Dr. Diana L. Eck
Director, The Pluralism Project at Harvard University Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Member of the Faculty of Divinity, Harvard University
Diana L. Eck is founder and director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. She serves on the Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, a member of the Faculty of Divinity, and Master of Lowell House, one of Harvard’s twelve undergraduate residential Houses. She received her B.A from Smith College (1967) in Religion, her M.A. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1968) in South Asian History, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University (1976) in the Comparative Study of Religion.
Elinor began working for the Pluralism Project as a student field researcher in San Francisco; she was a section editor for the CD-ROM On Common Ground: World Religions in America and co-editor of World Religions in Boston: A Guide to Communities and Resources. She has been involved in “Religious Diversity News” since its inception in 1997. She developed the Women’s Networks Initiative, and was a content advisor for Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America. Elinor co-produced and co-directed the documentary film Fremont, U.S.A., together with Rachel Antell. She completed her B.A. in anthropology and international studies, with a core in religious studies, from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota (1988); she earned her Master of Theological Studies degree from the Harvard Divinity School (1996). Elinor currently leads the Case Study Initiative.
Email Research Director Elinor Pierce
Lexi Salomone is the Assistant Director at the Pluralism Project. Having interned at the Project during her time as a student at Harvard Divinity School, she returned to a full-time position in 2011. Before this role, she worked at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School, where she coordinated hundreds of events in her five years as the Coordinator of Educational Programming. After graduating from Harvard Divinity School with her Master of Theological Studies degree, she spent three years as an associate at Combined Jewish Philanthropies where she worked to engage young adults in Boston’s vibrant Jewish community. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and religious studies at Colgate University (Hamilton, NY).
Email Assistant Director Lexi Salomone
Dr. Ryan R. Overbey
Ryan received his Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University in 2010 and his A.B. in Classics & Sanskrit and Religious Studies from Brown University in 2001. He has served as a web assistant and web developer for the Pluralism Project since 2006, and as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2010–2011. Ryan has transitioned the Project through several generations of technology, from hand-crafted PHP and HTML pages, to CakePHP, and most recently to WordPress. He has also worked to implement the frontend designs for World Religions in Greater Boston (2009), America’s Interfaith Infrastructure (2011), On Common Ground (2013), and the redesigned pluralism.org (2016). Ryan currently serves as the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Assistant Professor in Buddhist Studies at Skidmore College.
Senior Research Associate (in memoriam)
Brendan Randall was a recovering lawyer and teacher who studied religion, law and education as a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). He was interested in how schools can prepare students to live in a religiously diverse democratic society, and his research focuses on civic education for pluralism. Brendan also received a Master of Education from HGSE in school leadership and a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in religion, ethics, and politics. Before returning to graduate school, Brendan taught history, applied ethics and comparative religion at the Emma Willard School, an independent, all-girls boarding school in Troy, NY. He contributed greatly both to work at the Pluralism Project as well as the interfaith field more widely, and he is sorely missed by his friends and colleagues.
2019-2020 Academic Year Research Associates
Margaret Hamm is a first-year Master of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School focusing on Religion, Ethics, and Politics. Specifically, she is interested in the history of religious freedom in America as well as the modern development of First Amendment law. She graduated from Miami University in 2019 with a B.A. in Religion and Political Science. Most recently, Margaret has conducted research on politicians’ usage of the Bible in public statements, as well as on religious fundamentalism. As a part of her work on religious fundamentalism, Margaret has traveled to the Westboro Baptist Church twice to conduct interviews with church members. Having utilized the vast resources of the Pluralism Project while conducting research during her undergraduate career, Margaret is excited to contribute to the valuable work that the Pluralism Project does and to improve her own understanding of the diverse religious makeup of the United States.
Jimmy O’Leary is a first-year Master of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School, focusing on Religion, Ethics, and Politics. Specifically, he is interested in promoting religious literacy, and exploring formations and interactions of the religious and the secular in civic society. His professional background is in youth development where he has served various roles including teacher, coach, and program coordinator. Jimmy graduated from Colby College in 2015, where he studied Religious Studies and Education. As an undergraduate at Colby College, he followed the Pluralism Project’s Research Guidelines in conducting research projects on pluralistic religious communities in both the United States and India. Jimmy is thrilled to be a part of advancing the Pluralism Project’s research!
Rachel Quednau is a second-year Master of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School, focusing on conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Her background is largely in nonprofit communications, including most recently, serving as Communications Director for Strong Towns—a national media organization helping American communities become financially strong and resilient. She has also worked for several organizations fighting to end homelessness and promote safe, affordable housing at the federal and local levels. Rachel received a B.A. in Religion from Whitman College in 2013. She has had the pleasure of living in several beautiful cities around the world including Milwaukee, WI, New York, NY, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, MN and Ballyvaughan, Ireland. Today, she lives with her husband, Jack, in Cambridge.
Saqib Qureshi is a first-year Masters of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School, focusing on the thought and practice of Muslim and Christian traditions. Specifically, he is interested in contemporary Muslim theologies, Qur’anic hermeneutics, Muslim life in America, and the interaction between early Islam and Christianity. His background includes studies in classical Islamic thought, research work into early Muslim sects, teaching beginner Arabic, and most recently a year-abroad Arabic immersion experience in Amman, Jordan. In addition, coming from a prior background in engineering research, Saqib is looking forward to creating digital tools to promote religious literacy, and learning research methods for studying the contemporary religious landscape in the United States.
David Streed is a second-year Master of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School, with a focus in Religion, Ethics, and Politics. He comes to Cambridge from the often cold (but always beautiful) state of Minnesota. David attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota where he studied Religion and Spanish and worked with rural Spanish and Somali-speaking communities to increase health literacy and develop community exercise and wellness programs. Following his time at St. Olaf, David worked as a consultant at The Lewin Group, a healthcare consulting firm providing research expertise to a variety of public and private organizations. David’s academic and professional interests lie at the intersection of health, religion, and ethics, and he had the opportunity between his first and second year at HDS to work at the intersection of these three interests as a chaplain intern at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Sarah Sturm is a second-year Master of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School where she is studying Religion, Ethics, and Politics. She earned her B. A. in Political Science and Religion from Luther College in 2017. Sarah has conducted research on community political activism, as well as on Constitutional questions relating to minority religious persecution in American history. She presented on both topics at the National Conference on Undergrad Research in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Most recently, she interned at the International Institute of Minnesota in their Immigration Services department.