Being a Rice Owl comes with many advantages, including the opportunity to work closely with faculty on research that matters. For Lovett College junior Allen Simon ’16, a summer fellowship gave him the chance to delve into the paranormal while working with renowned professor Jeffrey J. Kripal, the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought, on Kripal’s latest book project.
Simon began working closely with Kripal after receiving an Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the Humanities Research Center. Simon first reached out to him when he learned that they shared an interest in the writer Aldous Huxley and in the experiential aspects of religion.
“Dr. Kripal looks at things that most people probably wouldn’t consider in the realm of religion,” Simon said, “like the paranormal, UFOs and abductee accounts. There are elements in there that are very similar to religious experiences. It’s really interesting.”
As a part of the fellowship, Simon helped Kripal explore the intersections between religious narratives and science fiction. When Kripal gave his research fellow responsibility and trust, Simon discovered a new side of scholarship.
“My work involved collecting and reading material, like stories of alien encounters and out-of-body experiences, that Dr. Kripal had not seen yet and explaining it to him,” said Simon. “I was really excited to have such an eminent scholar for whom I have a great deal of respect treat me as an equal in that way. Since that experience, I've gotten so much better at identifying and exploring my own interests in religious studies.”
At the School of Humanities, scholarship is strengthened by remarkable opportunities for students right here on the Rice campus. Personalized attention from faculty and an Undergraduate Research Fellowship gave Allen Simon the chance to merge his work in the classroom with a dynamic research experience, sharpening his distinctive Owl Edge.
The Initiative for Students seeks to create more such opportunities in the School of Humanities, providing our students with journeys that begin at Rice and span the globe. To fund an undergraduate research fellowship, or to learn more about the Humanities Research Center or the Initiative for Students, please contact Jeanette Zey, Senior Director of Development for the School of Humanities, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-348-4669.