Co-Founder & Co-Director
Currently entering into the first year of her PHD at the University of Toronto, Judith Ellen Brunton is an aspiring scholar of religion and the public sphere in Canada, looking at the way spirituality and public health work to intervene in the mental health of young people living in moral spheres shaped by the economy. Co-founding the Elements Experiment has been a way for Judith to combine her academic research with her desire to act in improving people’s quality of life, her dedication to the value of cultural diversity and difference, and her need to render the familiar strange.
Co-Founder & Co-Director- Ayesha Valliani
Ayesha Valliani is one of the Co-Founders of The Elements Experiment, and a Master’s student at the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. Her academic interests in different models of negotiating minority rights, citizenship, and faith come from having grown up in South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, where issues of multicultural accommodation are understood in drastically different ways. Co-founding The Elements Experiment was the ideal way to discover how Canadians understand and share their own versions of citizenship and community building.
Communications Coordinator- Alison Colpitts
Given Alison’s love of spreadsheets, the Communications Coordinator was a natural role for her to fill. Her main task is to find and keep track of Elements contacts nationwide to advertise the project and to garner submissions. Alison has a Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago and works at promoting civic and political engagement in Canada. In her spare time, she likes to bake while singing along to show tunes.
Marketing Coordinator- Kaleigh McLelland
A Master’s student at the University of Toronto with an academic background in both religious studies and anthropology, Kaleigh studies the intersection between political ideals and pilgrimage in contemporary Quebec. Having come from the professional world, however, she is a firm believer in having more interests than one can count; she manages The Elements Experiment’s website and coordinates Internet marketing efforts. She is thrilled to participate in The Elements Experiment and always ready to use words like “jazzed” to describe how excited she is at the prospect of combining academic and artistic works in one place.
Conference Coordinator- Helen Mo
Helen Mo is on the Elements Experiment steering committee and will coordinate the conference taking place in October 2014. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the interdisciplinary, boundary-defying Elements mandate. Helen’s academic interests are strewn across the fields of literature, history, and (most recently) the anthropology of religion. For her doctoral project, she will examine how an ethnic evangelical subculture coalesced around Chinese churches in Toronto’s suburbs. Being both a former English teacher and arts aficionado, promoting young people’s creative and intellectual contributions feels as natural and necessary to Helen as breathing.
Marketing Coordinator- Saliha Chattoo
Saliha Chattoo is proud to be a member of both the Elements steering committee and the Elements marketing team. She runs the Elements Facebook page, helped organize the launch party, and is looking forward to the upcoming marketing projects for the Elements conference in October 2014. Saliha has a background in theatre and journalism, and holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Classics and an M.A. in Religion and Culture. She is a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto and is the managing editor of Religion Beat, a forthcoming blog for the Religion in the Public Sphere initiative at the University of Toronto.
Coordinator- Nicholas Field
Nicholas is a member of the Steering Committee who helps review submissions. He was brought to the Elements Experiment by its interdisciplinary approach to religion and by its particularly Canadian focus.
Coordinator- Amrita Kumar-Ratta
Amrita holds a BA (Hon.) in International Development Studies and World Religions from McGill University and has received a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs from the Munk School at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about issues of transnational migration, religio-cultural diversity and gender equity. Along with her experience participating in various community-building projects in Canada and internationally and her recent appointment as a research analyst for the UNDP in Bangkok, she continues to conduct research on gender-based discrimination among South Asians in Canada. Trained in theatre and North Indian classical dance (Kathak) and currently learning Brazilian Zouk, Amrita lives for self-expression through performing arts.
Steering Committee Member- Dr. Simon Coleman
Simon Coleman is Jackman Professor at the Department for the Study of Religion. He has long had an interest in the connections between aesthetics and religion. In 2012 he co-organized an art exhibition on migration and sacred materialities in downtown Toronto, and in 2013 worked on a project with ArtHeart Community Art Centre in Regent Park. He is a faculty member of the steering committee.
Steering Committee Member- Dr. Pamela Klassen
Pamela Klassen is Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and cross-appointed to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. She also directs the Religion and the Public Sphere Initiative. She teaches graduate and undergraduate students in areas including method and theory in the study of religion, museums and material religion, the anthropology and history of Christianities, and gender, sexuality, and religion. Her current research project focuses on storytelling and media—photography, printing presses, maps, and radio—in encounters between Christian missionaries and First Nations in Canada in the early twentieth century. For more information, please see here.