Student Interfaith Research and Leadership Program

Current Participants

Maddie Anderson is a senior and a member of the CSB/SJU honors program completing a Hispanic studies major while on a pre-medicine track. She is from Cambridge, Minnesota, and graduated from Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, Minnesota, in 2018. Maddie worked for CSB/SJU’s Fine Arts Programming as a box office assistant and ticket coordinator and worked for CSB Group Exercise as a Zumba instructor. She has also been working as a certified nursing assistant at Prairie Senior Cottages, a memory care facility, for more than four years and has recently started working as a home health aide as well. Maddie volunteers with UpChieve as a virtual tutor and advisor for low-income students in the United States and went to Honduras in 2019 to volunteer with Global Medical Brigades. She was also an executive board member of CSBeats, the all-female a capella group at CSB, for three years and the vice president of the Global Health Affairs club in the fall of 2021. Maddie is currently studying abroad in Spain where she is conducting her interfaith research. “I find inspiration in interfaith dialogue because it allows for greater understanding of others as well as a greater understanding of ourselves, which can change the lens through which we experience our reality to be more centered, grounded, and connected,” writes Maddie. “I appreciate this interfaith research opportunity because it allows me to continue seeking ways in which I can benefit from the unique perspectives of others by listening with intention, sharing with honesty, and conversing with an open mind.”

Brianna Kreft is a senior political science major with minors in environmental studies and psychology. She is also a member of the CSB/SJU honors program. Brianna is from Elbow Lake, Minnesota, and graduated from West Central Area Schools in 2018. She works for the McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement as a student coordinator. Brianna also serves as the student manager for the CSB softball team and as a peer mentor for first-year college success courses. She has served as an undergraduate research assistant for two years, focusing on how gender dynamics influenced the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, the first female president of Brazil. In May, Brianna will do a short-term study embedded trip to Salvador, Brazil. Concerning her project sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center, Brianna said “I am very interested in the role that gender plays in interfaith dialogue. In particular, I enjoy exploring how women’s empowerment is promoted across different religions.”

Photo of Matt Anderson

John Arms is a first-year student and member of the CSB/SJU honors program pursuing an economics major and political science minor. He is from Minneapolis where he graduated from DeLaSalle High School in May 2021. During high school, John participated in Lasallian ministry, which, among other things, took him to the Istituti Filippin in Paderno del Grappa, Italy, and to the Blackfoot reservation in Montana for Lasallian immersion and service experiences. Currently John serves the Saint John’s Student Senate as its research assistant. Concerning his research sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center, John said: “I am greatly interested in interfaith relationships, particularly between Jews and Christian. For this research project, I am primarily focused on the effects of the Holocaust on both Jewish faith and Jewish-Christian relations.”

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