Since he was a child, Cameron MacPherson’s family impressed on him the importance of looking outward rather than inward—and of ensuring that the actions he takes in life make his world a better place. MacPherson ’16, a graduate student in Pan African studies in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), is continuing to do just that as a recipient of the prestigious George J. Mitchell Scholarship for graduate study in Ireland. He is Syracuse University’s first Mitchell Scholar, and one of only 12 U.S. students selected from more than 300 applicants in 2017. He is studying intercultural theology at Trinity College in Dublin.
A former member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program and a 2015-16 Remembrance Scholar, MacPherson earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from A&S/Maxwell School and in television, radio, and film from the Newhouse School. He was an exemplary student-athlete, playing football for the Orange and receiving CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team honors. MacPherson was also a district finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, but withdrew his application to pursue the Mitchell award. The Mitchell Scholarship Program, named to honor former U.S. Senator George Mitchell’s pivotal contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process, is an initiative of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance. The award introduces and connects future American leaders to Ireland and recognizes and fosters intellectual achievement, leadership, and a commitment to community and public service.
Over the years, I have learned the crucial role that faith and religion play in migratory communities.
MacPherson is enrolled in a one-year master of philosophy program in intercultural theology and interreligious studies. He has studied refugee resettlement, particularly with Congolese populations, since he was an undergraduate. “Over the years, I have learned the crucial role that faith and religion play in migratory communities,” he says. “Religious spaces not only create shared cultural experiences that perpetuate a distinct identity, but also enable the exchange of knowledge among newcomers to assist with integrative outcomes.”
At Trinity College, he is examining the dynamic processes that shape religion as a cultural identity and analyzing the social role of faith in migratory communities. “Studying in Ireland will provide a unique perspective on how religion can be used to promote social cohesion and peace in the face of conflict, which often shape the cultural practices of refugees and other forced migrants,” says MacPherson, who plans to create multimedia scholarship as he investigates his research questions and their implications.
In summer 2017, MacPherson conducted research on grassroots social organizations in Boston’s Congolese community and served as a case manager at a Congolese Development Center. He has also interned with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office to learn more about public policy and refugee issues. A spoken word poet, he volunteers with Writing Our Lives, a creative literacy program for local middle school students.
MacPherson’s family is deeply rooted in the Syracuse University and greater Syracuse communities. His late grandfather, Dick MacPherson, was the legendary head coach of the Syracuse football team from 1981 to 1990. MacPherson’s mother, Maureen L’84, brother, Macky ’13, and aunt, Janet ’85, G’92, are Syracuse alumni. His sister, Suzy ’20, is a Newhouse student.
“My grandfather lived his belief in making the world a better place through many small services that ranged from brightening people’s days to changing their lives. My mother taught her children the importance of empathy and selflessness through a lifetime of caring, quiet kindness,” MacPherson says. “If I contribute to the world or make some positive impact, then I know that I will have reflected the best lessons my family has taught me. I hope the Mitchell Scholarship is the next step in actualizing these lessons.”
This story was published on . It also appeared as “Faith and Religion in Migratory Communities” in the issue of Syracuse University Magazine.