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Student Leadership Team

2023 Student Interns


Dr. Kerri Cissna, Executive Director


Dr. Kerri Cissna is the Executive Director at The Interfaith Center at Miami University. Dr. Cissna lives in Oxford and teaches entrepreneurship at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University. Dr. Cissna has a PhD in Global Leadership and Change from Pepperdine University and is passionate about empowering the next generation of global leaders to work together for social innovation. Prior to coming to Ohio, Dr. Cissna lived in North Carolina and worked for the Program for Leadership and Character, and the Center or Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University.  Kerri is also a Certified Yoga Instructor through Yoga Alliance.  She is excited to serve the community in this role which aligns with her passions and interests at the intersection of faith and social innovation.

For information on programming at TIC, please email 

Board of Trustees

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Becky Newlin, Chair


Becky Newlin was born in Dayton, OH. She taught religious studies on and off over 45 years in the Pittsburgh, PA Diocese as well as in several other diocese. Became a political activist around: the Vietnam War, helped to organize citizens around the United Farmworker’s grape and lettuce boycott, did work for nursing home reform, worked for 1199 Hospital Worker’s Union, and participated in many other issues throughout the years. Took a sabbatical in the academic year 2006-07. During this time she taught English at a rural school, worked at a clinic and orphanage in Fondwa, Haiti with the Little Sisters of St. Antoine. Upon returning she retired from teaching and worked as the executive assistant for Partners in Progress (PIP), a small NGO, giving financial and technical support to rural Haiti. In 2016 she retired from PIP and moved to Oxford to be closer to her family. She currently works at St. Mary Church and Catholic Campus Ministry as a secretary.

Fatima Emlemdi



Fatima Emlemdi is a mom, an educator, a teacher, a coach, a community server, and a lifelong
advocate for underrepresented students. She’s been teaching about diversity and inclusion at
Miami for the last 9 years. She advised MSA students at the main campus and was involved in
different organizations and programs that raised awareness about underrepresented students
and their issues on campus.
Fatima has a true passion for working with Higher Ed students!!  Helping them progress in all
areas of their development—academic, social, emotional, and personal. She strives to create a
community of learners that nurtures this growth in a positive, empowering and fun environment. 
Fatima loves her current role at Miami as a success coach for ECA students, as she provides
support, guidance, and advocacy to help high school juniors and seniors earn their associate
degree with their high school diploma at the same time.
As a board member at the Interfaith Center at Miami, she works as a liaison between students
and the community, plan and implement programs to bring people from different religious and
cultural backgrounds together.
Fatima is a very active member of the local Muslim community. She worked at the Islamic
center of West Chester for 15 years, as a high school teacher, academic coach, girl scout
leader, youth advisor, community outreach coordinator and a board member for 4 years.
Fatima has a long history of interfaith collaboration with different schools, organizations and
communities. She represented the Islamic Center of Cincinnati at the Kid for Peace,
international day camp. A member of Faith based Committee at the Girl Scouts of Western
Ohio. A member of Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign, a coalition of educators from different
religious backgrounds work together to help others find a common ground and create a peaceful
society. Also, as a Co-Chair at TIC, she works closely with the URI, United Religions Initiative
planning and implementing programs geared toward collaborating with different religious groups
in North America.
Her motto as an interfaith leader is all people from different faiths and cultural backgrounds
deserve to be treated respectfully, fairly, and with dignity.

Priyana Kalita

Priyana Kalita is a former student-athlete from India and was a part of the Miami University Women's Tennis Team. Priyana graduated from Miami in 2021 with a B.S. in Kinesiology and Health (Coaching) and a B.A. in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and currently is pursuing a Masters Degree in Sports Management at Florida State University.


Priyana is also working with "Athlete Ally," an LGBTQ+ sport advocacy organization based in New York. They were  inducted in the Theta Alpha Kappa National Society for Religion and Theology studies for their work with the Trans community in sex work in India in 2019.


Priyana was named the Mid-American Conference Diversity and Inclusion Student Athlete, and recieved the President's Distinguished Service Award, and the Senior and Employee Leadership Service awards during their time at Miami University.


In the future, Priyana hopes to continue their work in sports policy, concentrating on LGBTQ+ issues in sports and amend policies to make sports more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Bakhtavar (Becca)


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Bakhtavar Desai is a Zoroastrian, and lives in Fairfield, OH, with her family. As a CPA,
she worked for several years as auditor in the public sector. Since several years she
has been devoting her time as a volunteer.
To advance the work of Beloved Communities, and peace and understanding among the people everywhere, Bakhtavar volunteers as:
 Co-Chair of Interfaith Activities Committee of FEZANA (Federation of Zoroastrian
Associations of North America).
 President of ZAKOI (Zoroastrian Association of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana).
 A member of the Executive Council of Religions for Peace, USA;
 A member of the Steering Committee of Cincinnati’s Annual Festival of Faiths
since its inception;
 Co-Chair of the Sacred Connections Program, EquaSion, Cincinnati
 Advisory Board Member of Kids 4 Peace, Cincinnati.
Inspired to Care for Creation, Bakhtavar practices and advocates a greener lifestyle,
and volunteers with the Education/Lifestyles Working Group(of which she is the
founding member) of Faith Communities Go Green ( in Cincinnati, OH.
Bakhtavar is an active Board Member of:
 Shared Harvest, a Food Bank, working to end hunger in five Counties in Ohio
(; and
 Restore Hope, a US non-profit which provides relief and empowerment to the
most vulnerable rural communities in Liberia, West Africa, through programs for
health, education, and economic opportunities

Geneva Blackmer


Geneva Blackmer is the immediate-past Program Director for The Interfaith Center at Miami University. She holds a B.A. in Religion and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Athens State University. She is an interdisciplinary Ph.D. student in Theology at Amridge University. She serves as a Global Council Trustee for the United Religions Initiative in North America, an At-Large Director for the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, and an Administrative Director for the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada. As an intern and historian for CRES, she helped found the Kansas City Interfaith History Project, in conjunction with her published thesis. She has previously worked with the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington on Emergency Services Resource Outreach, the Parliament of the World's Religions on their Climate Commitments Project, Interfaith Cincy on the Multi-Faith Calendar,  Green Umbrella's Faith Communities Go Green, the Cincinnati Festival of Faiths, and EquaSion's "A Mighty Stream" Interfaith Racial Justice Initiative.

Rev. Marc van Bulck



Rev. Marc van Bulck (He/Him/His) is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and serves as the Associate Pastor for Family and Campus Ministries here in Oxford.  He is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.  He served as a Clinical Pastoral Education resident at St. Joseph’s Hospital in North Atlanta for about a year and a half.  Before coming to Oxford, van Bulck was the pastor at Seville Presbyterian Church in Seville, Ohio just outside of Cleveland.  He was the Director of Youth Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Bentonville, Arkansas and Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida.  Van Bulck is a lover of movies, coffee, podcasts, and all things nerdy.  He also loves finding fun hiking trails in and around Oxford with his dog, Bellsy.

Mike Johnson


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Mike Johnson is a retired social worker employed for 27 years in the public child welfare system
in Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio. He was also a consultant for five years with Butler
County Children Services in the county’s effort to implement a child welfare reform initiative,
Family- Centered, Neighborhood-Based Services sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
He holds a M.Ed. degree from Xavier University and a M.A. in Religion from Mt. St. Mary
Mike is the former director of the Oxford Community Choice Food Pantry and The Interfaith
Center. He is a lay pastoral minister for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a parishioner at St.
Mary Church in Oxford. He is also a lay associate of the Abbey of Gethsemani located near
Bardstown, Kentucky.

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