Student Research Grants

The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion offers annual research grants to assist graduate students in their research. Although these grants are normally used for dissertation support, other significant research is eligible. The ordinary maximum award is $3,000. Grants are intended to cover research expenses, travel, research assistance, and up to $1500 in stipend for the researcher's own time. Grant recipients have two years to spend their awards and are expected to submit a brief report on their research. SSSR student research funding is transferred to the principal  investigator’s university unless other arrangements are made. Please note that SSSR does not allow for any indirect cost recovery. 

Applicants must be SSSR members at the time they submit their proposals and must not have won the award in the previous three years. Applicants should describe the project they wish to undertake in no more than 3 single–spaced pages, discussing its significance for the social scientific study of religion and briefly identifying the literature on which they are drawing. The applications should include an abstract of no more than 100 words and an annotated budget that describes the rationale for proposed expenditures, as well as information about any other sources of support. The application should be accompanied by a brief curriculum vitae (no more than 2 pages) listing the most recent research and publications.

Via the submission form above, candidates should submit PDF files of the abstract, three page proposal, annotated budget, and two page CV. All application packages must be received by May 1, 2022.


Ryon Cobb (University of Georgia), Chair

Frances Kostarelos (Governors State University)

Jennifer A. Thompson (California State University, Northridge)

Alison Halford (Coventry University)



Valentina Cantori (University of Southern California), "Islam and its Publics: Crafting Public Images of Islam in the U.S." Recent research on public religion has paid increasing attention to different modes of public religion focusing specifically on Christianity. But how do American Muslims craft a public representation of Islam and who do they imagine their publics to be? Through participant observation (both virtual and in-person), my dissertation, “Islam and its Publics: Crafting Public Images of Islam in the U.S.,” investigates how different groups of American Muslims construct public religion and, in doing so, re-imagine what it means to be American in a time in which its definition seems to be increasingly fluid and contested.

Audra Dugandzic (University of Notre Dame), “‘Polarization and the Production and Reception of Liturgical Change in the U.S. Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council.” How and why did the Mass, the central Catholic ritual of unity, become a site of polarization among U.S. Catholics after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)? Different worship styles have come to be associated with “liberal” and “conservative” Catholic identities, and “liturgy wars” continue to rage. To understand how this situation arose, I analyze official statements, newsletters, meeting minutes, correspondences, and worship materials from different organizational levels of the Catholic Church tasked with interpreting and enacting liturgical reform. This study will illuminate how the production and reception of a religious practice contributes to polarization.

Kerby Goff (Pennsylvania State University). "Religion as Catalyst and Constraint for Women’s Collective Action: The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of the Protestant Woman’s Missionary Movement, 1861-1938." Religion is raced, classed, and gendered, but the impact of these intersections on religious women’s collective action is not well understood. This project investigates the rise, fall, and impact of the largest and most understudied 19th century women’s movement, the Protestant Woman’s Missionary Movement, which mobilized millions to establish schools and colleges for
women around the world. I will develop an original organizational data set to employ quantitative (event history and social network) and comparative-historical analysis of the movement’s emergence, death, and impact on female education. This project will illuminate the conditions, constraints, and possibilities of religiously motivated, gendered mobilization.

Jiayin Hu (Purdue University), “Race and Leadership Suitability in Multiracial Congregations” Although multiracial congregations aim to bridge racial divisions and advance racial equality, research shows they continue to reproduce, rather than transcend, racial inequalities. A recurring critique is that the leaders of multiracial congregations are far more likely to be white. What accounts for the ongoing reproduction of the racial hierarchy within multiracial congregations? This project utilizes a survey experiment to test how the race affects perceptions and preference for leadership selection. Understanding the role of these perceptions in promoting and/or hindering racial equality in multiracial congregations is crucial to overcoming the racial division and injustices that plague American churches.

Laila Noureldin (The University of Chicago), “From Incarceration to Imancipation: Blackamerican Muslim Conversion  and Reenty.” Religion plays a substantial role in transforming the lives of incarcerated people, especially through conversion, which not only consists of a change in religious beliefs, but also associated behaviors and social affiliations. Yet, the phenomenon has sparked little empirical research. What research does exist tends to focus on Christianity despite large numbers of conversions to Islam, particularly among African Americans. Using a comparative qualitative strategy from 30 semi-structured interviews, this article sits at the intersection of religion and incarceration in the U.S. and consists of two parts. The first part examines pathways to Islamic conversion among formerly incarcerated African American men in Chicago, IL and the meanings attached to the conversion process. The second part compares how these Islamic converts fare in the reentry process compared to both formerly incarcerated Muslim-born and Christian-born African American men. While assessing how conversion while incarcerated impacts reentry outcomes for African American Muslim converts, this article also pays particular attention to how these individuals make sense of their newly acquired religious identity and juggle multiple marginalized identities. Findings suggest that although the triple combination of being African American, Muslim, and formerly incarcerated magnifies an individual’s sense of marginalization, for many converts, conversion leads to an intense spiritual liberation that mitigates the difficulties of reentry.

Seda Baykal (University of Pittsburgh), "Faith and Reason in Higher Education: Ankara University School of Divinity." This study examines how mektep-madrasa controversy is manifested in Ankara University Divinity School as a divide between those who see the study of Islam as a religion and those who see it as a social science. The works of İlhami Güler, Hayri Kırbaşoğlu, and Şaban Düzgün, scholars at A.U. Divinity School is analyzed to understand how their construction of academic study of Islam based on the premises of social sciences, questioning the binary logic behind the concepts, reason/faith, modern/traditional, knowledge/belief, which is at the core of Islamic theological studies. I argue that although their approaches are different from each other, these scholars share the same objective: the construction of a social scientific study of Islam in higher education to reconcile the ongoing dichotomy in the Islamic intellectual milieu.