Home > Press Releases > PRRI Announces Selection of Second Cohort of Public Fellows as Part of Its Religion and Renewing Democracy Initiative
PRRI Announces Selection of Second Cohort of Public Fellows as Part of Its Religion and Renewing Democracy Initiative

   WASHINGTON (September 8, 2022) — Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, today announced the selection of 16 interdisciplinary scholars as PRRI Public Fellows, the organization’s fifth cohort of fellows and the second cohort under the organization’s Religion and Renewing Democracy Initiative. Selected via a nationwide open call, the diverse cohort of fellows will work alongside PRRI researchers and staff to generate public scholarship focused on contemporary issues at the intersection of religion, culture, and politics.

“With the foundations of America’s representative democracy in peril, the need for high-quality public scholarship is greater today than ever,” said Melissa Deckman, Ph.D., chief executive officer of PRRI. “Our new cohort of PRRI Public Fellows will combine their academic training and expertise with PRRI’s research and communications capabilities to help educate and empower us all while rebuilding trust in the democratic institutions that are vital to a healthy and flourishing 21st-century republic.”

Through the Religion and Renewing Democracy Initiative, the Public Fellows program, now in its fifth year, will provide expanded access to resources designed to encourage collaboration and professional growth among the cohort. Through the Initiative, the Public Fellows will be organized into peer groups of four whose work will be aligned with PRRI’s major research areas: religious, racial, and ethnic pluralism; racial justice and white supremacy; immigration and migration studies; and LGBTQ rights. The full cohort will also benefit from PRRI’s ongoing research and media engagement expertise.

The PRRI Public Fellows program is made possible by generous grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. The 2022-2023 cohort is comprised of scholars from both quantitative and qualitative fields, including history, sociology, political science, psychology, and religious studies, as well as other areas in the humanistic social sciences.

PRRI welcomes new PRRI Public Fellows Dr. Laura Alexander, Dr. Danielle Boaz, Dr. Kelsy Burke, Dr. Ryon Cobb, Dr. Andrew Flores, Dr. Aaron Griffith, Dr. Flavio Rogelio Hickel Jr., Dr. Jane Hong. Dr. Suzanna Krivulskaya, Dr. Tyler Lefevor, Dr. Veronica Montes, Dr. Fanhao Nie, Dr. Leah Payne, Dr. Luis Romero, Dr. Saher Selod, and Dr. Tarah Williams.

About PRRI

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.

2022-2023 PRRI Public Fellows

Immigration and Migration Studies

Laura Alexander, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Goldstein Family Community Chair in Human Rights at the University of Nebraska at Omaha

Alexander is a scholar of religious ethics, specializing in religion and human rights. She co-edited the volume The Meaning of My Neighbor’s Faith: Interreligious Reflections on Immigration (Fortress Academic, 2018) and has published articles on white Christian nationalism in the debates over Proposition 187 and the 2017 travel ban; Christian realist concepts of idolatry regarding immigration and the nation-state; comparative Christian and Muslim liberation theologies and human rights; and comparative Sikh and Christian ethics of hospitality toward refugees. Alexander’s teaching covers topics in religion and human rights, ranging from immigration to war to public health, as well as world religions and global religious ethics.

Jane Hong, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of History at Occidental College

Hong is a historian of U.S. immigration and the author of Opening the Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion (UNC Press, 2019). She is currently writing a book on how post-1965 Asian immigration changed U.S. evangelical institutions and politics. A public-facing historian, Hong appears in two episodes of the Peabody Award-winning PBS docuseries Asian Americans (2020), and in the PBS World documentary Far East Deep South (2021). She has led K-12 teacher seminars for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, consulted for television programs including Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and American Idol, and penned op-eds for The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. An active public speaker, Hong has presented at the Brookings Institution, Uber, and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, among other venues. Hong serves on the editorial board of the Journal of American History, the executive board of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, and the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.

Veronica Montes, PhD.

Associate Professor of Sociology at Bryn Mawr College

As a feminist ethnographer, Montes’ research falls in two areas: on immigration from Mexico and Central America to the United States, and on the intersection between gender, belonging and migration. In the Spring of 2023, she will be a residential fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego, where she will continue her research on the activist nature of transnational motherhood by looking at the family separation due to the U.S. deportation regime and the collective mobilization of deported mothers in Tijuana, Mexico. Her other ongoing research projects revolve around the examination of the precariousness of the social services provided to the Mexican migrant community in Philadelphia in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as examining the intersection between social inclusion, citizenship, culture production, and Latino immigrants in South Philadelphia.

Luis Romero, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies at Texas Christian University

Romero’s research and teaching focus on Latinas/os/xs, racial inequality, crimmigration, immigration enforcement, and detention. His published work includes studying how Islamophobia has become extended to impact Latinas/os/xs in the post-9/11 era and how immigration detention impacts the lives of migrants from Mexico and Central America. This work has been published in journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies, Punishment & Society, American Behavioral Scientist and Humanity & Society.

Racial Justice and White Supremacy

Danielle N. Boaz, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Boaz’s research focuses on the legal restrictions on African cultural and religious practices in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the modern-day impact of those laws on public perceptions of these practices. Her book Banning Black Gods: Law and Religions of the African Diaspora (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2021) explores the increasing limitations on the freedom to practice African-derived faiths in the 21st century, which have been fueled by a global rise in religious racism. Her website, www.religiousracism.org/brazil, tracks cases of intolerance against Afro-Brazilian religions.

Ryon J. Cobb, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Social Work and Chancellor’s Scholar for Inclusive Excellence in Research on the Social Determinants of Health at Rutgers University

Cobb’s work focuses on the health implications of socially oppressive systems and the religious dimensions of social inequality among adults. He has published 26 peer-reviewed articles and disseminated his research findings on expert panels sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute and other leading academic organizations. He actively participates in the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and multiple institutes within and outside the National Institutes of Health (NIH) support his research program 

Aaron Griffith, Th.D.

Assistant Professor of Modern American History at Whitworth University

Griffith is the author of God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America (Harvard University Press, 2020). He has published academic articles in Religions and Fides et Historia, and written for popular publications such as The Washington Post, Religion & Politics, Christianity Today, and Religion News Service. After earning his M.Div. and Th.D. at Duke Divinity School, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Saher Selod, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Simmons University 

Selod’s research centers on racialized surveillance of Muslims. Her book Forever Suspect: Racialized Surveillance of Muslim Americans in the War on Terror (Rutgers University Press 2018) examines how Muslim men and Muslim women experience gendered forms of racialization through their hyper surveillance because of the War on Terror. She is currently writing a book entitled Islamophobia: Twenty-First Century Racism (under contract with Polity Press), where she and her collaborators examine how the Global War on Terror has justified the detention, imprisonment, and hyper surveillance of Muslims in the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and China. She is also working on a second project that looks at surveillance, policing, and political participation of Black immigrant and African American Muslims in the United States.

Religious, Racial, and Ethnic Pluralism

Flavio Rogelio Hickel, Jr., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington College

Hickel’s research broadly explores the impact of marginalized identities on political attitudes with an emphasis on the Latino/a/x community.  More specifically, he is interested in the different ways in which individuals define Latino/a/x identity and the political implications of those understandings. Drawing upon Social Identity Theory, his work also explores the conditions in which the strength/salience of Latino/a/x identity evolves and how this impacts support for policies/politicians that advance or harm the social status of this group. His work has been published in Public Opinion Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and Politics & Religion.

Fanhao Nie, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology at Valdosta State University

Nie’s research focuses on how religion may influence emerging adults’ family values, educational outcomes, substance use behaviors, and physical and mental health. His articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, such as the Journal of Religion and Health, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Health and Place, and Deviant Behavior. His research has been featured in HuffPost and PsyPost. Funded by the Jack Shand Research Grants of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Nie’s current research investigates the relationship between anti-Asian racism and mental health of Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, he is interested to examine how various religious coping strategies may influence this relationship.

Leah Payne, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of American Religious History at Portland Seminary

Payne’s research explores the ascent of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity in the American religious and political landscape. Her first book, Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: Making a Female Ministry in the Early Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), won the Pneuma: the Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2016 Book Award. Her forthcoming book, The Rise and Fall of Contemporary Christian Music, (Oxford University Press, 2023), shows how Charismatics and Pentecostals shaped the political and theological imaginary of white American evangelicalism through popular music. Payne’s analysis of American Charismatics and Pentecostals has appeared in The Washington Post, NBC News, Religion News Service, and Christianity Today, and she is cited as an expert on Pentecostals, Charismatics, and American politics in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, La Presse, and Religion & Politics.

Tarah Williams, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Political Science at Allegheny College

Williams’ research agenda examines how prejudice shapes American political life. Her primary research project asks whether and how we can maintain tolerance in a diverse democracy. This work focuses on what tolerance requires from individuals and ongoing threats to pluralist democracy. Her previous research has examined how racial context and racial resentment shape political attitudes and support for redistributive policies. She is also engaged in a co-authored project exploring the challenges that members of marginalized groups face when trying to build support for their political goals.

LGBTQ Rights

Kelsy Burke, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Burke’s past research has examined a wide range of topics, including religious freedom laws and LGBTQ rights, evangelical women’s ministries, public debates over pornography, and the Christian sex-advice industry. She is the author of Christians under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet (University of California Press, 2016) and The Pornography Wars: The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Obscene Obsession (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2023). Burke’s research has been supported by multiple grants and fellowships, including from the National Science Foundation, and has been published by top academic journals and popular outlets, including The Guardian, Newsweek, Slate, and The Washington Post.

Andrew R. Flores, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Government at the School of Public Affairs at American University and a Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law

Flores’ research focuses on attitude formation, attitude change, and public policies affecting LGBT populations. His research has appeared or is forthcoming in Science Advances, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Journal of Public Health, Policy Studies Journal, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Psychology, and other peer-reviewed journals. His recent research activities include: the use of survey experiments on opinions about transgender people and transgender rights; patterns of violence and victimization directed at LGBT people; quantitative approaches to intersectionality; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and disparities in wellbeing between LGBT and non-LGBT people; and demographic methods to estimate the number of people who identify as LGBT.

Suzanna Krivulskaya, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of History at the California State University San Marcos

Krivulskaya’s research specializes in modern U.S. history and studies the relationship between sexuality and religion. Her first book, Disgraced: How Sex Scandals Transformed American Protestantism (forthcoming from Oxford University Press), is a sweeping religious and cultural history of ministerial sex scandals in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her work has appeared in both academic journals and popular outlets and was honored by the 2019-2020 Virginia Ramey Mollenkott Award from the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.

Tyler Lefevor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology at Utah State University

Lefevor’s research examines how and when religiousness is related to health among sexual and gender minorities to better inform psychotherapy and public policy. In general, his research can be grouped in three main areas: 1) examining health disparities experienced by sexual and gender minorities, particularly those from a conservative religious background, 2) understanding how sexual and gender identities intersect with religious identities to help or hinder health and how those associations change over time, and 3) translating findings to help inform therapy, policy, and ministry. Lefevor also operates a private therapy practice and enjoys supervising beginning clinicians interested in working with sexual and gender minorities.