Three Universities Awarded Luce-ACLS Grants in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs


The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to announce the 2017 university grantees of the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs. This initiative aims to increase the presence of scholarship on religion in journalistic training and practice and to encourage greater interaction between scholars of religion and journalists covering international affairs. The program is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

“This program fosters collaborations between scholars and journalists around a critical issue—the complex role of religion in international affairs,” said John Paul Christy, director of public programs at ACLS. “This year’s supported projects not only promote greater public understanding of religion but also develop new interdisciplinary partnerships on university campuses.”

The awards provide $60,000 to universities to pursue cross-sector collaborations through a range of curricular, programming, and public outreach activities. The 2017 grantees of the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs are:

Arizona State University
Principal Investigators:  John D. Carlson (Religious Studies), Kristin Grady Gilger (Journalism), Anand Gopal (Sociology/Journalism)
Religion, Journalism, and Democracy: Strengthening Vital Institutions of Civil Society

Democracy and the institutions on which it depends are being tested today in ways unseen in recent decades. Populist movements are sweeping across the globe, while authoritarian regimes challenge democratic norms once taken for granted. Key institutions of civil society—the academy, press, and religious organizations—can serve as bulwarks that protect democratic principles. Notwithstanding their distinct missions, they protect democracy when they reinforce one another. Unfortunately, the gap between religion scholarship and the media is wider than ever. Journalists lack training in how to cover religion stories, while religion scholars need skills to share their knowledge effectively with journalists and the public. The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University are spearheading an initiative to remedy these shortcomings. This project brings together journalists, religion scholars, and faculty from multiple disciplines to participate in workshops, seminars, and courses in which they will exchange insights and expertise from their respective fields. The project bolsters the voices of journalists and scholars while also exploring how religious actors and organizations contribute to democratic culture—locally, nationally, and as part of global civil society.

Northwestern University
Principal Investigators: Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Political Science) and Brannon D. Ingram (Religious Studies)
Talking “Religion”: Publics, Politics, and the Media

This project—Talking “Religion”: Publics, Politics, and the Media—is motivated by two overarching and intersecting questions: How can scholars and journalists doing cutting-edge work on religion, politics, and public life communicate their findings to, and learn from, each other? And how can they communicate their work and its insights to a variety of public audiences in a way that is accessible and appealing without sacrificing nuance and complexity? With this grant, Northwestern University is establishing a basis for sustained collaboration and exchange between Northwestern faculty in the humanities and social sciences and faculty in journalism, and between both faculties and the public at large. This mutually beneficial collaboration provides scholars of religion with new avenues for publicizing their work, and offers journalists new ways of understanding, theorizing, and conceptualizing religion in their reporting. This is being carried out through a range of programs: a workshop on “talking religion,” a master class on religion and the media, visiting speakers, a team-taught undergraduate course, and graduate religion and media fellowships. These activities build on and expand connections that have already been fostered between scholars in the humanities and social sciences and journalism faculty by Northwestern’s interdisciplinary research group, Global Politics and Religion, within the Buffett Institute for Global Studies.

University of Wisconsin, Madison
Principal Investigators: Susan B. Ridgely (Religious Studies) and Michael W. Wagner (Journalism)
Interactive Skill Building to Improve Religious and International Affairs Storytelling in Local Journalism

In an era when religion has a vital role in foreign and domestic policy, religious studies scholars and journalism professors alike often feel frustrated with the superficial reporting on issues involving religion and international relations in local news coverage because it impedes citizens’ ability to thoroughly understand how religious beliefs and practices influence multiple levels of policymaking. This Luce/ACLS grant supports a two-year series of workshops to address these issues. The workshops are alternately led by School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) faculty and religious studies faculty and offer local journalists as well as SJMC faculty and graduate students a deeper understanding of how religious beliefs and practices are influencing the actors in national and international events. Simultaneously, religious studies faculty learn journalistic techniques of story writing to develop their op-ed writing ability, foster connections with various local journalists, and learn to be effective sources for stories about international affairs. Each academic year will end with two mini-conferences in which faculty experts will work together to foster interdisciplinary research collaboration, curricular development in the SJMC’s MA reporting program, and improved depth and breadth of reporting about religion and international affairs among local journalists.

Further information about the grant program is available here

In addition to grants for universities, the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs also offers fellowships for scholars in the humanities and social sciences who are pursuing research on religion and wish to deepen their capacity to connect their scholarship with media audiences. The grantee universities selected this year will serve as host sites for Luce/ACLS fellows during the 2018-19 academic year. ACLS will begin accepting applications for the fellowships, which are open to scholars of all fields of the humanities and social sciences, in August 2017. 

The American Council of Learned Societies, a private, nonprofit federation of 75 national scholarly organizations, is the leading representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences. Advancing scholarship by awarding fellowships and strengthening relations among learned societies is central to ACLS’s work. This year, ACLS will award more than $20 million to over 300 scholars across a variety of humanistic disciplines.