People

Core Team Members:

Gary Adler (Ph.D., University of Arizona) is Associate Professor of Sociology at Penn State University. He has used multiple methods to study religious organizations, culture, politics, and civic engagement. He has helped design and field numerous surveys, including the National Congregations Study, using survey data to examine religious change, symbolic boundaries, religious behavior, and political beliefs. His first two books, Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life (Oxford University Press) and American Parishes: Remaking Local Catholicism (Fordham University Press), examined the effects of secularism and social change on Catholicism. His third book, Empathy Beyond U.S. Borders: The Challenges of Transnational Civic Engagement (Cambridge University Press), used mixed methods to show the cultural and organizational processes that structure transnational religious and civic engagement. 

Damon Mayrl (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is Associate Professor of Sociology at Colby College. He has written extensively on religion, politics, culture, and American government. His book Secular Conversions: Political Institutions and Religious Education in the United States and Australia, 1800-2000 (Cambridge University Press) employed historical and comparative methods to show how institutional factors such as local control, administrative discretion, and procedural rules help structure political contests over the appropriate relationship between church and state in the United States and Australia. In related theoretical work, he has shown how the boundaries between the state and private sector, and religion and culture, are stakes in politically consequential classification struggles.

Rebecca Sager (Ph.D., University of Arizona) is Professor of Sociology at Loyola Marymount University. Her work has examined the interplay of religion, politics and social movements using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Her book Faith, Politics and Power (Oxford University Press) examined the role of conservative evangelical movements in state implementation of faith-based initiatives using extensive qualitative data, as well as quantitative data analysis. She also has a forthcoming book with NYU Press on the engagement with religion by Democratic Party candidates and activists. This work examines the role of progressive religious movement politics within the Democratic Party, as well as the role of secular activists in shaping the way religion shapes progressive political activism. 

Jonathan Coley (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Oklahoma State University. He has published widely on religion, social movements, politics, and education. His book Gay on God’s Campus (The University of North Carolina Press) examines LGBTQ student groups at Christian colleges and universities. His work shows that such groups have played a major role in producing more inclusive campus climates at Christian colleges and universities and in shaping people’s understandings about the intersections of religious and LGBTQ identities. His other ongoing projects examine the 1960s Nashville civil rights movement, religious student organizations at U.S. colleges and universities, and the experiences of LGBTQ faith leaders.

Project Contributors:

Eric Plutzer (Ph.D., Washington University) is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Penn State University. He served as academic director of Pennsylvania State University’s (PSU) Survey Research Center for eight years and is currently co-editor-in-chief of Public Opinion Quarterly. His research program includes a longstanding focus on religion, including its impact on attitudes toward gender, reproductive rights, and voting. His 2010 book with Michael Berkman, Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms (Cambridge University Press), examines teachers as street level bureaucrats negotiating conflicting personal, professional, religious and community values as they navigate the challenges of teaching evolution. That project has continued with extensions to climate change, sexuality education and teaching about vaccines.

Selena Ortiz (Ph.D., UCLA) is Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Administration and Demography at Penn State University. She is also a research fellow at the FrameWorks Institute in Washington, D.C. and is chair of the American Public Health Association’s Ethics Section. Her research focuses on health and social policy formation, as well as access to health services and outcomes. Her research incorporates diverse methodologies, including semi-structured interviews, qualitative and quantitative content analysis, topic modeling, population-based online survey experiments, and diverse econometric methods, and has appeared in journals such as Sociology of Religion, Public Health Reports, Preventive Medicine, the American Journal of Public Health, Medical Care, Social Science & Medicine, and JAMA.

Joi R. Orr (Ph.D., Emory University) is a recent graduate of Emory University in the field of Social Christian Ethics. Broadly, her research investigates the historic and contemporary role of the “Black Church” in progressive social justice movements. Her dissertation, “Liberation from the Ground Up: Christian Ethics and the Radical Imagination,” is a comparative study of “back to the land” movements which includes a qualitative study of the Black Church Food Security Network – a faith-based nonprofit committed to eradicating food apartheid in Baltimore, MD. Currently, Joi is a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Scholar, teaching at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA.

Daniel Cueto-Villalobos (B.A., New York University) is a sociology Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota studying civic culture, megaevents, and the Olympic Games. Using qualitative methods, Daniel’s dissertation fieldwork examines Los Angeles, CA, in the years before the 2028 Summer Olympics. He explores the ways local developments like transit upgrades, rezoning, gentrification, and displacement shape Angelenos’ views of the Olympics. Daniel’s other ongoing projects examine the role of progressive religious groups in shaping political discourse in the contemporary United States.