Susan Hayward is the Associate Director for the Religious Literacy and the Professions Initiative (RLPI) which advances an ambitious agenda of curricular and programmatic activity to advance religious literacy across a wide range of professional fields of public engagement. Working across Harvard graduate schools and in partnership with HDS and other Harvard faculty as well as a network of professional Fellows and professional organizations, Susan is responsible for setting and executing strategy for the RLPI through a program of coursework, a practitioner Fellows program, student experiential learning opportunities, annual symposia, public events, and online training opportunities.
Most recently Hayward served as a senior advisor for Religion and Inclusive Societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace and a 2020–21 Fellow in Religion and Public Life. At the U.S. Institute of Peace, Hayward lead efforts to understand religious dimensions of conflict and advance efforts engaging religious actors and organizations in peacebuilding. Joining the Institute in 2007, her field work focused on Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Colombia and Iraq.
From 2010–2012 she coordinated an initiative exploring the intersection of women, religion, conflict and peacebuilding in partnership with the Berkley Center at Georgetown University and the World Faiths Development Dialogue. She co-edited a book on the topic entitled "Women, Religion and Peacebuilding: Illuminating the Unseen." Her research interests include interfaith engagement in the midst of political violence, political Buddhism, and the role of religion in hampering and propelling women’s work for peace and justice. She has served or currently serves on the selection committee for international awards recognizing religious peacebuilders, including with the Niwano Foundation and the Tanenbaum Center, as an academic advisor for the Transatlantic Policy Network for Religion and Diplomacy, and as a member of the U.S. State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy civil society working group.
Prior to joining the Institute, Hayward worked with the Academy of Educational Development’s office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as a fellow of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and with the Conflict Resolution Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Hayward also conducted political asylum and refugee work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Advocates for Human Rights.
Hayward studied Buddhism in Nepal and is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She holds a bachelor's degree in comparative religions from Tufts University and master’s degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard Divinity School. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in theology and religious studies at Georgetown University, focusing on Buddhist and Christian responses to authoritarianism and conflict in Myanmar. She has taught at Georgetown and George Washington Universities, and serves as a regular guest lecturer and trainer at the Foreign Service Institute and universities worldwide on topics related to religion and international affairs. She publishes regularly in academic and policy fora.