Faculty and Staff

SIRCS is made up of faculty, graduate students, and one staff person who does very part-time administrative support for our work on religion and civil society. We are excited about our emerging research, our privilege to teach students from all over New Mexico and the world, and SIRCS’ role in building dialogue about religion in democratic society.

  1. Soumia Dhar

  1. Soumia Dhar is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication at the University of New Mexico. She earned her M.A. in Communication from the University of Madras, India (2003), and received the Governor’s Gold Medal upon completion. She worked thereafter as lecturer of communication and media studies at the university until 2005. At UNM Soumia’s area of emphasis is intercultural/international communication. Specifically, she is interested in studying the impact of new media technologies in Muslim societies, and aims to contribute to the academic discourse on Islam, democracy, and civil society. In her dissertation, by carrying out an ideological analysis of the rhetoric in the Muslim Brotherhood’s website, http://www.ikhwanweb.com, she explores: a) How the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a controversial Islamic political group with a prominent presence in many Arab states, rhetorically constructs its ideology and identity on the web; and b) The potential of the Internet as a tool for civic participation and counter public expression in repressive political environments. She has co-authored a paper titled “Intercultural conflict from a multilevel perspective: Trends, possibilities and future directions” for the Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, and has won top paper in the Intercultural Communication Division of Southern States Communication Association’s 2007 convention. She received the Everett Rogers Doctoral Research Scholar award in 2008 by her department at UNM for her outstanding performance as doctoral student. As instructor of record at UNM she teaches public speaking, media theory, intercultural communication, and mediation, and was research associate from 2006-2009 for the Southwest Institute for Religion and Civil Society’s (SIRCS) project, Web Access for Civil Society Initiatives (WACSI) in the Middle East; SIRCS also houses her research and writing on the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in global civil society. She is fluent in English, Hindi, Bengali, and holds a diploma in French. Soumia holds a Bachelor’s degree with Honors (2001) in English Literature from the University of Calcutta, India.

  1. Mozafar Banihashemi

  1. Mozafar Banihashemi is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of New Mexico.  He specializes in the study of fundamentalism and reform, Islam and democracy, in the context of the Middle East.  In his dissertation he conducts a comparative analysis of shi’ite reformist and shi’ite fundamentalist discourses in Iran during the 20th century. From 2006-2009, at the Southwest Institute on Religion and Civil Society, Banihashemi was co-principal investigator for Web Access for Civil Society Initiatives (WACSI), a project involving the promotion of civil society in the Middle East. Also, at the Department of Sociology, he was the primary field researcher from 2001-2002 for a project on public religion in the U.S. From 2002-2008 he served as a research consultant for the Middle East Program of Sandia National Laboratories. At UNM, he teaches “Politics of Religious Fundamentalism”, and guest-lectures regularly on various topics related to the role of public Islam and democratization in the Middle East.  He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the National University of Iran (Shahid Beheshti), and holds Masters degrees in Sociology and Counseling from the University of New Mexico. 


  3. Stacy Keogh

  1. Stacy Keogh is a Ph.D student in the Department of Sociology at the University of New Mexico. Her academic focus lies in the sociology of religion, particularly as it pertains to political movements both in the U.S. and in Latin America. In collaboration with SIRCS, Stacy helped coordinate the Nexus: Religion in the Public University interfaith/interdisciplinary speaker series at UNM.  She is also affiliated with the Department of Sociology at the University of Montana.

  1. Christina Jensen, Program Coordinator

  1. Religious Studies Program Administrative Assistant Christina Jensen provides staff support to SIRCS, including purchasing and financial tracking, and coordinates its operation with the UNM Religious Studies Program. She is happy to provide information about SIRCS or take messages for the Director and can be reached in the Religious Studies Program Office, 364 Hokona Zuni, at 277-4009, or by email at cjensen1@unm.edu.

  1. Lilliam Aguilar Castillo

  1. Lilliam is an undergraduate international student at UNM. She is from Honduras, fully bilingual, and works on the Central American Network for Research on Religion and Democracy project at SIRCS. She also helps lead medical service trips for UNM pre-med and medical students to Central America.

  1. Emily Elliott

  1. Emily Elliott is an Albuquerque resident of 18 years an a senior at the University of New Mexico. She is pursuing bachelor's degrees in anthropology and political science and works as a research assistant for Professor Richard Wood. In her spare time she likes reading and enjoys learning about history and current affairs.

  1. Richard L. Wood

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