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NCSS 2018 Religious Studies Summer Institute

July 10, 2018 to July 12, 2018


Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute
Washington, DC 20001

Join us at the NCSS Religious Studies Summer Institute to:

  • Broaden your professional competence with the disciplinary concepts and tools of religious studies as an academic discipline.
  • Increase your confidence in teaching about religion in constitutionally appropriate ways that engage your students and and meet your instructional goals.
  • Develop working relationships with leading religious studies subject matter experts and curricular resource providers.


  • NCSS Members–$199 per person
  • Non-Members–$279 per person

Registration includes:

  • 15 professional development hours
  • Wednesday breakfast and lunch
  • Thursday breakfast and lunch
  • Transportation between program events

Register soon! This event is limited to 60 participants.

Note: Travel and hotel are not included in registration. Participants are responsible for making their own travel and hotel arrangements. The DC area has many lodging options available to suit your schedule and budget needs – especially if you are planning an extended stay in the area for sightseeing or other activities after the Institute.


Who Should Participate?

This event is open to all NCSS members and non-members with an interest in integrating the study of religion into existing curricula or developing new stand-alone religious studies courses. Teams of participants from schools, NCSS Associated Groups, Affiliated Councils, Special Interest Communities, and Committees are highly encouraged to attend. This event is limited to 60 registrants to ensure quality engagement of participants.

Arrival and Departure Times

The program will begin at 1:30 PM on Tuesday, July 10 and end at 12:00 PM on Thursday, July 12. Please plan to arrive in Washington, DC by 12:30 PM on Tuesday, July 10 to take advantage of lunch and networking with other participants.

Download the full Summer Religious Studies Institute Agenda


The following presenters are confirmed:

  • Scott Abbott, Office of Teaching and Learning at District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Susan Douglass, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University
  • Maha Elgenaidi, Islamic Networks Group (ING)
  • Charles Haynes, Newseum Institute/Religious Freedom Center
  • Katharine Kosin, Newseum Institute/NewseumED
  • Kristen Looney, Newseum Institute/Religious Freedom Center
  • Peter Manseau, Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History
  • Benjamin Marcus, Newseum Institute/Religious Freedom Center
  • Aesha Mehta, Hindu American Foundation (HAF)
  • Lata Nott, Newseum Institute/First Amendment Center
  • Donna Phillips, District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Melissa Rogers, Brookings Institution
  • Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
  • And more to be added soon!


Scott Abbott currently serves as the Director of Social Studies within the Office of Teaching and Learning at the District of Columbia Public Schools, overseeing K-12 support for social studies through curriculum development, professional learning, assessments, and partnerships. He is the President-Elect of the Middle States Council for the Social Studies, a regional affiliate of NCSS supporting social studies in DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, and PA and he co-chaired the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2016 NCSS Conference in Washington, D.C. Scott began his career as a high school social studies teacher in Charlotte, NC and he has also worked as an instructional coach, curriculum designer, and assessment writer. He earned a BA (History) and MAEd (Secondary Social Studies Education) from Wake Forest University, and a MA (Leadership) from Georgetown University. Scott lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Kristin, son Lincoln (7), and daughter Violet (4) and his family enjoys visiting museums and historical sites and taking informed action in support of DC Statehood.


Susan Douglass
Dr. Susan Douglass joined CCAS in June 2014 as the Center’s Education Outreach Coordinator. She received her PhD in world history at George Mason University in 2016, and has an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. in History from the University of Rochester. Dr. Douglass has developed the education outreach program for the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in 2007, served as Senior Researcher for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and managed several grant projects for the Ali Vurak Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University. She has contributed to curriculum projects such as World History for Us All and Children and Youth in History, and she has designed and developed online teaching resources such as "The Indian Ocean in World History" and "Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean." Douglass’ major publications include World Eras: Rise and Spread of Islam, 622-1500 (Thompson/Gale, 2002), the children’s book Ramadan (Carolrhoda Books, 2002), and the national study Teaching About Religion in National and State Social Studies Standards (Freedom Forum First Amendment Center and Council on Islamic Education, 2000).

Maha Elgenaidi
Maha Elgenaidi is the Executive Director of the Islamic Networks Group, a non-profit organization with affiliates and partners around the country that are pursuing peace and countering all forms of bigotry through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism. Maha received an M.A. in religious studies from Stanford University and B.A in political science and economics from the American University in Cairo. She has taught classes on Islam in the modern world at Santa Clara University, Stanford University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the “Civil Rights Leadership Award” from the California Association of Human Relations Organizations and “Citizen of the Year Award” from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.​

Charles C. Haynes is vice president of the Newseum Institute/Religious Freedom Center and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center. He writes and speaks extensively on religious liberty and religion in American public life.

Haynes is best known for his work on First Amendment issues in public schools. Over the past two decades, he has been the principal organizer and drafter of consensus guidelines on religious liberty in schools, endorsed by a broad range of religious and educational organizations. In January 2000, three of the guides were distributed by the U.S. Department of Education to every public school in the nation. (See also “A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools,” “A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools,” and “Public Schools & Religious Communities.”)

Haynes is the author or co-author of six books, including First Freedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America, and Religion in American Public Life: Living with Our Deepest Differences. His column, "Inside the First Amendment", appears in newspapers nationwide.

He is a founding board member of the Character Education Partnership, and serves on the steering committee of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools and the American Bar Association Advisory Commission on Public Education. He chairs the Committee on Religious Liberty, founded by the National Council of Churches. Widely quoted in news magazines and major newspapers, Haynes is also a frequent guest on television and radio. He has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal and on ABC’s “Evening News.” In 2008, he received the Virginia First Freedom Award from the Council for America’s First Freedom.

Haynes holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate from Emory University.


Katharine Kosin has been an educator at the Newseum since 2012. Beginning in 2017, she has also periodically appeared as the “Media Literacy Maven” in a NewseumED Facebook Live series on fake news and other media literacy issues. Kosin has a bachelor’s degree in history and Spanish from Northwestern University, and a master’s degree in museum education from The George Washington University.  Prior to working full-time at the Newseum, Kosin conducted educational field trip programs for the White House Historical Association.

Kristen Looney
Kristen Looney is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. From 2012 to 2016, she was the head of programs and partnerships for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in the United States. Previously, Kristen served as chaplain and department chair of religious studies at St. Paul’s School for Girls in Baltimore, Maryland and St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson, Maryland. Prior, Kristen served as clergy in parishes in Florida, California, and New York. Kristen is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Maryland. She is an awarded graduate of Yale Divinity School (M.Div.), studied at the University of Freiburg, Germany – Junior Year Abroad, and is an honors graduate from the College of Wooster (B.A.)

Benjamin Marcus
Benjamin P. Marcus is the Religious Literacy Specialist with the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, where he examines the intersection of education, religious literacy and identity formation, in the United States.

He has developed religious literacy programs for public schools, universities, U.S. Government organizations, and private foundations, and he has delivered presentations on religion at universities and nonprofits in the U.S. and abroad. He has worked with The Foundation for Religious Literacy; the Washington, D.C. Public Schools; the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the U.S. State Department (formerly, the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives); the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See; the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the U.S. State Department; Interfaith Youth Core; and the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme in the United Kingdom.

Marcus is a contributing author in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Religion and American Education, where he writes about the importance of religious literacy education. He recently served as executive editor of the 2015 White Paper of the Sub-Working Group on Religion and Conflict Mitigation of the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group.

In 2016, Marcus was awarded a grant from the Germanacos Foundation to write lesson plans about religion for public secondary schools and to convene a regional conference on religious literacy pedagogies with teachers, administrators, subject matter experts, and professional consultants.

Marcus earned an MTS with a concentration in Religion, Ethics, and Politics as a Presidential Scholar at Harvard Divinity School. He studied religion at the University of Cambridge and Brown University, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Peter Manseau is the Lilly Endowment Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. He is the author of eight books including the memoir Vows, the novel Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter, the travelogue Rag and Bone, the retelling of America's diverse spiritual formation One Nation, Under Gods, and most recently the narrative history The Apparitionists.

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, the American Library Association's Sophie Brody Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Jewish Literature, the Ribalow Prize for Fiction, and a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, he has also been shortlisted for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize and the Prix Médicis étranger, awarded to the best foreign novel published in France.

A founding editor of and coauthor with Jeff Sharlet of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible, he received his doctorate in religion from Georgetown University, and lives with his family in Annapolis, Maryland.


Aesha Mehta
Aesha Mehta is the Associate Director of Programs at the Hindu American Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for Hinduism and the Hindu American community. Aesha manages and implements HAF's community and education programs, including training educators on how to teach Hinduism, the congressional internship program, and a grant program serving the Bhutanese refugee community. She has participated in the Religious Freedom Center's coursework and HAF has partnered with the RFC and NCSS on numerous initiatives. Aesha is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a master's degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA from DeSales University, and bachelor's degrees in Finance and Economics from Drexel University.

Lata Nott
Lata Nott is executive director of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, which has offices at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C.; and at the John Seigenthaler Center, on the Vanderbilt University campus, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nott formerly was the assistant director of admissions at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she implemented strategies to increase diversity, promote the scholarship program for high-need students, and integrate technology into the Law Center’s recruitment efforts.

Prior to that, she was a litigator in New York City at the law firms of Proskauer Rose and Chadbourne & Parke. In addition to her commercial litigation practice, she maintained an active pro-bono practice focused on asylum cases, and developed a proficiency in legal issues surrounding the Internet, data privacy, and cybersecurity, frequently contributing to Chadbourne & Parke’s technology law blog. She graduated from the University of California, Davis, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a Bachelor of Arts in international relations. She earned her Juris octor from Columbia Law School in 2010. At Columbia, she was a staff editor on the Human Rights Law Review and chair of the South Asian Law Students Association. She remains an active member of the New York Bar and the American Bar Association.

Donna Phillips is the DCPS social studies curriculum manager where she oversees the development of K-12 social studies curriculum, coaches social studies teaching fellows, and works with the social studies team to align curriculum with assessments and professional development. In her role she develops inquiry units using the C3 Framework. Over her 20+ year education career, Dr. Phillips has partnered with institutions such as the Center for Civic Education, iCivics, C3 Teachers, Newseum, The Religious Freedom Center, Mikva Challenge DC, and National History Day. Dr. Phillips has a history degree from Columbia University and earned her Doctorate in education policy from University of Maryland in 2006 researching the lived experience of democratic civic education. She has published a portion of her findings in the Journal of Pedagogy. She is a C3 blogger where she writes about teaching for social justice through inquiry. She was the 2007 American Civic Education Teacher of the year (ACETA).

Melissa Rogers
Melissa Rogers is a nonresident senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. She recently served as special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, during the Obama administration. Melissa previously served as chair of the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to that she was director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School. She has also served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Her area of expertise includes the First Amendment's religion clauses, religion in American public life, and the interplay of religion, policy, and politics. Rogers co-authored a case book on religion and law for Baylor University Press, Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court (2008). She holds a J.D. from University of Pennsylvania Law School and a B.A. from Baylor University.


Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute
555 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001