Department of Religious Studies

Past Winners

Below are past winners of the Bishop McVickar Prize. All theses are available via the Brown Digital Repository



First Place: 

Lex Rofes: "More than Words on a Page: An Exploration of the Jewish Kol Nidre Declaration"

Second Place: 

Eric Young: "Sacred Land, Sacred Community: The Interface of Catholicism and the Environmental Work of New  Orleans and East Vietnamese Americans"

Third Place shared by:

Benjamin Marcus: "On Religious Literacy and Easy Definitions: A Survey-Based Look at the Complexity of Religious Identity Formation and Perception"

Michael Z. Mezera: "'New Democrats: Two Contemporary Approaches to Religious Reasoning, Pluralism, and Organizing in the Public Sphere"

Honorable Mentions:

Hiroe Hu: "The Concept of Self in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Morita Therapy: The Similarities and Differences in the Therapeutic Mechanisms, Philosophies, and Methods."

Elizabeth Matthews: "Interpretations of Ahlquist v. City of Cranston: Inter-spherical Relationships and the Threat of Alienation in Public Discourse"

Matthew Peterson: "From Heaven to Earth: On the Religious and Aesthetic in Feuerbach, Wagner, and Nietzche"


First Place Shared by:

Thomas Finley (History Concentrator) for thesis titled "'A Church Where Jesus is Real'" Race, Religiosity and the Legacies of Protest Activisim in the Church of God in Christ, 1968-1989."

Joshua Schenkkan (Religious Studies Concentrator) for thesis titled "The Imaged Dead and the Ethics of Rupture: Thinking with George Bataille and Judith Butler."

Honorable Mentions:

Elizabeth Carroll (Religious Studies Concentrator) for thesis titled "Ida Robinson and the Mount Sinai Holy Church: Towards a Greater Understanding of Ida Robinson as Mother Assuming Authority in the Public Sphere."

Julia P. Elstrodt (Religious Studies Concentrator) for thesis titled "The Sacred Practice of Psychotherapy: An Argument for the Inclusiion of Spirituality in Psychology."


First Place shared by

Rachel Himes, "Christ and Crisis: Sacral Rhetoric in Late Byzantine Imperial Representation."

Thaya Uthayophas, "Law and Religion in Thailand."

Second Place

Alexander Sogo, "A Study of Roman Amulets and Ancient Healing Practices."

Honorable Mentions:

Adison Marshall, "The Voice of the Pythia: Drugs and Agency at Delphi."

William Underwood, "Atrium Church and the Trouble with Christian Speech in a Secular, Postmodern Society."


First Place:

Rachel Leiken: "'Have you got good religion?': Positioning Religion in a Landscape of Racial Justice Work."

Second Place:

Darien Acero: "Nietzsche and Dogen: A Conversation."

Third Place shared by:

Hannah Liu: "Processional Pathways: Public Assertion of Religious Identity in Late Antique Rome."

Josh Silver: "Blurring Boundaries, Clarifying Connections: World of Warcraft and the Creative Actions of its Users."


1st Place:

Joshua Kurtz (Religious Studies)
"Notes Toward an Attentivve Politics: Simone Weil and the Theory of Decreation."

2nd Place shared by

Melodi Hamiye Dincer (Religious Studies)
"I Sing the Body Electric: The Syntheist Movement and Creating God in the Internet Age." 

and Noah Williams Fitzgerel (Religious Studies)
"Whiteness, Colorblindness, and Common Experience: Resituating American Civil Religion."


1st Place:

 Sienna Lotenberg (History)

"'Blessed is She Who in the Beginning Gave Birth': An Intellectual History of the Brown Women's Minyan and the Student Pioneers of American Jewish Feminism."

2nd Place:

Samuel B. Hainbach (Religious Studies)
"Sacred, Patriotic, Public: The Zionism of Abba Hillel Silver"

3rd Place:

 Katherine Chu (History)

"British Protestant Missionaries in Interwar Egypt: Uneven Encounters in Imperial Contexts"

Honorable Mention: Clemencia Garcia-Kasimirowski (History of Art & Architecture)
"Reshaping the Refugee Camp: Makeshift Islamic Architecture in Ritsona, Greece." 


Joint First Place

Aaron Cooper (Religious Studies '21)
 "Terrifying Potential: Toward A Cartography of White Being"
  Advisor: Andre Willis

Keiko Cooper-Hahn (Religious Studies '21)
 "A Servant of Two Masters? Tunisia’s Claim to Both Secularism and State Islam"
  Advisor: Andre Willis  

Chihye (Naomi) Kim (English '21)
 "'An Interesting Planet': The Ecotheology of Marilynne Robinson's Fiction"
  Advisor: James Kuzner

Honorable Mention

Emily Pham (Religious Studies '21)
 "Hospital Spiritual Care in Rhode Island during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Interviews on the Chaplain Experience"
  Advisor: Jason Protass

Additional Information

The Bishop McVickar Prize is awarded for the best senior honors theses on any topic related to the academic study of religion
The academic study of religion cultivates understanding of societies and cultures throughout the world by exploring religious thought and practice in various historical, geographic, and political contexts.