March 22, 2019

Umlauf ’20 Examines Hindu-Muslim Relations in India through Award-Winning, Interdisciplinary Essay

Erin Umlauf '20 was recently awarded a 2019 Kingston-Mann Student Achievement Award for Excellence in Diversity/Inclusion Scholarship for her essay “Economics of Interreligious Relations,” an interdisciplinary piece that examines Hindu-Muslim relations in India from an economic perspective.

An economics major with a minor in theology and religious studies, Umlauf's essay bridges her coursework, drawing its inspiration from a wellspring of economics courses, as well as two courses taught by Associate Professor of Theology & Religious Studies Jon Paul Sydnor last spring:  "Interreligious Ethics" and "India: Religion, Culture and Justice," the latter of which culminated in a three-week travel component.

"It was an incredible opportunity. I was glad to have both courses at the same time," Umlauf said. "After having that experience in India I was able to elaborate further on the points I'd made in my original draft."

Following these courses, Dr. Syndor encouraged Umlauf to expand upon her research and ultimately submit her work for consideration.

The Kingston-Mann Awards acknowledge work that makes valuable contribution to diversity and inclusion scholarship and broadens understanding of ideas and experiences not always recognized by traditional disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature of Umlauf's economics and theology coursework has allowed her to examine issues of social justice, a subject about which she is passionate, in ways that are "positive, forward-minded and solution-oriented."

"My economics classes feel like really tactile, quantitative solutions to giant social issues. I'm learning quite a lot about what people value, and how they assign that value and distribute it," she said.

Umlauf will be honored at the Kingston-Mann Awards Ceremony on May 3rd at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Umlauf in front of the Taj Mahal during the travel course "India: Religion, Culture and Justice"

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