Our Team

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Vanessa Avery

Executive Director

Dr. Avery has 20 years of experience in higher education and organizational consulting. With a PhD from the University of Exeter, Masters degrees from Yale Divinity School and King’s College London, and a Bachelor’s degree from McGill University, she has taught and consulted for universities, healthcare institutions, and corporations around the nation such as Yale, Bryant, California State, The Susan Komen Foundation, Eastern Idaho Healthcare Systems, and The Conference Board. Her work, no matter the context, is to open minds, reduce bias, and to create inclusive, diverse, dialogical, and thriving cultures.

 

Vanessa is currently Lecturer in Interfaith Engagement at Yale Divinity School and Affiliate Faculty in Comparative Religion and Sociology at California State University, Chico.

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Michelle Keefe

Program Associate, Community IQ

Michelle Keefe is pursuing a Master’s of Arts and Religion at Yale Divinity School with a concentration in the visual arts. She is interested in exploring ways in which art and architecture reflect, express, and influence lived religious practices, rituals, and belief systems. Michelle earned a Master’s of Theological Studies from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, a Master’s of Education from St. Joseph’s University, and her Bachelor’s degree in Art, Italian, and Theology from the University of Notre Dame. She has spent the better part of the last decade teaching in both primary and secondary classrooms, engaging young people in questions of faith and religious practices, and always incorporating her passion for art. Most recently, Michelle was designing and implementing curricula at the high school level as part of the AP® Seminar and AP® Art History programs, including traveling with her students to explore the art and architecture of different cultures and religions across Spain and Italy. She was also running programming and retreats as one of two school Campus Ministers. Michelle is joining the Sharing Sacred Spaces team to help grow the Community IQ programming, bringing the SSS model of community building and shared experiences via architecture, dialogue, and hospitality into the high school arena.

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Basya Gartenstein 

Intern

Basya Gartenstein is pursuing her Master of Divinity at Yale Divinity School. She is simultaneously earning a Certificate in Educational Leadership and Ministry from Berkley Divinity School. After being awarded her Bachelor’s Degree in Conflict Resolution and International Relations from the IDC Herzliya, she served as the Jewish Service Corps Fellow through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee with placements in Mumbai, India and Helsinki, Finland. Basya worked at the Muslim Jewish Conference from 2015-2017, facilitating dialogue between Muslims and Jews across the spectrum of religious and political identity. Interested in the intersection of scholarship and interreligious encounter, Basya is the president and co-founder of the Yale Divinity School Interfaith Club. In 2019, she was the recipient of the SALAM Sultan Qaboos Scholarship for Advanced Arabic Study and Intercultural Exchange. In 2020, she received the Critical Language Scholarship through the US State Department, to solidify her linguistic goals in the service of her broader vocational aspirations.

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Charlie Graham

Intern

Charlie Graham is a senior at California State University in Chico pursuing a B.A. in psychology with a certificate in interreligious and intercultural relations. Charlie plans to pursue a master's degree in school psychology. Charlie has experience working with Sleep Away, a summer program in Portland, OR catered specifically to LGBTQ+ and neuro-diverse students. There, Charlie assessed the climate for accessibility and accommodation throughout each term, and coordinated with staff to adjust curriculum and logistics. 

Charlie's hobbies and interests include listening to audiobooks, making resin jewelry, keeping houseplants, hiking and camping, revisiting the first folio (Shakespeare), practicing bo staff, and spending time with their cat and three dogs.