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Outreach Overseas: Pair of Alums Selected for Rev. Charles Rice Fellowship

Elizabeth Iobst ’19 and Malik Geraci ’19 have been awarded the second annual Charles Rice Post-Graduate Research Fellowship, a year-long research experience that encourages students to make a global impact. They are both journeying abroad to explore research projects centered around the intersectionality of faith and social justice.

The Charles Rice Post-Graduate Research Fellowship represents many of the ideas that the late Reverend Rice was passionate about. From global outreach to the celebration of diversity and equality, the fellowship seeks forward-thinking and morally conscious students and young alumni who reflect these passions.

Iobst is exploring the role of gender and human frailty in religion, particularly in England, Ireland, and Israel, starting her research in Leeds, a city in the northern United Kingdom.

“I am studying and researching various religions and faiths to better understand the role of gender within religious based education, identity and experiences,” she shares, adding, “I am interested in understanding how individuals practice and execute their beliefs in their day to day lives and how they negotiate practices or teachings they do not necessarily support.”

For Iobst, her research focuses on the experiences of individuals rather than the official stance of religious institutions. Now, she is hoping that her experience as a Charles Rice fellow will help her to broaden her worldview and develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

Across the Atlantic, Geraci is heading to South America where he will study the relationship between introduced religious identity and traditional cultural identity within indigenous communities as it relates to environmental conservation practices in Peru.

“I am using this fellowship opportunity to delve further into my interests of environmental sustainability from a community-driven, grassroots structure,” Geraci explained, “I believe that this can be one of the most effective and low-cost ways to take care of the environment, and I am fascinated by the ways that indigenous groups have been doing this for generations.”

He will be spending 11 months in the Northern Andes and Amazonian regions of South America investigating these themes while living and working with the indigenous communities.

The project is an extension of Geraci’s research during a study abroad trip to Panama during his time at Ursinus. There he lived with the Naso people and investigated their community-driven methods of environmental conservation. His fellowship research is broadening the scope by including multiple indigenous groups and environmental objectives.

Geraci hopes that his research will be able to benefit these communities and their political fight for autonomy and environmental justice, adding, “I believe that the ethics held by many of these groups could and should be incorporated into the way that non-indigenous groups handle their growing role as stewards of the environment.”

The Fellowship is supported by the Harold C. Smith Program, an endowment for Christian Studies, Service and Student Scholarships at Ursinus that aims to give students the opportunity to grow spiritually and intellectually as they engage in experiential learning, research and service learning both domestically and abroad. —By Mary Lobo ’15