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Students earn religion and conflict certificates; recognized at awards ceremony

May 06, 2011

The death this past week of Osama bin Laden is a stark reminder of the role that religion and conflict has played, and will continue to play, in the lives of today’s students – most of whom came of age in the post-9/11 world. To prepare these students for the increasingly complex role that religion plays both in the world, the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict created an interdisciplinary certificate program.

Nine students were on hand to receive their certificates at an awards ceremony that took place at the center’s offices in West Hall on April 27.

“Religion can be a force for peace as well as for violence,” said Linell Cady, director of the center. “Courses offered through the certificate program are designed to introduce students to these dynamics across cultures, traditions, and regions.”

Students attending the April 27 ceremony included:

Emily Adams, with majors in political science and religious studies, explored the conflict over definitions of religion at the heart of Native American and US disputes over land use in Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks. Adams, who plans on going to law school, said her classes in the program and her thesis helped her think about alternative conflict resolution processes.

Alli Coritz, an undergraduate research fellow in Religion and Conflict with majors in global studies, religious studies and cultural geography, hopes to go into the Peace Corps or become a Fulbright Scholar. “The opportunity to meet students with different majors really made a difference for me—it enriched my understanding of the problems as well as the potential solutions,” said Coritz.

Aria Gehrmann, who majored in women and gender studies and minored in history, has been accepted into a PhD program at Syracuse University. She will be studying the cultural foundations of education and is particularly interested in understanding how gender, race, and religion influence attitudes and policies around education.

Daniel Urman, a BIS major with an emphasis on Jewish and Islamic studies, sees direct applicability of his studies to his future career plans. “I plan on pursuing a career in national security and diplomacy, with a focus on counter-terrorism,” he said. “My professors have been fantastic and my experience studying abroad last summer confirmed for me that this is what I want to do.”

Christen White, who majored in anthropology and religious studies, has been accepted into ASU’s graduate program in religious studies. “Through my classes I really became fascinated by Byzantine history. I was really struck by how much we can learn about present-day conflict by studying the past,” commented White.

Micah Wimmer, a chemistry major and religion minor. After graduation, Wimmer plans on pursuing PhD’s in chemistry and religious studies. “I am viewed with a bit of skepticism,” he said, “but in my studies I have been struck more by the interactions between religion and science rather than the conflicts.”

Derek Schuttpelz, who worked as in intern with the center, earned his degree in December 2010 and returned for the awards ceremony to pick up his certificate in person. Certificate earners Shana Dominguez and Zackary Withers, both of whom majored in religion and applied ethics, also graduated in December 2010.

Also earning certificates this semester but unable to attend the ceremony were:

• Ibrahim Birgeoglu (Political Science)
• Melody Dernocoeur (Global Studies)
• Dimple Dhanani (Religious Studies)
• Nicole Gordon (Religious Studies)
• Summer Kamal (Political Science
• Kaitlin Keirsted (Global Studies)
• Vanessa Miranda (Justice Studies)
• Max Pardo (Global Studies)
• Robert Pavlovic (History)
• Alicia Somsen (Religious Studies)

Alesandro Norton (History and Political Science) and Tye Rabens (Journalism), both currently enrolled in the certificate program, also attended the ceremony.

The certificate is open to any undergraduate student enrolled at Arizona State University in any major, and may be of particular interest for students pursuing careers in journalism, law, policy work, diplomacy, the military, public advocacy, publishing, education, ministry, or other fields in which an enhanced understanding of religion and conflict is important.

In addition to their major, students who earn the certificate take 18 credit hours of interdisciplinary course work involving the regional, political and cultural study of religion and conflict.

“The program graduated 19 students in its first two years,” said John Carlson, associate director of the center and director of the certificate program.

“The addition of this year’s graduates brings the total to 34. This speaks to the high level of interest and concern that our students have for the problems of religion and conflict in today’s world,” said Carlson.

For more information about the certificate program, see