Skip Navigation

Student Bios

 This page is currently being updated: please check back for updates.

American Religious Culture

Coleman Tobias

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 B.A. from Spelman College in 2006 and the M.Div. from Yale Divinity School in 2009.


Meredith Doster
I am a doctoral student in American Religious Cultures with primary interests in Appalachian religious identity and its narrative constructions. My research examines the emergence and construction of Appalachian identity as a necessary counterpoint to ideals of normative, mainline American religious traditions. Contesting the categories "Appalachia" and "Appalachian religion," my work interrogates the complex relationships between centers and purported peripheries of American religious cultures. Secondary research interests include spiritual voyeurism across digital spaces, the evolution of sacred singing traditions in the U.S. South, and digital humanities scholarship. I come to Religious Studies with a B.A. in Music from Barnard College (2003) and an M.A. in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University (2010).

Marianne Parrish Florian

Marianne Parrish Florian

I study Buddhism in America within the American Religious Cultures course of study. Though new to the GDR, I was fortunate to be able to take courses in this department as an MTS student in Candler School of Theology. Before I came to Atlanta, I worked as a French tutor, corporate trainer, and instructor and received an M.A. in French from the University of South Carolina.

Research questions that have interested me for the past several years include: How does a U. S. context shape the expression of Buddhist religion? In what ways do categories of religious experience inherited from European scholarship and theology color western religious understandings of Buddhist meditation and its goals? When programs teaching “Buddhist-inflected secular meditation” are active in healthcare and educational fields, how do they establish and convey their own 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 
I am a second year PhD student in the American Religious Culture track. A public scholar, I am interested in the role of religious history in the American historical meta-narrative interpreted for the general public. My research examines religious identities in the New South era, especially how religion functioned in the public sphere. I have a BA in History and International Studies from Wake Forest University and an MA in Public History from American University.

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 century. 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, focus on the manners 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. 

Alphonso Saville

Alphonso F. Saville

My research interests include eighteenth and nineteenth century African American religious history, the interstices of black spirituality and black expressive culture, and theoretical issues in the study of African American life and history.  My dissertation, The Gospel According to John Marrant: Religious Consciousness in the Black Atlantic, 1755-1791, studies the life and writings of John Marrant, North America’s first ordained minister of African descent.  In addition to Marrant’s primary documents, I examine archival sources, colonial American literature, and narrative traditions in Black expressive culture to analyze the development of religious thought in colonial America.

I have taught courses in the departments of Religion and African American studies, and currently hold the Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellowship at Dartmouth College.  I have a B.A. in Africana Studies and Creative Writing from New York University and an M.A. in Religion from Memphis Theological Seminary

Ethics and Society


Georgette Ledgester

Georgette Ledgister
Georgette is a PhD student in the Ethics and Society course of study in the Graduate Division of Religion. Her research interests focus on the intersection of religion, violence and peacebuilding, and evaluating the ethical impact of humanitarian development in sub-Saharan Africa. Georgette was previously Program Coordinator at Emory’s Institute for Developing Nations (IDN). Her responsibilities included coordinating IDN’s communications, organizing academic events and providing support for the IDN-CIPA scholarship program. She has also interned with the Democracy Program at The Carter Center and supported their first pre-election assessment mission in the DRC in advance of the 2006 presidential elections. She received her Master’s of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and her Bachelor degree in International Studies and French Studies from the Undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University. Georgette is committed to addressing issues of poverty and governance, and specifically using faith-based approaches to conflict transformation both locally in Atlanta, and globally in Africa.


Sarah MacDonald
Working at the intersection of Christian social ethics and conflict transformation, I study nonviolent activism, international accompaniment and peacebuilding, especially when these are engaged in as forms of Christian ministry.  My research concerns the possibilities and challenges of ethically and strategically building alliances across differentials of privilege and access.  What are the forms of power we draw on, and the understandings of identity and relationship that will best support movements for justice and social change?  Prior to beginning Ph.D. studies, I worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) as an international accompanier and nonviolent activist—mostly in Colombia and the West Bank of Palestine—and my research questions emerge from those experiences with CPT.  Here at Emory, I am in the Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding concentration.  Other commitments of mine—within and beyond the academy—include contemplative practice, pedagogy, sustainability, storytelling, community building.

Pimentel Toste

Katie Pimentel Toste
I am a first year PhD student in the “Ethics and Society” field of the Graduate Division of Religion. 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, and 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 Masters of Arts in Religion at Yale University, concentrating in Ethics.


Kristyn Sessions
I am a doctoral student in the Ethics and Society course of study, with a Religious Practices and Practical Theology concentration. Prior to earning my M.T.S. degree at Candler School of Theology in 2011, I worked on social justice issues both domestically and internationally.  From 2004-2006, I partnered with a rural women’s development organization as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, West Africa.  Subsequently, I served local churches in Anchorage, Alaska as a community organizer for three years, walking with ordinary folks to address quality of life issues in their neighborhoods.  Growing out of those experiences, my research focuses on narrative and storytelling in moral agency and discernment.  Everyday encounters with poverty and illness particularly capture my attention.​

Won Chul Shin

Won Chul Shin
I am a first year PhD student in the Ethics and Society course of study in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. 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 B.A. and B.S. (majoring Theology and Mechanical Engineering) from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea in 2010, and a M.Div. from Emory’s Candler School of Theology in 2013. Besides academia, I am deeply concerned about the issue of “comfort women” and wartime crimes.


Elizabeth Whiting Pierce
Elizabeth Whiting Pierce is a third year student, concentrating in Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding. She studies interplays between ecological and social conditions, especially how religious institutions, practices and beliefs influence these dynamics. Normatively, her work tries to describe the ecological conditions of peace. She holds a bachelors degree in biology from Trevecca Nazarene University and a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt University, both in Nashville, TN.

Williams Sara Ann

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



Aubrey Buster
I am a third year 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 second year 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
Focusing on masculinity in the court tales of Daniel as a test case, my dissertation addresses issues in a shift towards gender studies in the Hebrew Bible. For example, how can scholars analyze gender in ancient literature when a text’s gendered ideology is assumed or implicit? Is it possible to investigate masculinity in ancient literature apart from other social categories (e.g., ethnicity or socio-political status)? How is a study of masculinity related to feminist criticism? Sociological understandings of and approaches to gendered inequality in the modern world inform my work. Likewise, the various approaches that analyze gender in the Hebrew Bible, including feminist criticism, queer criticism, and studies of masculinity, influence my research and I am interested in the history of and relationships between these approaches. 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 work, see

Germany 2014

Stephen Germany

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Hebrew Bible course of study and am also completing a certificate in Jewish Studies through Emory's Tam Institute for Jewish Studies. My research interests include ancient Israelite religion, Second Temple Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and theories for the composition of the Hebrew Bible. My dissertation investigates the formation and inner-biblical reception of conquest traditions within the so-called Enneateuch (Genesis through 2 Kings).

I earned a B.A. in Religious Studies, French, and Spanish from Oglethorpe University in 2008 and an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School in 2011. I have also studied Modern Hebrew at the Brandeis-Middlebury School of Hebrew (2010 and 2011). During the 2014–2015 academic year I will be conducting dissertation research at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Germany) on a Fulbright research grant. For more about me, please visit my website:


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 second year 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 am a second year Ph.D. student studying Hebrew Bible in the Graduate Division of Religion. I received my B.A. from the University of Arizona (Religious Studies, Classics) and my Master of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School. My interests include Israelite religions, ancient Near Eastern iconography, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and notions of impurity and ritual. One of my research aims is to integrate theory and findings from the cognitive sciences and anthropology with historical-critical approaches in Biblical Studies. To that end, I am currently exploring the role of human cognitive architecture in relation to iconographical representations of divine beings in the ancient Near East, the bodily impurities in Leviticus, and the social function of apocalyptic thought and rhetoric among the sectarian communities at Qumran. You can visit my academic website here:


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. 


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:

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 Boekhaus

I am a first year PhD student, located in the Historical Studies area of study within the Graduate Division of Religion. My research interests focus on the theological significance of post-Kantian philosophy generally, and Early German Romanticism specifically. These interests include the question of how Early German Romanticism focuses the intellectual history of the Enlightenment (Spinoza, Kant) and offers a promising alternative to the German Idealism of the 19th century. My current research focuses on Friedrich Schleiermacher’s dual appropriation of late 18th century Spinozism and the critical philosophy of Kant, which he forms into novel and coherent projects in theology, philosophy, and hermeneutics. Such a project necessarily also addresses myriad misunderstandings and misinterpretations in the portrayal Schleiermacher as guilty of subjectivism and cultural accommodation (Barth), subjective-emotivism (Lindbeck), or as the champion of ‘romantic’ hermeneutics (Gadamer).


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
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.

Love W

Will Love

My research interests focus on the connections between Enlightenment philosophy and Christian theology in the "long eighteenth century." I'm particularly interested in how issues of statehood and public religion in post-revolutionary England influenced Biblical scholarship, moral philosophy, and Anglican theology. I completed my B.A. in history from Delta State University in 2004. I also have an M.A. in history from the University of Memphis (2008) and an M.T.S. degree from the Emory Candler School of Theology (2010).


Adam Mathes
I am interested in the impact of the Romantic thesis concerning the immanence of God on the subject's primary relationships: man vs self, other, nature, and God.  More broadly I am interested in the influences between Romantic Christianity and other early Nineteenth Century European social forces, namely Industrialization, Nationalism, and Secularization.  Prior to doctoral studies, I earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Georgia (2003), served as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer (2003-2008), and completed a MDiv from Candler School of Theology (2012).  As a Provisional Elder in the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, I currently serve as a Reserve Navy Chaplain.  I am a Pat Tillman Military Scholar (2014).

Miller Micah

Micah Miller
I am a second year 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, cultural, and political thought that impacted them, with a particular interest in the Christology, pneumatology, and soteriology 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.

Jewish Religious Cultures


Cory Driver

I am a second year Ph.D. student in the Graduate Division of Religion in the Jewish Religious Cultures course of study. My research focuses on narratives of friendship and ritual cooperation among mixed ethno-religious communities in North Africa. I am especially interested in the presence of Hebrew language in Muslim exorcism rituals and the physical presence of Muslim guests at Jewish holidays. I earned my B.S. in 2005 in Economics at Purdue University and my M.A. in 2011 at Ohio State University in Near Eastern Languages & Cultures. In my thesis, I addressed the ways in which economic partnerships between Jews and Muslims in rural Morocco often led to strong friendships. I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Morocco and Israel on numerous research trips, and am looking forward to spending the summer of 2012 in Morocco to do some preliminary site selection work for my dissertation research.


Lisa Hoelle
Lisa Hoelle is a second year PhD student 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

John Boyles
I am a third year 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 second year New Testament student in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. My research interests include the history of New Testament interpretation, biblical theology, the roles of metaphor and narrative in religious language and thought, and the relationship of the New Testament to Christian identity. My current research focuses on the ways in which both understandings/constructions of the self in ancient Mediterranean discourses and contemporary theories of subjectivity give insight into early Christian self-understanding. As a United Methodist in the ordination process to become a deacon, I am also concerned with how biblical interpretation informs contemporary theological and ethical discussions, especially as they relate to issues of embodiment, race, gender, and sexuality. Prior to my 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).

My wife Maria and I have two wonderful sons, Isaiah and Joshua. We are thoroughly 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.


Jennifer Vija Pietz
As a second-year New Testament student I continue to examine the role of biblical hermeneutics in shaping diverse forms of contemporary theology. My research focuses on how the narrative genre of the Gospels uniquely articulates and shapes Christian theological claims. In particular, I am exploring the theological concept of resurrection as portrayed in the Gospels and its implications for understanding embodied existence. I am pursuing this topic in conversation with feminist, womanist, and mujerista biblical hermeneutics and theology, which comprise my other main areas of research. My aim is to better understand the role of biblical exegesis in praxis-based theology and of contextual factors in shaping hermeneutics.

Before coming to Emory I earned my M.Div. from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. I also hold a B.A. in philosophy from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. And as a fluent Spanish speaker, I have enjoyed a variety of cross-cultural learning and teaching opportunities that continue to inform my teaching and research. I am also an ordained Lutheran pastor.


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 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.

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, see

Gilberto Ruiz

Gilberto Ruiz
My dissertation, Gods Competing in the Marketplace: Temple Commerce and John 2:13-22, integrates literary and historical analytical methods to examine Jesus' demonstration in the Jerusalem temple with close attention to the realities of ancient temple commerce that affect its interpretation. New Testament scholarship has largely ignored studying John's Gospel in light of the economic realities that beset Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire, but I contend that doing so is crucial for a more complete understanding of the Fourth Gospel and the trajectory of early Christianity that it represents. I earned my B.A. in Theology and English (double major) from Boston College in 2003 and my M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School in 2005.

Mike Suh

Michael K. Suh

I am a third year Ph.D. student in New Testament in the Graduate Division of Religion. I earned my B.S. in Biology from UCLA in 2004 and completed by M.T.S. from Duke Divinity School in 2012. My master’s thesis (“OT Material in the Triple Tradition: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants as a Test Case”) analyzed the redactional profiles of each of the Synoptic Evangelists vis-à-vis their OT citations, to explore how they may help form a coherent understanding of the Synoptic Problem. My research interests includes Pauline theology, intertextuality, history of interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in early Jewish and Christian communities, Greek and Roman magic/healing, and Greek and Roman historical writing.


Alexander P. Thompson

Alexander P. Thompson
I am a first year student in the Emory's GDR where I am specializing in New Testament. I received a B.A. from the University of Evansville in 2010 in Archaeology, Biblical Studies, and Classical Languages and a M.Div. from Candler School of Theology in 2014. I also spent a 'gap' year as the Bobby Jones Fellow in 2013 where I earned a M.Litt. in Scripture and Theology from the University of St. Andrews.

I am interested in the literary, narrative, and rhetorical elements of the New Testament documents in light of ancient and modern literary theory. I am particularly interested in reading the New Testament in conversation with ancient drama. My recent work explored the death of Herod in Acts 12 within the wider tradition of the death of a tyrant in Greco-Roman and Jewish literature. As a candidate for elder ordination in the United Methodist Church, I am also interested in questions of biblical theology and theological interpretation as they help encourage engagement with the Scriptures in the life of the Church. Please feel free to contact me at

Brandon Wason

Brandon Wason is a PhD candidate in the New Testament course of study. He received his Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Candler School of Theology in 2009 and a Bachelor of Arts in Classics from California State University, Long Beach in 2006. Brandon's research is primarily concerned with Luke-Acts, ancient historiography, and rhetoric. His 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).

Brandon works part-time as a librarian at Columbia Theological Seminary and as a student intern for the Society of Biblical Literature. He also teaches Greek at Candler School of Theology.

He and his wife, Wendy, live in Tucker, GA with their son, Rowan. In his free time, he builds furniture and does other projects around the house.

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.

Choi J

Johann Choi
I am a third-year 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 Restorative Hope.” 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 and faith formation, community building, congregational studies, 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. I also co-direct the Certificate in Theological Studies Program at Arrendale Women's Prison, which both confirm and challenge my ways of teaching and doing research.

Rachelle Green

Rachelle Renee Green
I am a first year PhD student 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
I am a PhD candidate in the Graduate Division of Religion with a concentration in African religious studies. As a 2014 Doctoral Fellow of the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE), I am currently completing my dissertation entitled, “The Politics of Materiality: The Making of Persons and Gods in the Vodoun Religious Culture of the Republic of Benin.” 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.

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

I am a first-year PhD student in the area of Person, Community, and Religious Life.  As a practical theologian with particular capacities in the area of pastoral theology, I engage the rich intersections of homiletics, pastoral care, and ecclesiology.  My work grows beneath the scholastic umbrella of theological anthropology, exploring the problems and particularities of multiplicity as it interrupts the hegemonic narratives of singularity, unity, and oneness.  Emerging from the scholarly exploration I conducted as a Louisville Institute study grant recipient, my research investigates C.G. Jung’s recently published Red Book as a new song in the choir of theological and cultural voices exploring what it means to Christian and human.  Prior to doctoral studies, I served as a Presbyterian parish minister for several years.  I received my B.A. in Communication Arts and Rhetorical Studies (minor in Religious Studies) in 2001 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and my M.Div. in 2005 from Union Theological Seminary (NYC). 


Emily “Michelle” Ledder

I am currently in coursework as a PhD student in the Graduate Division of Religion with a concentration in Homiletics. 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, psychology, and transformation; restorative justice within the US criminal justice system; Multicultural Homiletical Theories and Practical Theologies; and practical theories of epistemology. My dissertation project, as I conceive of it at this time, focuses on co-creating a pedagogy and methodology for teaching Prophetic Preaching by working alongside women who are serving long-term prison sentences.


Matthew Pierce

I am a third year doctoral student in Person, Community and Religious Life with a concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. My primary interests lie in the liturgy as moral formation and in the interaction between the worship life of communities and the practices of their "surrounding cultures." My current research examines the influence of social differentiation (especially class and geography) upon the worship preferences of American Protestants in the late 19th century. Beyond liturgical studies, I am interested in congregational studies, Methodist history, and Wesleyan spirituality and theology. I earned my M.Div from Duke University in 2006 and my BA in both Philosophy and Religious Studies in 2001.


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

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

Becky Copeland
I am a first year PhD student in the Graduate Division of Religion. Before pursuing a theological education, I earned a B.A. in English literature from the University of Miami (FL), and a J.D. from the William and Mary School of Law. I spent eight years as an Assistant Attorney General for Virginia before earning my M.Div. and Th.M. from Candler School of Theology. My work at Candler focused on the Christian doctrine of the incarnation and understandings of atonement and sacrifice. My research interests include a broader understanding of what is essential in the incarnation, and the implications this definition has for other doctrines, including creation, theological anthropology, and soteriology.

Gay A

Ashley Gay

I began as a theatre major at NYU; but after my third semester, I transferred to Harding University. There, I sought training as a missionary, planning to serve in cities where the arts flourish even as religion founders. I soon after received an M.A.T.S. at the Austin Graduate School of Theology. In the following years at Andover Newton Theological School, I came to doubt and revise my theological vision. I graduated with an M.A. in Theological Research, and moved to Emory to hone my work’s recurring intersection: literature (poetry and drama), continental philosophy, and theology. My dissertation will present the sacred import of doubt as it surfaces uniquely in: agnostic modes of hermeneutical phenomenology (Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Ricoeur), existential Christianity (Marcel, Berdyaev, Unamuno, Tillich, Weil), and contemporary literary artists (Anna Kamienska, Christian Wiman, among others). You could say I ultimately seek an apophatic sacramentality.

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, and I am in my third year as a PhD student in Theological Studies.


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.


Rebecca Spurrier
I am a fourth year PhD candidate in Theological Studies. My research engages embodiment theories and disability studies as important resources for theological reflection and liturgical aesthetics. I am committed to the art of ethnography as an approach to the study of embodiment and to the performed theologies and affective dimensions of communal life. My dissertation focuses on a church community in which persons with psychiatric disabilities are central to the life of the congregation and traces practices within this community that resist models of segregationist charity. I graduated with a B.A. in English literature from Calvin College and an M.Div. from Candler School of Theology.  I have lived significant parts of my life in the countries of Zambia and Ukraine and attribute my evolving interest in theology, disability, and liturgy to these experiences.

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.

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.

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. 

Cat Prueitt

Catherine Prueitt
Comparative Literature and Religion
I am a sixth year PhD student in the Graduate Division of Religion’s West and South Asian Religions track. My research focuses on theories about the relationship between concept formation and the structures of consciousness. I approach these questions through the work of two medieval Indian philosophers, Dharmakirti and Abhinavagupta. Last year, I completed a Fulbright grant in Varanasi, India, where I read relevant Sanskrit works by Dharmakirti and Abhinavagupta. I am very interested in exploring how insights gleaned from Indian epistemological traditions can advance current debates on both the role of language in perception and the nature of consciousness.


Anandi Salinas
My research interests revolve around religious practices, performance, and notions of tradition and authenticity in communities in the eastern coastal areas of India including Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. I am particularly interested in incorporating methodologies such as ethnography, ethnographic film, and visual and material culture to these studies. I am also a student of Indian classical dance with experience in bharata natyam, odissi, and kuchipudi.

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 religion can be found at


Summar Shoaib
I am a fourth year student in the GDR, specifically 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 in 2007 and my MA in Near Eastern Studies from New York University in 2009. My research interests include Islam and gender, women's religious ritual and performance in South Asia and "the Middle East," devotional literature, sacred space and place, 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 role of its female members in achieving the broader goals of the movement.


Deeksha Sivakumar
I am a third year 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 first year 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.