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

Andie Alexander
 is a doctoral student in American Religious Cultures. Her research focuses on classification, identity construction, nationalism, and boundary formation within US immigration discourses. In tracing the ways that both pro- and anti-immigration discourses are rooted in similar experience rhetoric, she hopes to offer new insight on how that rhetoric is employed not only to Americanize immigrant groups in the U.S., but also to inform the ways in which we construct identity. Andie earned her BA in Religious Studies and History at the University of Alabama (2012) and MA in Religious Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder (2017). She works as a contributor and the online Curator at Culture on the Edge and serves on the Executive Council of the North American Association for the Study of Religion. Her website can be accessed here.

Danny Ballon-Garst work focuses on race, religion, and sexuality, with special attention to the intersection of African American religious history and histories of sexuality.  Ballon-Garst is a Centennial Scholars Fellow at Emory and an HTI (Hispanic Theological Initiative) Scholar; he is also pursuing a certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies here at Emory.  Prior to his doctoral studies, Ballon-Garst practiced law in Southern California, first at the ACLU of Southern California as a Dewey & LeBoeuf Community Service Fellow, then as a class action litigator in private practice.  Ballon-Garst received a BA in psychology and a JD from the University of Southern California, as well as an MTS from Harvard Divinity School.

Christina Désert is a doctoral students in American Religious Cultures. Désert’s work focuses on African heritage religions, particularly Haitian Vodou, with special attention to women’s kinship, the archive and the poetics, and the natural world. Her writing has appeared in ConSpiracies: Breathing Together the Breath of Life, Harvard Divinity School’s Religious and Spiritual Life’s online journal. She has presented her work at the American Academy of Religion, KOSANBA, the Haitian Studies Association, and the Caribbean Studies Association. Désert received a BA in psychology and French from College of Saint Benedict, her MSW from Baylor University, and her MDIV from Harvard Divinity School.

Marcelitte Failla is a Black and biracial educator, researcher, and scholar of African heritage religions in the United States and throughout the African diaspora.  Through a Black feminist lens, her work explores how religons such as Yoruba Ifa, Haitian Vodou, and Hoodoo of the American South are used for collective healing and social justice.  Marcelitte's dissertation ivestigates Black withcraft and how practitioners employ its spiritual technology for manifestation, healing, and protection from anti-Blackness.

As a practiioner of both Ifa and Hoodoo and a self-identified Black witch, Marcelitte often holds ceremonial space in academic and community settings.  Marcelitte has published an article enttile "Black Femmes, Black Gods:  Magic as Justice" in the Journal of Religion and Culture at Concordia University and an article on Black women and tarot for the journal Liturgy.  Both can be found at her website 

Adam McDuffie
is a doctoral student in American Religious Cultures. He earned his BA in Religious Studies, with a concentration in Religion and Public Engagement, from Wake Forest University (2015), and his Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (2018). Adam’s research focuses on the interactions of religion and its publics, with a particular focus on the unique religious significance of soldiers and soldier bodies in American Civil Religion. Drawing on insights from the study of religion, history, and memory, he seeks to understand how the national identity mediated by American Civil Religion shapes American perceptions of soldiers and American foreign policy itself, as well as how the ideal of the American soldier differs from the reality of soldier experience.

Elaine Penagos Elaine Penagos is a doctoral candidate in American Religious Cultures. Her dissertation, titled “Santería Poetics: Africana Continuity through Afro-Cuban Religious Narratives,” examines Orisa mythologies within their Cuban context. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the project argues for a retheorization of syncretism through the lens of religious poetics in order to demonstrate the theo-sociological value of reconstructing religious stories and storytelling methods.  Her writing has appeared in Geneaology, Practical Matters, the Wabash Center, and the Hispanic Theological Initiative’s Open Plaza. Some of her most recent awards include a Goizueta Dissertation Fellowship with the Cuban Heritage Collection and a Lilly Endowment Hispanic Theological Initiative Dissertation Fellowship. Penagos received a BA in religious studies from the University of Miami and an MA in religious studies from the University of Denver.

Ethics and Society

Silas W. Allard is a doctoral student in ethics and society. Allard’s work focuses on migration and belonging, with special attention to the role that law and religion play in forming inclusive and exclusive communities. His writing has appeared in the journals Refuge and Political Theology and in edited collections on vulnerability, global law, international law, and migration. Allard is a senior fellow at Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion and managing editor of the Journal of Law and Religion. Prior to his doctoral studies Allard served as Managing Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion and as a law clerk to Chief Judge Donald C. Pogue at the United States Court of International Trade. Allard received his juris doctor and master of theological studies from Emory, and a bachelor’s in religious studies from the University of Missouri.

Emmy Corey I received my Masters of Divinity from Candler School of Theology and my Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham-Southern College. My research focuses on the relationship between faith, healing and the moral imagination in transnational networks of care provision. My dissertation draws on fieldwork from a network of USAID clinics in Nairobi, Kenya that provide care and treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV. I explore the ways that practitioners and volunteers experience, interpret, articulate, and imagine moral and theological possibilities for their communities and their institutions as they engage in everyday public health service delivery. I am a concentrator in Religious Practices, as well as Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding. I am also the graduate assistant for Engaged Learning with the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence. These areas of involvement have nurtured my academic and pedagogical commitment to scholarship centered on community engagement and social transformation.

Cara Curtis
is a doctoral candidate in Ethics and Society. Her dissertation, titled “Fragmented Flourishing: Maternal Perspectives on the Good Life in an Unequal Social Landscape,” investigates maternal conceptions and practices of “flourishing” in the context of U.S. inequality. Drawing on ethnographic research in a theological studies program for incarcerated women and in mothers’ groups at nearby affluent churches, the project argues that flourishing is “fragmented” within social inequality, but that opportunities for intervention can be found in women’s everyday lives. Her writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics and Practical Matters. She has both taught and conducted participatory research in a number of community-based settings, and is committed to the idea that bridging academic and community knowledges is key to building just and equitable systems. In addition to her work in ethics, Cara is pursuing a certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and a concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. She received her BA from Haverford College, and her M.Div from Harvard Divinity School.

Isaac Horwedel is a doctoral candidate in Ethics and Society. His dissertation, titled “Critical Limit: Addiction Under Capitalism” is a critical analysis of the phenomenon of addiction and its dominant theories. Bringing together addiction studies, critical theory, and political and pastoral theology, this project argues that addiction is a distinct expression of physical, social, and spiritual forms of suffering that have emerged with particular virulence under the objective conditions of capitalism. Work based on this research has appeared in Pastoral Psychology and been presented at the American Academy of Religion. Prior to his doctoral studies, Isaac co-founded a recovery community where he worked and lived as the Program Director. He received his BA from Anderson University (IN) and his MDiv from Candler School of Theology.

Kevin Lazarus is a doctoral student in Ethics and Society. Lazarus’s work focuses on the intersections of theology, disability studies and bioethics to explore the role of religion in shaping conceptions of normativity and disability, particularly in medical contexts. Lazarus is a provisional deacon in the Alabama-West Florida conference of the United Methodist Church. Prior to his doctoral studies, Lazarus worked as a hospital chaplain through a residency in Clinical Pastoral Education at Northside Hospital Atlanta. Lazarus received a BA in Spanish and a BA in Psychology from Auburn University and an MDiv from Emory's Candler School of Theology.

Ella Myer is a doctoral student in Ethics and Society as well as the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies certificate program. Myer’s work focuses on the intersection of religion, memory studies, and philosophy of history. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of the History of Ideas Blog. Prior to her doctoral studies, Myer worked as an intercultural education coordinator in Lithuania for four years. She has been a sought-after guest speaker and workshop facilitator in both university and community settings. Myer received an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Shari Mackinson
 is a doctoral candidate in Ethics and Society. Her dissertation, titled “Inclusive Blackness: A Postcolonial Framework for Black Well-Being” maintains that “black” serves as a meaningful identity category for people historically called black while also expanding it to represent an ethical category that orients the black liberation traditions. She utilizes the postcolonial concept of hybridity to reconceptualize black American identity as dynamic, in-process, and more inclusive of marginal black identities. 

Her writing has appeared in the Journal of Law and Religion. She has also presented at the annual meetings of the Society of Christian Ethics and American Academy of Religion. She is currently the James T. Laney Dissertation Fellow with the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Religion. Prior to her doctoral studies, Shari worked as a social worker for the Gwinnett County Department of Family and Children Services. She is also an ordained Baptist minister.

Shari received a BS, Chemistry from Howard University, MPH & MSW from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MDiv from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

Janelle Moore
 is a doctoral student in Ethics and Society. Moore’s work focuses on practices of community development, homemaking, and care in the context of refugee resettlement. Her writing has appeared in the Center for Migration Studies Essays. Prior to her doctoral studies, Moore served as the Program Manager for Community Engagement for the refugee resettlement agency, Inspiritus, and the Senior Administrative Coordinator for ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care & Education. Moore received her BA in religious studies from Rhodes College and her MDiv from Candler School of Theology.

Mary Ann Robertson 
is a doctoral candidate in the Ethics and Society course of study. Their dissertation, tentatively titled, “Defiant Memory: Confronting Slavery and Historical Violence at an American University,” explores the relationship between slavery and its afterlives and higher education in the United States. The project engages critical history, political theology, and ethics to unpack various practices of institutional remembrance—truth-telling committees, buildings and memorials, and the designation of burial grounds—and seeks to build upon an ethical framework of “dangerous memory” that centers relationship and radical transformation.

In addition to their dissertation work and teaching, Mary Ann is an editorial associate at Southern Spaces, a digital, open-access journal published by the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. Prior to their doctoral studies, Mary Ann received their BA in Religious Studies and American Politics from the University of Virginia, and their M.Div from Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Hebrew Bible


Evan Bassett
  Prior to being at Emory, I earned my B. A. in Religious Studies from Western Kentucky University and my M. A. in Theology (with a concentration in Ancient Near Eastern Studies) from Fuller Theological Seminary. 

I am primarily interested in religio-historical, comparative, and iconographic approaches to the Hebrew Bible. I hope to explore collective memory and amnesia in ancient Israel, and how these processes are reflected in the Hebrew Bible and the iconographic record. I am particularly interested in metaphorical depictions of Yhwh in the Hebrew Bible and how these various depictions may have been used to shape competing stories of Israel’s past.

Brady Beard
  I hold a B.A. in Biblical Literature and an M.Div from Princeton Theological Seminary. My work utilizes literary theories, iconographic methodology, and comparative analysis of texts. I am particularly interested in poetic and prophetic literature in the Hebrew Bible.

Caitlin Joy Hubler
is a doctoral student in Hebrew Bible. Hubler’s work traces the development of Israelite religion as informed by the philosophical contexts of the ancient Near East. Her writing has appeared in Journal for the Study of Old Testament as well as Mockingbird Magazine and the Project on Lived Theology. She has presented in both national and regional meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature in program units ranging from Philology in Hebrew Studies to Religion in America. Prior to her doctoral studies, Hubler taught high-school introductory Greek and worked as Editorial Assistant at the Society of Biblical Literature. Hubler received a B.S. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and an M. Div. from Columbia Theological Seminary.

Rosy Kandathil is a doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible. Her dissertation, titled “Seriously Funny: Comedy and Violence in the Narrative Traditions of Esther,” is a comparative literary investigation of humor and violence in the Hebrew and Greek versions of Esther. Drawing on postcolonial and feminist approaches, her project argues that these literary dynamics provide a witness to an ethical and political discourse on the use of violence, the notion of “holy war” in the history of the Israelite people, and a struggle to define Jewish identity among multi-generational geographically dispersed diaspora communities. Her writing has appeared in the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law and Tjurunga Australasian Benedictine Review. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked as a trial attorney in the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society in New York City. Rosy Kandathil received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, her J.D. from Temple University Beasley School of Law, and her M.A. and Th.M. in Sacred Scripture from Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. 


Hyun Woo Kim  Prior to doctoral studies, I earned my B.A. from Yonsei University in Korea, M.Div. from Candler School of Theology, and S.T.M. from Yale Divinity School. My STM thesis title is “A Socio-Rhetorical Function of the Danielic Resurrection as Source for Moral Discernment.”

My current research interests include an exploration of the socio-rhetorical situation of the Hebrew Bible, iconographic metaphors (i.e., figures and symbols or practices and realities that fund the rhetoric and imagination of the authors of the Bible), and their formative influence on moral selfhood of the reading community.

Ian MacGillivray is a doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible. His dissertation, titled “The Production of a Prophet: Connecting Character and Composition in the Book of Jeremiah,” explores the complex status of Jeremiah as a prophetic character in the biblical text. Integrating recent research on scribal culture and the composition of Jeremiah with the philosophical work of Gilles Deleuze on language and literature, the project shows how the figure of Jeremiah is produced by diverse literary and sociohistorical forces that have shaped the text and its reception. Ian received his BA in philosophy from Harvard University, and his MAR from Yale Divinity School. 


Eric D. McDonnell, Jr., is a doctoral student in Hebrew Bible. His work focuses on literary theories and the book of Psalms. His writing has appeared in Hebrew Studies, Antiguo Oriente, and the Review of Biblical Literature.

McDonnell is ordained to a vocation of teaching by First Baptist Church of Decatur, and is active in public theological education. He received a BA in English at the University of Akron in 2016 and a MA in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2018.

Timothy McNinch is a doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible. His dissertation, titled “Icon of Aniconism: Multiple Ark Ideologies in 1 Samuel 4–6,” traces the complex composition history of the so-called “Ark Narrative.” Bringing together critical methods, literary approaches, and the findings of recent archaeological excavations, the project explores the contributions of successive generations of authors, who each reshaped this story according to the political and religious needs of their own communities. Timothy’s writing has appeared in Vetus Testamentum and Bible and Critical Theory, and he is an editor and regular contributor to the “Politics of Scripture” blog at the Political Theology Network. Timothy is the creator and co-host of the popular preaching podcast, “First Reading” ( and curates a biblical languages YouTube channel with over 20,000 subscribers ( Timothy received his BA from Kalamazoo College and his MDiv from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Chelsea Mak
is a doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible. Her dissertation, titled “‘Therefore the Land Mourns:’ The Ecological Body in 8th Century Israelite Religion,” explores how the religious ecology of Israelite religion is revealed in the mutually constitutive relationship between the body and land as found in text and material culture. Attending to a multiplicity of narratives in dialectical encounter, those of the land and the prophetic texts of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, the project further illuminates the stakes of Israelite religious practices as situated within the political economy of the 8th century BCE. Chelsea’s writing has appeared in the edited volume, Theodicy and Hope in the Book of the Twelve and on the Politics of Scripture, a blog that is a part of the Political Theology Network and of which she is series editor. She is also pursuing a concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. Chelsea received her BA in Christian Studies from Ambrose University and her MA in Biblical and Theological Studies from Ambrose Seminary.  

Adam Strater My area of concentration within Hebrew Bible is 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.


Mark Preston Stone is a doctoral student in Hebrew Bible. Stone’s work focuses on theodicy, ancient sexualities, and the literary development of Hebrew narratives. His writing has appeared in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, the Review of Biblical Literature, and an edited volume on holiness in the Wesleyan tradition. He has presented at the Society of Biblical Literature. Prior to his doctoral studies, Stone worked as an adjunct instructor at Seattle Pacific University, and as an executive research assistant for Decisive Data. Stone received a B.A. in Theology and an M.A. in Christian Scripture, both from Seattle Pacific University.

Rachel Erin Stuart is a doctoral candidate in Hebrew Bible. Her dissertation, titled “Semantic Gender in the Book of Ezekiel: A Cognitive-Linguistic Analysis of Social Gender,” explores the relationship between grammatical gender and social gender roles in Ezekiel. Drawing on the work of scholars such as Lera Boroditsky, the dissertation argues that attention to the grammatical details of a passage provides a source of information regarding implicit beliefs about and experiences of human and divine gender in key sections of the book, including chapters 1, 16, and 37. Her writing has appeared in the Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, and her conference presentations include "Whom Shall They Know?: An Analysis of Divine Self-Expression in the Phrase Ani Yhwh," presented at SBL/AAR in 2020. Stuart is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. She received her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2017, and her undergraduate degrees from the University of Rochester in 2014 (B.S., Physics; B.A., Music, Religion).

Historical Studies in Theology and Religion

Jennifer L. Aycock
 is a doctoral candidate in Historical Studies-World Christianity. Her dissertation, titled “Black Nationalism and the Making of Modern African Christianity (1882-1915)” explores how at least three powerful and sometimes contradictory forces shaped the emergence of modern African Christianity: European imperial constructs, indigenous or local aspirations and debates, and the lively movements and ideological impulses generated in the wider black Atlantic world. Focusing on an expression of African Christianity led by John Chilembwe in the Shire Highlands, Malawi, the project establishes that early twentieth century African Christian leaders like Chilembwe drew on black nationalism to meet contextual challenges related to colonialism and Europeanized Christianity as they framed new visions for an African Church. Her work has been published in the Journal of Religious History, Mission Studies, Theological Librarianship, and by Les Presses de la FATEAC. In addition to her historical scholarship, Jennifer is pursuing a Religious Practices and Practical Theology Concentration. Prior to her doctoral studies, Jennifer worked as Director of College Ministries (PCUSA) in Lake Forest, IL, and as Assistant Director of Graduate Residence Life at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). She received her B.A. from Wheaton College (IL), M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, a certificate in African Christian Studies from la Faculté de Théologie Evangélique de l’Alliance Chrétienne (Abidjan, Côte D'Ivoire), and a Th.M. from Candler School of Theology.  


Grayden McCashen is a doctoral candidate in Historical Studies in Theology and Religion. His dissertation, titled “Piety and Salvation in Irenaeus of Lyons,” uses Irenaeus’ theological notion of piety to elucidate the connection between belief in right doctrine and the salvation of an individual human being in Irenaeus. It then draws out further implications for Irenaeus’ theology, writing, and place in the development of Christian doctrine and identity. Grayden’s research is set to appear in Journal of Theological Studies, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Studia Patristica, and Vigiliae Christianae. Prior to his doctoral studies, Grayden received a M.Phil. in Theology (Patristics) at the University of Oxford, B.A. in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute, and A.A. from Northwest State Community College. 

Victoria (Yun-Ching) Shen is a doctoral student in Historical Studies in Theology and Religion. Shen’s work focuses on East Asian Christian political activism since the 1950s, especially in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Her master’s thesis was East Asia Christian Identity and Political Activism-Case Study of Rev. Kao Chun-Ming

Prior to her doctoral studies, Shen worked as an admission intern and research assistant in the Candler School of Theology and volunteered as the Youth and Worship Coordinator in the Atlanta Taiwanese Presbyterian Church. Shen received the Master of Theological Studies from the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and she received the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies & History from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. 

Jewish Religious Cultures

Matthew Brittingham
My primary interest is 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.

Keenan Wills Davis
is a doctoral candidate in Jewish Religious Cultures, with a concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. His dissertation, tentatively titled “Aspiring to Autonomy,” ethnographically investigates the first-person experiences of patients undergoing Deep Brain Stimulation in the treatment of psychiatric conditions, bringing into conversation the fields of bioethics, disability studies, anthropology of ethics, and cognitive science. His writing has appeared in the American Journal of Bioethics, and he is the winner of Emory University’s 2017 David R. Blumenthal award for the best paper in Jewish Studies. Prior to his doctoral studies, he served as a Teach For America corps member and taught high school chemistry, biology, physics, and math. As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, he studied neuroscience and Jewish Studies (Interdisciplinary), graduating with highest distinction. He completed an MA in bioethics at Emory University’s Center for Ethics, with a thesis analyzing the relationship between biotechnology and human dignity. He is also currently pursuing an MD at Emory University’s School of Medicine.

Chava Green is a doctoral candidate in Jewish Religious Cultures. Her dissertation, titled “The Hasidic Face of Feminism: A Jewish Ethics of Difference in 21st Century America,” considers the way Chabad Hasidism has developed a religious and mystical discourse of women’s empowerment as an alternative to secular feminism. Drawing on ethnographic research with Chabad women in Jewish outreach, her project looks at how these religious women seek to create a notion of traditional gender values that appeal to a liberal, secular, Jewish public.  Her writing has appeared in On Our Terms: The Undergraduate Journal of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, Practical Matters: A Journal of Religious Practice and Practical Theology and  Chava has presented at the AJS and at a series of conferences in response to Phil Wexler’s book, Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformative Paradigm for the World. Prior to her doctoral studies, she spent time learning in seminary in Israel and working for Chabad on Campus at Columbia University and UPenn. She received her BA in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University.

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.

Haley Gabrielle
is a doctoral candidate in New Testament. Her dissertation, titled, "Choosing Tradition: A South Asian Feminist Reading of the Circumcision of Timothy," offers a new reading which centers the agency of Timothy and opposes Orientalizing approaches to the study of Second Temple Judaism. Drawing on South Asian feminist theory, she constructs a framework within which Timothy may be read as choosing his circumcision as an expression of his Jewish identity within the coalitional group of the Way. Haley's writing has appeared in the journal The Bible & Critical Theory. She participates in intersectional justice organizing with groups like Voices of Color: Christians United and Asian American Justice + Innovation Lab, and she is an active lay member of an affirming church. Haley received her BA in Classics (Latin and Greek) from Kenyon College, and her Master of Arts in Religion, concentrated in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Yale Divinity School.

Jonathan Groce In fall 2016 I entered the New Testament course of study in Emory's GDR. I grew up in southern California, in the LA area (and I drive like it!), and lived on the west coast until I finished my BA in Linguistics and Philosophy at UC Santa Barbara (2012). Learning classical Greek and biblical Hebrew during my time at UCSB got me hooked on biblical studies, so I got my MDiv at Denver Seminary, where I met my lovely wife, Kathryn. After finishing my MDiv fall 2014, I got my ThM at Duke Divinity School. Kathryn and I got married and moved out to Georgia to start life at Emory shortly thereafter.

My scholarly specialty is constructions of masculinity in the New Testament. In my ThM thesis I argued that Revelation is, in part, a response to a crisis of masculinity. Broadly speaking, that project had me looking at the way the New Testament contributed to ancient gender discourses in light of its historical context. As I develop as a scholar and eventually turn my attention to a dissertation, I would hope to find a project that lets me employ similar investigative tools. To sharpen such tools, I am pursuing the certificate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.


Chantel R. Heister is a doctoral student in New Testament. Heister’s work focuses on subtle aspects of female experience, representation, and treatment within early Christian literature. Her writing on Jezebel’s punishment in Revelation 2:22 is forthcoming in the journal Currents in Biblical Research, and she served as a research assistant on the books Ritual in the Biblical World and Ritual in Deuteronomy. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Heister received the Honor’s Award which recognizes exemplary academic achievement and Christ-like character. Heister received a BA in English and Philosophy from Colorado Mesa University and a MATS from George Fox University. 

Youjeong Rachel Jeon
is a doctoral student in New Testament. Jeon’s work focuses on the themes of travel, diaspora, and exile in the New Testament with special focus on the historical-social context of first century Roman Empire, transnationalism, and post-colonial interpretation. Jeon is an editorial associate of Southern Spaces published by Emory Center for Digital Scholarship and a member of the executive committee of Foursquare Scholars Fellowship. Prior to her doctoral studies, Jeon served as a youth pastor in Korean immigrant churches in Massachusetts and as the program director of Peacemakers for Korea, a non-profit dedicated towards peace-building in the Korean Peninsula. Jeon received her BA in English literature from Yonsei University in South Korea, her M.Div from Harvard Divinity School, and a STM in New Testament from Yale Divinity School.

Gilha Lee is a Ph.D. student with a concentration in New Testament at the Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University. His primary academic interest has to do with Pauline conceptions of “reconciliation,” involving the questions “What were the Jewish traditions from which Paul drew his understanding of reconciliation in relation to Christ?” (intertextual perspective) and “How did his contemporary Greco-Roman society and culture influence his message conveyed in the form of a text?” (socio-cultural perspective). Gilha holds a B.Ec. with double majors in economics and English linguistics from Kyung Hee University, South Korea (2008), an M.Div. from Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary (PUTS) (2011), South Korea, and two Th.M. degrees, one from PUTS (2016) and the other from Candler School of Theology, Emory University (2018). He is also an ordained pastor, currently living in Decatur with his wife Ae Young and two small children.

Hyunju Lee is a doctoral candidate in the New Testament Studies. Her dissertation, titled “Formation of sectarian self in Matthean prayer at Gethsemane” investigates the ascetical piety of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Comparing Jesus’s teaching and practice of prayer in Matthew to the ancient prayers in the Second Temple Jewish literature, the project argues that sectarian interpretation of Jesus's faithfulness in Matthew formulates early Christian discourse on discipleship as the marginalized, imitating the devoting son of God. Hyunju is an ordained pastor in PROK(Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea); And she received her BA and MDiv from Hanshin University, MTS from McCormick Theological Seminary, and ThM from Emory University.   

Zane McGee
 is a doctoral candidate in New Testament. His dissertation, titled “The Spirit-Educated Children of God” examines the function of childhood imagery in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. While the centrality of descent and inheritance have long been recognized as central to Paul’s argument, Zane argues that the language and rhetoric of the letter as a whole casts the Galatians as immature children in need of proper maturation. His research has been shared at national conferences, such as AAR-SBL and the Society for Classical Studies, as well as a number of regional and specialized meetings. Prior to his doctoral studies, Zane lived in Brazil working as a church planter and continues to be actively involved with the life of the church stateside. Zane received his MTS from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, his MS from Lubbock Christian University, and his BA from Oklahoma Christian University. 


Steven Marquardt is a doctoral candidate in New Testament. His dissertation, titled “Unleashing Holy Hell: A Socio-Rhetorical Investigation of Punitive Miracles in Luke-Acts,” examines the social, cultural, and ideological functions of miraculous judgment accounts in the Lukan corpus. This project argues that Luke’s narration of punitive miracles inscribes the era of Christian origins in the saga of God’s relationship with Israel, providing an ideological resource for marginal Christian communities to construct new identities and define themselves relative to social rivals. Steven’s writing has appeared in Conversations with the Biblical World. He has presented at regional and national meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature. Steven received his BA in Biblical Studies and Pastoral Ministry from Multnomah University, his MA in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary, and his ThM in New Testament from Western Seminary.

Person, Community, and Religious Life


Emilie Casey is a doctoral student in Person, Community, and Religious Life as well as the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies certificate program. Casey’s research uses critical theories of race, gender, sexuality, and performance to examine women preachers of the 19th century and beyond. Her writing has appeared in Feminist Theology. She is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Prior to her doctoral studies, Casey served as the Director of Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. Casey received her BM from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) and MDiv and STM from Yale Divinity School.

Lauren Calvin Cooke is a doctoral candidate in Person, Community, and Religious Life. Her dissertation, titled “Wisdom’s Pedagogy: Engaging Biblical Wisdom Literature with Youth,” explores how youth ministers teach the Wisdom Literature to young people, analyzing the findings through the lenses of Hebrew Bible scholarship, pedagogical theory, and wisdom studies. The project argues for the cultivation of wisdom as a goal of religious education with youth. She has received the Association of Youth Ministry Educators’ Emerging Scholar Award, and an essay award from the Yale Youth Ministry Institute for her writing on Ecclesiastes and youth ministry. Lauren received her BA in Theology & Ministry from Lipscomb University, and her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Diandra M. Darby is a doctoral student in Person, Community and Religious Life. Darby’s work focuses on womanist preaching, with a special focus on the ways in which the content and construction of womanist sermons might inform the ways we teach preaching. Prior to her doctoral studies, Darby served on the ministerial staff of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Dr. John R. Adolph. Darby received a Bachelor’s in General Studies from Lamar University, her M.Div. from The Interdenominational Theological Center, and a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Corwin Malcolm Davis
is a doctoral student in Person, Community, and Religious Life. Davis’ work focuses on the complex relationship of Black religious rhetoric and the psyche, inclusive of pastoral theology, queer theory, and studies in Blackness and performance. At Emory, Davis is a George W. Woodruff Fellow, a Centennial Scholars Fellow, and externally has been awarded the Louisville Institute Doctoral Fellowship for 2021-2023. Prior to his doctoral studies, Davis served as an Adjunct Professor in Religion at Belmont University and a consultant at the AME Church Publishing House, the denomination in which he is also an ordained Itinerant Elder. Davis received a BA in Religion from Belmont University, and his MDiv from Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Emily “Michelle” Ledder  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.

Lahronda Welch Little
 My interest is in soteriology and the ways in which notions of salvation affect the whole person, community, environment, and social systems. Central to my academic research are womanist and feminist discourse and Wesleyan theology. I also engage Africana religious studies and spirituality to re-image salvation and construct a holistic soteriology that broadens the range of theological reflection affirming all people and beliefs. I hold an MDiv in Religion from Candler School of Theology where I focused on Religion and Health, and Women, Theology, and Ministry. I am currently pursuing ordination in the United Methodist Church and interim director of the Women in Theology and Ministry certificate program (WTM) at Candler. 


Keith A. Menhinick is a doctoral candidate in Person, Community, and Religious Life at Emory, with a concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology and a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Centered in spiritual care, Keith’s research examines the intersections of racialized trauma and resilience in LGBTQ+ communities. His dissertation, titled “Resilience Theology: LGBTQ+ Trauma, Care, and Spiritual Practice,” engages multi-sited social scientific research with LGBTQ+ people who have experienced homelessness in order to reassess the norms of trauma theology and care. An avid writer, Keith has published articles, short stories, blogs, and poems, and his work has appeared in Pastoral Psychology, Practical Matters, Perspectives in Religious Studies, and several edited volumes of fiction and poetry. He also works as the Managing Editor for the peer-reviewed journal Practical Matters. Prior to Emory, Keith worked as an interfaith hospital chaplain, children’s home chaplain, church minister, and high school English teacher. Keith received his M.Div. from Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and his B.A. in English Education and Spanish Literature from Gardner-Webb University. He is ordained through the Alliance of Baptists. 

Hyemin Na (Practices concentration), and I am also pursuing a certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I have a BA from Harvard in Visual Environmental Studies and an MDiv from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. My current research interests are as follows: Digital Cultures, Visual Cultures, Religious Practices, Postcolonial Theory, and Feminist Theory. 

Shanise Palmer is a doctoral student in Person, Community, and Religious Life. Palmer’s work focuses on the rhetorical strategies and the contextual implications of Black women’s voices in the preaching moment. She is an ordained Baptist minister. Prior to her doctoral studies, Palmer served as her church’s first Pastor of Preaching, allowing her to provide oversight of its ministerial training program. Palmer received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her M.Div. from Shaw University Divinity School, and her Th.M. from Emory’s Candler School of Theology.

R. Nick Peterson
Concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology.  My research interests focus on issues of race and racism within liturgical contexts.  My work explores how racial identities are constructed, performed, affirmed, and disavowed within liturgical practice and worship.  I am also interested in the legacy of white supremacy in Christian worship and how antiracist social movements can inform the construction of radically inclusive Christian liturgies.  Prior to my time at Emory, I pastored Capital Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, PA and was the worship coordinator and an adjunct at Lancaster Theological Seminary. I hold a B.A. in Africana Studies and Business Management from Franklin & Marshall College and a M.Div from Lancaster Theological Seminary.  I am currently pursuing ordination in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Theological Studies

Diana (Rodriguez) Click
My research in Theological Studies draws upon women’s voices within Latino/a theologies, Christian mysticism, Global theology, and World Christianity. In my studies, I am principally concerned with how theology done in conversation with the history of Latino/a communities (esp. Puerto Rican women) contributes to fuller Christian understandings of doctrines of revelation, theological anthropologies, and pneumatologies. The passion I have for vocational work in theological education remains informed by the conviction that diverse cultural expressions of Christian theology are key sources for Christian theological epistemology. My educational background includes a B.A. in Humanities and Bible from Johnson University Florida and a M.Div. from Candler School of Theology.

Wyatt Harris is a doctoral candidate in Theological Studies. His dissertation, titled “The Doctrine of Justification and the Problem of Antiblackness” offers a constructive account of the Christian doctrine of justification in light of contemporary questions, especially those of race and antiblackness. This project analyzes recent accounts of, and debates surrounding, the Christian doctrine of justification, especially in the Lutheran tradition, and routes these through relevant concerns raised by both black theologians and radical black studies scholars, with a particular focus on Afropessimism, and argues that the doctrine must account for, and be informed by, such concerns in order to be adequately expressed and understood today. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Reformed Theology and Scriptura. Prior to his doctoral studies, he served as adjunct faculty in the Alabama Community College System’s Marion Military Institute and taught World Religions, New Testament Survey, and Old Testament Survey. Wyatt received his BA in English from The University of Mississippi and his M.Div from Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.

Callie Tabor
  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. 

West and South Asian Religions

Aditya Chaturvedi is a doctoral student in Western and South Asian Religions. His research focuses on the genealogy of the key concepts of the Puṣṭimārga tradition. In tracing the genealogy of this concepts, he studies the relationship between Sanskrit and Brajbhasha didactic texts and everyday practices of this tradition. Aditya earned his B.A. (Honours) in History form St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and his M.A. in Historical Studies from Nalanda University, Rajgir. He also works on Hindu Tantras and South Asian Art.


Brittany Landorf is a doctoral candidate in West and South Asian Religions. Her dissertation, titled, “Training the Soul and Cultivating the Gendered Self in Moroccan Sufi Orders,” unravels the work of gender in the pedagogies and practices of spiritual training in Islamic mysticism. Interweaving textual analysis of Sufi hagiographies, treatises, and practical manuals produced by Moroccan Sufi orders in the 18th-20th centuries with ethnographic insights, she argues that different paths of spiritual training may not only hinge on distinct gender articulations but may also contribute to the production of gender scripts which Sufi disciples negotiate in their everyday lives. Her writing has appeared in The Journal of Islamic Ethics and Practical Matters. Her dissertation research has been supported by a Fulbright Student Research Grant in Morocco, a Halle Institute Grant for Global Studies, and a Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry Digital Scholars fellowship. Prior to her doctoral studies, she completed a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Fellowship in Bursa, Turkey. She received a BA from Macalester College and an MTS in Islamic Studies from Harvard Divinity School. 

Aalekhya Malladi  My research interests are mainly in bhakti (devotional) narratives, specifically, those centered on/written by women. I am particularly interested in studying a Telugu poet, Tarigonda Vengamamba, whose versatile compositions have earned her the title “Telugu Mīra”. I will study Vengamamba’s compositions, which provide a unique female perspective on bhakti and yoga. I also hope to extend my research to examine how her life-story and compositions are received in the modern day. I am interested in pursuing a certification in Women and Gender Studies, and concentrate in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. 

I received by B.A. in Comparative Literature and African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures from Rutgers University, New Brunswick (2014), where I wrote my honors thesis about women’s narratives in the Vana Parva of the Mahābhārata. I received my M.A. in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University (2016). My M.A. thesis focused on gender representations in pre-modern Telugu texts. I am proficient in Telugu, Hindi, Sanskrit, and French, and have training in classical Carnatic music. 

Mujahid Osman  is a doctoral student in West and South Asian Religions. Osman’s work is at intersection of Islamic studies, liberation theology, and peace and justice studies. Through ethnographic methods and textual analysis, he studies modes of religious meaning-making and ethical reimagining by Muslims on the socio-economic margins. His writing has appeared in the Journal for the Gender and Religion in Africa, Reading Religion, and Contending Modernities. Before his graduate studies, Osman was volunteering at a small progressive Muslim congregation in Cape Town, South Africa. Osman received a Master degree in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana; Bachelor of Social Science Honours degree in religious studies; and a BA in political studies and religious studies from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Ved Patel
My primary focus is on Hinduism, and a secondary focus on Islam. My primary area of interest is Hindu devotional movements in late medieval and early colonial India, specifically in Gujarat. Currently, I am exploring the emergence of service practices in the Swaminarayan Sampraday and Pushtimarg. My research is supported by the Religious Practices and Practical Theology concentration, and I also serve as the Religious Life Scholar for Hindu traditions at Emory. I completed my BA at the University of California, Irvine in Religion and then went on to complete two MA degrees in Religion at the University of Florida (2012) and Oxford University (2014).


Mayuri Patankar is a doctoral student in West and South Asian Religions. Patankar’s work focuses on indigenous traditions in India. Her writing has appeared in the journal Summerhill: IIAS Review and in an edited collection on anthropological histories in India. Prior to her doctoral studies, Patankar worked as a content creator, lecturer, and writing tutor at multiple educational institutions in New Delhi. Patankar received an MA in English Literature from Ambedkar University Delhi, and her M.Phil from Delhi University.

Tala Raheb
is a doctoral candidate in West and South Asian Religions (WSAR) at Emory University. Her dissertation examines how Palestinian Americans interact with Christian Zionism at the intersection of American religion and politics. Her writing has appeared in Exchange Journal of Contemporary Christianities in Context and International Bulletin of Mission Research. She has also presented her work at local and international conferences such as AAR, World Christianity Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World. In addition to her work in WSAR, Tala is pursuing a concentration in World Christianity. Tala received her BA from St. Olaf College, and her MTS from Candler School of Theology.  

Upali Sraman is a doctoral candidate in West and South Asian Religions. His dissertation, titled “Bending the Body, Keeping the Mind Upright: Pedagogy of Bodily Comportment in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya” investigates the ways discipline (vinaya) is taught a way of life to new Buddhist monastic recruits according to the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition. He further explores some key Vinaya manuals with Indian and Tibetan commentaries that are used for teaching vinaya to novices in Tibetan monastic education system.  His publications have appeared in the Journal of Global Buddhism (vol. 21, 2020), the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka (New series, vol.51, 2011), and Philosophy East and West (Vol. 71:2, 2021). He has also published articles on Buddhism, literature, and history in numerous magazines and national newspapers in Bangladesh. He was awarded an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) dissertation fellowship funded by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation in 2020. Ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of twelve, Sraman has also worked as a Buddhist chaplain at Tufts from 2014-2016. Prior to his doctoral studies, he received BA from Peradeniya University (Sri Lanka), MA from Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy and MDiv. (Buddhist ministry) from Harvard Divinity School.

Shiva Sai Ram Urella is a doctoral student in West and South Asian Religions. His current doctoral project at Emory focuses on the Oggu Katha tradition and the oral-performing community- Ogguvandlu of Telangana. His research aims to explore the contemporary forms of the tradition to offer an insight into the tradition’s conception of narrative (katha) as a performative expression of a shared oral memory of the community. This project will subsequently explore the tradition’s presence and reception in ritual, “secular,” and political spaces and theorize the entangled forms of caste and regional identity in Telangana. Shiva received an Integrated Masters’ degree in Political Science from University of Hyderabad, India.

Azadeh Vantanpour My research interest focuses on the Yārsān religious group in Iranian Kurdistan. My current research is on the correlations and connections between Yārsān’s sacred music, sacred food, sacred texts, materiality, and religious beliefs and their effects on healing and public well-being.  I am also interested in the concept of Madness in Sufism and the appropriation of healing as a resistance movement and a path to liberation among marginalized religious groups.

I hold three master degrees in Iranian Culture and Languages from Shiraz University in Iran, Folk Studies, and Religious Studies from Western Kentucky University.  


Riza Yildirim My primary research interest is Alevi doctrines and praxis of Islam (broadly defined) across Islamic world with special reference to Turkey, Iran, and the Balkans. I approach to the phenomenon of “Alevi Islam” within an interdisciplinary perspective, attempting to understand  it within a combined vision of popular Shi’ism, Sufism, and Islamic orthodoxy (versus heterodoxy) discourse on the one hand, and in comparison with mystic, messianic traditions in sister religious traditions with special stress on Jewish messianism, on the other. In order to better assess the intellectual infrastructure and learning tools of Alevi traditions, I am particularly interested in Oral Tradition and collective memory studies. In my previous scholarly career, I have already studied the history of Alevi and Bektashi people in the Ottoman lands. My first dissertation obtained from Bilkent University focused on the emergence of the Qizilbash identity in the course of the Otoman-Safavid imperial confrontation. In Emory University, I am further digging into religious aspects of the Alevi identity. In the meantime, I am expanding my research towards other Alevi groups such as several popular Shi’ite communities (ostensibly Twelver), Ismailis, Ahl-i Haqq, Nusayri Alevis or Alawites, and Bektashis in the Islamic world. I hope to develop a conceptual framework to understand and study these non-orthodox versions of Islam, which I provisionally call “the other Islam”, the other in a sense that the literature on Islam, both modern Western and classical Islamic, pay dramatically disproportional attention when compared to their demographic and practical prevalence among Islamic masses.