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Assistant Professor of History Elise Leal Named a 2023 Young Scholar in American Religion

August 17, 2023

Elise Leal, Whitworth assistant professor of history, has been recognized as a 2023 Young Scholar in American Religion.

Leal was selected for the prestigious fellowship by the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The center selected 10 applicants from across the nation to participate in the program. It’s designed to provide intensive mentorship in scholarship, teaching and professional development for early career scholars working in the field of American religion.

Leal came to Whitworth in 2018 and teaches courses on early America, women and gender, and religious history. Her research focuses on historical intersections between cultural formation and religious belief and practice, particularly in relation to gender, childhood/youth, and social reform in the late 18th and early 19th century United States.

“I'm incredibly honored to be selected for a program with such a prestigious legacy,” Leal says. “For the past few decades this intensive cohort experience has pushed scholarship and teaching on American religion in exciting new directions through creative conversations and collaborations, and I'm excited to see how my own work will grow as a result of my participation. I will develop two new courses during the cohort experience, which presents a fantastic opportunity for curriculum expansion for the history department at Whitworth.”

Leal’s first book, tentatively titled Holy Nurseries: Sunday Schools and the Creation of Childhood in Early American Christianity, is currently under review at a university press. Her second literary project is in the early stages of research and writing. 

Leal’s work has received numerous fellowships and awards including the 2022 Lapides Fellowship in Pre-1865 Juvenile Literature and Ephemera from the American Antiquarian Society and the Sidney Mead Prize from the American Society of Church History in 2017.

About the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture:

The Center is part of IUPUI, a public research university in Indianapolis. It was established in 1989 and with support from Lilly Endowment explores the connection between religion and other aspects of American culture seeking to elevate among students, faculty, and the larger American public the understanding of the influence of religion in the lives of people.

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of about 2,500 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. 


Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or