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About the Interfaith Innovation Fellowship

In a time of political and cultural division, our nation needs interfaith leaders who can break barriers and build bridges across difference.  IFYC Alumni do this work throughout many sectors of society.  Thus, we are proud to support the ongoing leadership development and impact of our Alumni with the Interfaith Innovation Fellowship.  This fellowship is an opportunity for leaders to learn from each other and experts in the field of innovation.  Alumni with creative ideas for social change centered on interfaith cooperation are invited to apply for the 2020 Cohort of the Interfaith Innovation Fellowship.  

The idea for this fellowship started in 2014 as way to give IFYC Alumni the opportunity to cultivate ideas and projects that creatively address social issues through an interfaith lens. Thirty-five IFYC Alumni have received support through our fellowship, empowering them to grow as leaders and launch new initiatives ranging from topics of public education to healing and resilience to preventing sexual violence.  Apply now and join the new class of Interfaith Innovation Fellows in 2020! 

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The Interfaith Innovation Fellows receive:  

  • A $5,000 grant to use toward getting their innovative interfaith project off the ground.   
  • A trip to Chicago, IL for an exclusive retreat with all expenses paid. 
  • 10 months of support to grow their leadership experience and professional networks through one-on-one support from IFYC staff, and five virtual meetings with their cohort on topics such as storytelling and human centered design. 
  • Opportunities to learn from IFYC founder and president, Eboo Patel, along with IFYC staff, former Fellows, and others. 

Application Process

Applications are now open through November 4, 2019 for the 2020 Interfaith Innovation Fellowship. Apply here or contact Hannah Willage at Hannahw@ifyc.org or 312-533-4206 to learn more.


  • Fellows must be a member of the IFYC Alumni network. If you are not sure if you are an alum, please contact us. Both U.S. and internationally-based alumni are encouraged to apply. 
  • Fellows must attend all virtual and in-person components of the fellowship and be committed to furthering their projects over the course of the program. Please review the application for a full list of expectations and scheduled events for the 2020 Interfaith Innovation Fellowship. 
  • Fellows must be  self-starters who work well with limited supervision, follow through on commitments, communicate clearly, and solve problems creatively. 
  • Fellows will launch their project over the course of the fellowship.  

Ideal Proposals Will:

  • Prioritize interfaith cooperation.
  • Benefit a community facing a pressing social issue.
  • Impact people of varied religious and/or non-religious traditions.

Examples of Past Fellows

Aamir Hussain (Muslim)

Chicago, IL

Project: Established a Spirituality and Medicine Interest Group for the Medical School at University of Chicago.

With the support of the fellowship, Aamir established himself as a leader on campus during his first semester of medical school. He organized collaborations between various university departments including hospital chaplains, nurses, undergraduates, and divinity school students. These partnerships have persisted, and in his second year of medical school, Aamir was awarded the “University of Chicago Bridge Builder Award” for fostering these diverse connections on campus. Aamir found that other grants from school programs had extensive strings attached; however, the “fellowship allows you to check in with IFYC as needed and bounce ideas around, but ultimately, the project is yours.

Jem Jebbia (Zen Buddhist)

Los Angeles & Bay Area, CA

Project: Curated a pop-up exhibit highlighting interfaith work between individuals and communities that have influenced the social and cultural landscape of LA.

Jem’s project, Golden State Sacred, launched in August 2018 at the oldest Synagogue in Los Angeles and the exhibit will move around the state to sacred sites, colleges and universities, and public places. Beyond the inaugural year, Jem is excited to make the exhibit a central piece of her doctoral dissertation, thinking about alternative pedagogies to teach religion and interfaith engagement. According to Jem, “You will not find a more knowledgeable and dedicated group on interfaith cooperation, and that shared passion will carry you through both pitfalls and successful moments.”

Ben Marcus (Unaffiliated)

Washington, DC

Project: Created lessons about religion for public secondary school audiences, so that students will learn how the active exchange between different religious communities shapes our shared world.

Ben collaborated with two colleagues to organize a conference with teachers, administrators, and subject matter experts to explore ways to improve professional support for educators interested in teaching about religion. This led to the creation of the Religious Studies Companion Document, officially added to the National Council for the Social Studies’ C3 Framework. Through his fellowship, Ben received the resources and mentorship necessary to jumpstart his career as an advocate for inter-religious engagement. He also credits his project as something that helped him to land his current job at the Religious Freedom Center in Washington DC. Ben explains “IFYC's support will inspire you to act courageously instead of sitting on the sidelines.”

Nadiah Mohajir (Muslim)

Chicago, IL

Project: Hosted a training for educators, community and religious leaders to increase the number of competent trained professionals to serve survivors of sexual assault in the Muslim and other faith communities.

Founder and director of HEART Women and Girls, brought together numerous faith communities to talk about sexual violence for her fellowship project. Since completing her fellowship in 2016, Nadiah has expanded her team to replicate this work across the country. She has also received national recognition and secured sustainable, multi-year funding. Nadiah enthusiastically encourages others to apply because “it is not only a fun and engaging way to implement a project that you are passionate about with financial resources and leadership development, but it is also a way to be connected to other fellows across the country you normally would not meet.“

Aditi Singh (Christian)

Chicago, IL

Project: Planned a leadership retreat for South Asian youth to design a toolkit on how to facilitate conversations about racial justice through the lens of religion, philosophy and interfaith cooperation.

Aditi is public interest attorney and long-time volunteer with Chicago Desi Youth Rising (CDYR). For her project, she worked with the youth members of CDYR through workshops and an annual retreat to develop a toolkit for facilitating conversations about racial justice with an interfaith lens. She appreciated the opportunity to learn more about how to include her interfaith skills in her day to day work both as a volunteer and in her career as an attorney. She explains “I am grateful to IFYC staff, fellow members of my cohort and alumni of the fellowship with helping me to see what’s possible and feeling I can try to see something through versus assuming it won’t work out and not trying to begin with.”

2019 Cohort of the Interfaith Innovation Fellowship

Mesha Arant (Agnostic)

Chicago, IL

Project: Bringing artists from different religious and spiritual traditions together around topics central to the human condition.

In Tune is a project that strives to bring artists from different religious and philosophical traditions together around four themes: birth/renewal, shame, joy/happiness, and suffering/death. In Tune artists are asked to reflect on one of the four themes and collaborate with an artist of a different worldview to complete an art piece. At the end of each project artists will film an interview reflecting on the experience of collaborating with their religious and/or philosophical identity at the forefront of the creative process.

About Mesha: Mesha Arant is a singer-songwriter, arts administrator, and interfaith advocate who currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. Mesha received her B.A. in Religion from Wofford College in 2012 and her Master of Divinity from Yale in 2015. Her interest in religion stems from a deep desire to understand the dialectical relationship between people from various religious/philosophical traditions and the current cultural landscape. Mesha’s music is situated somewhere between folk and soul, the music she listened to growing up. Her finger-picking style and striking voice have been described as hauntingly beautiful. Her first major project, an EP entitled Therapy, is forthcoming.

Usra Ghazi (Muslim)

Washington, DC

Project: Creating a peer-learning council of local government officials committed to inclusion for all.

Project Description: This project will create a peer-learning council of local government officials committed to inclusion for all. Currently, Muslim communities and those perceived to be Muslim (from Sikh, South Asian, Arab, and Black American communities) are faced with hate and discrimination while also being underrepresented and underserved by their local governments. This project will equip public servants in elected, appointed, and professional positions in local government (at the city, state, and county levels) to more effectively challenge hate and bigotry by building interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation in their communities and by exploring and adopting inclusive policies and practices in their civic roles.

About Usra: Usra Ghazi is Director of Policy and Programs at America Indivisible, a nonprofit coalition addressing anti-Muslim bigotry by strengthening neighbor-to-neighbor ties in local communities across the United States. She is a Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom at the Newseum's Freedom Forum Institute and a commissioner on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's Interfaith Council. She has worked as an interfaith leader and organizer in various capacities over the past decade including work with Interfaith Youth Core, Kids4Peace, and the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. She previously worked at the U.S. Department of State as a policy advisor and Franklin Fellow at the Office of Religion and Global Affairs and as a Strategic Designer in the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau's Collaboratory. She has also served as a policy fellow for the City of Boston in the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement. She holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School in Religion and Politics.

Lawrence Lin (Humanist)

Houston, TX

Project: Designing and developing an interfaith healthcare mobile app.

Medical care must consider many important factors of a patient’s decision-making including their faith and beliefs. However, spiritually-competent medical care is difficult as healthcare providers are stretched thinner by the year with greater patient volumes and responsibilities. Lack of time and knowledge are most often cited as reasons to neglect a careful assessment of a patient’s religious and/or spiritual concerns. This project tackles these obstacles through the design and implementation of an interfaith healthcare mobile app. The app will contain (1) important theological background for most world traditions, (2) evidence-based religion and spirituality screening assessments, and (3) criteria for determining necessity of further specialized care (ie. chaplaincy referral). Nationwide testing and implementation will be conducted through the collaboration of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, the Institute for Spirituality and Health, and the IFYC alumni network.

About Lawrence: Lawrence Lin grew up in Denton, Texas as the son of Taiwanese immigrants. He grew up in a Buddhist family, though he was generally oblivious to this unless he was praying alongside his grandparents in temple. Lawrence’s first interfaith experience was as a young child spending time with his mother at a local church where she used to help out the Sunday school to make ends meet. In 2009, he began college at Rice University in Houston, one of the most religiously diverse cities in the nation. His interfaith inspiration came his freshman year – in a “Religion and Hip Hop” class– taught by a humanist scholar. Following that experience, Lawrence joined the Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance and spearheaded the Rice’s effort in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Now as a medical student, Lawrence seeks opportunities to study the intersection of religion, spirituality, and medical care.

Ishaq Pathan (Muslim)

Oakland, CA

Project: Supporting Muslim, Jewish, and Sikh teens to raise awareness on Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and/or anti-Sikh bigotry in their schools.

In response to recent terror attacks by white supremacist groups and increasing bullying in schools, this project will support Muslim, Jewish and Sikh teens to collaborate with each to raise awareness on Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism and/or anti-Sikh bigotry in their schools. Students will be provided with mini-grants to put on seminars in their schools where they will discuss these social issues in addition to strategies for countering bigotry when students see or confront it.

About Ishaq: Ishaq Pathan is the Deputy Director of the Islamic Networks Group, a non-profit organization with affiliates and partners around the country that are pursuing peace and countering all forms of bigotry through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism. Ishaq earned his B.A. from Hamilton College with a major in Anthropology and minors in Education and Middle Eastern & Islamic World Studies. Ishaq has conducted dozens of youth training seminars and spoken to thousands of students on topics relating to Islam and Muslims. He also holds a certificate in nonprofit leadership from the College of San Mateo and Center for Excellence in Nonprofits.

Keryn Wouden (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Logan, UT

Project: Developing an interfaith and world awareness curriculum for preschoolers and their parents.

There are limited opportunities for young children to gain appreciative knowledge and build positive relationships with those who are different from them. Yet we know through child development research that the first seven years of a child's life are the years in which children develop the foundational perspectives they continue to carry throughout their lives. Using music and movement, song, dance, and interactive media, Keryn will developing an interfaith and world awareness curriculum for preschoolers ages 4-5 and include an “at-home” component so that parents can be involved in the learning process. Since so much music and culture is based on traditions of belief and spirituality, the curriculum will openly acknowledge those ties and introduce them to children at a young age./p>

About Keryn: Keryn Wouden is a professional harpist and loves using art and music as a platform for collaboration and interfaith awareness. She completed her Bachelor's of Music at Chapman University (CA) where she first developed a passion for interfaith work and somehow survived the Chicago cold to graduate with a Masters of Music from Northwestern University (IL). As a member of Northwestern’s Interfaith Advocates, she helped organize interfaith events including: “Feel Better Together” (mental health campaign) and “Word Against Violence” (a poetry slam promoting reduced gun violence). She’s presented on IFYC’s podcast “Common Knowledge”: Mormonism and Interfaith. As a soloist, an orchestral musician, and a licensed Kindermusik educator, Keryn works in many environments with various ages, ethnicities, and religions. She is often performing in religious (and non-religious) settings different from her own.