Dr. Elise Leal named Young Scholar in American Religion 

Reeshika Sharma | Staff Writer

Dr. Elise Leal, courtesy of Whitworth University

In a prestigious recognition of academic excellence, Whitworth University’s Dr. Elise Leal, assistant professor of history, has been named a 2023 Young Scholar in American Religion.   

The Young Scholars program was established by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, which is a part of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a public research university that provides intensive mentorship in scholarship, teaching and professional development. The center selected 10 researchers who were chosen to contribute to different varieties of research, ideas, and ways of presentation from across the nation. The process of application was to “define the career trajectory in the areas of teaching scholarship and professional development,” as stated in an Aug. 17, 2023 Whitworth University News release.

Leal completed her Ph.D. from Baylor University before joining Whitworth University. Leal started teaching at Whitworth in 2018, focusing her teaching on early America, religious history and women and gender. The “cohort is extremely diverse in terms of gender orientation and racial identity,” said Leal. Her passion for this research has engaged a lot of students at Whitworth who are now committed to learning more.  

“[I am] invested in trying to tell stories of individuals or groups of people that tend to be pushed to the side in dominant historical narrative, whether that’s because of age, gender, race [or] other identity factors,” said Leal. She also says she received positive feedback from her fellow faculty members and that they showed excitement toward this project and the changes. One of the additions she will be bringing to campus is developing new courses and presenting ideas for different opportunities to expand the department.  

As Leal joins the ranks of the 2023 Young Scholars, the academic community eagerly anticipates the contributions she will make in the years to come. Her commitment to teaching and spreading knowledge serves as an inspiration to aspiring students and researchers.  

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