Religion and Public Life Announces 2021-22 Fellows

June 11, 2021
Religion and Public Life

Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) today announced its 2021-22 fellows. This inaugural cohort of expert practitioners bring deep expertise and social justice commitments to a range of professions (government, education, journalism, organizing, and media and entertainment) and issues (racial justice, climate change, immigration advocacy, and Native and Indigenous rights).

The 2021-22 Religion and Public Life Fellows will join HDS in the fall to help launch the new certificate in religion and public life available to students in the School’s master of divinity and master of theological studies degree programs. Throughout their fellowships, they will remotely support the Religious Literacy and the Professions course, mentor students, work with the program to identify student internship opportunities, and participate in webinars. During the spring semester, they will join the HDS community on campus for a public symposium.

In October, HDS launched Religion and Public Life as a new initiative and degree program (master of religion and public life) with the core mission to advance the public understanding of religion in service of a just world at peace.

A full list of the 2021-22 Religion and Public Life Fellows can be found below:


 RPL Native and Indigenous Rights Fellow

CYNTHIA WILSON: RPL Native and Indigenous Rights Fellow

Cynthia Wilson is a tribal member of the Navajo Nation, born and raised in Monument Valley, UT. She is of the Folded Arms People clan and born for the Towering House clan. Cynthia holds a MS in Nutrition from the University of Utah. She serves as the Traditional Foods Program Director for Utah Diné Bikéyah, a native-led nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve and protect the cultural and natural resources of ancestral lands. She is also a founding member of the Women of Bears Ears initiative. Her work encompasses traditional knowledge that addresses the environmental, cultural, nutritional and spiritual health of the land and the people.


 RPL Journalism Fellow

DEBORAH JIAN LEE: RPL Journalism Fellow

Deborah Jian Lee is an award-winning journalist, radio producer, and author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism. She is an editor and reporter at The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit journalism organization supporting independent journalists covering economic inequality in America. She has worked as a staff reporter for the Associated Press, taught journalism at Columbia University, and contributed to Foreign Policy, Slate, Playboy, TIME, WBEZ, WNYC and many others. She was named a finalist for the Livingston Awards and won a Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Award.


 RPL Organizing Fellow

ÁLVARO HUERTA: RPL Organizing Fellow

Álvaro Huerta, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Urban & Region Planning (URP) and Ethnic & Women’s Studies (EWS) at California State Polytechnic University. He researches the intersecting domains of urban planning, Chicana/o-Latina/o studies, immigration, religion, social movements, social networks, and the informal economy. Huerta is also the author of the award-winning book, Latina/o Immigrant Communities in the Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond (2019). Huerta has received numerous awards for his social/racial justice and civic engagement, such as the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s 2016 Edward Blakely Award and the American Planning Association’s 2011 National Planning Leadership Award.


MAYTHA ALHASSEN: RPL Media and Entertainment Fellow

MAYTHA ALHASSEN: RPL Media and Entertainment Fellow

Maytha Alhassen, PhD, is a historian, TV writer + producer, journalist, social justice organizer, and mending practitioner. Alhassen was an on-air host for Al Jazeera English and TYT, and did field reporting for such outlets as CNN and Huffington Post. She co-edited Demanding Dignity: Young Voices from the Front Lines of the Arab Revolutions and wrote Haqq and Hollywood: Illuminating 100 Years of Muslim Tropes and How to Transform Them. In 2017, Alhassen was awarded a TED residency that culminated in the TED talk “A Poem for Syria: Beyond a Geography of Violence” about her ancestral relationship to Syria and work with displaced communities in the region. Currently, Alhassen produces and writes for Golden Globe and Peabody-winning Hulu series Ramy and serves as an Executive Producer for the upcoming docuseries American Muslims: A History Revealed.


MIKE DELANEY: RPL Humanitarian Action Fellow

MIKE DELANEY: RPL Humanitarian Action Fellow

Michael Delaney has worked in international development and humanitarian response for his entire career. During his 25 years with Oxfam America, he led humanitarian emergency responses for some of the largest scale disasters of this century. Delaney champions the primacy of local community involvement on both long-term development projects and emergency response programs, advocating that the voices of those affected by disasters are included in the design, implementation, and evaluation of emergency response. Delaney was also Executive Director of Perkins International and founded Crescendo International in response to the increasing demand for humanitarian action from the intensified climate crisis and global conflict.


PHIL TORREY: RPL Immigration and Refugee Fellow

PHIL TORREY: RPL Immigration and Refugee Fellow

Philip L. Torrey is the Director of the Harvard Law School Crimmigration Clinic, the Managing Attorney of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, and a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. Torrey’s research includes the immigration system’s mandatory detention regime, the private prison industry, and the crime-based grounds of removal. His scholarship has been published in law journals, practitioner guides, and online fora including the Harvard Law Review, Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Harvard Latinx Law Review, Immigration and Nationality Law Review, Harvard Law Review for Civil Rights-Civil Liberties, and the Harvard Law and Policy Review. He is also frequently cited in media outlets like the Washington Post, Boston Globe, U.S. News and World Report, Huffington Post, and National Public Radio.


Karilyn Crockett: RPL Government Fellow


Karilyn Crockett, PhD, served as the Chief Equity Officer for the City of Boston under the Walsh administration and holds a PhD from the American Studies program at Yale University, a Master of Science in Geography from the London School of Economics, and a Master of Arts and Religion from Yale Divinity School. Crockett’s research focuses on large-scale land use changes in twentieth century American cities and examines the social and geographic implications of structural poverty and race. In 2019, her book People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making was named one of the “ten best books of the decade” by the Boston Public Library Association of Librarians. Crockett also co-founded Multicultural Youth Tour of What's Now (MYTOWN), an award winning, Boston-based, educational non-profit organization.


Sarabinh Levy-Brightman: RPL Education Fellow


Sarabinh Levy-Brightman has worked with Religious Literacy Project (RLP) and Religion and Public Life (RPL) since 2016. Levy-Brightman served as the initial Coordinator of the Religious Literacy and the Professions Initiative and then as the Senior Fellow for Curriculum and Workshop Development for the RLP. Prior to working with the RLP, she was a high school humanities teacher. Her expertise is integrating the academic study of religion into the humanities in both public and private schools. Sarabinh holds an MDiv from HDS, an MA from The Divinity School of the University of Chicago, and a BA in History and Religion from Vassar College.


Rhon Manigault-Bryant: RPL Racial Justice Fellow


LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant, PhD, is Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College and founder of ConjureGirlBlue Productions. A proud native of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, Rhon navigates the academy as a scholar-artist, where she merges her life as a thinker, musician, and filmmaker. She is the author of multiple academic books, public-facing writing, and films including Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women (2014) and the award-winning documentary short “death. everything. nothing” (2020).


Teresa Cavazos Cohn: RPL Climate Change Fellow

TERESA CAVAZOS COHN: RPL Climate Change Fellow

Teresa Cavazos Cohn, PhD, is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Society at the University of Idaho and a co-founder of the interdisciplinary Confluence Lab. She is a human geographer and science communicator who specializes in water and hydrosocial relations with emphasis on Indigenous waters, and human dimensions of wildfire. Her research and outreach projects have been supported by the National Science Foundation, Andrew J. Mellon Foundation, NASA, and Milkweed Press.