Religion students to attend conference

Six Mercyhurst students will attend a conference at Syracuse University to present papers on religious violence.

The Eastern International Region (EIR) of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) will host their annual religious conference on May 3-4.

The conference, titled “19th Century Upstate New York Religions and their Heirs,” focuses on the impact of American religions in upstate New York.
On this occasion, the Mercyhurst students were selected to form two separate panels to discuss the proposed topic of religion and violence.

Verna Ehret, Ph.D., was the religious studies professor who sponsored the students’ papers. She is also the regional coordinator for the EIR, putting her in charge of the whole meeting.

“It’s very impressive. There are not many undergraduate panels that are accepted. They are usually graduate student or senior scholar panels that are accepted,” said Ehret.
“There are usually two or three undergraduate panels and this year two of those panels are entirely Mercyhurst students.”

All students were part of the senior seminar class given by Ehret. Five of the six are Religious studies majors, while the other is a minor. Four out of six are seniors and the other two are juniors.

The students going to Syracuse include Logan Fink, Caitlin O’Neill, Lisa Siroi, Jen Detchon, Nathan Turner and Megan Briggs.

This is the most students that have gone to this event. Two years ago, two students participated and a few years before that five students participated. The department hopes to achieve this again.

“We are working with the religious studies department to make this a more regular event that we take students every year,” Ehret said.

The purpose of the conference is for religious scholars to present their work to the larger academic community in the hopes that it will improve the subject’s scholarship.

During the conference, students will have the opportunity to engage with the work of professional religious scholars. It’s an opportunity to gain a glimpse into their prospective field.

“I think participating in this event will give me a glimpse into the academic study of religion in the current day, and to get a sampling of the different studies people will be presenting,” said senior Caitlin O’Neill.

Ehret chose the proposed panel of religion and violence because it was the topic of the senior seminar class. Senior Megan Briggs said the class allowed her a diverse look into religious violence.

“This course has afforded me the opportunity to delve into the subject matter on a broader basis to learn much about religious violence. The holistic approach enables me to offer a strong foundation for my paper, as well as any discussion that may occur at the conference,” Briggs said.