Participant Bios

Anthony Annett

Dr. Anthony Annett is a senior advisor at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and an adjunct professor at Fordham University.

He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University and spent two decades at the International Monetary Fund, including as speechwriter to two managing directors.

Annett is the author of Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy. He is also a member of the College of Fellows of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.

Natalie Avalos2

Dr. Natalie M. Avalos is an Assistant Professor in the Ethnic Studies department at University of Colorado Boulder. She is an ethnographer of religion who received her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a special focus on Native American and Indigenous Religious Traditions and Tibetan Buddhism.

She is currently working on her manuscript titled Decolonizing Metaphysics: Transnational Indigeneities and Religious Refusalwhich explores urban Indian and Tibetan refugee religious life as decolonial praxis. She is a Chicana of Apache descent, born and raised in the Bay Area. 

Peter Cajka2

Dr. Peter Cajka is an Assistant Teaching Professor at Notre Dame’s Department of American Studies where he also serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. He joined Notre Dame in 2017 as a Postdoctoral Associate with the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism and still engages with the center as a faculty affiliate. He has been teaching in the Department of American Studies since 2019. His research explores the roles of religion and ideas in modern American culture.

Dr. Cajka earned a PhD in modern American history from Boston College in 2017. His book, Follow Your Conscience: The Catholic Church and the Spirit of the Sixties explores how American Catholics invoked conscience rights against Church authorities and in disputes with the modern state. It shows that a profound attention to individual conscience is at the center of the modern American Catholic imagination. He has published scholarly articles in The Journal of Church and State, US Catholic Historian, American Catholic Studies, and Ohio History. At Notre Dame, Cajka teaches classes on The Sixties, the Vietnam War, the Culture Wars, Intellectual History, and the Civil Rights Movement. His words have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the National Catholic Reporter.

Roger Childs2

Roger Childs is the Senior Production Executive and Commissioning Editor of Religious Content at Ireland's national broadcaster, RTÉ.

A graduate of Cambridge University, he has over 30 years' experience as a producer, executive producer and commissioning editor, delivering a wide variety of award-winning content across many genres and all media, for broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4 (UK), ARTE (Europe), PBS (USA), ABC (Australia) and RTÉ (Ireland). 

Kristel Clayville

Rev. Dr. Kristel Clayville holds a PhD in Religious Ethics from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School and completed Fellowship training in clinical medical ethics at the MacLean Center, where she continues as a Senior Fellow. She has served as the Acting Director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, and was a Fellow in the Sinai and Synapses program. She has a clinical background as a chaplain and ethicist at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She has been a church pastor and continues to teach classes on the role of religion generally and chaplains specifically in healthcare. She continues to teach at one of her denomination's institutions, Lexington Theological Seminary, and to advise students on research projects involving ethics and pastoral care.

Clayville teaches ethics in the Computer Science Department at UIC, where she also serves on the hospital ethics committee, and the medical school ethics education committee. Her research interests encompass the ethics of emerging (bio)technologies, organ transplant ethics, the role of religion in medical education, AI and religion, and the function of ethics committees in hospitals and tech companies.

Andrew Decort

Rev. Dr. Andrew DeCort is passionate about human flourishing and challenging trends that further violence. To this end, he founded the Institute for Faith and Flourishing to nurture neighbor-love culture that honors faith and elevates human flourishing, especially for the poor, hated, and forgotten. He also serves as co-director of the Neighbor-Love Movement birthed in Ethiopia and spanning the globe with thousands of signatories committing to daily practices of nonviolence. 

DeCort holds a PhD in Religious and Political Ethics from the University of Chicago and has worked as a pastor, professor, and peace practitioner in the United States, Europe, and Africa. His first book Bonhoeffer’s New Beginning: Ethics After Devastation was published by Fortress Academic (2018). Andrew’s new book Flourishing on the Edge of Faith: Seven Practices for a New We is published by BitterSweet Collective (2022). His work has appeared in Foreign Policy magazine, the BBC, and other major platforms. Andrew publishes the weekly newsletter Stop & Think and currently lives in Chicago with his wife, Lily. 

Ann Gleig

Dr. Ann Gleig is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Central Florida. She is co-editor of Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism and has published widely on contemporary Buddhism.

Gleig is the author of American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity from Yale University Press. She received her doctorate in religious studies from Rice University, her master’s in religious studies from Lancaster University, and her bachelor’s in theology and religious studies from Bristol University. She joined UCF in 2012. Her research interests include Asian religions, Asian religions in America, Religion and Psychoanalysis, Religion, Gender, and Sexuality.

Alexander Hsu

Dr. Alexander Hsu serves as an Assistant Teaching Professor for the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion and the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies. He is also the Ansari Institute’s academic advisor and program manager. His research focuses on early Buddhist scriptures in medieval China and employs perspectives from manuscript studies, genre theory, and cultural history in order to examine how the use of texts reflects transformations in religious reading practices.

Hsu's current book project examines why and how medieval Chinese Buddhists used anthologies to “economize” their gigantic scriptural canon.

Celene Ibrahim

Dr. Celene Ibrahim is an internationally recognized specialist in religious studies with a focus on the formative period of Islamic history and on the histories of inter-religious encounter. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Women and Gender in the Qur'an published by Oxford University Press (2020). Her latest book, entitled Islam and Monotheism (2022), is in the Cambridge University Press Elements series. She is also the editor of the book One Nation, Indivisible: Seeking Liberty and Justice from the Pulpit to the Streets (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2019).

Ibrahim's articles on Islamic family law and women's history have appeared in dozens of academic publications and she regularly serves as a reviewer for prominent presses and journals. Her current research interests include moral psychology and virtue ethics in early Islamic sources, depictions of men and boys in Qur'anic narratives, and portrayals of women figures in early Islamic biographical sources. 

She has a decade of experience teaching religious studies and is currently a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Groton School.

Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins is an award-winning journalist and national reporter for Religion News Service, where he covers religion and politics.

He is also the author of the book American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country, published by HarperOne. 

In addition to ThinkProgress — where he served as Senior Religion Reporter for more than three years before starting at RNS — his stories and analysis from all over the globe have been published in the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Atlantic, Associated Press, Daily Beast, National Catholic Reporter, and others. His work has also been cited or featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, CNN, MSNBC, and a Netflix docu-series, among others.

Jenkins earned his BA from Presbyterian College and his Master of Divinity from Harvard University. 

Kathryn Joyce

Kathryn Joyce is an investigative reporter at Salon, and the author of two books: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption and Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

Formerly a reporter with Type Investigations, a contributing editor at The New Republic and a contributing writer at Highline, her work has also appeared in Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, The Marshall Project, Longreads, The New York Times Magazine, Pacific Standard, Wired, Vox, Outside, Slate, The American Prospect, The Intercept, The New York Times Sunday Review, The Nation, Fusion, Cosmopolitan, Adirondack Life, Bright, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The Arkansas Times, Religion Dispatches, The Public Eye, The Daily Beast, Ms., The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Rewire and others.

Mahan Mirza 2

Dr. Mahan Mirza is Teaching Professor of Islam & Science in the Keough School of Global Affairs and Executive Director of the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at the University of Notre Dame. An Islamic studies scholar and expert on religious literacy, Dr. Mirza previously served as lead faculty member for the Madrasa Discourses, a project to advance scientific and theological literacy at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He also served as Dean of Faculty at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, America’s first accredited Muslim liberal arts college.

Mirza holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Texas Austin, MA from Hartford Seminary in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, and PhD in Religious Studies from Yale University. He has taught a range of courses in Arabic-Islamic studies, western religions, and history of science, along with foundational subjects in the liberal arts including logic, rhetoric, ethics, and politics. His doctoral research was on the intellectual world of al-Biruni, an 11th-century scientist from Central Asia. Dr. Mirza has edited two special issues of The Muslim World and served as assistant editor of the Princeton Encyclopaedia of Islamic Political Thought.

Nikhil Mandalaparthy

Nikhil Mandalaparthy is a writer, organizer, and curator who serves as Deputy Executive Director of Hindus for Human Rights and Executive Board Member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. He also curates Voices of Bhakti, a digital archive showcasing translations of South Asian poetry on religion, caste, and gender.

Mandalaparthy’s work reflects a commitment to promoting religious pluralism and social justice both in South Asia and North America. With the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program, he helped launch a national network of civic and faith leaders advancing religious pluralism. He has presented at national and international forums including the 2018 and 2021 Parliament of World's Religions.

His writing and reporting has been published in several outlets, such as Foreign Policy magazine and Religion Dispatches, and has been supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. He has been quoted and interviewed by publications including BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, and the Huffington Post. Nikhil completed undergraduate and master's degrees in public policy at the University of Chicago, and lives in Washington, DC.

Jawaad Abdul Rahman

Jawaad Abdul Rahman is the Director of Development and Executive Producer at Unity Productions Foundation. He has worked on numerous award-winning UPF films including the Emmy-Nominated Sultan and the Saint, Wilbur-Award-winning American Muslims: Fact v. Fiction,and Lamya's Poem, which tells the story of a young refugee girl who meets the famous poet Rumi.

Through UPF’s outreach efforts, he has led dialogue events nationwide with seemingly disparate groups, such as Muslims and Evangelicals. Through UPF’s MOST resource center to improve the cultural competence of creatives in Hollywood, he has advised screenwriters on popular tv-series including Transplant, Madam Secretary, and many others.

Before working at UPF, he founded the American Muslims Unite for Life Campaign, which registered thousands of American Muslims to donate their bone marrow as a possible cure for blood cancers to their fellow Americans. He is a frequent lecturer to non-profit executives and to youth.

Team Shannon Rivers

Shannon Rivers is a member of the Akimel O’otham (River People) Nation. He was born and raised on the Gila River Indian Community located in the southern state of Arizona and is an Indigenous Peoples human rights activist who focuses on the immigration and migration of Indigenous Peoples into the state of Arizona and throughout the United States.

Rivers served as a delegate and participant at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for nearly a decade, and from 2008 to 2010, served as co-chair for the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the UN. He has conducted and hosted lectures on the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the State Capital of Arizona and for numerous universities, and colleges nationally and internationally. 

Rivers is a Native American spiritual leader and cultural advisor to the Indigenous inmate population in the state, federal, tribal, and private prisons in Arizona and California, and a co-chair for the Underserved Cultural Committee (UsCC) for the Dept. of Mental Health Los Angeles. He received his BS from Northern Arizona University and his MA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Joshua Rubin

Rabbi Joshua Rubin serves as Director of the Liberal Jewish Fellowship of South Bend. He is also a Senior Lecturer of English at Indiana University South Bend, where he has taught and supervised writing tutoring for 10 years, as well as where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His thesis in Creative Nonfiction was titled, Circumcision and Its Discontents: Constructions of Jewish Identity in Literary Memoir.

On returning to South Bend in 2002, following stints as varied as actor, union organizer, and line cook, Rubin became involved in the local Jewish community first as singer and religious school teacher at Temple Beth-El and Sinai Synagogue, then as chazan for the autumn festivals at Temple Israel of Porter County, and most recently, as Jewish spiritual leader at Culver Academies, where he has served for 13 years.

Rubin was ordained by an independent beit din in Manhattan, July 2021, after more than a decade of study. He lives with his son, Joseph, a high school freshman.


Tyler M. Tully is a doctoral candidate and the Arthur Peacocke Graduate Scholar in Theology and Science at Oxford University. As a fifth-generation Oklahoman of settler and Chickasaw descent, Tully’s interdisciplinary research and teaching engages the material and embodied relationships between religion, settler colonialism, and knowledge production in what is now the Southeastern United States. 

His dissertation project, Religion Beyond the Worldview Trap: The Power of Place on Peoplehood in White and Black "Red" Spaces, develops original archival research on Protestant mission schools in the Chickasaw Homeland, whites-only "Indian hobbyist" fraternities, and parachurch Black voluntary associations to appreciate how "religion" works beyond the scholarly confines of "discourse" and "belief." 

Sarah Ventre

Sarah Ventre is a Peabody-nominated audio journalist best known for her work as host of Unfinished: Short Creek, a podcast about a fundamentalist Mormon community on the Utah-Arizona border. It was named the #3 best podcast of 2020 by The New Yorker, one of the best podcasts of 2020 by The Atlantic, and made the Bello Collective’s year-end list as well. Her reporting in this community has won an Edward R. Murrow Award, a Wilbur Award, multiple Religion News Association Awards, a Communal Studies Association Award, and nominations from the Association of Mormon Letters and the Ambie Awards. As part of her reporting for Unfinished, she embedded in Short Creek and lived in former FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs’ house.

Ventre was the reporter, writer, and managing producer for the show Witnessed: Mystic Mother, about a tantric temple that was considered a spiritual home by some, and an illegal brothel by others. She was also the senior producer for the Peabody Award-nominated second season of This Land (an investigation into the concerted effort to dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act), and Damages (a series about legal battles at the heart of the climate crisis). She has produced for NPR, PBS, Gimlet, Vox, Critical Frequency, Crooked Media, Campside Media, The African American Policy Forum, Center for Science and the Imagination, Jewish Women’s Archive, and The Moth.

Ventre is one of the founders of Girls Rock! Phoenix, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youth through music. She is also a journalism fellow in the Recovering Truth project from the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University, and was formerly a fellow with the Religion and Environment Story Project at Boston University and a resident at UnionDocs’ “Pod-Pod” in Brooklyn. She was once told by an artist with synesthesia that her voice is mauve.

Justin Whitaker

Dr. Justin Whitaker is the Senior Correspondent for Buddhistdoor Global (BDG), a non-profit online platform dedicated to progressive Buddhist views from around the world.

Previously, he was a visiting instructor at Hong Kong University's Centre for Buddhist Studies. He holds a PhD from the University of London, where his work on comparative philosophy focused on early Buddhist ideas and the ethics of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). He is the author of “Reflecting on Meditation’s Ethics: Ignatian ‘Spiritual Exercises’ and Buddhist ‘Mettā-Bhāvanā’,” (Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, 2014) and co-author with Douglass Smith of "Reading the Buddha as a Philosopher" (Philosophy East and West, 2016) and "Ethics, Meditation, and Wisdom" in the Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics, 2018.

Prior to joining BDG, he had a popular blog called American Buddhist Perspectives, which was listed as one of the 100 “most influential blogs that contribute to an online discussion about religion in the public sphere and the academy” by the non-profit Social Science Research Council. He taught Buddhist philosophy on the Antioch Buddhist Studies Abroad program in Bodh Gaya, India in 2010 and 2014 and became a core faculty member of the Woodenfish Buddhist Life in China program in 2016.