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Student Achievements

We are delighted to share news of recent student achievements with you. First, we would like to announce that sophomore Karissa Masciel has won a Mellon Mays award. Senior Jennifer Escobar received the award last year and is currently completing research on Pentecostalism in Los Angeles. Karissa and Jennifer are both considering graduate school in religious studies. Secondly, we have confirmed that Jem Jebbia, who was accepted for divinity studies at Yale, Chicago, and Claremont, will be attending University of Chicago’s Divinity School in the fall. You can read more about Karissa, Jennifer, and Jem in the paragraphs that follow. Alex Tilsley also profiled Jennifer and Jem in her article on the Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work held last Wednesday:

Please join me in acknowledging these wonderful achievements!  

—Lori M. 

Karissa Masciel, sophomore, is a passionate student of the intersections between religion, sociology, and anthropology, and she hopes to continue her research in graduate school. Her goal is to earn a doctorate degree and become a professor of religious studies. She enjoys doing work with the interfaith community, she teaches a class to high schoolers about religious literacy, and she is leading a conference for university students interested in multifaith leadership (see This summer she plans to travel to Turkey to participate in an archeological research trip with USC. She also hopes to study abroad in Berlin next spring.

Jennifer Escobar is a senior. Initially drawn into religion by its rich history of community-building and social impact, she is now undertaking fieldwork in the local community. As a recipient of the Mellon Mays award, she is undertaking research in the sociology of religion. In particular, she is gathering testimonies from the Dream Center of the Angelus Temple. Jennifer is also an advocate for higher education and has experience interning at a non-profit. After graduating, she plans to take a year off in order to work and explore her interests while carefully choosing a graduate program where she can continue her studies in religion.

Mary Ellen Jebbia (Jem), a senior,is fascinated by the religious traditions of the Middle East and Asia.  She also has a deep interest in community organizing and advocacy. She will be pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School next fall.  As a graduate student, Jem intends to explore Islam, archeology, and Japanese religions. Jem is well-prepared for life in the Windy City: in the past she received two fellowships that allowed her to work with Interfaith Youth Core, a non-profit group, in Chicago.

Profiles by Ali Mendoza