Student Bios

American Religious Culture
Ethics and Society
Hebrew Bible
Historical Studies in Theology and Religion
Jewish Religious Cultures
New Testament
Person, Community, and Religious Life
Theological Studies
West and South Asian Religions

American Religious Culture

CharlesBarber15 Charles Barber I am doctoral student in American Religious Cultures. I received a B.A. in Anthropology from Emory University in 2011 and an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School in 2014. Working at non-profits in both Atlanta and Boston I helped create programs for those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS and for LGBTQ senior adults of color. These experiences have directly influenced my research interests, which involve synthesizing how religion, primarily Christianity, culture, and politics intersect to impact the lives of sexual minorities in the United States. I am interested in examining how the dominant American Christian narrative—especially since the McCarthy Era—has influenced cultural attitudes and led to the creation of national policies that have contributed to greater social, health, and economic disparities for LGBTQ Americans. Of particular interest to me is an intergenerational comparison between the current generation of LGBTQ elders and younger generations of LGBTQ people, which will examine how continuities and changes in the American Christian religious landscape have impacted the life courses of sexual minorities. I received a fellowship from the Interfaith Health Program of Emory University, my work there has involved studying the impacts of U.S. Evangelical beliefs on American foreign HIV/AIDS policies implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Meredith F. Coleman-Tobias
My research interests consider Caribbean and North American iterations of African Atlantic religious cultures. I am specifically interested in contemporary Africana religious migrations, which I began to study during my tenure as a Fulbright student in Barbados (2009–2010). My dissertation research focuses on the religious diaspora of two Burkinabé spiritual leaders. Investigating their “reverse mission” in Western countries, I interrogate African and non-African descendants’ intentional practice of Dagara spirituality in North America and the Caribbean. I received the BA from Spelman College in 2006 and the MDiv from Yale Divinity School in 2009.


Meredith Doster is a doctoral candidate in American Religious Cultures with research interests and teaching competencies in space/place theories and pedagogies, critical regionalism, spiritual voyeurism/media studies, women's religious narratives, and Appalachian Studies. Meredith's dissertation, "The Burden of Appalachian Religion: Exceptionalism in an American Region," builds on Curtis Evans' methodological example to trace the genre-crossing construction of regional religious difference from nineteenth century local color novels to contemporary reality TV shows. An interrogation of representational politics that inform the interplay between regional and national identity formation, Meredith's dissertation assesses the cultural currency of American exceptionalism via the perceived deficits of Appalachian religion. 

Meredith earned a masters degree in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University and a bachelors degree in Music from Barnard College. In addition to her research and teaching, Meredith serves as managing editor of Southern Spaces and is pursuing a certificate in Digital Scholarship and Media Studies.


Marianne Florian Within the American Religious Cultures course of study, I focus on Buddhism in America. I have a background in French literature and pedagogy. After receiving an MA in French from the University of South Carolina, I earned an MTS degree from Emory's Candler School of Theology and was fortunate to be able to take courses in the GDR while still an MTS student.

As a doctoral student, the following questions shape my research: How does a U.S. context shape the expression of Buddhist religion? In what ways do categories of religious experience inherited from American and European theology and psychology color understandings of Buddhist meditation and its pogoals? When programs teaching Buddhist-inflected secular meditation are active in healthcare and various educational fields, how do meditation programs, instructors, and students establish and convey the practices' secular status? My master’s thesis on Emory’s Cognitively-Based Compassion Training Program focused on the last of these questions.

Now, my goals for coursework are to develop wider teaching competencies in American religious cultures, to gain pedagogy experience in the religious studies classroom, and to learn the fundamental skills and ethics of ethnographic research so I can seek new knowledge with greater attention to individuals and communities

Kelly Gannon

Kelly J. Gannon My research centers on religion and culture during the long nineteenth century. My dissertation will examine how religion interacted with Victorian-era popular culture in the industrializing New South. A public historian, I am also interested in the role of religious history in the American historical meta-narrative interpreted for the general public.

I am involved with Emory’s digital scholarship initiatives, working as a Digital Scholarship Specialist for the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), and as an editor with two digital publications at Emory: Sacred Matters Magazine and Southern Spaces. I was recently a contributing scholar on the exhibit "Hear My Voice: Alexander Graham Bell and the Origins of Recorded Sound" on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, through January 2016.

I hold a BA in History and International Studies from Wake Forest University (2008) and an MA in Public History from American University (2011). My website can be accessed here, and I can be followed @K_Gannon.

Tim Rainey

Tim Rainey My research focuses on the intersections of economics, race and religious experiences in the Americas between the 18th and early 20th centuries. I specifically examine how notions like class, identity, salvation and success were being thought about in black communities and how the network of commitments connecting persons within them led some beyond the church and into public spheres in ways that expanded their religious imaginations. Broadly, I am guided by a desire to understand the ways human agents have historically transgressed the boundaries of how religious experience is defined. My academic project, then, focuses on the manner in which individuals have managed these boundaries with respect to the types of language and definitions that delineate who is in and who lies outside of sacred space.  

Ethics and Society


Letitia M. Campbell 
I am completing a PhD in Ethics and Society, with a concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. My academic and professional interests lie at the intersection of religious ethics, social movements, engaged pedagogy, and community and international development. My dissertation research focuses on the history of, and ethical debates surrounding, the popular Christian practice of “short-term mission trips,” particularly in the context of U.S. Protestantism in the decades after World War II. I also research and write about the role of religious activism in the movement to end human trafficking. While a doctoral student, I served as a founding editor of the multimedia academic journal Practical Matters, which is housed in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion, and as the Coordinator of Community and Strategic Partnerships for Emory’s Masters in Development Practice (MDP) program. I am currently the Director of Contextual Education I and Clinical Pastoral Education at the Candler School of Theology and Senior Coordinator of Candler’s new Laney Legacy Program in Moral Leadership. I hold an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City; a B.A. in Political Science from Davidson College; and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Oxford University, where I studied as a Rhodes Scholar. You can connect to me and learn more about my work via LinkedIn or

Bryan Ellrod
I am a student in the Ethics and Society course of study, concentrating in Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding.  My research interests are situated at the intersection of ethics and aesthetics and consider how aesthetic judgment functions in staging theaters for moral reflection and how the virtues are variously conceived within these theaters.  I hold a Master of Theology and Master of Divinity from Emory’s Candler School of Theology, as well as a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Theology and Philosophy from Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.


Georgette Ledgister My research interests focus on the intersection of religion, violence and peacebuilding, and the impact of religion on fomenting conflict and fostering peace.  My current research in the Ethics and Society course of study explores the virtues that inform truth and reconciliation processes, particularly indigenous reconciliation practices in west and central Africa. I am a concentrator in the Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding and the Religious Practices and Practical Theology interdisciplinary concentrations. I received my Master’s of Divinity, with a focus on Leadership in Church and Community, from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and my Bachelor degree in International Studies and French Studies from the Undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University. 

Sarah Ma
cDonald I am a doctoral candidate in Ethics and Society, with a concentration in Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding. My research focuses on solidarity, nonviolent resistance, and conflict transformation as forms of religious practice. My dissertation, “The Paradox of Privilege: An Ethics of Solidarity in the Context of International Accompaniment,” examines how nonviolent activists may strategically and ethically engage in global solidarity movements that extend across differences of systemic privilege, power and access. I have published essays on queer life and activism in the church, and I have chapters appearing in two forthcoming books about religion and conflict transformation.

Prior to beginning Ph.D. studies, I worked four years with Christian Peacemaker Teams as a nonviolent activist and international accompanier in Colombia and in the West Bank of Palestine—experiences that inspired my current research questions. In addition, I hold an M.A. in English from the University of Iowa and an M.Div. from McCormick Theological Seminary. Here at Emory I teach courses in ethics and in conflict transformation, as well as working with the Emory Writing Program in community engagement and faculty development.


Rev. Joi R. Orr is a progressive minister, advocate, and Graduate Fellow at Emory University in the Graduate Division of Religion.  Graduating in 2004, Joi received a B.A. in Philosophy and Comparative Religion from the University of Maryland College Park.  In 2006, she earned the AmeriCorps Siegel Education Award for her service with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd where she practiced living simply so that others may simply live. Later, in 2010, she graduated from Howard University School of Divinity.

As a doctoral student in Christian Ethics and Society, Joi is interested in the efficacy of faith based social justice organizations and social movement theory. She aspires to become seminary faculty and serve as a strategist for progressive faith based nonprofits.

Elizabeth Whiting Pierce
is part of the Ethics and Society course of study. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Trevecca Nazarene University and a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Her dissertation uses theories of Strategic Peacebuilding and Justpeace to evaluate whether adaptive environmental governance—a model for distributing authority among diverse stakeholders in a common pool resource system, so as to improve the quality and speed of human responses to changing environmental conditions—constitutes ethically good governance. More broadly, Elizabeth studies environmental peacebuilding. She belongs to the Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding Concentration, the Religious Practices Concentration and is a founding member of the Religion and Ecology Collaborative.

Kristyn Sessions
I am a doctoral student in the Ethics and Society course of study, with a Religious Practices and Practical Theology concentration. My research focuses on Christian social justice efforts and the theologically formative practices employed in such work.  Specifically, I investigate the training participants receive through their involvement with such organizations and how their competence in certain skills allows them to enact justice in their communities while shaping their understanding of God, the state, and personhood.   

I earned my B.A. from Calvin College in 2002 and my M.T.S. from Candler School of Theology in 2011.  In the time between, I partnered with a rural women’s development organization as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, West Africa and served local churches in Anchorage, Alaska as a community organizer, walking with ordinary folks to address quality of life issues in their neighborhoods.

Won Chul Shin
I am a PhD student in the Ethics and Society course of study. My research interests focus on the intersections of theological ethics, peace building, feminist theology, and religious practices. I am interested in reconstructing theo-ethical vocabularies (such as love, justice, reconciliation, and peace), situating them in the context of systemic violence/conflict, which jeopardizes women’s rights. I also have an interest in developing practices of a Christian community for shaping its member’s moral vision, empowering marginalized women, and collectively building a just peace together. Due to these interests, I plan to participate in two concentration tracks: Religion, Conflict, and Peace Building and Religious Practices and Practical Theology. I earned a BA and BS (majoring theology and mechanical engineering) from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, in 2010, and an MDiv from Candler School of Theology in 2013. Besides academia, I am deeply concerned about the issue of “comfort women” and wartime crimes.

Nicole Symmonds
I am a doctoral student in the Ethics and Society course of study in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. My research interests focus on the influence of cultural products such as music, film, and news media on the ethical development and formation of individuals. I’m specifically interested in exploring, through ethnography, how these mediums influence sexual ethical development and moral formation among a range of populations from adolescents to adults. Atlanta is my research location because of the richness of the city's sexual culture which extends from the stripclubs of Cheshire Bridge Road to the steeples of the regions many churches. I also have an interest in analyzing the rhetoric of sex education curriculum and sex trafficking recovery programs. This work of analyzing cultural products and their impact on ethical reflection is compelling due to my personal experience within Evangelical Christian culture, my position as a consumer of popular culture, and professional experience as a journalist for over a decade. Given this, I plan to participate in the Religious Practices and Practical Theology concentration as well as pursue the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Prior to my doctoral studies I earned a Masters of Divinity with a focus in Theology and Ethics from the Candler School of Theology in 2013.

Pimentel Toste

Katie Pimentel Toste I am a first year PhD student in the Ethics and Society course of study. My research interests concern the role that economics and politics play in shaping ethical beings and the proper place of religious ethics in civil law. Because of marriage’s unique status as a political, economic, and religious institution, it also has unique advantage as an area in which to examine ethics promoted by each of these institutions. Therefore, within my doctoral work I plan to explore the intersection of these institutions through the lens of marriage. My pursuit of this area began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where studying economics and mathematics, I became interested in ethics as both promoted in and required by economic systems and in the historical foundation of the normative goals of contemporary economics; in particular, I became interested in changes in the understanding of family and marital relationships that corresponded with the rise of the market system. After UNC, I completed a master's of arts in religion at Yale University, concentrating in ethics.


Sara Williams I am a second year PhD student in the Graduate Division of Religion's Ethics and Society course of study, with concentrations in Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding and Religious Practices. Prior to my doctoral studies I earned an MAR in Ethics from Yale Divinity School and an MSW from the University of Georgia. My research explores the role of Christian faith communities located in sites of conflict. More specifically, I am interested in how these communities map their theologies onto their sociopolitical worlds, and how this mapping contributes to religious identity and moral formation. I approach my question ethnographically, and have a particular interest in Christian Zionist and Palestinian Christian theological narrations of the Holy Land. My passion for Christian social ethics, especially as related to peacebuilding and human rights, emerged from previous domestic and international social justice work with a variety of nonprofits and NGOs. While at Yale, I worked with the food insecure in New Haven as the Assistant Program Manager for the food pantry and clothing closet attached to my church. I have also worked in aftercare with victims of land grabbing in Uganda, as a social worker with low-income families in Chicago, and with the Human Rights Program and Peace Programs Development at The Carter Center. Additionally, I have been deeply influenced by fellowships and academic experiences in Northern Ireland, Colombia, Germany, Poland, and Israel/Palestine.

Hebrew Bible

Brady Beard
A doctoral student in the Hebrew Bible course of study of the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory, Brady received an M.Div from Princeton Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Biblical Literature from Northwest University. He hopes to continue pursuing his interests in the interdisciplinary study of the Hebrew Bible with an emphasis on the interplay between orality and literacy in Israelite and early Jewish sacred writings. Brady has interests in the historical and religious context of the ancient Near East, philology, reception history, Second Temple Judaism, and literary theory.


Aubrey Buster I am a PhD student in the Graduate Division of Religion. My current areas of research include the intersection of rhetorical criticism and genre theory, narrative and poetic criticism, orality and literacy in the ancient world, biblical presentations of moral agency, the hermeneutics of religious texts, and their ongoing reception in religious communities. My research is interdisciplinary, drawing on sociological models of orality, texts, and agency in religious communities, and literary models of form, interpretation, and the power of rhetoric. In these investigations I hope to analyze the ancient and ongoing communicative power of these ancient portraits of God, humanity, and the world. I completed my BM in Music and English Literature from Wheaton College and my MA in Biblical Exegesis at Wheaton Graduate School.​

Cornell Collin

Collin Pae Cornell I am a PhD student in the Hebrew Bible program at Emory University. I earned an M.Div from Princeton Theological Seminary and a BA in biblical studies from Columbia International University. I hope to research the religion-history of divine hypostases in ancient Israel and early Judaism: the messenger of Yahweh, the glory of Yahweh, anthropomorphic theophanies, and Second Temple angelologies. What conditions made ancient authors sometimes attribute humanoid and bodied qualities to God and other times to various intermediaries? I am interested more broadly in Semitic philology, biblical theology, critical race theory, and the practice of teaching introductory Bible courses. More information about my publications and presentations can be found at

Brian Charles DiPalma

Brian Charles DiPalma I am writing a dissertation in the Hebrew Bible course of study titled: “Masculinity in the Court Tales of Daniel: A Test Case for Gender Studies in the Hebrew Bible.” There are two primary goals in this project: 1) Understanding masculinity in the court tales of Daniel; 2) Advancing the study of gender in the Hebrew Bible by addressing important questions, such as: Whose interests are served by studying masculinity in the Hebrew Bible? Where does a study of masculinity in the Hebrew Bible fit in relation to existing approaches? Sociological understandings of and approaches to gendered inequality in the modern world inform my work. Likewise, I am interested in the history of and relationships between feminist criticism, queer criticism, and studies of masculinity in biblical scholarship. In addition to my primary areas of focus, I am interested in iconographic approaches to biblical interpretation, literary criticism, and sociological studies of gender in the modern world. I earned a B.A. from Fresno Pacific University, double-majoring in Classics and Biblical and Religious Studies, and earned an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. For more about my scholarship, see

Caralie Focht
I am a PhD student in the Hebrew Bible program. I earned a Bachelor of Social Work from James Madison University and a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School. My current research interests include trauma in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish hermeneutics. I hope to connect my research to current religious practices through the Religious Practices and Practical Theology concentration. 

Germany 2014

Stephen Germany I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Hebrew Bible course of study. I earned a B.A. in Religious Studies, French, and Spanish from Oglethorpe University (2008) and an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School (2011). I spent the academic year 2014–2015 as a Fulbright research fellow at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Germany).

My primary research interest centers on the formation of the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets, particularly the books of Exodus through Joshua. My dissertation, entitled "The Exodus-Conquest Narrative: A New Reconstruction of the Pre-Priestly Narratives in Exodus–Joshua," re-evaluates the extent and literary horizon(s) of the narratives in Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua prior to the integration of Priestly literature within the Pentateuch. 

Beyond my core area of research, my broader interests include ancient Israelite religion, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Jewish civilization from antiquity to the present. Alongside my training in Hebrew Bible, I will receive a certificate in Jewish Studies through Emory's Tam Institute for Jewish Studies.


Harry Huberty My research interests center around lived experience and religion in Iron Age Israel and Judah. I am especially interested in popular religious practice, the origins and development of Yahwism, divination, funerary practices, and the veneration of the dead. More broadly, I am interested in how people use religion to respond to changing circumstances in their lives and what specific instances of religious experience might be able to tell us about religious experience and the human experience generally. To that end, I also study anthropological theories to guide my assessment of the biblical text and archaeological data. I am considering several potential dissertation topics, including healing and medicine in ancient Israel, healing invocations in the biblical text and the ancient Near East, and games and leisure in biblical Israel. I completed my undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College (A.B., 2007) and earned a Master of Theological Studies degree at Harvard Divinity School (2011).


Johannes Kleiner I am a Ph.D. student in Hebrew Bible. My research focuses on four major questions: 1) How did the ancient Israelites and their neighbors relate to nature, natural phenomena, and non-human beings? 2) How are different relationships between humans and nature expressed in ancient Near Eastern texts—including but not limited to the Bible? 3) Which new insights can a reading of the biblical text from the perspective of nature offer?  And, 4) how do we understand the Bible as authoritative scripture in times of environmental threats—e.g. what can the biblical text contribute to the debate over environmental ethics or sustainability? From the Bible and its historical context, my interest expands to the emerging field of Ecology and Religion. The interdisciplinary nature of my work brings me into close contact with faculty in the areas of environmental studies, ethics, and ancient Near Eastern iconography.

Before coming to Emory, I earned a Diplom in Theology form the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany (2011), as well as a Master of Theological Studies with a focus on Hebrew Bible from the Franciscan School of Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA (2012).


Brett Maiden I’m a doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible and am also pursuing a graduate certificate through Emory’s Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture. I work at the intersection of religion and cognitive science. My primary interest is in ancient Israelite religion, with a focus on conceptions of supernatural agents, ancient Near Eastern iconography, and notions of impurity and purification. Other curiosities include textual harmonization of biblical traditions in the Second Temple period and the Dead Sea Scrolls sectarian movements. My dissertation uses cognitive science perspectives to explore different aspects of Israelite religion during the Iron Age, such as the relationship between popular and official religion, the Deuteronomic cult reforms, representations of deities and demons in text and art, and ritualized behavior in the book of Leviticus.

I earned my B.A. from the University of Arizona (Religious Studies, Classics), and M.A.R. with distinction from Yale Divinity School. I will be spending the fall semester conducting dissertation research at the University of Helsinki on a Finland Centre for International Mobility fellowship. Visit my academic website to learn more about my work:


Justin Pannkuk I'm a second-year Ph.D. student in Hebrew Bible within the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Before moving to Emory, I earned a B.A. summa cum laude in Religion from Northwestern College, IA (2009) and an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary (2012). I spent the 2012-2013 academic year as a Fulbright Fellow in Old Testament at the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Germany, where I focused on the Aramaic literature preserved among the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

I approach the Hebrew Bible and early Jewish literature with historical, theological, and interdisciplinary interests. I’m becoming particularly interested in pursuing projects related to the rhetoric of apocalyptic literature, theological anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls and related traditions, and the responses of ancient Jewish authors to the discontinuity of religious life occasioned by the destruction of the First and Second Temples. 

Richard Purcell
I am currently a PhD student in the Hebrew Bible program within Emory's Graduate Division of Religion. I earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Brewton-Parker College and an MAR in Biblical Studies from Yale Divinity School. I am interested in the expression of various ideologies within biblical texts, particularly in ideals of gender, geography, religion, politics, and other aspects of worldview, as well as the intersection of effective rhetoric and ideology within formative texts.  I hope to explore how such ideological places of discourse are employed as rhetorical strategies in the creation, maintenance, and subversion of different ancient communities. I am also interested in modern literary theory and how such theory may aid in illuminating a text's possible ideological position(s) and rhetorical place(s) in ancient communities.


Josey Bridges Snyder I am a doctoral candidate in my fifth year of the Graduate Division of Religion's Hebrew Bible program. My research focuses on the reception of biblical texts, with particular emphasis on Jewish midrashic interpretation and the interaction between early Jewish, Christian, and Islamic interpretations. I am also interested in the relationship between rabbinic midrash and the more recent phenomenon, sometimes called “modern midrash.” My dissertation--Looking Back at Lot's Wife: A Reception-Critical Character Study--focuses on the characterization of Lot’s wife in both early and more recent interpretations. I have a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2005) and an M.Div. from Candler School of Theology at Emory University (2009). For a list of my publications and my CV, please visit my website:

Adam Strater I am PhD student in the Hebrew Bible course of study, with a concentration in Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding. I earned a BA in Philosophy and Religion from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, an MA in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and an MA in the Bible and Ancient Near East from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am interested in apocalypticism and religious violence as general phenomena, and my research is interdisciplinary, using social scientific methods to study Jewish apocalyptic literature as ancient expressions of religious violence. As a Wexner Graduate Fellow, I am also interested in Jewish professional leadership and the relationship between academic and religious communities.

Wyse Rhodes

Jackie Wyse-Rhodes My current research explores depictions of the natural world in ancient Jewish apocalyptic literature. I am especially interested in the "heavenly mysteries" revealed by Jewish apocalypses, many of which comprise knowledge about nature and the material world. My other interests include: Israelite religion, especially within the context of ancient Near Eastern iconography; literary and myth theories, particularly the relevance of the work of Mikhail Bakhtin for biblical and religious studies; and the genealogy of humility in biblical and post-biblical literature. Previously, I earned a B.A. from Hiram College, an M.Div. from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and an M.A. from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Historical Studies in Theology and Religion

Corbin M.H. Boekhaus
I am interested primarily in the theology and philosophy of the late 18th and early 19th century, with particular interest in Friedrich Schleiermacher, Early German Romanticism, and the philosophy of nature. My dissertation focuses on the historical context and development of Schleiermacher’s mature understanding of freedom, and how he appropriates organism as a more appropriate schema for understanding freedom in non-mechanistic and non-supernaturalistic terms.  Prior to doctoral studies, I received a Th.M. from Emory University, an M.Div from Wake Forest University, and a B.B.A. from Mercer University.


Sarah Bogue I am a doctoral candidate specializing in early and medieval church history. My research interests include hagiography, mystical theologians from the Islamic and Christian traditions, the articulation of theology in iconography and architecture, and Christian identity formation through literature. Although my interests encompass a fairly broad chronology, ranging from late antiquity to the high middle ages, my dissertation will focus on the hagiographic corpus of the tenth-century Saxon cannoness Hrotsvit of Gandersheim. Using the prologue to her “legends” as a hermeneutical key to interpreting their content, I will suggest that these works serve as pedagogical tools, presenting Hrotsvit’s case for the importance of education in the Christian life. Hrotsvit takes on the role of educator, using these dramatic and humorous stories to assist her audience in the quest to “hammer” their intellects into tools capable of properly “singing” the praise of the divine.  If, as I am convinced, the Gandersheim nuns were at least one audience for the legends, then these works are also vital evidence of a female community’s attempt to articulate their particular Christian identity within the complex matrix of Ottonian society. Before coming to Emory, I earned a B.A. in Classical Languages from Davidson College in 2007 and a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2010.

Drew Denton

Drew Denton My dissertation examines the attempts made by Catholic publicists in the late antebellum period (1844 – 1861) to re-imagine the United States as a Catholic nation. This homegrown brand of Catholic nationalism I juxtapose with others arising throughout the nineteenth-century Atlantic World, particularly that promoted by the Catholic press of pre-Reforma Mexico. The comparative angle of my project signals a larger interest in nudging Latin America and the Caribbean more fully into the American religious historian’s purview.

My academic endeavors have centered on the dual poles of historical theology and antebellum American culture since my undergraduate days at Lipscomb University and my M.Div. coursework here at Emory. In the best of all possible worlds my teaching load would include, in addition to more standard offerings in church history, courses on the films of John Ford, the Catholic dimensions of the Southern literary revival, and baseball as liturgy and ascesis.

Brian Gronewoller

Brian Gronewoller My research interest lies in the political thought of Augustine of Hippo. I am particularly interested in his conceptualization of the proper relationship between a government and its Christian citizens in such works as his anti-Donatist writings and De Civitate Dei. I have a BS from Texas Christian University (1998) and earned both my MDiv (2010) and ThM in Historical Theology (2011) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.


Brendan Harris My research interests lie in the theological developments of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries, with a focus on the pneumatology, ecclesiology and soteriology of Gregory Nazianzus. I am interested in the ways the trinitarian controversy of the 4th century shaped Gregory’s understanding of how the believer is shaped and transformed by the Spirit through the Church and the sacraments. My other research interests include byzantine studies, eastern Christianity and philosophical theology (especially analytic theology). I am originally from Lancashire in the North West of England, and came to Emory after having received a BA in Philosophy and Theology (2013) from the University of Oxford (Oriel College), and an MA in Christian Theology (2014) from Durham University.


Will Love As an ABD candidate in the Historical Studies course of study, I am currently composing my dissertation on the Biblical interpretation of John Locke.  My dissertation draws on Locke's well known published works as well his unpublished theological manuscripts, especially his annotated study Bibles, housed in the Bodleian library at the University of Oxford.  I am exploring how Locke, especially in the last two decades of his life, synthesized his theories of epistemology, morality, and natural law with Sacred history and Biblical revelation.  I have a B.A. in history from Delta State University (2004), as well as an M.A. in history from the University of Memphis (2008) and an M.T.S. from the Emory University Candler School of Theology (2010).


Adam Mathes comes to the Historical Studies in Religion and Theology course of study following a BA in Political Science from the University of Georgia (2003) and a MDiv from Candler School of Theology (2012).  His primary research interest is in the Romantic appropriation and critique of the Kantian philosophy, especially as it relates to the philosophy of history and the the problem of historical origins.  More broadly, his interests include Nineteenth Century European Philosophical Theology and Modern European Intellectual History.  Adam is a Provisional Elder in the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church and a recipient of the Pat Tillman Military Scholars Fellowship.

Miller Micah

Micah Miller I am a PhD student in Historical Studies in the Graduate Division of Religion. My research interests, broadly speaking, are in early Christian history and thought. My primary focus is on the theological developments of the ante-Nicene period, along with the philosophical, rhetorical, and Jewish thought that impacted them, with a particular interest in the Christology and pneumatology of Origen of Alexandria. I received a B.A. in Theological Studies and English from Saint Louis University in 2011 and an M.A. from Saint Louis University in Theological Studies in 2013.

Marie Ange Rakotonianina
I am a PhD student in Historical Studies within the Graduate Division of Religion. Through the writings of Augustine, I explore the shaping of Jewish and Christian identities in late antiquity, with a special attention to the interactions between Jewish rituals and Christian sacraments. Being originally from France, I started reading Augustine while pursuing a Master in Histoire des faits culturels et religieux at the Université Paris IV-Sorbonne. One of the fundamental dimensions of my Master’s work has been analyzing the figurative interpretation of Jewish rites, in parallel with the different levels of Biblical interpretation in the writings of Augustine. Then, I first came to the US to work as a teaching assistant for the French Department at Wofford College. Upon returning to France, I reassessed and completed my original research on Augustine and Jewish rituals at La Sorbonne where I graduated with a Master Histoire des mondes antiques in 2013. After teaching history in a high school near Paris for one year, I left the City of Lights for Atlanta and completed a ThM at Candler School of Theology.

Jewish Religious Cultures


Brian Brittingham I am a PhD student in Jewish Religious Cultures with a primary interest in American Judaism, particularly the intersections of religion and print culture in 19th and 20th century American Jewish history. I also have interests in American religious cultures, religious studies theory, Yiddish language and literature, and Jewish participation in modern sport. In 2012, I received my BA in Religion from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and my MA in Jewish Studies from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2014. I have also recently studied at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. I am enrolled in the Jewish Studies certificate program through Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies.


Cory Driver I completed a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Economics at Purdue University. I then completed a M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, with dual emphases in Hebrew and Arabic at The Ohio State University. I am focusing on moral formation and training in religious traditions aside from one’s own. Specifically, I am writing my dissertation on Moroccan Muslims who work as guides, guards and “experts” at Jewish cemeteries. I also am very interested in the use of the history of the all-but-disappeared minority Jewish community by governmental and private tourism organizations as a means for encouraging travel to particular regions in Morocco. Additionally, I am a member of the Ethnographic Forum and Practices interdisciplinary program and enrolled in the Jewish Studies Certificate program.


Lisa Hoelle is a in the Graduate Division of Religion studying contemporary American Jewish identity. She is currently interested in how conceptions of American Jewish identity inform and shape intra-community practices. She has outside interests in education, ritual, and virtue ethics. Lisa earned a B.A. in Philosophy and International Studies from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2005 (summa cum laude), an M.A. in Philosophy at the University of Minnesota in 2009, and a graduate certificate in Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in 2013. She has also conducted research at Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and the Kierkegaard Centre in Copenhagen.

New Testament

Elizabeth Arnold is in the New Testament course of study. She has an M.Div in Biblical Studies from Gardner-Webb University Divinity School and a B.A. in English Education from Grand Valley State University. Her research Interests: Luke-Acts (especially its relationship with Genesis), humor and comedy in the biblical text, and the presence of theatrical/dramatic devices in the New Testament.

John Boyles
I am a PhD student working on the New Testament in conjunction with critical and hermeneutical theories. I earned my M.Div from Yale University in 2010 and my B.M. in French Horn performance, BA in Musical Theory and Composition, and BS in Mathematics from the University of Florida in 2007. My research focuses on the history of biblical interpretation and how particular modes of reading and standard interpretations become controlling while others are cast aside, in light of textual history and the manner in which critical theory can illuminate various interpretive streams.

David Carr

David Carr I am a Ph.D. student in New Testament in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. My current research focuses on conceptions of the self in the New Testament in relationship to conceptions of the self within Greco-Roman and Jewish discourse. In particular, I am interested in issues of identity, subjectivity, embodiment, and agency in early Christianity. My broader interests include biblical hermeneutics, New Testament theology, and the history of New Testament interpretation. Prior to doctoral studies, I earned a B.A. from Georgia College & State University (2005), an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary (2009), and a Th.M. from Candler School of Theology (2012). A John Wesley Fellow, I am seeking ordination as a deacon in the United Methodist Church.

My wife Maria and I have two sons, Isaiah and Joshua. We are enjoying our time in Atlanta and are especially fond of the city’s local restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.  

Christopher T Holmes

Christopher T. Holmes I am a PhD candidate in the New Testament. Informed by the larger religious and cultural world out of which early Christianity emerged, I approach the study and interpretation of the New Testament with attention to the literary and theological particularities of the New Testament compositions and their use in contemporary faith communities. My larger research interests include the varieties of Judaism in antiquity, religious experience in the ancient Mediterranean world, ancient literary and rhetorical theory, and the history of interpretation of the New Testament.

My dissertation explores the function and effect of Hebrews 12:18–29 in its literary context. Using the first-century literary treatise, De Sublimitate as a framework for analyzing this passage, I highlight the stylistic features of these verses and their effect on the audience. I argue that the stylistic and rhetorical form, the use of vivid imagery, and the appeal to the emotions in this passage moves the audience outside of their immediate situation and fosters a transformed understanding of their gathering together.

I'm an aspiring reader of fiction and poetry, a confounded (and tired) parent of two great kids, a recovering collegiate athlete, an experimenting cook, and an inconsistent viewer of college football and basketball. Since moving to Atlanta, my wife and I have come to love the seasonal festivals and local eateries.

For more information, visit or

Jill Marshall

Jill E. Marshall I am a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament, working on a dissertation entitled “Women Praying and Prophesying: Gender and Inspired Speech in 1 Corinthians.” In this project, I analyze Paul’s complex arguments about women and men speaking in the assembly in Corinth and use them as a starting point to consider expectations about women’s speech and the connection between women and inspired modes of religious speech in Paul’s cultural context.

My research interests are in religious experience, gender, and geographical varieties of early Christianity, particularly in the letters of Paul and Acts of the Apostles. I am also interested in situating early Christian texts, traditions, and communities within their cultural milieu using archaeological and art-historical data.

I have taught courses in Biblical Greek, New Testament interpretation, and theological writing and argumentation. I received a B.A. in History from Vanderbilt University, M.T.S. from Emory University, and Th.M. from Columbia Theological Seminary.


Stephen Marquardt I am a New Testament student in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. Before coming to Emory, I earned a B.A. with a double major in Biblical Studies and Pastoral Ministry at Multnomah University (2007), an M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies at Western Seminary (2011), and a Th.M. with an emphasis in New Testament at Western Seminary (2015).

My research interests focus on Luke-Acts, the Pauline Epistles, and the Johannine Epistles. I am also interested in different critical approaches that provide insight into the biblical text. I gained experience in textual criticism by writing my Th.M. Thesis (“The Text-Critical Problem of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35") on the text-critical issue in 1 Corinthians associated with the famous passage on women’s speech in the assembly. After examining relevant external and internal evidence, I concluded that this text is most likely a post-Pauline addition to 1 Corinthians. Further, I am intrigued by the contributions that socio-historical criticism can make to biblical interpretation. Along these lines, I am interested in exploring how an understanding of Greco-Roman history, literature, and social conventions can inform exegesis. I have paid particular attention to Paul’s approach to social reciprocity, and I believe that a proper understanding of Paul’s relationship with his churches must interact with Greco-Roman concepts such as the patron-client relationship, societas, etc.

My wife and I are from the Pacific Northwest, and we come to Atlanta with our cat Midnight. When I am not studying, my wife and I enjoy traveling, discovering new restaurants, taking walks together, and participating in outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking.

Eric Moore
I am a PhD candidate in New Testament and Early Christianity. Before coming to Emory, I earned a ThM from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, an MDiv from Midwestern Baptist Seminary, and BAs from the University of Missouri (Classics; English). My research focuses on Luke-Acts. My dissertation, titled “Claiming Places,” examines Acts in light of ancient motifs about colonization. I argue that the predominant concerns of colonization accounts—origins, divine sanction, and founding figures–illuminate the shape and concerns of Luke’s work, which offers a culturally attuned insider account of Christianity’s beginning and replication. My other interests include Greek and Roman religion, cultural borrowing, and the interplay of text(s) and material culture.


Jennifer Vija Pietz I am a New Testament student in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. My research centers on hermeneutics, examining the possibilities and problems involved in New Testament texts addressing contemporary life. I explore diverse approaches to interpreting both New Testament texts and the interrelated factors of history, culture, and identity that shape particular interpreters and their contexts. My goal is to develop holistic hermeneutical approaches that account for the dynamic and mutually formative relationship of religious and secular texts to the various contexts in which they are interpreted and appropriated. While I have emphasized feminist, womanist, and mujerista biblical hermeneutics in my research, I also analyze how New Testament texts inform broad theological, ethical, and societal concerns.

I hold a B.A. in philosophy from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA, with minors in Spanish and Classical Studies. I earned an M.Div. from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, and am an ordained Lutheran minister and teacher. And as a fluent Spanish speaker, I have enjoyed a variety of cross-cultural learning and teaching opportunities that continue to inform my pedagogy and scholarship.


Jonathan M. Potter My interests lie in the interwoven varieties of early Judaism and Christianity. My current research focuses on how texts as diverse as Jubilees, the Gospels, and the Acts of John (and many others) incorporate and reconfigure existing narratives to tell stories that are at once old and new. In my dissertation I am using Jewish texts that "rewrite" Genesis (e.g., Jubilees, Genesis Apocryphon, Josephus's Antiquities) to provide a comparative context for the rewriting of Mark in the Gospel of Luke, which has often been thought of as the "Gentile gospel." In particular I am interested in considering the notions about traditions, texts, scriptures, and authority that underlie such endeavors, and, furthermore, in how to contextualize such literary activity in relation to its Jewish, Greek, and Roman environment.

At Emory I also teach Greek courses in Candler School of Theology and work with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. In 2012, I completed a Master of Arts in Religion at Yale Divinity School, concentrated on New Testament and Ancient Judaism. Here I focused especially on the Synoptic Gospels and Hellenistic Jewish literature. Prior to this I received a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Grace College, in Winona Lake, Indiana. For further information and publications, see

Mike Suh

Michael K. Suh B.S. (UCLA), M.T.S. (Duke Divinity School) NT and early Christian studies: Pauline ecclesiology/theology; intertextuality; interpretations of the HB in early Judaism/Christianity; memory in early Christian communities // For late antiquity: Greek and Roman magic/healing; ancient religious experience // For contemporary: Intersection between scriptural interpretation and public life in faith communities; Korean-American Christian identity/practice. Dissertation (currently writing): “The Corinthian Assembly: Power and Peril: An Examination of 1 Corinthians 5:1–13, 10:1–33, and 11:17–34”

Alexander P. Thompson

Alexander P. Thompson  Background: B.A. from the University of Evansville majoring in Archaeology, Classics, and Biblical Studies; M.Div. from Candler School of Theology, concentration in Scripture and Interpretation; M.Litt. from University of St. Andrews in Scripture and Theology as the Bobby Jones Fellow

Research Interests: Literary, narrative, and rhetorical elements of the New Testament in conversation with ancient and modern literary theory. Also interested in questions of biblical theology and the overlap of religion and literature more broadly. Please feel free to contact me at

Brandon Wason
I am a PhD candidate in the New Testament course of study. I have a BA in Classics from California State University, Long Beach (2006) and a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Candler School of Theology (2009). My research is primarily concerned with Luke-Acts, ancient historiography, and rhetoric. My dissertation, "All Things to All People: Luke's Paul as an Orator in Diverse Social Contexts," looks at Luke's characterization of Paul in four of the main speeches in Acts (chs. 13, 17, 20, and 26). I have a lot of experience working in academic libraries and recently have begun a career as a theological librarian. I am working at Pitts Theology Library as the curator of archives and manuscripts. My wife, Wendy, and I live in Tucker with our son, Rowan. In my free time, which is rare these days, I enjoy woodworking and spending time with my family.

White D

Devin White I am a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament Studies, working on a dissertation entitled, “Paul the Teacher: Structures of Primary Education in 1 Corinthians 1-4.” This study of Paul’s teaching activity in Corinth focuses on his use of vocabulary, imagery, and concepts commonly found in ancient Mediterranean education. Traditionally, Paul’s “preaching” has received more scholarly attention than his “teaching,” and those few studies which have discussed his teaching have focused almost exclusively on the similarities between his paraenetic method and the paraenesis of Hellenistic philosophical schools. In contrast, my dissertation situates Paul’s discourse within the context of ancient primary education.

Beyond the Pauline epistles, my other research interests include the theological interpretation of scripture, Christianity in the second century, and early Christian monasticism. I earned my B.A. in Classics from Grand Valley State University in 2008 and my M.T.S. from Candler School of Theology in 2010.  

Wyant Jennifer

Jennifer Wyant I am a first year student in the GDR, pursuing a PhD in New Testament. I recently graduated with my MDiv from Candler School of Theology in 2013. Prior to Candler, I received a B.A. in Biblical Studies and International Studies at the University of Evansville in Evansville, IN. My research interests primarily focus on the reception history of the New Testament. I'm interested in how these developing interpretations then affected Christianity at large and how these former interpretations continue to shape our own readings of the text. My master's thesis, completed in 2013, examines the developing traditions surrounding Judas Iscariot in early Christianity and how the earliest Christians turned to Jewish Scriptures to answer the questions his character represents. I am also interested in the relationship between the Church and academia and finding ways to bridge the gap between those two worlds. I am currently seeking ordination in the United Methodist Church.

Person, Community, and Religious Life


Antonio (Tony) Alonso The application of ritual studies to liturgical studies and its relationship to ecclesiology inspires my scholarship. I am interested in the complex ways in which communities appropriate their understandings of tradition; the multivalent interaction of the verbal and non-verbal languages of ritual prayer; and the ways in which the church’s worship embodies its ecclesiological structures. My current research focuses on the relationship between consumer culture and Christian practice. In addition to my scholarly work, I have served as a lay ecclesial minister of music in Roman Catholic communities in Los Angeles and Chicago; I am also a published composer of liturgical music (Chicago: GIA Publications). I hold a Bachelor of Music in choral conducting from Northwestern University and a Master of Arts in theological studies from Loyola Marymount University.

Courtney Buggs
I am a doctoral student in Person, Community, and Religious Life, with a concentration in Homiletics.  I received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Louisiana Tech University, and I was a United States Air Force Officer prior to pursuing my Masters of Divinity at Candler School of Theology. 

My interest in homiletics as a discipline began during my time in the military, as I lived and worshiped in several countries outside the United States, and began to consider the methods and practices of preaching in varied geographical areas.  My academic interests include cross-cultural preaching and the ways in which diverse cultural environments impact the person of the preacher.  Additionally, I engage liberative theologies and pedagogies in analyzing the performance, language and practices of preaching, particularly for African American clergywomen.  I am also interested in theological anthropology and theories of epistemology that inform particular homiletical practices.

Eunil David Cho
I am a doctoral student in The Person, Community, and Religious Life (PCRL) Course of Study in the Graduate Division of Religion with concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. As a practical theologian, I primarily look into ways to link pastoral theology with psychology, intercultural studies, and congregational studies.  My current research focuses on a narrative approach to pastoral care, with particular attention to seeing how narrative can be used in understanding interpersonal identity formation and experiences of trauma and loss, especially in intercultural settings.

Prior to doctoral studies, I completed my B.A. at the University of Michigan in 2007 and my M.Div. at Emory’s Candler School of Theology in 2015. I also taught middle school social studies for two years. Currently, as an ordination candidate in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I have been serving a multicultural congregation as a minister of education for several years.

Choi J

Johann Choi I am a PhD student in the Graduate Division of Religion with a concentration in Pastoral Theology. I received a B.A. in Communication from the University of Southern California and an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School. Prior to entering the doctoral program I completed a yearlong chaplain residency at the Durham VA Medical Center. Currently, I am a part-time staff chaplain at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.  My research interests include theological anthropology, early Christian monasticism, and the healing practices of the early church, particularly as they relate to mental illness. I anticipate my future research will involve exploring the theology of early Christian health care and discerning how it might inform pastoral and ecclesial forms of care today.

Ashley E. Coleman

Ashley Erin Coleman As a social science of religion scholar, my intersubjective research methodology combines pragmatic philosophy, phenomenology, ethnography, and black feminist theory to examine black women’s lived experiences in the Puerto Rican context. Namely, My dissertation explores how ritual experiences in a nondenominational black church, and an Afro-Puerto Rican drum/dance community, inform the agentic practices necessary for women to self-construct their identity and resist racist, sexist, and classist hegemonies in their environments. I earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Religious Studies and Psychology from Spelman College and my Master of Education in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Sarah Farmer

Sarah F. Farmer I am doctoral candidate in the Graduate Division of Religion with a concentration on Person, Community and Religious Life. I received my B.A from Berea College (cum laude) in 2001 and my M.Div from Candler School of Theology in 2008. I am currently working on a dissertation entitled, “Hope in Confinement: Moving Toward a Pedagogy of Critical Visibility.” My research examines the concept of hope as it is operationalized in the lives of marginalized populations, particularly those who experience “confinement”? My research also seeks to gain insight about the ways the practice of art within critical emancipatory pedagogies helps become a conduit of personal and social transformation. Other research interests include psychosocial identity formation, community building and social change and transformative pedagogy. For the last ten years, I have worked with Youth Hope-Builders Academy, which informs my interest in adolescent formation. This year, I am a Dissertation Fellow for the Forum of Theological Exploration. I will also be serving as the Atlanta Theological Association Prison Studies Coordinator.

Rachelle Renee Green
My area of study resides in Person, Community, and Religious Life concentrating in Practical Theology and Religious Education. My bachelor’s degree is in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and I spent several years working as a marketing manager in corporate America focusing intently on the needs of women and families of color. Following that career, I received an MA in Practical Theology from Regent University (2011) and an Mdiv from Candler School of Theology (2014). Throughout my theological studies, I have concentrated on liberation theologies and pedagogies which were utilized in my work as a theological instructor in a state prison for women and as a resident in the University Chaplain’s Office focusing on inter-religious learning. As such, my desired areas of research stem from a compelling sense of urgency and responsibility to teach and write practical theology that focuses intently on the lives of marginalized women, particularly those who are and have been imprisoned. I desire to utilize feminist and womanist theology and ethics, liberation pedagogies, and strategies of caring for marginalized populations, to construct a womanist practical theology that facilitates teaching and caring for women in prison and beyond.

Elana Jefferson

Elana Jefferson-Tatum I am a PhD candidate in the Graduate Division of Religion with a concentration in African religious studies. As a 2015 Religious Practices and Practical Theology Dissertation Fellow, I am currently completing my dissertation entitled, “Religious Matters: African (Vodoun) Materialities and The Western Concept of Religion.” This project interrogates the epistemological and ontological assumptions embedded within the western categories of “matter” and “religion.” Yet, beyond merely denudating these concepts, this dissertation asks: why does “matter” matter in the formation of religious experience? Through an analysis of Vodoun material philosophies, theologies, and practices, this dissertation fundamentally re-imagines matter and materiality as the essence of religion and the religious. It also challenges us to re-define religion, however, not by asking how Vodoun is a religion, but rather by exploring how religion can be re-imagined and re-theorized through a critical attention to Vodoun practices, philosophies, and materialities.

My larger research agenda is committed to exploring new theoretical and methodological paradigms for the study of African religious cultures with particular attention to the problems of translation and interpretation. Before beginning my doctoral studies at Emory, I received a M.T.S. in African religious studies from Harvard Divinity School in 2009, where I was also honored as a Harvard Presidential scholar, and a B.A. in religious studies at Emory University in 2006.


Layla Karst I am a first year doctoral student in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion where I specialize in Liturgy and Practical Theology.   My research centers around the development and practice of Christian pilgrimage, examining the historical development of this practice in the Church, the ritual and liturgical experiences of contemporary pilgrims, and the role of pilgrimage in Christian conversion and formation.  My broader research interests include the role of ritual, practice, and communication in the human encounter with the divine, the sacramental experience, and the fundamental ideas of revelation, incarnation, and conversion.  Prior to doctoral studies, I served as a Lay Ecclesial Minister in Residential Life and Campus Ministry at the University of Notre Dame.  I received a BA in Communications from Whitworth University in 2006 and an MDiv from the University of Notre Dame in 2010. 

Katie Givens Kime

Katie Givens Kime As a practical theologian with particular capacities in the area of pastoral theology, I find much life in the teaching of Christian practices across the theological curriculum.   My research lies at the rich intersections of theological anthropology, psychology, cognitive science, and psychoanalysis.  Interdisciplinary approaches to the complexities of 12-step addiction recovery programs are of great interest to me, particularly the implications for Christian practices of care and testimony.  Jungian psychology, particularly how Jung’s Red Book illuminates models of multiplicity and Christian spirituality, is another research interest.  An ordained Presbyterian minister, I served in congregations in New York and Atlanta prior to my doctoral work.  I hold a B.A. in Communication Arts and Rhetorical Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary (NYC).  My CV and list of publications may be found here:


Emily “Michelle” Ledder I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Person, Community, and Religious Life Course of Study with a concentration in Homiletics and Pedagogy.  In addition to my primary discipline, I teach workshops for the Jones Program of Ethics and am enrolled in the Religious Practices and Practical Theology Concentration. I earned my B.A. in Theology and Philosophy from Eastern Nazarene College in 2007. My M.Div., with a concentration in Theology and Ethics, was completed in 2010 at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. My research interests include liberative and subversive pedagogies; the relationships between power, agency, and transformation; multicultural homiletical theories and practical theologies; and practical theories of epistemology. My dissertation project will focus on using the prophetic from prophetic preaching to interrogate teaching methods and methodologies for multicultural deficiencies and to construct multicultural competencies.


Matthew Pierce I'm a doctoral candidate in Person, Community and Religious Life with a concentration Religious Practices and Practical Theology.  My work examines the influence of race, class, and geography on American Protestant worship practices.  My dissertation, "A Place for 'Place' in Liturgical Theology," reflects upon Christian worship from the perspective of human geography and urban planning.  I have a B.A. in Religious Studies and Philosophy from UNC-Chapel Hill, an M.Div from Duke University, and a MURP from the University of New Orleans.


Jan Rippentrop Prior to my Ph.D. work, I completed my M.Div. at Wartburg Theological Seminary and served a fabulous congregation as pastor. At Emory, my research is multifaceted. Within liturgical history, I am researching the development of the offering as related to money and the Eucharist. Additionally, using Emory’s Special Collections, especially the Kessler Collection, I research the epiclesis of the Word and its variable patterns of liturgical inclusion. Another research interest is the intersection of liturgical theology and narrative theory. I marshal the work of Paul Ricoeur to investigate ways in which anticipation influences liturgical encounters and how liturgies extend beyond the confines of temporally-constrained worship services. As a scholar in the field of religious practices, I use ethnographic research to explore lived liturgies and hear people’s own thick descriptions of their experiences.


Natalia A. Shulgina I am a PhD candidate in The Person, Community, and Religious Life Program. My primary areas of scholarship include Practical Theology, Pastoral Care, and Religious Education. I have a special interest in the issues of spiritual formation and contemplative monastic spirituality. My dissertation focuses on clergy burnout and the possibilities of addressing this problem in the context of theological education of clergy, under the guidance of the Benedictine-Cistercian monastic tradition. Prior to my coming to Emory, I lived and studied in Russia, earning degrees in surgical nursing, clinical pharmacy, and theology. I am an ordained elder in the Russia United Methodist Church. Hence, in my work I seek to bring together insights from different academic disciplines and cultural traditions, to ground the practices of rigorous study in the habits of vital piety, and to bridge the gap between the church and the university.

Jay Thomas

Jay Thomas The focus of my work is Homiletics and Practical Theology. My primary interest is in the role practices play in the religious formation of individuals and communities and in attempting to create a holistic model of religious formation through practice. I am particularly interested in the ways the practice of preaching is formative for religious communities. I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served as senior pastor of College Park Presbyterian Church in Atlanta from 2006-2011. I have a B.A. in English from Emory University and a M.Div. from Columbia Theological Seminary.

Kimberly Wagner

Kimberly Wagner I am a doctoral student in the Person, Community and Religious Life Course of Study, specifically studying Homiletics.  I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as well as a graduate from Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div., 2009).  As a citizen of both the academy and the Church, I am interested in exploring the intersection between preaching, theology, and popular culture. In my work in the GDR, I hope to explore the ways popular culture represents theological ideas such as resurrection or post apocalypticism and then ask deeper questions about the church’s voice in these (now very public) conversations.

Theological Studies


Jennifer Carlier My research focuses on the language we use to talk about and relate to God. While working on my M.A. in English Literature (Leiden University, The Netherlands, 1999) I discovered how potent words can be: they encapsulate memory; they have the power to subdue, and the potential to liberate; they allow the imagination to soar, yet limit what the mind is able to think. During my M.T.S. (Utrecht University, The Netherlands, 2007) and later my M.Div. studies (Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA, 2014) I began to explore the possibilities of language for liberating and expanding our sense of who God is, how we relate to God, and how we relate to each other as a result. I am particularly interested in feminist and queer theologies, as well as theories of metaphor. I am using the cognitive linguistic theory of metaphor to explore how metaphorical language both describes and prescribes our notions of, and relation to God. I’m curious about the challenges and opportunities metaphors provide for opening up constructive and communal approaches to addressing and naming a God who is both revealed and wholly other.

I am currently working towards a Ph.D. in Theological Studies, and am enrolled in the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies certificate program.


Diana Click My current research in Theological Studies revolves around women in Christian theology, focusing especially on: 1) theology written about women as compared with women’s lived reality, 2) women’s experiences as sources for theological epistemology, and 3) how Scripture mediates self-dignity and ethical agency to women. More broadly, my research interests involve global women’s (esp. Latina) voices on Scripture and pneumatology in theological anthropology; women in the history of World Christianity; women’s experiences of migration; critical race theory and “mixed” identities; and apophatic theology. My educational background includes a B.A. in Humanities and Bible from Johnson University Florida and a M.Div. from Candler School of Theology.


Christina Conroy I am a PhD candidate in Theological Studies writing a constructive theological project entitled Theology After Residential Schools. I have an educational history in systematic and feminist theology, and my dissertation conversation partners include contemplative Christian theology, Paul Tillich, Canadian First Nations history and in particular the history of church involvement in Indian Residential Schools. I am a certificate student with the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department and work with the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies teaching in the area of Holocaust history. Despite my sustained focus on suffering and marginalized communities, I have a finely honed Canadian sense of humor. I received my S.T.M. from Yale Divinity School and my M.Div from Canadian Theological Seminary.

Becky Copeland

Rebecca (Becky) Copeland I am a PhD student in Theological Studies working to retrieve and reconstruct classic Christian resources to address current practical and theological issues. Specifically, my current research investigates how Chalcedonian Christology can be revisioned to open the implications of the incarnation for the relationship between human beings and the rest of creation, thereby constructing a deeper foundation for Christian engagement with the environmental crises we are facing today. I am a part of the Religion and Ecology Collaborative. Before pursuing a theological education, I spent eight years as an Assistant Attorney General for Virginia. I have a B.A. from the University of Miami (FL), a J.D. from the William & Mary School of Law, and both a M.Div. and a Th.M. from the Candler School of Theology. I can be reached at


Ashley Gay My academic journey originated in actor training at New York University (Tisch), but moved quickly to questions of how the body proclaims the invisible (B.A. in theater, minor in english and psychology at Harding University). After pursuing the exegetical study of scripture (M.A.T.S. at Austin Graduate School of Theology), I came to re-consider these questions in their philosophical and theological heritage (M.A.T.R. from Andover Newton, with coursework at Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University). Through the theological studies track at Emory, my research has come to refine what I call "apophatic sacramentality," as it shapes our notions of the holy, and the absolute . For more information on my dissertation ("God is Not Nothing: Thinking the Ab-solute Otherwise"), please see or

Ryan Kuratko

Ryan Kuratko My research engages the formation of humanity and the self as we are shaped by contemplative practices, together with the ways our metaphysical commitments about reality affect those practices and our formation in subtle and overt ways.  My approaches to these questions within theological anthropology stem from my prior engagements with phenomenology, continental philosophy, ethics, Anglican theology, and practical formation within ecclesial communities.  I also engage Buddhism as a fruitful partner in dialogue, where many of these issues connected to formation and metaphysics receive a more explicit formulation than in Christianity.  I received a BA from Northwestern University in philosophy and an MDiv from Virginia Theological Seminary before serving as an Episcopal priest in Texas and Virginia. After six years of congregational ministry, I entered Emory's Graduate Division of Religion.


Winston D.G. Persaud I am a PhD student in the Theological Studies course of study.  I earned a B.A. Magna Cum Laude from Carleton College majoring in Religion and minoring in Spanish, and then an MTS from Harvard Divinity School.  My current research focuses on the theological grounding of human rights in a theocentric anthropology, and the implications of that work for global economic rights.  I am broadly interested in the relationship between theology and conceptualizations of modernity, both with regards to epistemological/methodological issues as well as ethics and politics; the nature of globalization and its implications for religion; economic structures and democratic life; and Christian participation in public life.  My work is fueled by my Indo-Guyanese and white American cultural background, a semester abroad in Central America, and a year of service in Mexico with the Young Adults in Global Mission Program of the ELCA Lutheran Church in 2007-08.

Brian Powers
I am a doctoral candidate in Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion in the Theological Studies area and am involved with the Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding concentration.  I earned a B.S. in Meteorology from North Carolina State University and an M.Div and Th.M  from Columbia Theological Seminary.  As a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am interested in the ways that Christian theology shapes (and also fails to shape) our thinking about contemporary ecclesial and political issues – most notably, those involving identity, justice and violence.  My primary research interests involve the application of the theological concepts of sin, anthropology, crucifixion, resurrection and eschatology to these issues.  As such, the focus of my research often falls at the intersection of systematic theology and Christian ethics.  I have helped build and teach classes in both of these areas.  My dissertation, “The End of Violent Myth” explores the ways in which a modified Augustinian conception of original sin holds deep explanatory power to illuminate the nature of wartime violence, particularly through the lens of veteran trauma.  In it, I examine the conceptual intersections of personal and communal sin, violence, guilt and shame in the context of political conflict.


Rebecca Spurrier is a PhD candidate in Theological Studies in Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion. Her research engages embodiment theories and disability studies as important resources for religious and ritual aesthetics. Her dissertation, titled Works of Love: Beauty and Fragility in a Community of Difference, focuses on a Christian church in which persons with psychiatric disabilities are central to the life of the congregation. Using ethnographic research, she traces practices within this community that resist models of segregationist charity and offers an aesthetic frame for human difference. Rebecca graduated with a B.A. in English literature from Calvin College and an M.Div. from Candler School of Theology.  She is a participant in Emory University’s Disability Studies Initiative, Religious Practices and Practical Theology Initiative, and Ethnographic Forum.

Callie Tabor
I am a PhD student in Theological Studies in the Graduate Division of Religion. My research interests include feminist theology, twentieth-century Catholic theology, and theology and literature.  I am particularly interested in exploring the relationship between theology and comedy, drawing upon writings on the theology of nature and grace, as well as literary sources.  Before arriving at Emory, I spent five years studying in the UK where I received an MA (Hons) in English from the University of St. Andrews and an MA in Christian Theology (Catholic Studies) from Durham University. 

Kyle Tau

Kyle Tau I am presently a doctoral candidate in Theological Studies, having completed a B.A. in Philsophy and Theology from Point Loma Nazarene University and an M.T.S from the Candler School of Theology, Emory University.  In my current work I am interested in exploring the relationship between liturgical practices and the moral and political imagination.  My dissertation project, currently entitled Ora et Labora: On the Liturgical Reframing of Work, will focus on the role of fixed hour daily prayer in the Christian tradition, or the Liturgy of the Hours, in shaping its practitioners in an experience of time that is at odds with the understanding of commodified time that dominates contemporary economic calculations particularly with respect to labor.  My goal will be to show that daily liturgical prayer can function as a source for critique and transformation of the dehumanizing discipline our global economic structures impose on workers.  In other areas I like to explore the use of scripture in theological discernment, the history, meaning and practice of the sacraments particularly in relation to life in the body, and the theology of Hans Frei, Karl Barth, and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Michael Yandell
I am a doctoral student in the field of Theological Studies in the Graduate Department of Religion. I received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Tennessee at Martin (2011) and a Master of Divinity from Brite Divinity School (2015). I am an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I am interested in the concept of moral injury – especially as it relates to a doctrine of God that provides opportunity for reconciliation between aggressors and victims of violent acts. I plan to engage with other disciplines on the topic of moral injury through Emory’s concentration in Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding.

West and South Asian Religons


Tenzin Bhuchung I graduated with a Shastri degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy from the Central University of Tibetan Studies, Varanasi, India and with a Masters in Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. My graduate research at Emory will focus on the intersection of Buddhist philosophy and practice by engaging in an in-depth research on the philosophical foundations and contemplative practices leading to the state of liberation. Liberation, as a soteriological concern within this tradition has many levels. For example, engendering a particular way of thinking based on loving-kindness and empathy can give rise to ‘liberation’ from hatred. Ultimately, liberation refers to the state of perfect Buddhahood. My concentration will be on ‘practical’ madhyamaka philosophy as it relates to the fundamental Buddhist quest of seeking liberation from afflictive emotions. I will do so by undertaking a comparative study of madhyamaka philosophy and meditation techniques in the Dzogchen teachings of Nyingma tradition and the Madyamaka and tantric teachings of Geluk tradition of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.

Rose Deighton I am a candidate in West and South Asian Religions focussing on Islam and Buddhism. I received a B.A. in Religion and History from Carleton University (2011) and an M.A. in Religion from the University of Toronto (2014). I will centre my research on wisdom literature, more specifically aphoristic writing, as it appears in several genres of Islamic literature.  I will explore the aphoristic content of the Qur'an and Hadith as well as writings from the Islamic legal, philosophical, and spiritual traditions. Aphorisms are used as vehicles for conveying spiritual truths. I intend to compare how they function as transmitters of spiritual guidance in  both the Islamic and Buddhist traditions.  

Jon Loar

Jonathan (Jon) Loar I'm currently working on a dissertation about Shirdi Sai Baba (d. 1918), an Indian saint from Shirdi village in Maharashtra, who is popularly known for conflating the boundaries between Hindu and Islamic traditions and for advocating Hindu-Muslim unity. My primary interest is the Shirdi Sai Baba hagiographic tradition and the representations of the saint therein, but I'm also looking at Shirdi Sai Baba's iconography, as well as the discourse about sainthood and religious syncretism. I entered the WSAR program in 2008 with my M.A. from the University of Virginia and my B.A. from Emory. I have also studied Hindi in Jaipur and Marathi in Pune with the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Daniel McNamara

Daniel McNamara In general, my research concerns the intellectual history of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, particularly during the reception of Buddhism into Tibet (c. 700-1200). My dissertation explores the evolving relationships between epistemology and yogic meditation praxis during this period as exemplified in the writings of Mahāsiddha Śāntipa (c. 970-1050 CE). My secondary research concerns historical and intellectual interactions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Central and South Asia.

I received an M.A. from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2007 and a B.A. from Hampshire College in 2002. I have spent time as a resident visiting researcher at the Central University for Tibetan Studies (Sarnath, India), Mahidol University (Bangkok, Thailand) and the Rangjung Yeshe Institute for Buddhist Studies (Kathmandu, Nepal). During the Fall 2014 I am serving as instructor for Introductory Sanskrit at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute. I can also be found on

Rebecca Makas I am a third year student concentrating on Islamic Studies and Neoplatonic philosophy.  My work focuses on medieval Sufi epistemology and metaphysics centering on figures such as Ibn al-‘Arabī and the Akbarian School, Suhrawardī, and al-Ghazālī.  I am especially interested in issues of ineffability and language and the transmission of mystical knowledge. 

I received my B.A. in Comparative Religion and Philosophy from Western Michigan University in 2009 and my M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 2011. 

Siti Sarah Muwahidah
is a PhD candidate in Religious Studies (WSAR) at Emory University. Her study concentrations are in Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding as well as in Political Theology and Theory of Practice. She received an MA in Religious Studies from Florida International University, in the United States and another MA in Religious Cross-Cultural Studies from Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. She has been actively engaged in and has managed programs in human rights, interfaith and peacebuilding among elite and grassroots groups, especially during her tenure at MAARIF Institute for Culture and Humanity, Jakarta. She serves as a board member and program director for an Atlanta NGO, Building Understanding.  She is a Fulbright Presidential Fellow (2010) and Asian Public Intellectual Fellow (2009).  Currently, she is conducting her dissertation fieldwork on Sunni-Shī'i relations in Indonesia. Since 2004, she has conducted research on conflict and peacebuilding issues in Southeast Asia, including in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Her research interests include: Sunni and Shī'i dynamics, interfaith dialogue, religion and peacebuilding, Islam and human rights, religion and science, religion and ecology, as well as women and religion.

Cat Prueitt

Catherine Prueitt (Comparative Literature and Religion) I received my B.A. in Religion with Honors from the University of Rochester. I served as a Fulbright Fellow to India in 2011-2012, a Mellon Graduate Teaching Fellow at Spelman College in 2013-2014, and an ACLS/Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Buddhist Studies Dissertation Research Fellow from 2014-2015. I am currently completing my dissertation, entitled Carving out Conventional Worlds: The Work of Apoha in Early Dharmakīrtian Buddhism and Pratyabhijñā Śaivism. My research focuses on competing theories about the relationship between concept formation and the subject/object structure of normal sensory experience in early medieval Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. I am very interested in exploring how insights gleaned from Indian epistemological traditions can advance current debates about the nature of human experience.

Ananda Reed
My primary area of interest is in women’s roles in Buddhism. Currently, I am researching Tibetan Buddhist nuns’ ordination issues, and a new movement that has evolved to push for full (bhikshuni) ordination rights for Tibetan nuns.  I am also interested in looking at the impacts of globalism and modernity on religious traditions and the changes and transformations that occur as a result.  I have completed the Practices Program here at Emory, where I am working to further my training in the methods of ethnography in religion, particularly in the West and South Asian religions (more specifically in the Himalayan regions). I also have interests in Newar Buddhism, Hinduism, visual anthropology, and photography. I also enjoy occasionally assistant editing at the Journal of Buddhist Ethics. I completed my BA in anthropology with minors in religion and Asian studies at Temple University, and completed my Master’s degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on the History of Religions and Indo-Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Virginia.


Anandi Salinas I received my undergraduate degrees in physics and astronomy from The University of Texas at Austin, and I completed my master's degree in religion at Duke University in 2011 where I studied the intersections of religion and Indian classical dance. My master’s thesis focused on an ethnographic documentary I filmed on the subject of dancers from South and East Indian classical dance traditions in the US. My background in Indian classical dance, science, and religious studies can be found at

My dissertation research focuses on the study of daily practices in Hindu religious traditions, primarily contemporary Vaishnavism, through ethnographic, visual anthropology, and phenomenological methods. My research is supported by active participation in the Ethnographic Forum, Practices concentration, and Emory’s Visual Scholarship Initiative.


Summar Shoaib I am in the West and South Asian Religions concentration, with a primary focus on Islam and secondary focus on Hinduism. I completed my BS in International Affairs from the Georgia Institute of Technology and my MA in Near Eastern Studies from New York University. My research interests include Islam and gender, women's religious ritual and performance in South Asia, devotional literature, and deconstructing categories of orthodoxy and popular religion. My dissertation work at Emory focuses on Minhaj-ul Qur’an, a Sufi transnational organization, and the ways in which female members work to establish authority. I am part of the Ethnographic Forum and the Concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology.


Deeksha Sivakumar I am a PhD student in South Asian Religions studying for my exams in Hinduism and Islam. I am a budding ethnographer focusing on the Hindu celebration of Navaratri in South India called pommai kolu, a festival arrangement of dolls.  My primary interests include ritual performance, healing, materiality and femininity.

I have completed my Master’s in Asian Religions from University of Hawaii (2010) and my B.A (Hons) in Philosophy and Psychology from Linfield College, OR (2007). I am natively proficient in Hindi and Tamil, also pursuing Sanskrit for my doctoral studies on Indian religious traditions.


Stephanie Yep I am a PhD student in West and South Asian Religions and I recently completed my MA in Religion at Wake Forest University. My research at Emory will focus on conceptions of masculinity in Muslim and Jewish communities during the emergence of Islam. I intend to examine how such conceptions became solidified in Islamic jurisprudence around the 10th century CE and the extent to which Jewish custom influenced Islamic law. My MA thesis delineated the criminalization of same-sex acts in Islamic law through textual and ethnographic methodologies.

Alex Yiannopoulos My research focuses on late Indian Buddhist philosophy, especially the issue of “reflexive awareness” (svasaṃvitti) in its relation to the theory of perception and the wider discourse on the nature of consciousness. After graduating with degrees in Linguistics and Philosophy from Boston College, I moved to Nepal, where I spent nearly six years studying Buddhist texts and the Tibetan language at a monastery in Kathmandu. My M.A. is in Buddhist Philosophy and Himalayan Languages, awarded from the Rangjung Yeshe Institute (Center for Buddhist Studies) at Kathmandu University.