BOARD OF DIRECTORS / ADVISORY BOARD
Adriana is the Manager of the Faith & Spirituality Centre at the University of Calgary where she supports students, staff and faculty on building a more inclusive campus focusing on education and awareness on inter-religious and inter-cultural programming and religious accommodation, among many other things. She is co-founder and co-leader of the Spirituality & Religious Pluralism, a national community of practice with the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services. Adriana is a qualified administrator for the Intercultural Development Inventory® – an assessment tool that measures intercultural competence. She served as a board member with the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association from 2013 to 2016 and was former board member of the Calgary Centre for Culture, Equity & Diversity. Her areas of interest include inter-religious dialogue and action, duty to accommodate and human rights, harmonizing religious minorities in the workplace and advocating for students. Adriana has facilitated several workshops for the Alberta Human Rights Commission, the City of Red Deer, and Shift Management on supporting religious diversity in the workplace and presented academic papers on the importance of religious pluralism at regional and national conferences in North America.
Adriana Tulissi is currently working on her L.L.B. at the University of London, England. She has also completed her M.A. in History of Christianity at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO, having also graduated from the University of Calgary with a B.A. in Religious Studies and a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Management.
Ariel Ennis is the Assistant Director at the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership in the Office of Global Spiritual Life at NYU. He is responsible for NYU’s award winning Faith Zone Workshops, the Chaplains’ Circle and other diversity education initiatives. He is the author of Teaching Religious Literacy: A Guide to Religious and Spiritual Diversity in Higher Education, is the creator and host of the Multifaithful Podcast, and is an Adjunct Lecturer for the Multifaith Service Learning course at the Silver School of Social Work. Ariel was formerly the Program Director for Campus Programs at the Center for Community Leadership at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Ariel is currently enrolled in the Langone Part-Time MBA Program at NYU and graduated from NYU with a BA in Jewish History and Civilization and a minor in Politics in 2012.
Dr. Asha Shipman is the Director of Hindu Life and Hindu Chaplain for Yale University. In this role, she collaborates with campus organizations, notably the Hindu Students Council, on programs that highlight Hinduism and Indian culture. She also offers pastoral counseling to students; often over steaming cups of chai in her office or by taking long walks around campus. Asha has a PhD in Anthropology and a wide array of scholarly interests. Her current research examines spiritual support offered to Hindu students at US college and university campuses. She is an experienced educator, having taught for almost 20 years at the high school, college and university levels. Asha grew up among Connecticut’s Hindu community and her parents were primary founders of the Connecticut Valley Hindu Temple Society. She served as an official photographer during the consecration festivities for the main Temple deities and as an appointed member of the Temple’s Executive Committee. Her foremost contribution to the Temple Society was co-founding the Hindu Sunday School for children grades K–12. Asha enjoys bringing thought-provoking, colorful, kinetic and soul-nourishing events to the Yale community; her two young sons enjoy visiting the Chaplain’s Office for free ice cream and Swedish Fish.
Dr. Cecilia E. Suarez
Dr. Cecilia E. Suarez, better known as “CC”, was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised by two strong women, her mother and grandmother. She earned a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Miami and majored in biology and elementary education. Upon completing her Bachelor’s degree, Cecilia enrolled at Miami University of Ohio where she graduated with a Masters of Science in Education in 2008. After graduation, CC accepted a job at New York University, where she served as the Diversity Educator for the Department of Residential Life and Housing Services for 3 years. In 2014, Cecilia officially became Dr. Suarez and graduated with her Ph.D. from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Education Policy Studies. Her research focuses on access and equity for students of color in higher education, particularly first generation women of color. In the Fall of 2016, Dr. Suarez will join the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at The University of Florida as Assistant Professor of Leadership and Intercultural Communication. She focuses her courses on identity development, ethics, access and equity, as it relates to leadership. Other research includes first generation college student of color experiences in higher education, perceptions and opportunities of leadership among Latina/o college students, and intersectionalities of identities among women of color in academia. Dr. Suarez also takes learning outside of the classroom by offering engaging workshops and lectures to on and off campus communities across the country focused on various topics such as identity and strength within communities of color. Committed to this labor of love, Cecilia continues to dedicate her life to educating and creating equal access to equitable education for all.
Chaplain Kaiser Aslam
Chaplain Kaiser Aslam is the Muslim Chaplain at Rutgers University. Kaiser has studied various classical Islamic sciences in his studies within the United States and abroad and holds a Masters degree in Islamic Studies & Muslim-Christian Relations from Hartford Seminary. In addition to his work at universities, Kaiser has served as the Muslim Chaplain at Hartford Hospital and as a youth director at various Islamic centers , most recently at the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center. Kaiser has worked with and in over a dozen educational and service-based organizations in the American Muslim Community over the last decade. Most notably, he served as the National Coordinator of Young Muslims, the largest Muslim youth group in North America. Kaiser is a public lecturer on Islam, Muslim youth, Interfaith work, Muslim culture, and various other topics. He travels regularly to different communities across the United States to speak and organize events.
Clare Cady is the Founding Director of the College and University Food Bank Alliance and a Director of Community Engagement at the HOPE Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University. Her work focuses on access, success, and completion for low-income students in 2 and 4 year higher education settings. Her work has been published in About Campus, and The Journal of College and Character, as well as highlighted in Huffington Post, Washington Post, MSNBC, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. An atheist and secular humanist, Clare’s work on student spiritual life includes spearheading the Interfaith Community Service initiatives at Oregon State University, earning recognition from the White House Interfaith Community Service Campaign. When not at work, Clare spends her time olympic weightlifting, backpacking, working on her house, and petting ALL THE DOGS.
Dr. Esmilda Abreu
Esmilda Abreu, Ph.D. received her master’s degree in Psychology, her doctorate in Organization and Management, and focuses her research on leadership, corporate culture, and mentoring. Dr. Abreu received the Governor Whitman’s Pride Award for working with diverse populations, developed the first hospital credentialing program for complementary medicine in the country, served as Co-Chair of the Mentoring Committee on the Presidential Commission of Affirmative Action and Diversity at Montclair State University, and established Bias Education Response Team at Pratt Institute. She teaches at Montclair State University as core faculty in the MBA program of the School of Business. Dr. Abreu is the President of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, is a Board Member of the Mental Health Clinic of Passaic, serves on the Alliance for Arts and Health New Jersey Steering Committee, and is a founding member of North Jersey GLSEN. She established the Women’s Leadership Committee for the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce and served as Co-President of the New Jersey Consortium of Women and Gender Studies. Dr. Abreu has trained a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations including the Linda and Rudy Slucker Center, ACE-Network, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Athena Collaborative Group, American Conference of Diversity, and Latino Psychological Association. Formerly, Dr. Abreu served as Director of Equity and Diversity at Montclair State University, Executive Director of Women’s Rights Information Center, and she is now Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at Pratt Institute.
Gordon Maples is a Masters student in Higher Education Administration in Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, and serves as the Graduate Assistant for the Vanderbilt University Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life. Prior to joining the Vanderbilt community, he worked for 5 years at the national Secular Student Alliance as their Senior Campus Organizer, providing leadership training and organizational support to atheist, agnostic, and humanist student groups around the country, and speaking publicly at numerous interfaith and atheist conferences and events. He strongly believes in religious pluralism and interfaith cooperation, and advocates for the inclusion of the non-religious in interfaith circles. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa in 2012.
Hannah Pynn serves as an Engagement Coordinator at the University of Arizona and has a degree in Student Services Administration from Oregon State University and a BA in Film Editing from Indiana University. She brings a unique perspective to higher education with previous careers as a campus minister and film editor which combine for a special passion of interpersonal story-telling. She provides consulting services for staff, faculty, and university administration on spiritual development, meaning-making, and interfaith leadership.
Dr. Jeanine Diller
Jeanine Diller is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Toledo with a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from the University of Michigan. She teaches and researches in philosophy of religion and religious studies, concentrating especially on the nature of ultimate reality, the diversity of traditional and secular views of religion, and the power of religion to change the world for ill and for good. She co-edited Models of God and Other Alternative Ultimate Realities (Springer 2013), authored several articles, and worked in the federal legislative, state executive, and local non-profit sectors. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and two sons.
Dr. Jenny L. Small
Jenny L. Small is an independent scholar, teacher, and facilitator on the topic of college student worldviews. Dr. Small most recently edited the volume Making Meaning: Embracing Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Life Purpose in Student Affairs (2015), available from Stylus Press. Her ﬁrst book, entitled Understanding College Students’ Spiritual Identities: Different Faiths, Varied Worldviews (2011), is available from Hampton Press. Dr. Small’s work has also been published in Research in Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, Journal for the Scientiﬁc Study of Religion, About Campus, and Religion & Education, and in chapters in edited volumes. She is a past chair of the ACPA Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Meaning and an associate editor of the Journal of College and Character.
Kate Curley- Secretary of the Board of Directors
Kate Curley, Coordinator of Student Organizations and Leadership at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI. In this role, I oversee all the student organizations on campus, build leadership programs for students, and am heavily involved with our high impact practice initiative on campus. On top of my full time role, I’m also a PhD Candidate in Educational Leadership studying the intersection of trans identity and religious, secular, and spiritual identities and their communities; starting to dissertate this summer! Pronouns: she/her/hers or they/them/theirs
Dr. Kathy Goodman
Kathy Goodman is assistant professor of student affairs in higher education at Miami University. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Iowa in May 2011. While at Iowa, she was a research assistant at the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education. Prior to that, she held an administrative position at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Kathy’s research and teaching interests include the impact of college experiences on student development; diversity and equity in higher education; spirituality, life purpose, and atheist college students; and helping student affairs professionals develop the capacity to do interfaith work. She is co-editor of the forthcoming book from Stylus: Educating about Religious Diversity and Interfaith Engagement: A Handbook for Student Affairs. She has also served as member of the board of directors for the Secular Student Alliance.
Maria Ahmad serves as the Assistant Director for Leadership and Involvement at Multicultural Student Center. In this role, Maria oversees the MSC intern program, development of over 25 multicultural student organizations, general facilities management of the MSC space, and leadership and professional development opportunities for student leaders. Maria brings experience from her previous position as the Coordinator of Student Life and Campus Diversity at Indiana University Kokomo, and her education. She earned her undergraduate degree from the Ohio State University, and her Masters in Student Affairs at Northern Illinois University where she served as the Graduate Advisor for student organization support and leadership. Maria is involved in NASPA Knowledge Communities, and chairs the regional IV-E KC on Religion, Faith, and Spirituality. She also works with the National Muslim Students Association Board as the Higher Education liaison. She is passionate about helping students get involved on campus and build community while also developing into strong leaders and friends who work to make the world a better place for all.
Nick Stancato- Board Chair
Nick Stancato is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors (2018). He brings nearly a decade of nonprofit experience to Convergence, particularly in program management, communications, grassroots organizing, community building, and leadership training. He was previously the Program Manager for the national Secular Student Alliance, where he supported hundreds of student groups across the United States, managed the SSA Annual Conference, and also supervised all other SSA national programming. He is currently an Outreach & Organizing Contractor with Bull Bulldog Digital where he has the pleasure of working with many varied nonprofits.
He graduated from The Ohio State University with a major in History as well as minors in Roman Classics and Religious Studies. He is also a Board Member with the Ohio chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Nick has spoken at the President’s Interfaith Community Service and Campus Challenge, Creating Change, the SSA Annual Conference, and helped to organize the 2017 NASPA Religious, Secular, and Spiritual Identities Convergence event.
Peter Laurence- Treasurer of the Board of Directors
Peter Laurence recently retired from his position as Executive Director of the Education as Transformation Project at Wellesley College. The conference which launched that project, Education as Transformation: Religious Pluralism and Spirituality in Higher Education, drew over 800 participants and provided an impetus for other organizations to produce similar conferences and related activities in the years to follow.
Dr. Laurence is co-editor of the book, Education as Transformation: Religious Pluralism, Spirituality, and a New Vision for Higher Education in America (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2000), and co-general editor of the book series, Studies in Education and Spirituality (Peter Lang Publishing). In 2005 he co-produced Beyond Tolerance: A Campus Religious Diversity Kit in collaboration with the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). He has served as grant administrator for a federally funded project on Changing Attitudes across Religious Communities: Developing Models for College Campuses, has written many articles for professional journals, presented at numerous higher education conferences, and provided direct consulting services on campuses in the United States and abroad.
Phoebe B. Myhrum
Saadia Ahmad’s immersion into interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding began during her journey as a Muslim at a Catholic college. Through regularly attending Catholic worship services, taking theology courses, participating in Campus Ministry, and serving on its Pastoral Council, she experienced her own Islamic faith deepening in an unprecedented way. Since graduating Providence College in 2014, Saadia has been studying, practicing, and writing about ways to engage with religious diversity more positively, productively, and pluralistically in a world often torn apart by religion. She has worked with organizations that seek to build bridges across lines of difference, including Kids4Peace, Soliya, the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Nigeria, Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, and The Pluralism Project at Harvard University. Her articles on interfaith dialogue, religious diversity, and relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been published in such venues as The Boston Globe, America Media, The Huffington Post, and The Richmond Times. Presently, Saadia is completing her Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Seth Erais is the Kaleidoscope Project Coordinator for the Faith and Spirituality Centre at the University of Calgary and an advocate for LGBTQA inclusion in religious settings. Their work in creating the Kaleidoscope Project helps to support student development of intercultural competencies and promotes a more inclusive and pluralistic campus community through programming and activism. Throughout their degree in Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, their interests have ranged from South Asian religions, interreligious dialogue, religious literacy, and pedagogy in religious studies education in postsecondary settings. They are in the process of completing their honors thesis that focuses on understandings of religious literacy that move beyond the textbook. Pronouns: they/them/theirs.
Taylor Gould is a United Methodist pastor in the suburbs of Portland, OR. She graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in May 2017, and has a special interest in LGBTQ inclusion, immigration justice, and liberation theologies.