A&S undergrad wins national religious studies essay contest

November 30, 2023 by Sean McNeely - A&S News

Audrey Miatello, a fourth-year religion specialist student, has won first prize in the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion (CSSR) Undergraduate Student Essay Contest.

“Winning this award is so special, I was thrilled and honoured!” says Miatello, whose paper explores a severe but often overlooked consequence of the ecological crisis — humanity’s disconnection from nature.

“I propose that we look beyond science and technology for a solution, following in the footsteps of Lynn White Jr., a historian who once famously said, ‘the remedy [to the climate crisis] must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not,’” says Miatello, a member of Woodsworth College. “This essay explores the possibility of such a religious remedy.”

Moving beyond the traditional essay format, she felt adding images provided more substance.

“Nature is not often something that can be adequately described with words,” she says. “As such, I incorporated two photo essays in my paper. The first aims to capture how the disconnected individual relates to the world around them. The second, which concludes this essay, expresses the enchantment and wonder that a newly reconnected individual will find in nature.”

The CSSR’sselection committee praised Miatello’s essay: “This paper is impressively well-written and thoroughly researched. While there is room for a more in-depth and sustained exploration of this topic, the paper stands as an excellent endeavour to leverage religious ethics and values to address a contemporary global concern.”

Miatello is delighted with winning, considering she wasn’t sure she would even study religion when she first came to U of T.

“I happened to come across a religion course in the winter semester of my first year that seemed interesting,” she says. “Now, it’s three years later and I’m well on my way to completing a specialist in this field! I never would have imagined that I’d be so lucky to study something that I truly am interested in and passionate about, never mind imagine that I would win a Canada-wide award for my writing.”

Taking first prize has also boosted her confidence in both writing and speaking, submitting this paper and others to undergraduate academic journals at U of T.

“I’ve also applied to speak at some conferences at the University to further share my research” she says. “I’m also hoping to help create a new undergraduate journal for students in the Department for the Study of Religion.”

“I’m absolutely delighted with the well-deserved recognition that Audrey has received for her most excellent research,” says Alexander Hampton, an assistant professor with the Department for the Study of Religion.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with her for four years now over some five courses, from my first-year seminar to an advanced research course. It has been wonderful to see her grow as a scholar.”