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Political Scientist Earns Fellowship

Janelle Wong, who examines the link between immigrants and religious right, is one of 23 scholars named Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow.

Political Scientist Earns Fellowship
For her work on how immigrants are changing the face of the religious right, USC College professor Janelle Wong has been named a Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow for the 2006-07 academic year.

Wong, an associate professor with a joint appointment in political science and American studies and ethnicity, is one of only 23 scholars, policy makers and researchers to receive one of this year's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars fellowships.

“Woodrow Wilson Center fellowships are among the most prestigious and competitive awards in the field of politics and international affairs,” said Peter Starr, dean of USC College. “For Janelle to join such an esteemed group is both a wonderful opportunity for her and a tribute to her stellar work for her two departments and the College as a whole.”

She will spend the year in residence at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C., along with other fellows from universities including Columbia, Penn and Georgetown. Fellows conduct research and write in their areas of interest, while interacting with policymakers in Washington and Wilson Center staff.

“We’re so pleased to have such a distinguished group of men and women joining us this fall,” said Lee H. Hamilton, president and director of the Woodrow Wilson Center. “They represent a variety of disciplines, topics, nationalities and viewpoints. I have no doubt they will add to the richness of thought and dialogue here at the Wilson Center.”

Wong’s research project is called “Immigration, Religion and Conservative Politics in America.” It focuses on the increasing number of immigrants and the role of religion in politics in the United States.

“With this fellowship I am able to really immerse myself in my research and in this uniquely stimulating environment that the Wilson Center creates,” Wong said. “I am challenged professionally by my peers and excited to delve into my work here.”

Wong is looking at Latino and Asian American evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic Christian worshippers in the United States and how this growing group will affect the Christian right.

“It is not yet clear whether these new immigrants are weakening or strengthening the traditional conservative Christian political movement,” she said. “They add numbers but they bring new viewpoints and new priorities to the movement, and they change the racial and ethnic base of the movement.”

Wong is the author of “Democracy’s Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions” (2006, University of Michigan Press). After writing her book, she concluded that religious institutions, because of their larger size and more involved membership, play a more important role than she expected.

“It is really churches and religious institutions that are the largest ethnic organizations in our society,” she said. “I wanted to explore their role more deeply because of the role that religion plays in politics and the fact that evangelical Christians are one of the most important voting blocks in contemporary American politics.”

This current research is an offshoot of work that Wong began at the College with Jane Iwamura, assistant professor of religion and of American studies and ethnicity, and a grant they received from the College’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

Wong earned her Ph.D. from the department of political science at Yale University. She joined the USC faculty in 2001.