Recent news

  • See the WMU News January 2021 edition for Dr. Covell's expert input noted in various news sources, including CNN, regarding the pandemic.
  • Check out the research and poster presentation created by Jennifer Townsend, a student in our spirituality, culture and health master's certificate program (which happens to be fully online for those of you interested in entering this fascinating field that is growing in demand).
  • Dr. Siebert, after 54 years of service to WMU, retired in August. The department hosted the Critical Theory and the Study of Religion in honor of Dr. Rudolf Siebert on Nov. 16 at the Fetzer Center.
  • Check out wonderful article on mlive about Dr. Siebert and read the College of Arts and Sciences article regarding Dr. Siebert.
  • Dr. Siebert would also like to establish an endowment at WMU to carry on his important work in the Critical Theory of Religion. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping us achieve this goal, please contact Dr. Stephen Covell, chair, Department of Comparative Religion.
  • The Department of Comparative Religion welcomed Fulbright Scholar Dr. Souad Eddouada during fall 2019. Eddouada’s primary affiliation is with the Department of Comparative Religion, and she has secondary affiliations with the Departments of Gender and Women’s Studies, Geography, and Sociology, as well as the global and international studies program. Eddouada is an associate professor of English at Ibn Tofail University in Kenitra, Morocco. She is an expert in Islam, gender, human rights and land reform. Eddouada recently was awarded a multi-year grant from the Moroccan Ministry of Education, Ibn Khaldoun Social Science Program, to support research and writing for her book project "Gender and Land Rights in Morocco: Privatization and Women’s Protest in a Muslim-Majority Nation." Her work on gender, human rights and family law in Morocco has been published internationally in journals and edited volumes. Her scholarship has been supported by several Fulbright grants, as well as grants and fellowships from the Society for Advanced Research (Princeton), University of California Davis, the Open Society Institute, and Lund University (Sweden).
  • Two Department of Comparative Religion graduate students received support for their study abroad trip to Japan this summer from the Cornelius Loew Study Abroad Grant. The grant is named for Dr. Cornelius Loew who came to WMU in 1956 to introduce the study of philosophy and religion. By 1958 he had founded the Department of Philosophy and Religion, which subsequently split in 1967 to become the two departments known today as Philosophy and the Department of Comparative Religion. He subsequently served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1964-77), Vice President of Academic Affairs (1977-79) and Distinguished University Professor (1980-88). One student will be giving a presentation about his study abroad experience, the other is sharing her paper describing the sites she visited and the program.
  • Ryan Lemasters, graduate student in comparative religion, won Outstanding Poster Presentation at the 2019 Research and Creative Activities Poster and Performance Day.
  • Presidental scholar, Sacelia Strong-Sangster! Sacelia presented at the MSU Religious Studies Undergraduate Symposium on April 26, 2019. The title of her presentation is, Mary across the Abrahamic Traditions: Myth, Doctrine, and Feminine Folk Culture.
  • Congratulations to Emily Reeves and her faculty mentor Dr. Alisa Perkins on receiving the OVPR Undergraduate Award for Research and Creative Scholarship Excellence Award! They will conduct research together in the coming year exploring the rise of queer Muslim digital visibility. The study includes online resources developed by religious leaders, mosques, artists, community activist and political groups. The study will include a review of websites devoted to educating about the role of homosexuality Islam; those geared toward creating more accurate and inclusive representations of queer Muslims; and those centered on providing material, psychological and community support for queer Muslims locally, nationally and globally, for example, via closed Facebook groups or discussion groups hosted by other websites.
  • Lori Diehl, administrative assistant, received a 2019 Make A Difference Award!
  • Three of our alumni recently finished their Ph.D.s!
    • Dr. Rebecca Makas graduated from Emory University. Her dissertation is titled, "In Spite of Their Thoughts Their Words Require Interpretation: Silence and Ineffability in Medieval Islamic Mysticism." She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Augustine and Culture Seminar Program at Villanova University.
    • Dr. Ryan Strickler graduated from Macquarie University in Australia. His dissertation was titled, “Coping with Crisis: Invasion, Defeat, and Apocalyptic Discourse in Seventh-Century Byzantium.” He now serves as a fixed-term lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Queensland.
    • Dr. Megan Leverage earned her PhD in American Religious History from Florida State University. Her dissertation was titled, “‘Sacred Reality’: Transhumanism in American Religious History.” She is currently working as a full-time lecturer in the Comparative Cultural Studies Department at Northern Arizona University.

Past News

  • Congratulations to Dr. Covell, department chair, on being awarded the University's highest award for service. Covell has served as department chair for seven years and before that was the founding director of the Soga Japan Center. The award will be given at this year's Convocation to be held on Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. at the Bernhard Center.
  • Brian C. Wilson has written a new book scheduled to be released in August. “John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age,” is being published by Wayne State University Press as part of the Great Lakes Books Series. The book follows the spiritual sojourn of Fetzer, a Michigan business tycoon born in 1901 who lived most of his life in Kalamazoo. Fetzer parlayed his first radio station into extensive holdings in broadcasting and other enterprises. Wilson's previous books include “Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living” and “Yankees in Michigan.”
  • Congratulations to Charlie Bouverette who is the well-deserved recipient of the departmental Teaching Effectiveness and Graduate Student Leadership and Service Awards. In the fall, Bouverette will be attending University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work to pursue a second master’s degree in clinical social work specializing in American Indian reservation populations. She is one of five recipients who were selected to receive full tuition in conjunction with the Diversity of Views and Experiences (DOVE) Fellowship at University of Minnesota. She was also awarded supplemental fellowships including Graduate Council Teaching Fellowship, Graduate School Summer Fellowship and Clinical Scholars Award for her work in minority health.
  • It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of one of our recent graduates, Kevin Nester. Nester completed his M.A. with us in August 2012. He was a wonderful young man and a promising scholar. It is hard to imagine that he is gone. He will be greatly missed. Among his many academic pursuits while at Western, Nester traveled with fellow students to Japan on the department’s Japanese Religion and Culture Study Abroad Seminar. His wit and insight helped to make that trip a wonderful experience for everyone. In honor of Kevin, the faculty will be dedicating to him a study abroad scholarship to support future students who may wish to travel to Japan. Donations made to the department in Kevin’s honor will be used to support the study abroad scholarship. Click here to make a donation in his name. Kevin’s obituary can be found here.
  • Our resident expert on religion and comic books, Dr. Kevin Wanner, has a chapter in this fascinating new book, "Muslim Superheroes", on comics and Islam. Check it out!
  • Yumi Takashi-Ede has been awarded the 2017 University Distinguished Service Award here at Western Michigan University and was honored at the 2017 Fall Convocation on Friday, October 6. Yumi finished her M.A. in comparative religion and took up a position in academic advising in the College of Arts and Sciences where she did wonderful work for our students. From there she moved on to the Office of Study Abroad where she is a study abroad advisor (including for our department's 2018 summer program to Japan). Congratulations, Yumi!
  • WMUK interviewed comparative religion instructor Hafiz Akbar about what it means to be an Imam and what they can do for the community. Listen to the WMUK interview here.
  • All-University Graduate Teaching Effectiveness Award, the most significant honor that WMU bestows upon its graduate students, was awarded to Jair Stout spring 2017.
  • Congratulations to Joe Schuetz who is finishing his first year in the spirituality, culture and health M.A. program. Joe's paper "Quantifying the Spiritual: Toward a Holistic Approach to Spirituality for Scientific Analysis in Healthcare" was awarded first prize at WMU's Graduate Humanities Conference.
  • Macomb Legal News features, "Second chance: With a new lease on life, student strives to help others," an inspiring article about an alumnus of our department.
  • Congratulations to Dr. Perkins on being named a 2016 American Anthropological Association Leadership Fellows! Here's a snippet from the press release: 2016 AAA Leadership Fellows - Julia Wignall, Courtney Kurlanska and Alisa Perkins have been named the 2016 American Anthropological Association (AAA) Leadership Fellows. The AAA’s Leadership Fellows program is designed to provide a unique opportunity for anthropologists beginning their careers to learn about leadership opportunities and to encourage future leadership in the Association.
  • Alisa Perkins received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2012 and currently serves as assistant professor in comparative religion at Western Michigan University. Perkins’ ongoing research draws on theories of race, gender, cultural citizenship, and urban space to examine how Arab, South Asian, and African American Muslims in the Detroit metro area negotiate expressions of religious identity in public and political realms. As a faculty member at WMU, Perkins has worked to strengthen links between the campus and the surrounding community, an initiative she plans to bring to her role as a future leader at AAA.