Research Projects

Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) is held each spring to celebrate the exemplary scholarship and creativity of Willamette University students. Students work directly with faculty members or design and conduct their own research throughout the year.

Featured Projects

Here are a few projects that exemplify the wonderful research students from the Religious Studies department have done over the years.

Abstract: This presentation explores how interpretations of domination rhetoric from the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua were used to justify westward expansion in 1800s America. I explore the implications of domination rhetoric as it pertains to American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism, while also grappling with Christian America's identity as a New Testament people despite their actions that imply a literal Old Testament understanding of the Bible. While not all Protestants supported Manifest Destiny and its aims, the works of Lyman Beecher and John L. O'Sullivan advocated for it fiercely, resulting in horrific consequences for Mexicans, Filipinos, and America's Indigenous Peoples.

Kawika Kalama (2020)

Abstract: This research examines author and activist James Baldwin as a case-study for understanding the inner-workings of the black church and its critiques. This research focuses on Baldwin due to his unique experience within the black church, but more importantly his critiques. During his teenage years, Baldwin became a youth minister, and quickly became dissatisfied with ministry, considering it hypocritical and discriminatory and, ultimately, left the church. Baldwin accuses Christianity of reinforcing slavery through religious justification and reinforcing the oppression of black people therefore. This research analyzes those claims and delves deeper into the idea that the black evangelical churches are a system that operated as a violent justification for self-hatred, racial-bigotry, and physical violence.

Akerah Mackey (2019)

Abstract: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), originally brought to the United States by Chinese immigrants, has been developed over the course of thousands of years; with many practices having ideological origins in the spiritual. This paper seeks to highlight the syncretic nature between religion and medicine, as well as the way in which Chinese immigrants of Salem and John Day, Oregon, blurred the lines between faith and healing. After a brief summary of the social and political climate regarding early Chinese immigration, I will introduce medical notions and the ways in which the TCM medical system has integrated religious concepts of the human body and the divine with lifesaving medicine.

Zoey Rizzo (2019)

Additional Research Projects

These are all the projects the Religious Studies department has presented at SSRD in the last few years.


  • Community and History in Lukumi: A Study of the Lives and Identities of Practitioners - Skylar Davis
  • A Search for Ritual Wholeness: Exploring Traditional and Contemporary Childbirth Rituals - Nyrie Mietzke
  • Colonization, Modernization, and Visas in Iran, Sudan, and Nigeria - Owen Thomas


  • A History in Heresy: Exploring the Theological Roots of the Pelagian Controversy - William Gupton
  • Daoist Medicine: The Intersectionality of Religion and Medical Practice for First-Wave Chinese Immigrants - Zoey Rizzo (Thesis)
  • Understanding Environmental Issues Holistically - Ashley Jackson (Thesis)
  • The Violent God: James Baldwin’s Critique of Christianity - Akerah Mackey (Thesis)
  • Divine Punishment: The Religious Roots of the American Penal System - Elle Wilson (Thesis)


  • Philo and Gender: A Woman’s Place in a Jewish Platonist’s World - Andrea Roisolo


  • Building a Neuron Library: Developing Methods for 3D Modeling of Neurons Using Freeware - Rachel Green (Thesis)
Willamette University

Religious Studies Department

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Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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