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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Board of Trustees
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.
Dr. Fatima Emlemdi is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Miami University with the Center for American and World Cultures. She and and her husband Mr. Hasan Emlemdi, are the proud parents of four young adults, all of whom are college students. Dr. Emlemdi is a member of the Islamic Center of Cincinnati, where she has volunteered on the Faith-Based Committee of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, and the committee for Kids for Pace-K4P summer camp. Dr. Emlemdi is passionate about working closely with people from all walks of life towards greater cross-cultural competency for people of diverse backgrounds.
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 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 (fcgg.org) in Cincinnati, OH.
Bakhtavar is an active Board Member of:
Shared Harvest, a Food Bank, working to end hunger in five Counties in Ohio
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
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.
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.
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