About us

Melissa Borja

I am a historian who teaches in the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program at the University of Michigan. The daughter of immigrants from the Philippines, I was raised in Michigan. I currently split my time between Ann Arbor and Indianapolis, where I am active in refugee resettlement work and in Asian American community organizing. In my academic research, I study migration, religion, race, and politics in the United States and the Pacific World. I am the author of Follow the New Way: American Refugee Resettlement Policy and Hmong Religious Change, an advisor to Princeton’s Religion and Forced Migration Initiative, and the lead investigator of the Virulent Hate Project. When I’m not teaching or doing research, you can find me swimming, cheering on my daughter at rowing races, and walking my dog, Jollibee Chickenjoy.

David Chao

I teach and direct the Center for Asian American Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary. My parents were born in mainland China and grew up in Taiwan. They immigrated to the US in the 1960s. I was born in the southern US and have a wide range of pastoral ministry experience with Chinese American, Korean American, and Pan-Asian churches in Kentucky, Vancouver, California, and the Northeast. I am an active member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Rupa Pillai

I teach at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. My parents left India in the 1970s to eventually settle in Texas, where I was born and raised. As a child of immigrants, I am interested in what happens when people move, particularly how culture and religion change as a result. For many years, I have learned about Hinduism and Indo-Caribbean culture from the Guyanese community in New York City.

Sara Swenson

I teach at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. I love learning about the ways religions can inspire justice and care for others. My Scandinavian heritage is rooted in Christianity, and my father is an itinerant United Methodist pastor. I grew up moving among the poorest counties of rural Minnesota, where churches helped to meet the basic needs of our communities. This inspired my interest in how religions sustain communities globally, with a special focus on Vietnamese Buddhism. I have lived and worked with grassroots Buddhist charities in Vietnam, as well as their local partners among Buddhist and Catholic communities across the U.S.A.

Jonathan Tran

I teach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Born in Vietnam, I was raised in Southern California and now live in Central Texas. I’m really interested in how religious communities make their way in diverse societies. I’ve worked with religious communities in Southern California, San Francisco, and Atlanta. I’m the author of the book Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism, which looks at how Asian American Christians deal with injustice. 

Haleema Welji

I teach at the University of California, San Diego. My parents were born and raised in East Africa, but we are originally from India. I was raised in the United States and have lived in a variety of states including California, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Growing up in a Muslim family, I was very interested in what it was like to live in a Muslim country, so I lived in Jordan for a few years teaching English and working in schools. Living in California, I try to spend some of my weekends hiking or walking on the beach as much as I can.

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6 Amazing Partnering Religious Communities