Nominate a Student

Campus interfaith work is no walk in the park, we know that. Student leaders are often the foundation of successful interfaith work and we’d like to celebrate those achievements with the Mike Hammer Interfaith Leadership Award. This award is given to one IFYC student organizer who, through their work, has sought to build a movement and pursued their vision with passion, joy, and creativity, in the spirit of the late Mike Hammer.

Nominate a student

Candidates should:

  • Have been a current student in the 2017-2018 academic year
  • Have made an impact on their campus and/or community, and have demonstrated a passion for interfaith cooperation
  • Be nominated by someone familiar with their interfaith work

The award comes with a cash prize which we hope will help continue their great interfaith work as well as a trip to Chicago for the August Interfaith Leadership Institute. Check out the profiles of previous winners below.

Nominations will close on June 15th and the winner will be announced by the end of June.

If you have any questions about the nomination form, the award, or the timeline, please contact

Past Award Recipients

Eiman Ali, 2017 Winner

- Eiman Ali / Unique Partnerships and Advocacy for Refugees read more read less
Eiman Ali / Unique Partnerships and Advocacy for Refugees

A 2017 graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, Eiman was a founding member of Meredith Better Together. Eiman’s interest in interfaith work began in high school, where as a Muslim, she found the stories and traditions of others fascinating and worth honoring. Upon entering college, she began to see interfaith work as more than a literacy project, but a potential vehicle for change. After attending an ILI and seeing the value of connection and the power of a movement, Eiman returned to campus and discovered the ways in which the skills and qualities of an interfaith leader are not only helpful, but necessary in navigating many situations.

In her leadership at Meredith, she organized events that brought the various corners of the campus together, such as a campus gardening service project with the College Republicans and a pizza party designed to help facilitate the forming of an intentionally secular community at Meredith. One nominator told us, “Eiman brings her empathy and her leadership skills to our campus's Better Together organization and to interfaith work in general. She wants to understand everyone's stories, values, and struggles, reaching out to people who may be unfamiliar or feel uneasy with interfaith work or the term ‘interfaith.”

Through her various roles on and off campus, Eiman invested a lot of time and energy into supporting Raleigh’s refugee and immigrant communities from interning with the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI North Carolina) to organizing and participating in homework help and mentorship programs in the neighborhoods surrounding Meredith. According to one of Eiman’s peer organizers, “it is Eiman's interest in understanding people, her dedication, her ability to see the potential in others and guide them to use their talents… and her courage and desire to reach out to traditionally overlooked or marginalized populations when it comes to interfaith work.

Samantha Eckrich, 2016 Winner

- Samantha Eckrich / Academics, Art, and Community Building read more read less
Samantha Eckrich / Academics, Art, and Community Building

Throughout her time at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, Samantha enhanced awareness of interfaith engagement, increased religious and interfaith literacy on campus, and built partnerships with local communities in Dubuque. Samantha has had an incredible impact on all levels of her campus, from co-curricular opportunities and academic research to working with upper administrators and building campus and community partnerships.

One example of her creativity and focus was the role she played in planning Loras College’s “I am human…” project as part of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Not only did she make the week a success by drawing on her skill as an artist, but at the request of the Senior Vice President of the College, she designed a permanent art exhibit to increase campus-wide awareness of interfaith cooperation.

In addition to her work in campus mobilizing, Samantha was directly involved with the launching of an interfaith research project that links campus co-curricular programming to academic work on campus. She collaborated with two faculty members to research the impact of religious identity on attitudes in Loras College’s home city of Dubuque, even co-authoring executive summaries and articles about their findings and student learning outcomes.

Samantha Nichols, 2015 Winner

- Samantha Nichols / Activism and Interfaith Cooperation read more read less
Samantha Nichols / Activism and Interfaith Cooperation

During her time at Missouri State University, Samantha fiercely pursued interfaith action while being unapologetically herself. Samantha attended her first ILI in summer of 2013, and she came entirely on her own as the sole representative for her campus. Diving headfirst into the experience, she stood on stage at the end of the institute and cast vision for an interfaith initiative that combated drug addiction. She made it clear that Missouri State and the greater Missouri community needed the interfaith movement and after a year of all-in organizing and admirable ambition, Samantha had successfully planted and sowed important seeds for the interfaith movement.

One of the most important seeds was her relationship with Hillel at MSU. In her first year as an organizer, Samantha noticed that the administration on campus had scheduled events that conflicted with Jewish holidays. Samantha immediately took it upon herself to reach out to the president of Hillel, co-write a letter to the administration, meet with administrators, and ultimately prevent a major campus event from being scheduled on Yom Kippur. As a Lutheran herself, it’s powerful to see how fiercely she advocated with and for another faith community.

This ambition to establish interfaith awareness and action on campus only continued with more gusto when Jewish community centers in Samantha’s hometown were targeted by anti-semitic violence, tragically ending the lives of three people. Samantha helped lead an interfaith response to this tragedy that served as a safe space for people of all worldviews to both grieve and offer support to the Jewish community.

What began with her solitary presence at the ILI grew to 5 members, then to 15 core members, 20 members, and now an entire community of people who continue Samantha’s interfaith work at MSU.

Byron Tyler Coles, 2014 Winner

- Byron Tyler Coles / Person-to-Person Connections and an Ethic for Interfaith Cooperation read more read less
Byron Tyler Coles / Person-to-Person Connections and an Ethic for Interfaith Cooperation

Tyler started the Interfaith Council at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, a campus where there was some deep apprehension about interfaith work. His approach of “talking to everyone” helped him get buy-in from faculty, students, and staff, growing the Interfaith Council into a strong group of committed interfaith leaders. As a freshman, successfully hosted their first ever Interfaith Week, which grew every year and came to include a fast-a-thon, musical performances, and more.

Tyler tirelessly engaged in one-on-one conversations with everyone from Greek life student leaders to science professors to university administrators. His focus on approaching conversations in a non-invasive, supportive way led to interfaith work going from a one-person show to a campus-wide movement.

As part of his own journey as an interfaith leader, Tyler developed a strong ethic of interfaith cooperation. Raised in a Christian household, he spent a great deal of time exploring many religions both personally and academically. He grew to identify with Pagan traditions and also became involved in a Unitarian Universalist community. Part of his commitment to interfaith work has been to support others’ individual spiritual journeys and help navigate difficult conversations around identity.

Mike Hammer

- Mike Hammer / The Inspiration for the Award read more read less
Mike Hammer / The Inspiration for the Award

Mike Hammer was a lifelong change-maker and a visionary behind IFYC’s student interfaith leadership programs. He was known for his bottomless supply of empathy, love of music, and a Theravada Buddhism-inspired passion for building a more compassionate and just world.

Tragically, Mike lost his life in the summer of 2013, but his legacy lives on. The annual Mike Hammer Interfaith Leadership Award is intended to deepen that legacy by passing it along to those who see the kind of potential in humanity that drove Mike in everything he did.

Mike got his start in the compassion-in-action business after completing the Buddhist pilgrimage circuit in India. In the two years that followed, Mike helped start TOMS Shoes, a socially minded business that matches every pair sold with a pair given to a child in need. He recruited, trained, hired, hustled, and learned a lot of things the hard way.

He joined the IFYC team to help us turn the hunger for interfaith cooperation into a movement through the Better Together campaign. He will always be remembered by those who attended the Interfaith Leadership Institutes where he spoke to the heart of a generation and made photo shoots feel like a party.