The Department of Religious Studies is proud to present the 2021 Religious Studies Awards to six outstanding students – Madelyn Webb, Yael Eichhorn, Erica Lavista, Alana Davis, Charron Mcrae, and Anneli Schlacht. The awards presented include the Robert T. Anderson Award, Engaged Scholar Award, Nick Rashford and Jake Folio Award, Bob Pettapiece Scholarship, and Julia Johnson Award in Religion and Ecology.
Madelyn Webb – Robert T. Anderson Award
Webb, who is graduating this spring with a B.A. in Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy, is this year’s recipient of the Robert T. Anderson Award, which recognizes the Religious Studies undergraduate primary major senior who achieved the highest grade point average.
“The skills I’ve developed here in the Religious Studies Department – to question the mundane and seemingly benign, to seek out the meaningful, to open myself up to the uncomfortable – these skills will stick with me for the rest of my life,” Webb said. “There’s always more than one solution, more than one perspective, more than one voice that deserves to be heard. Regardless of what the future decides to be, I now have the tools to find my answer because of my experience in the Religious Studies Department.”
Yael Eichhorn – Engaged Scholar Award
Eichhorn, who is graduating this spring with a B.A. in Religious Studies, is this year’s recipient of the Engaged Scholar Award, which recognizes the Religious Studies undergraduate major who best represents the ideal of the engaged scholar and whose aspirations are to serve the wider community.
“I have really enjoyed the variety of classes that are available and the fact that there are so many options,” Eichhorn said. “I have been able to choose classes based on my interests and the major itself has been very flexible. Another great aspect of Religious Studies is the faculty and staff, who are always accessible and there to help. The smaller class sizes kept me engaged and it was overall just a very positive and open learning environment.”
After graduation, Eichhorn plans to go into Jewish nonprofit work and to continue teaching.
Erica Lavista – Nick Rashford and Jake Folio Award
Lavista, who is graduating this spring with a B.A. in Religious Studies and Philosophy, is this year’s recipient of the Nick Rashford and Jake Foglio All-University Award for Excellence, which recognizes undergraduate academic achievement in order to enhance the academic credentials of deserving students.
“I would not trade my Religious Studies degree for anything in the world; it is a discipline that has kept me captivated with every step I took toward earning my degree,” Lavista said. “This is much more than an undergraduate major: Religious Studies cultivates and strengthens each of its students’ critical thinking skills by using an interdisciplinary approach. Each faculty and staff member in the Religious Studies Department genuinely cares about providing their students with a meaningful education. I will always carry with me everything that the Religious Studies Department has taught me.”
After graduation, Lavista plans to pursue an M.A. at the University of Chicago this fall.
Alana Davis – Bob Pettapiece Scholarship
Davis, who is graduating this spring with a B.A. in Religious Studies, is one of this year’s recipients of the Robert Pettapiece Scholarship, which supports excellent engaged students in the study of religions and nonprofit leadership.
“My favorite thing about Religious Studies is seeing how different people interact with and explain the world around us, “Davis said. “Religion offers a special lens and allows us to ask unique and difficult questions about ourselves and our purpose, as well as driving us to think about grand-scale questions both metaphysical and social.”
After graduation, Davis plans on taking a small break but would like to study philosophy and religion in the future and is interested in how they shift and grow in post-modernity.
Charron Mcrae – Bob Pettapiece Scholarship
Mcrae, who is graduating this spring with a B.A. in Religious Studies, is one of this year’s recipients of the Robert Pettapiece Scholarship, which supports excellent engaged students in the study of religions and nonprofit leadership.
“My interest in pursuing a degree in Religious Studies began after taking religious courses at Lansing Community College with Professor Sjoquist and developed even further when I transferred to MSU and had access to a plethora of expert professors and unique learning opportunities,” Mcrae said. “I enjoy the study of religion because it helps me consider the motivations for people’s actions, helps me be empathetic, and helps me celebrate society’s differences, not only in terms of belief and religious practice but also in a broader context.
“I hope the understanding and empathy I have gained through the study of religion is something I am able to pass on, not only in the sense of a career but in all of those with who I meaningfully interact along the way.”
Mcrae is interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector after graduation. She would like to work with an organization that is religiously pluralistic and provides education about religious inclusivity.
Anneli Schlacht – Julia Johnson Award in Religion and Ecology
Schlacht, who is graduating this spring with a B.A. in Religious Studies, is this year’s recipient of the Julia Johnson Award in Religion and Ecology, which was first presented in 2017 and was created by alumna Julia Johnson, who graduated from MSU in 2015 with a B.A. in Religious Studies.
“Religious Studies has given me an entirely new perspective on how religion exists and functions both throughout history and in modernity,” Schlacht said. “Religion permeates nearly every aspect of life, making it extremely applicable to a wide variety of fields of study. Most specifically, in my case, it provides an excellent basis for my goal to work in an environmental nonprofit, especially with the unique nonprofit leadership concentration offered here at MSU.”