5/07/2016 Peter Durantine

Williamson Medal Recipient Explores Other Cultures, Other Religions

As a religious studies major, Franklin & Marshall College graduate Morgan Kincade found her scholarly pursuit in Islam.

"As someone who grew up in the post-9/11 world, I felt like Islam was something I heard about all the time, but didn't understand anything about," she said. "I wanted to work on getting to understand the religion better."

Proficient in French, Kincade immersed herself in the subject, which included trips abroad, where she studied the Arabic language.

At F&M's May 7 Commencement ceremony, the College will recognize her contributions as a scholar and a student leader. Kincade has earned the Williamson Medal, the College's most prestigious award for student achievement.

"She is very gracious, super modest – you'll hear that word from everyone that talks about her," said Lynn Brooks, the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and Dance. "You feel when you are speaking to Morgan, your words are going into a very deep place that she's going to ponder."

Kincade said her Christian beliefs are part of her interest in studying religion. At F&M, she served as co-president of the Interfaith Student Council – "that was something more personally meaningful to me" – and studied abroad frequently.

She went to Amman, Jordan, on a U.S. Department of State's Critical Language Scholarship the summer before her junior year for an intensive Arabic program, then Paris the following semester, where she studied the government's efforts to institutionalize Islam in France. Last summer, Kincade received a John Marshall Fellowship and went to live in Istanbul with a Turkish family while she researched Turkey's secular politics during a time of political turbulence.

"She's mature in ways that very few students are," said Brooks, who, as Kincade's don at Brooks College House, recommended her for the Marshall Fellowship.

As a student in his classes on religious theory and method as well as the cultural history of American religion, Kincade was "incredibly impressive," said John Modern, associate professor and chair of Religious Studies.

"She has the kind of intelligence where she is working on a number of levels simultaneously," Modern said. "She has a keen, critical intelligence that you really don't see that often." 

Annette Aronowicz, F&M's Robert F. and Patricia G. Ross Weis Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies, said Kincade demonstrates a desire to delve deeply into her chosen subject of study.

"She has worked for Islamic organizations in France and has friends she has made in the Islamic community who she still communicates with," Aronowicz said.

As her academic and honors thesis adviser, Aronowicz said Kincade's work on "When the Particulars of Universals Meet:  Tariq Ramadan and the Contested Borders of Religion" shows her impressive potential as a scholar. Ramadan is a controversial, contemporary Muslim intellectual.

"Morgan already exhibits the interest and quality of mind that you associate with scholars," Aronowicz said. "She has an intellectual maturity; she's not trying to impress you, she's just a subtle and sophisticated thinker."

Aronowicz said Kincade's thesis attempts to understand why Ramadan's ideas about European Islam have provoked so many heated reactions in the West.

"Many students are interested in Islam, but what distinguishes Morgan is the carefulness; a subtlety and an ability to follow complex arguments," Aronowicz said.

Kincade's F&M experiences included tutor at the campus Writing Center, where she ran workshops; events chair for the Black Pyramid Senior Honor Society, where she organized the 2016 TEDx event; co-president of the Interdisciplinary Advancement Club; and a tax preparer for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

In the Lancaster community, Kincade has worked with young refugee girls, helping them with homework and language at the Reynolds Middle School Community School.

Kincade's decision to attend F&M began when she visited the campus as young girl with her parents and brother, Graham Kincade '06. 

"He always spoke highly of the rigor of the school, and that his professors pushed him," she said.

As a recipient of a Fulbright ETA, Kincade will return to Turkey for a year starting in August to teach English at a university. Her plans after that include a graduate program that examines both international relations and interreligious cooperation.

Until then, though, she looks forward to her return to Turkey.

"It was fascinating to be there and to witness a different political culture and how elections panned out," Kincade said. "I feel I was there at a really fascinating moment and I would like to spend more time there."

  • Senior Morgan Kincade is the 2016 Williamson Medalist. Senior Morgan Kincade is the 2016 Williamson Medalist. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Williamson Medal winner Morgan Kincade '16 speaks during Franklin & Marshall College's 2016 Commencement ceremony while President Daniel R. Porterfield looks on. Williamson Medal winner Morgan Kincade '16 speaks during Franklin & Marshall College's 2016 Commencement ceremony while President Daniel R. Porterfield looks on. Image Credit: Deb Grove
"She has the kind of intelligence where she is working on a number of levels simultaneously, She has a keen, critical intelligence that you really don't see that often."
John Modern
John L. Modern, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Chair of Religious Studies
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