Student Interfaith Research and Leadership Program

Current Participants

Elise Vomacka

Elise Vomacka is a senior psychology major. She is a member of the CSB+SJU Honors Program and the Delta Epsilon Sigma Honor Society. Elise grew up in Kandiyohi, Minnesota, and she graduated from Willmar Senior High School in 2019. She is both a teaching assistant and a research assistant for Dr. Aubrey Immelman in the Department of Psychology. Elise is also a percussionist in the CSB+SJU Wind Ensemble. Regarding her research for the Jay Phillips Center, Elise writes: “I am enjoying my research focused on the connections between Indigenous spirituality, psychology, and environmentalism. Indigenous traditions are filled with wisdom, especially in the ways they promote respect for the Earth and all its creatures. Additionally, I appreciate the acceptance that interfaith exploration encourages. Open-mindedness is essential to promoting understanding and forming meaningful connections with others.”

Marissa Pax

Marissa Pax is a junior English major from Mondovi, Wisconsin. She graduated with honors from Mondovi High School in 2020 where she held a variety of leadership positions, including president of both the student council and Future Business Leaders of America. She also served as varsity tennis captain for two consecutive seasons. At CSB+SJU, Marissa has worked in the admissions office and English department, where she is currently the department’s student manager. She also acts as variety editor and writer for The Record, the CSB+SJU student newspaper. In her free time, she often volunteers at her church, most recently authoring an informational booklet in celebration of 150 years of worship. This past summer, Marissa spent her time living in New York City, an experience that sparked her interest in interfaith research. “It was amazing to learn about individuals from all walks of life, especially those with faith backgrounds different from mine. The city’s religious diversity left a strong impression on me, as it was the first time I was able to be truly immersed in a culture different than my own,” writes Marissa. Concerning her project sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center, Marissa said “I look forward to drawing upon my strengths in both research and communication in order to better understand the impact religion has on the formation and longevity of personal relationships. Though my interests are multifaceted, I am particularly interested in the role religious tradition plays in establishing and maintaining successful marital partnerships.”

Landon Peterson

Landon Peterson is a junior majoring in political science and minoring in both peace studies and English on the pre-law track. He grew up in Minneapolis where he graduated from The Blake School in 2020. At CSB+SJU, Landon serves as a student coordinator at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement and as managing editor of The Record. He is also a member of the SJU baseball team. This past summer, Landon interned in the Community Development and Engagement division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and worked on Kelly Morrison’s campaign for the Minnesota State Senate. Concerning his project, Landon said: “I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity to work with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, an institution on campus that I’ve admired for a really long time and was fortunate to help out at in a supporting role last year. As college is a time in which our views about religion shift, change, and/or take root, I can’t wait to have conversations with students and faculty from different religious traditions about their experiences surrounding religion and faith, especially how they wrestle with life’s big questions.”

About the Program

The Jay Phillips Center’s Student Interfaith Research and Leadership Program, which serves students enrolled at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, promotes advanced interfaith learning and the kinds of interfaith engagement that potential leaders should have. Through research and civic engagement, participants attain advanced knowledge and understanding of cultural and religious diversity in the United States and elsewhere; the opportunity to engage in dialogue with people of different faith traditions (and with people unaffiliated with any faith tradition); and the leadership skills needed to respond to and lead in complex interreligious situations, whether on campus, in the wider community, or in professional settings. 

Students in this program design their own research and social engagement projects with guidance from the Jay Phillips Center’s director and other CSB/SJU faculty members who agree to serve as their mentors. The extent of participation varies according to the amount of time students are able to devote to their projects. Students earn stipends according to the extent of their participation and the quality of their accomplishments.

Funding for this program provided by the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota