish and American Religious Right movements.


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David Cowan (Spring and Fall 2014)

David Cowan earned his PhD at the University of St Andrews, jointly undertaken in the School of Divinity and the School of International Relations. He is Senior Tutor in Politics and Religion, King’s Evangelical Divinity School, and approved Tutor, University of Chester. He also holds a B.Th. and M.Th. from the University of Oxford, an M.Litt. from the University of St Andrews, and a Diploma in Theology from Westfield House, Cambridge, where he was Lutheran Chaplain to the University of Cambridge. His book Economic Parables: The Monetary Teachings of Jesus Christ (Paternoster USA 2007, IVP 2009) is in its second edition. He has contributed essays on "Christianity and Economics," Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Blackwell, 2012), "Religious Minorities," International Encyclopedia of Political Science (CQ Press USA, 2010) and is a regular reviewer for the Journal of Theological Studies (Oxford University Press). He is also a Communications Advisor, having worked for over 25 years in communications, working in various capacities for many organizations including major financial and industrial companies, the World Bank, the Institute of Islamic Banking & Insurance, and, Financial Times. He has lived and worked in North America, Europe and the Middle East. His book Strategic Internal Communication (Kogan Page, GB& USA) is being published Spring 2014. His research at the Boisi Center will focus on diplomacy and communicating religion in American foreign policy, with a focus on Christianity and Islam.


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Yu Xueming (Spring 2013)

Yu Xueming is Professor of Religious Studies and Chinese Philosophy at China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing, China. She has published books and articles about the philosophy of the Tiantai denomination, relations among the Chinese Buddhist sects, and interactions between Buddhism and society. She is currently exploring the topic of religion and legal culture. She earned a Ph.D. from Renming University of China in 2004.



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Gregor Scherzinger (Calendar year 2011)

Gregor Scherzinger is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of moral theology and ethics at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. His dissertation is entitled "Normative Ethics and Jewish Ethos – A Reconstruction of David Novak’s Moral Theory and its Criticism of Political Liberalism." Scherzinger received the equivalent of a masters in theology and religious studies from the University of Fribourg in 2007. He also studied in Jerusalem as a participant in the Theological Study Program at the Dormition Abbey.


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Christiane Schubert (Fall 2011)

Christiane Schubert studied Theology at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and in the German Academic Program of Theology at the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. She holds an M.Th. from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the same university. Before starting her dissertation, she worked for two years as a teaching assistant in the German Academic Program of Theology at the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. Her dissertation deals with the role of Human Freedom in Theological Concepts, in particular she compares the thinking of protestant Eberhard Jüngel and catholic Thomas Pröpper.


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John H. Summers (2008-2010)

John Summers has taught at Harvard, Columbia, Cooper Union, and Boston College, and received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Rochester in 2006. He’s the editor of The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills (Oxford 2008) and Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, by Dwight Macdonald (New York Review, 2011).

In a review of his collection of essays, Every Fury on Earth (Davies 2008), Alan Ryan said Summers “shows a mastery of the drily ironic style that would stand any social critic in very good stead.” Book Forum said “Summers writes pieces that traverse multiple disciplines—history, sociology, literature—and bristle with elegant pugnacity. Whether he is blowing the dust off late-nineteenth-century sex scandals or slashing at the parlous state of adjunct labor in the academy, his sentences resound with the clatter and clank of fresh thought coming hard up against the intellectual armor protecting powerful institutions.”


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Marcel Koeppli (Spring 2009)

Marcel Koeppli is a research assistant and Ph.D. student at the University of Berne, Switzerland. His dissertation explores how Swiss protestant entrepreneurs in the 19th century addressed the social question, i.e. the problems arising from an expanding industrialization. As such he is interested in the interaction of religion, politics and economics. During his stay at the Boisi Center, he will continue working on his dissertation. Marcel holds an MTh from the University of Zurich. He has also studied at the University of Basel, Switzerland, and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.


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Thia Cooper (Summer 2008)

Thia Cooper is Assistant Professor of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College, teaching in the area of Religion, Culture and Society.  Her research interests include theology and liberation, theology and development, faith and practice in faith-based aid agencies, non-western Christianities, and religion in Latin America, particularly Brazil. Her background lies in Development Studies as well as Theology; she holds an M.Th. and Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh-Scotland, an M.Sc. in Development Studies from SOAS in London, and an A.B. in International Relations from Brown University. Her first book, Controversies in Political Theology: Development or Liberation, was published with SCM Press in 2007.  During Summer 2008 at the Boisi Center, she is working on a project exploring theologies of immigration.  Her next work will develop these themes with particular reference to the Brazilian-American community.


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Grete Brochmann (2007-2008)

Brochmann earned her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Oslo in 1990. She is currently Senior Researcher at the Institute for Social Research, as well as Professor of Sociology, at the University of Oslo. Brochmann has published several books and articles on international migration, covering topics such as sending and receiving country perspectives, EU policies, welfare state dilemmas, and historical studies on immigration. She has also been involved in a number of International research projects and evaluations. She has lectured internationally for many years and served as a visiting scholar in Brussels (Université Catholique de Louvain) and at the University of  California at Berkeley. In 2002 she held a visiting professorship in honor of Willy Brandt in Malmo, Sweden. Brochmann is currently researching welfare state dilemmas in a Nordic comparative perspective. She has been member of several commissions in the Norwegian Research Council and held/holds a number of board positions in research institutions. She has also been member of two Governmental commissions, held positions and board memberships in international contexts such as the Council of Europe, COST, the Danish research program AMID, and the Swedish Power and Integration Investigation.


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Paulina Napierala (2007-2008)

Paulina Napierala is a Ph.D. student at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. As a Fulbright grantee, she is conducting her research at the Boisi Center. She graduated from Jagiellonian University receiving two M.A. degrees: International Relations and Ethnic and Migration Studies. As a student she was granted two foreign scholarships: in Bristol, UK, at University of the West of England and in Georgia, USA, at Valdosta State University. As a Ph.D. student she has been conducting her research in Poland and in Germany (J.F. Kennedy Institute at Free University of Berlin). Her research explores a variety of issues concerning relations between religion and politics in the United States. One of the topics she has thoroughly researched is the rise of the Religious Right and its influence on American political life. She is an author of several articles and reviews published in Poland. These publications touch upon such issues as: the role of religion in American foreign policy, political strategy and institutionalization of the Religious Right, dispensationalism and Christian Zionism in the Left Behind series, or fundamentalist movements in contemporary world. She also lectures on “Religion and Politics in the USA” at her home institution.


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Martin Putna (2007-2008)

Martin C. Putna is an historian of European literature in religious context. His published books include My posledni krestane (We, the Last Christians; Prague 1994), Ceska katolicka literatura v evropskem kontextu 1848-1918 (The Czech Catholic Literature in European Context 1848-1918; Prague 1998), and Origenes z Alexandrie - Kapitola ze vztahu mezi krestanstvim a antikou (Origenes from Alexandria - The Chapter from Relations between Christianity and Antiquity; Prague 2001). He has also published three other monographs, several translations from Latin, German and Russian Literature to Czech, and two non-academic books (a collection of short essays and a novel). He studied Classical and Slavonic Philology (Charles University, Prague) and Theology (South Bohemian University, Ceske Budejovice). Since 1998 he has been an Associate Professor at Charles University, Prague. During the academic year 2004-05, he was a Visiting Professor at University of Regensburg, Germany. He is a co-founder of Souvislosti - Revue for Christianity and Culture (published since 1990). He is also a frequent contributor to Czech media, including Czech television, and leading Czech newspapers on religious, cultural, and political issues. Currently he is a Fulbright Fellow at the Boisi Center, Boston College, where he is working on a research project "The Other Religious America: Contemporary Attempts to Find Solutions to Conflicts Between Religious and Civic Principles in American Society and Culture."


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Rowan Ireland (2005)

Rowan Ireland was a Visiting Scholar during calendar year 2005 and has returned twice since then for a semesters visit. He is an Honorary Associate in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in the School of Social Sciences and Communication at La Trobe University in Melborne, Australia. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Institure of Latin American Studies at La Trobe University as well as a board member for the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy.  He has had extensive field work in Latin America, and is investigating urban social movements in three Brazilian cities. He is also involved in studying the processes of secularization and new forms of religious life and civil society in Australia.


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A.M.C. Waterman (2002)

Anthony Michael Charles Waterman is a retired fellow at St. John's College, Winnipg and Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Manitoba since 2007, where he taught economics and political science. He holds a PhD in economics from Australian National University and is an ordained priest. He retired in 2006 and resides in Winnipeg.



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Lynn Davidman (2000-2001)

Lynn Davidman (Ph.D., Brandeis University, 1986) is a qualitative sociologist who is a University Distinguished Professor in the departments of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Kansas. She works in the fields of gender studies and the sociology of religion. She has published books and articles that offer feminist perspectives of Jewish Studies, and explore the topics of women and religion, women and Judaism, and gender and religion. She is on the advisory board of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton, and is a member of the editorial board for Qualitative Sociology.


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Douglas Creed (2001-2002)

W.E. Douglas Creed is a Professor of Entrepreneurial Management and Law at the University of Rhode Island in the College of Business Administration. He holds a PhD in Business Administration at Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. He has previously taught at Boston College, University of Massachusetts (Boston) and MIT Slone School. His research interest include organizational behavior and industrial relations organization theory, identity and diversity, and social movement activities, corporate community responsibility, strategies. In 2007 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for study in New Zealand.