Assistant Professor of Educational Research
University of West Georgia
How did you initially get interested/involved in the field of religion and education?
My B.A. and M.A. are in religion from The University of Georgia. My master’s work was focused on Isma’ili Islam. I was attracted to Isma’ilism by browsing the UGA library and finding a book called “The Assassins.” I asked my chair about it and he told me about Isma’ili Muslims in the 12th century which led to a conversation about what type of research had already been completed on Isma’ilism and what could still be done. After reviewing the way that Isma’ilism was presented in Western scholarship (a project I’d like to update and finish if anyone’s interested in collaborating!) I looked at Kitab al-‘alim wa’l-ghulam (The Master and Disciple), Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’ (The Letters of the Brethren of Purity), and the current work of Isma’ili Muslims through the Aga Khans such as the Aga Khan Foundation. My focus was on their viewpoint toward education/learning and how it had changed or remained the same from the 9th century to today (spoiler alert – much has remained the same, which is fascinating).
So, when I went back for my Ph.D. in Adult Education, I wanted to bring my academic past and academic future together in my dissertation. In the texts I read for my M.A. thesis, I learned that Isma’ili Muslims hold that learning from other faith traditions is important. When I taught religion at UGA and GGC, I learned that talking to people of other faith traditions in order to learn from/with them is hard for people to do. This brought me to the topic of interfaith dialogue, specifically dialogue between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim adults. This non-formal educational opportunity has great potential for conflict resolution and interfaith learning in a variety of venues such as schools and communities. But first, we need to know about how people of other faiths learn from one another and how facilitators of interfaith dialogue can set up an environment that supports this learning.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a couple of things right now. At AAR/SBL SE I presented on how facilitators guide interfaith dialogue sessions, a topic from my Ph.D. dissertation. At AERA I’ll be presenting a paper that is a conversation analysis of moments of disagreement in interfaith dialogue. My research assumption with this latter topic is that if we can understand the conversational tactics participants in interfaith dialogue use to successfully navigate through moments of disagreement, we can better facilitate dialogue events that support learning and peacebuilding between religious communities. When I complete these papers, I’ll start a new project examining synchronous, virtual interfaith dialogue and the learning community participants are building through that modality.
What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m a dog lover! I apprenticed with a dog trainer and behaviorist while I was in grad school. I’ve done an obscene amount of research on nutrition and positive training methods, specifically counter-conditioning for reactivity through the CARE method.
What are you reading (for research/teaching and pleasure) right now?
Currently, I’m working on a qualitative meta-synthesis of empirical articles about interfaith dialogue, so I’ve read a great deal about interfaith learning and education. I just read a very interesting piece by Ray Williams (2019) called “Welcoming the Stranger” that examined how an exhibit in an art museum promoted interfaith dialogue. On the more personal side, I’m working through all of Terry Goodkind’s books this year (2021). I’m currently reading “Severed Souls,” which is the 14th book in the Sword of Truth series (Goodkind claims it’s the 3rd book in the Richard and Kahlan series, but we all know it’s just book 14 in the Sword of Truth).
What is your most recent professional accomplishment?
I just had a publication released in the International Journal of Lifelong Education called “Becoming Thou as Transformation in Interfaith Dialogue” – check it out!
How long have you been a member of the Religion & Education Collaborative?
About a year.
Are you interested in research collaborations? If so, in which topical areas?
I am! If anyone is interested in working with me on projects related to adult learning/education, interfaith dialogue, or if you need a qualitative research methodologist, let me know.
Would you feel comfortable if REC members contacted you about your research?
Absolutely! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org