The Global Religion Research Initiative awards funding to 48 research proposals

Author: Olivia Hall

The Global Religion Research Initiative is pleased to announce its Round 1 award recipients!

Congrats Small

The initiative, directed by Christian Smith, aims to advance the empirical study of global religion in mainstream academia by granting funds to promising researchers in the social sciences. The initiative launched late summer of 2016 in the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

Smith, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of Center for the Study of Religion and Society, was awarded $4.9 million from the Templeton Religion Trust of Nassau, Bahamas to address the relative neglect of religion as a subject of study in the social sciences, and to encourage the study of religions outside the North Atlantic region.

The initiative offers six distinct research and writing grants and fellowships programs: (1) Book-Writing Leave Fellowships, (2) Project Launch Grants, (3) Dissertation Fellowships, (4) International Collaboration Grants, (5) Curriculum Development Grants, and (6) Postdoctoral Research Fellowships. The GRRI will fund over 150 research proposals by distributing $3.1 million to scholars of global religion through three rounds of applicants to these programs over the next three years.

In this first round of competition, the GRRI received over 150 research proposals from scholars at 100 colleges and universities around the world. The submissions were reviewed by leading social science scholars and 48 of the proposals were awarded funding this 2017 round.

Five Notre Dame students and graduates received awards in the first round of funding. M. Tahir Kilavuz, a doctoral candidate in Political Science, has been awarded a GRRI Project Launch grant, which will support research that investigates how responsive the electorates in Muslim-majority countries are to both ideological and pragmatic policies.

Robert Brathwaite, who completed his PhD in Political Science from Notre Dame in 2012, will also receive a Project Launch grant to support the creation of a dataset that will allow for improved measurement of religious violence using natural language processing and automated text analysis of media reports. Brathwaite is currently an Assistant Professor in the Political Science at Michigan State University.

Megan Rogers, a Fulbright fellow and doctoral candidate in Sociology at Notre Dame, has been awarded a two-year postdoctoral fellowship. Her dissertation examines how religious and non-religious identities work to help middle-class professionals in China make sense of their place in their country and in the global society.

Shanna Corner, a doctoral candidate in Sociology, will be supported in 2017 - 2018 with a dissertation year fellowship. Corner’s project examines how UN and state-level officials who report on and review country implementation of women’s rights standards conceptualize religion and its relationship to women’s rights in varying ways.

Marcie Goeke-Morey, who received her PhD in 1999 from the Department of Psychology, has been selected to receive a Curriculum Development grant to support her revision of three developmental psychology courses. Goeke-Morey is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Catholic University of America.

The GRRI will accept two more rounds of funding proposals. The second round of proposals will be due in October 2017 and awarded in 2018. Visit to learn more about the programs offered and how to apply.

For more about the recipients and their research, click here.

Round 1 Award Recipients


Each fellowship provides funds toward the full reduction of teaching and committee responsibilities for one academic year in order to advance the study of global religion by facilitating the completion of a significant, new scholarly book on religions in different parts of the world.

Jóhanna Kristin Birnir, Political Science at University of Maryland

Antoinette E. DeNapoli, Religious Studies at University of Wyoming

Christopher Hale, Political Science at University of Alabama



The post-doctoral fellowships are intended to support the early development of scholars who show promise of distinguished research careers in the social scientific study of contemporary global religions

Hyun Jeong Ha, Sociology at the University of Texas

Megan Rogers, Sociology at the University of Notre Dame



These grants intend to encourage and facilitate new, empirical research by providing start-up funding for scholars to explore and launch new research projects on global religions. Ten projects were chosen for funding this year.

Robert Thaun Brathwaite, Political Science at Michigan State University

Sabri Ciftci, Political Science at Kansas State University

Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham, Political Science at University of Maryland

K. Amber Curtis, Political Science at Clemson University

Laura Olson, Political Science at Clemson University

Jessie Fredlund, Anthropology at The Graduate Center at CUNY

Evelyn Gertz, Sociology at The Ohio State University

M. Tahir Kilavuz, Political Science at University of Notre Dame

Andrew Miller, Political Science at MIT

Xinyan Peng, Anthropology at University of Virginia

Annika Schmeding, Anthropology at Boston University



These fellowships are intended to promote among promising, young scholars the social scientific study of contemporary religions around the globe.

Michel Chambon, Anthropology at Boston University

Shanna Corner, Sociology at University of Notre Dame

Sarah Kelman, Anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz

Erica Larson, Anthropology at Boston University

Kerry Ann Carter Persen, Political Science at Stanford University

Guadalupe Tuñón, Political Science at UC Berkeley

Tamara van der Does, Sociology at Indiana University



Each grant provides funds to be used by the research collaborators for transportation, lodging, communications, etc. to foster new collaborative ties between social science scholars in different countries. In this round of competition, 7 research teams were selected for funding.

Conrad Hackett, Senior Demographer and Assistant Director of Research at Pew Research Center; Jibum Kim, Sociology at Sungkyunkwan University (Korea); Nena Sahgal, Associate Director at Pew Research Center; Anna Sun, Sociology at Kenyon College

Thomas Holtgraves, Psychology at Ball State University; María Magdalena Giordana Noyola, Neurobiology at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Patrick McNamara, Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion

Danielle Nicole Lussier, Political Science Grinell College; Muhammad Najib Azca, Sociology at Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia); Mohammad Ahnaf, Religious and Cross Cultural Studies at Universitas Gadjah Mada; Hakimul Ikhwan, Sociology at Universitas Gadjah Mada

Anjana Narayan, Sociology at California State Polytechnic University Pomona; Bandana Purkayastha, Sociology and Asian American Studies at University of Connecticut; Durre Sameen Ahmed, Gender and Culture at California State Polytechnic University Pomona; Farhan Navid Yousaf, Sociology at International Islamic University (Pakistan); Neela Bhattacharya Saxena, English at Nassau Community College; Asha Mukherjee, Philosophy and Religion at Visva-Bharati University (India)

Rachel Rinaldo, Sociology at University of Colorado Boulder; Eva Fahrun Nisa, Art History, Classics and Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand); Nina Nurmila, Gender and Islamic Studies at State Islamic University (Indonesia)

Kimberly Rios, Psychology at Ohio University; Mark Aveyard, Psychology at American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates)

Tom Smith, Senior Fellow/Director of NORC at University of Chicago



Each grant provides faculty in North American colleges and universities funds for (1) the development of new courses on global religion; or (2) the significant revision of existing courses to add new, substantial components on global religion.

Dilshod Achilov, Political Science at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Amy Adamczyk, Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Elizabeth Bishop, History at Texas State University

Jonathan Calvillo, Sociology at Boston University School of Theology

Sabri Ciftci, Political Science at Kansas State University

Stacy Keogh George, Sociology at Whitworth University

Marcie Goeke-Morey, Psychology at Catholic University of America

Esen Kirdiş, International Studies at Rhodes College

Jordan LaBouff, Psychology at University of Maine

Wes Markofski, Sociology at Carleton College

Emily McKendry-Smith, Sociology at University of West Georgia

Laura Olson, Political Science at Clemson University

Noor O’Neill Borbieva, Anthropology and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

Nadim Rouhana, International Affairs and Conflict at Tufts University

Phil Schwadel, Sociology at University of Nebraska Lincoln

Jo-Ann Tsang, Psychology at Baylor University

Wade C. Rowatt, Psychology at Baylor University

Daryl Van Tongeren, Psychology at Hope College

Eric Wesselmann, Psychology at Illinois State University

Adam Cohen, Psychology at Arizona State University

Edward Webb, Political Science at Dickinson College

Brannon Wheeler, History at United States Naval Academy

Gizem Zencirci, Political Science at Providence College