Meet the MRPL Candidates

Meet our 2021–22 Master of Religion and Public Life candidates, experienced professionals who are studying the ways religion influences public life in their field.


Erica Williams

Faith Leader, Organizer, International Human Rights Activist, Community Leader, contributing to such campaigns and organizations as Repairers of the Breach, The Poor People's Campaign, National Council of Negro Women, and NAACP. Founder of Set It Off Outreach Ministry.


“I know I have been called to be a world spiritual leader, and I take faith and organizing seriously. This program will allow me to learn how religion has been used in oppression around the world and to discover ways I can use my faith for liberation of the poor and dispossessed.”

Sarah Pearson

Associate Director of Nate’s Mission, a Wisconsin-based project of End Clergy Abuse. Former political spokesperson for Ending Clergy Abuse and Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests—Wisconsin. National organizer of an AIDS service organization, and co-founder of a nonprofit women’s advocacy organization.


“The MRPL program is the perfect place for exploration of the dynamics that have resulted in the clergy abuse crisis and the actions necessary to dismantle the structural mechanisms that enable, and even encourage, abuse.”

Ans Irfan

Faculty Director of the Climate & Health Equity Practice Fellowship at George Washington University. RWJF Health Policy Research Scholars Fellow. Founding director of the Center for Social Impact & Leadership with the DC Public Health Association. Serves in various roles in the APHA, UN Major Group for Children and Youth, and IAPHS.


“By understanding the complex and powerful role of religion in our society, especially as it relates to public health, we can offer innovative solutions and better lead transformative social change.”

Susan Weaver

Former attorney in securities and business law. Served on the Board of Trustees of the UU Justice Ministry of California and the Unitarian Universalist Association.


“The tensions between religious-liberty and civil-rights concerns in our changing society have motivated me to explore religious beliefs on gender identity in diverse denominations and how those beliefs shape religious-liberty arguments affecting the rights of trans people.”

Meagan Clark

Managing editor of award-winning magazine Reporter for Newsweek, International Business Times, Dallas Morning News, Religion News Service, and several outlets in India while living in Delhi, including Indian Express, and the Wire.


“I want to become a better religion journalist, train other young journalists to better report on religion, and help educate readers about different religious communities and how they live out their beliefs in the public square.”

Phillip Picardi

Award-winning journalist and editor best known for rebranding Teen Vogue. Founded them., and Editor-In-Chief of Out. Current host of the Crooked Media podcast Unholier Than Thou.

“Beauty is a divine right, and that by some religions’ desires to shame or malign out bodies, they robbed us of our divine potential.”

Alejandra Amalia Villegas

Professional tarot, palmistry, and crystal ball reader. Co-founder of GemInEye Tarot, which aims to provide spiritual care to those impacted by issues of inequailty in Detroit. Owner of Sangreal Records.


“By providing spiritual care I can help nurture our collective resilience so we can not only survive [suffering] but live an existence of beauty and fulfillment.”

Eric Alan Isaacson

Former civil appellate lawyer with two of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ class-action law firms. In his current, solo appellate practice, he focuses on civil appeals in federal cases, including pro bono projects to advance social justice.


“Ideas about religious liberty are anything but fixed. I’d like to better understand how it is that notions of religious liberty gain and lose credibility.”

John Camardella

Teacher at Prospect High School of two world religion courses for dual credit through Eastern Illinois University. RPL Education Fellow and contributor to "Religious Studies Companion Document" published by the National Council for Social Studies.

“Educators play a crucial role in fostering a more sophisticated understanding of religion, ultimately leading to just peace.”

Ellie Duke

Writer and editor on topics of art, literature, and culture. Southwest US Editor at Hyperallergic and Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books publishing project.


“Creative practice is embodied, existential, and devotional. I hope to deepen my understanding of social-practice art so it considers communal life as spiritual practice and provides a framework for bringing spiritual practice into creative communities.”