Religious Studies

Graduate Students

Historical Studies

Guy Aiken
BA, Queens University of Charlotte
MA, UNC-Charlotte
Guy Aiken is a third year PhD student in American Religions. His major research interest is American Quakers between the world wars, especially the American Friends Service Committee and Rufus Jones and Thomas Kelly. He comes from Cincinnati, OH, by way of Charlotte, NC, and has a BA in History from Queens University of Charlotte, an MA in History from UNC-Charlotte, and most of an MDiv from Wake Forest.

Matthew Burgess
BA, Centre College
MAR, Yale Divinity School
Matthew Burgess is a doctoral student in the Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity program. His research interests include the historical Jesus, the textual criticism of the New Testament, early Christian art and worship, and the relationship between religion and popular culture.

Charles Cotherman
BA, Grove City College
MDiv, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Charles Cotherman is a PhD candidate whose work focuses on the history of evangelical culture and thought in American life. He is especially interested in the contributions of Harold J. Ockenga and Carl F. H. Henry as they worked to create a “new” evangelicalism that would be able to transcend the stigma of fundamentalism by infiltrating mainline denominations and engaging the wider American culture.

Blaire French
BA, Beloit College
MAPA, University of Virginia
Blaire French is a doctoral student in the Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity program. Her focus is on the reception history of the book of Chronicles. SBL conference papers include "Jacob's Ark: Genesis 49:1-27 as the Founding of a Polity," "Voices from Below: The Role of Women's Opinion in the Birth of Israel's Monarchy," and "Luke's Redemption of King Saul in Acts."

David Griffin
BA, University of Rochester, 2008
MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2010
I am a doctoral student in the Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity program. I am most interested in ancient Jewish, Greco-Roman, and Christian hermeneutics, and how these take shape in different contexts. Hence my focus on phenomena like "rewritten Bible," patristic exegesis, and ancient conceptions of how language works. Likewise, I am interested in the relationship between ancient historiography and contemporary historiographical theory, and in how scriptural exegesis relates to systematic theology (ancient and modern).

Andrew Guffey
BA, Coe College, 2001
MDiv, Emory University, 2004
ThM, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2005
Andrew Guffey is a PhD candidate in the Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity program. His dissertation (Image and Apocalypse: Jewish and Christian Apocalypses in Ancient Visual Contexts) focuses on the relationships between ancient visual artifacts and their descriptions of the divine world in ancient Jewish and Christian apocalypses, particularly the book of Revelation. His other research interests include the Testament of Job, the Hellenistic philosophical context of early Judaism and Christianity, early Jewish and Christian mystical and ascetic traditions, and the reception of biblical texts in early Christianity.

Kyle R. Hughes
BSFS, Georgetown University, 2009
ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2013
Kyle Hughes is a doctoral student in the Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity program. His research interests bridge the New Testament and early Christianity, with special interest in the scriptural exegesis of the second and early third centuries. His article, “The Lukan Special Material and the Tradition History of the Pericope Adulterae” recently appeared in Novum Testamentum.

Christine Landau
BA, Swarthmore College
MA, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley
Christine is a student in the PhD program in Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity. Her interests are in New Testament, Hebrew Bible, and Second Temple Jewish literature and culture.

Larry Perry
BA, Fisk University, 2007 
MDiv, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, 2010 
Larry Steven Perry, II is a PhD student with a concentration in Historical Studies. He focuses on American religious history and more specifically the history of African-American religious thought. His research attempts to properly place the life and works of Howard Thurman within the streams of American intellectual history.

Joseph Stuart
BA, Brigham Young University
Joseph Stuart is an MA student studying the religious history of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. He has particular interests in the portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as both a religious and political figure, the subject of his MA thesis. Joseph has published and presented work on Mormons and the Civil War, Mormon doctrinal development, and the formal cessation of Mormon polygamy.

Daniel Wise
BA, Florida State University
MA, Florida State University
I am a second year PhD student in American religious history. I am interested in American “popular” Christianity in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. More specifically, I am interested in theological and ritual innovation and creativity among various non-mainline or nonconformist Christian groups. I also have an interest in the limits and problems of “religion” as a distinct analytical category.


History of Religions

Gloria (I-Ling) Chien
CHIBS, 2007
I-Ling (Gloria) Chien is a PhD candidate in the University of Virginia’s History of Religions Program. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in finance, she switched fields and completed a master’s thesis at the Chuang-hua Institute of Buddhist Studies at Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan. Her dissertation explores Tibetan Lojong (mind training) meditation practice through investigation of the life and works of Tibetan scholar Tokmé Zangpo (1295-1369). Gloria is also interested in how Lojong practice can change a practitioner’s cognition, emotions, awareness of his or her own mental state, and ethical concern for others.

Dominic Di Zinno
My work in the History of Religions centers on the 11th century Tibetan polymath, Rongzom Chözang, whose collected works comprise a rich survey of subjects ranging from animal husbandry to funerary rites, from Buddhist architecture to Sanskrit grammar, from consecration to epistemology. My dissertation will translate and historically position this figure’s master work on Tibet’s unique Great Perfection (rdzogs chen) tradition, the Tek chen tsül juk (theg chen tshul ‘jug) – before the formation of the tradition that claims him. This study will compose the core of my doctoral research.

Rinchen Dorje (Renqingduojie)
BA, Qinghai Normal University
MA, Silliman University
I am a second year PhD student in Tibetan Buddhism program. What interests me the most is the temple systems and politics of the monasteries and reincarnation lines in northeastern Tibet. I want to explore the interaction and tension between the major rival Dge lugs monasteries, expansion of their religious jurisdiction, and their relationship with the Beijing and Lhasa governments, and local clan powers. I also wish to pay attention to the situation of Rnying ma and other sects vis-à-vis the dominant Dge lugs.

Christopher Hiebert
BA, University of Toronto, 2012
I am a PhD student with a focus on the literary traditions of Tibet and South Asia. My present work seeks to better understand the tremendous flowering of Nyingma scholasticism during the 19th and early 20th-centuries. I am focusing on the contributions of Mipham Gyatso and Khenpo Zhenga to the development of the curricula of Nyingma monastic colleges during this time. I hope to show that the transformations of the Nyingma curricula can be best understood as arising out of the "vernacular landscapes" and local reading cultures of a relatively small group of local scholarly communities in Eastern Tibet during the late 19th century. Throughout this study I hope to engage with both textual and historical sources as well as with ethnographic study of contemporary Nyingma Shedras.

Jason Jones
BA, Sewanee, 2005
MTS, Vanderbilt Divinity School, 2007
I am studying the appropriation of Buddhism in America centered around Thich Nhat Hanh and the themes of violence and peace.

Jue Liang
BA, Renmin University of China, 2009
MA, Renmin University of China, 2011
MA, University of Chicago Divinity School, 2013
I am a PhD student in the History of Religions focusing on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. My current research interests are Tantric Buddhist literature and Tibetan (auto-)biographies, especially with regard to female figures.

Manuel Lopez
BA, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain, 1999
Northwest Minorities University, China, 1999-2000
Tibet University, 2000-2001
MA, University of Virginia, 2003
My interests in the religious studies field have been concentrated in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and within it, in its early developments in Tibet (the so-called first diffusion of Buddhism, which coincides with the era of the Tibetan Empire, between the 7th and 9th centuries), especially the history and doctrines of the Nyingma School and the Great Perfection tradition. For my PhD research I would like to explore in-depth some features of this interesting historical and philosophical period through the analysis of the works of the Tibetan scholar Nub Sangye Yeshe (gNubs sangs rgyas ye shes), paying special attention to his treatise The Eye Lamp of Contemplation (bsam gtan mig sgron).

Benjamin McClintic
BA, UC-Santa Barbara
BA, UC-Santa Barbara
Benjamin McClintic is an MA/PhD student in History of Religions. His general research concerns differences in the sense and meaning of Time that prefigure an East-West religious dialectic. His graduate research specifically focuses on comparing two histories of Time, bringing primary Vaishnava texts (centered on Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavata-purana) into conversation with European philosophical works (centered on Hegel and Heidegger).

William McGrath
BA, University of Virginia, 2007
William McGrath is a graduate student (MA/PhD) focusing on Tibetan Buddhism in the History of Religions Program. He completed his undergraduate at the University of Virginia (2007, B.Sc. Biochemistry), and has been working for the Tibetan and Himalayan Library ever since (THL; He spent two years in Eastern Tibet and China working on projects for THL and currently is studying the Tibetan and Chinese languages, Tibetan Buddhism, and Tibetan History.

Alison Melnick
BA, University of Michigan
MA, University of Virginia
Alison Melnick is a PhD candidate in the History of Religions, and focuses on Sino-Tibetan Religious History. Her dissertation (titled “The Legacy of Mingyur Peldrön: Reading the Life of a Female Buddhist Teacher in the Context of 18th Century Hagiography and History”) examines the life and times of a prominent Tibetan Buddhist teacher and practitioner, as well as the lasting effects of her influence on the Nyingma community. In the dissertation, Alison discusses issues of 18th century Tibetan literature, religious leadership, and the role of charisma as conveyed in the hagiography of a unique Central Tibetan female figure. She has conducted research in western China, and also in north India, where she spent 9 months as a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow.

Natasha Mikles
BA, College of William and Mary
MA, University of Chicago Divinity School
Tibet University, 2010-2011
Natasha Mikles is a doctoral student studying Tibetan Buddhism. Her research focuses on the myths and rituals surrounding the Tibetan warrior king Gesar of Ling. While the entirety of the Gesar corpus excites her, she is specifically focused on the late 19th-century development of Gesar rituals by leaders of the Ri-me movement and their relationship to Eastern Tibetan nationalism.

Eva Natanya
BA Philosophy, Fordham University, 2005
MA Systematic Theology, Graduate Theological Union (Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology), 2007
I am a fourth-year doctoral student in Tibetan Buddhism. While my research encompasses a broad spectrum of subjects relating to the development of philosophical tenet systems and yogic practice in both India and Tibet, I am especially interested in the possibilities of debate and interplay between Christian mystical theology and the Tibetan Lam Rim tradition, in both its Sutra and Tantra vehicles.

Adam Newman
BA, UC Santa Barbara, 2006
MA, University of Virginia, 2009
I am a PhD student focusing on the 9th to 11th century Shaiva Siddhanta tradition of Kashmir, and its modern expression in south Indian temples. Specifically, I am researching Shaiva Siddhanta rites of initiation in both the canonical literature and as practiced in south Indian temples. As part of this research I am translating the kriyapada section of the Matangaparameshvara Agama. My research interests include ritual theory and practice, Sanskrit literature, as well as Hindu and Buddhist philosophical traditions.

Benjamin (Deitle) Nourse
BA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2002
MA, University of Virginia, 2009
My research is currently focused on the history of Tibetan religious canons, including the Tibetan Buddhist canon, the Bonpo canon, and other significant collections of Tibetan religious scriptures. Related interests include the rise of printing in the eighteenth century of both canonical and non-canonical Tibetan literature.

Erin Nourse
BA, Trinity University, 2005
MA, University of Virginia, 2011
My research focuses on the history of childbearing practices and blessing rites for infants in northern Madagascar. I am interested in the centrality of ancestors in Malagasy rituals, the connection between babies and ancestors, and the ways in which competing religious communities engage historical narratives through birthing rituals and infant initiation ceremonies. More generally, I am also interested in ritual theories, African Diaspora theories, and the growth of Pentecostalism in Madagascar in particular and in the southern hemisphere at large.

James (Jef) Pierce
BA, Mary Washington College, 2005
MA, University of Virginia, 2008
Jef Pierce is a PhD candidate in the History of Religions. His current research involves the construction of gender and its influence on the unfolding of religious life in premodern South Asia. His dissertation, entitled “Exaltation of the Goddess: Narrative Expressions of the Feminine Divine in the Devīpurāṇa,” investigates how conceptions of the Goddess emerged and evolved in the Puranic genre of Sanskrit literature. By considering the intertextual relationships of the Devīpurāṇa and drawing out the Tantric elements of the work, his research demonstrates the ways in which the text inherits a Brahmanic narrative vocabulary but reinvents it for an innovative vision of reality. His other scholarly interests include Buddhist philosophy as well as third gender categories in the South Asian milieu. 

Christina Kilby Robinson
BA, Davidson College, 2006
MTS, Harvard Divinity School, 2009
Christie is currently based in Qinghai Province, China (the Amdo Tibetan cultural region) conducting dissertation research on Tibetan Buddhist letter-writing manuals. She focuses on the development of letter-writing as a Buddhist art and networking medium in the early modern period (17th-19th centuries) when the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism rose to prominence in Tibetan, Chinese, and Mongolian spheres. She is interested in the relationship between print and manuscript cultures, in the role of the literary arts in institution-building in Tibet, and in the epistolary activity of women patrons of Buddhism.

Michael D. Schuman
BA, UC Santa Barbara, 2006
MTS, Harvard Divinity School, 2009
My area of research pertains to textual communities in Tibet during the 11th to 14th centuries, specifically the figures, doctrine(s), and historical issues surrounding the formation of the Kadam (Bka' gdams) sect.

C.K. Tay
BA, Nyack College, 1993
MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 1997
MA, University of Virginia, 2009
Research interests: East Asian Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity

Jed Verity
BA, University of Virginia, 1997
MA, University of Virginia, 2007
Jed is interested in ritual theory, especially as it pertains to modern Tibetan Bönpo monastic ritual. He conducted his field research at Menri monastery in Dolanji, H.P., India, and Triten Norbutsé monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, and is currently preparing a dissertation on the subject of the Nyelam Dé Zhi ritual, which he observed on multiple occasions in Kathmandu.

Linghui Zhang
BA, Renmin University of China, 2010
MA, University of Hamburg, 2013
I am a PhD student of Tibetan Buddhist studies with a secondary focus in Chinese Buddhism. I am interested in the intellectual history of Tibetan Buddhism as well as its perception and reception of religious and philosophical elements from the outside. For my doctoral work, I want to extend my MA topic, which focuses on the Tibetan narrative of the myth of Hwa-shang Mahāyāna and the symbolism it has assumed throughout the Tibetan Buddhist history, and to delve into the early interactions between teachings of the Tibetan tantric tradition and Chinese Chan seen in the Dunhuang documents.

Matthew Zito
BA, University of Toronto, 2009
Matthew is working toward the completion of a joint MA-PhD studying the religious history of North-Eastern Tibet ('Amdo'). He is particularly interested in the pre-Geluk Buddhist history of this region, issues of peripheral ethnic identities, and early examples of the role of religion in the multi-ethnic relations between Amdo Tibetan, Chinese, and Mongolian peoples.


Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice

Ashleigh Elser
MAR, Yale Divinity School, 2011
Ashleigh Elser is a PhD student in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice. She is interested in a comparative approach to the reading practice of sacred texts and the way in which modes of reasoning apprentice readers to particular understandings of religious subjectivity. Her work focuses on reader formation and scriptural hermeneutics in Judaism and Christianity and responses to the rise of the historical-critical method in biblical scholarship.

Mian Muhammad Nauman Faizi 
BSc, Lahore University of Management Sciences, 2009
Nauman Faizi is currently in his third year of study, pursuing the PhD in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice. His research is focused on relationships between Muhammad Iqbal’s Quranic interpretation, Pragmaticism and C. S. Peirce’s semiotics and philosophy of science.

Kelly West Figueroa-Ray
BA, UC Berkeley, 1999
MDiv, Wesley Theological Seminary, 2004
Kelly Figueroa-Ray is a PhD candidate in Comparative Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice. Her focus is the relationship between scripture and theology as it is lived out in communities of faith with a particular interest in multicultural Christian ministries.

Emily Filler
BA, George Washington University, 2003
MTS, Harvard Divinity School, 2005
International education: European College of Liberal Arts, Germany; University of St. Andrews, Scotland
Emily Filler is a PhD candidate in Jewish Studies, and has taught Judaism and Scriptural Reasoning at several colleges and universities. Her dissertation explores modern Jewish philosophical responses to violent biblical passages, and the potential for rabbinic study practices to respond to the hermeneutical and ethical challenges posed by such texts. Emily is also interested in questions of pedagogy and the ethico-political responsibilities of the academic community.

Deborah Galaski
BA, Oberlin College, 2006
MA, University of Virginia, 2013
Deborah Galaski is a PhD student in the Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice program. Her research focuses on rabbinic textuality, with an eye to rabbinic pedagogy and ethics. Her dissertation will examine the idea of lifnim meshurat hadin (going “beyond the letter of the law”) as it appears in early rabbinic midrash and Talmudic narratives. Situated at the intersection between narrative and law, her analysis will draw on legal, literary and ethical theory to examine both the development of this concept and how it contributes to contemporary understandings of rabbinic ethics.

Mark James
BA, Stanford University, 2003
BA, Cambridge University, 2008
Mark James is a PhD student in the Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice program. His research focuses, first, on early Christian and rabbinic patterns of Scriptural interpretation and reasoning, and second, on Kantian philosophy and its idealist and romantic children. Studying both together, he hopes, will help generate new insights into logic, semiotics, and hermeneutics.

Kelly Leake
BA, University of Southern Mississippi, 2012
Kelly is a first year MA student interested in Islamic Studies.

Rebecca Levi
BA, Oberlin College, 2008
MA, University of Virginia, 2012
Rebecca Levi is a first-year PhD student in Religious Studies. She is interested in ethical issues of gender, sexuality, science, and ecology in Judaism, as well as the use of graphic narrative in religion. Her current projects examine uses of empirical evidence in the contemporary conversation on LGBT issues and sexuality in halakhic Judaism, and the implications of Jewish ethics for the broader community in issues of public health.

Ben Maton 
BA, Concordia College, Seward--Nebraska
MDiv, Concordia Seminary, St. Loius
STM, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis 
Ben Maton is a PhD candidate in Comparative Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice. His research focuses on the (per)formative character of scripture in Christian and other religious communities. He is especially interested in the comparison of homiletic theory and practice across Christian communities.

Reuben Shank
BA, Goshen College
MATS, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
MA, University of Virginia
Reuben Shank is a PhD student in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice. He works primarily in 19th c. and 20th c. Christian and Jewish Thought, and increasingly secondarily with patristic and rabbinic sources. His studies focus on questions arising from the reading and teaching of Scriptures (and of ‘scriptures reading scriptures’) by theologians or philosophers, contemporary Trinitarian thought and Christologies, notions of the messiah/messianic, and the possibilities and practices that create and form inter-religious relationships in the contemporary context.

R. Brian Siebeking
BA, Messiah College, 2004
MA, Georgetown University, 2008
Brian is a doctoral student in the Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice (SIP) program, with a focus on Islamic studies. His research interests include Islamic ethics—historical and contemporary, traditional and comparative—Sufism, Muslim-Christian relations—intellectual as well as socio-historical—and hagiography. Currently, he is preparing a dissertation exploring questions of virtue in the popular exegetical and moral literary genre known as Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’ (Tales of the Prophets).

Samuel A. Stafford
BA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
MA, University of Virginia
My research is focused on Qur’ānic exegesis (Tafsīr) during the Formative and Classical periods of the Islamic Tradition. Specifically, my work is concerned with how the commentaries characterize the Torah, Muḥammad’s Jewish contemporaries, and Judaism. My dissertation addresses the treatment of Muḥammad’s Jewish compassion ‘Abd Allāh ibn Salām in multiple branches of literature produced from the mid 9th to 14th century, including Qur’ān commentaries, biographical works, universal histories, prophetic biographies (sīra), ḥadīth collections, and works of the “Proofs of Prophecy” genre (dalā’il al-nubuwwa).

Ashley Tate
BA, Kenyon College, 2008
Second year MA student interested in narrative theory, feminist theology, and the shaping of myth in early Christian communities.

Scott Yakimow 
BSME, Christ College Scholar, Valparaiso University, 1994
MA, Luther Seminary, 1999
MDiv, Concordia Seminary, 2004
MA, University of Virginia, 2011
Rev. Scott Yakimow is interested in scriptural logics, particularly those exhibited by pre-modern Christian thought and medieval Islamic Tafsir. His dissertation, which is in process, applies the tools of scriptural pragmatism, based on the philosophy of Charles Peirce, to aspects of Lutheran public theology in order to expose underlying foundationalist presuppositions that empower both the "revisionist" and "traditionalist" positions in contemporary Lutheran discourse. He compares these foundationalist approaches to his construal of St. Paul's theological methodology, a primary authority to whom both Lutheran camps appeal, as a third way of doing theology that avoids some of the pitfalls implicit within modernist discourse. By doing so, he hopes to provide alternate philosophical categories, those of triadic semiotics, to the Church and academy as useful tools for conceptualizing pre-modern and contemporary Christian thought, and as a possible resourcement for doing theology in the 21st century in a non-solipsistic key. He is currently teaching at Concordia University in Portland, OR, as an associate professor of theology.


Theology, Ethics and Culture

Laura Alexander
BA, University of Chicago, 2003
MDiv, University of Chicago, 2008
Laura Alexander is a Ph.D. candidate in Religious Ethics, with prior MDiv and BA degrees from the University of Chicago. Her research interests include the ethics of human rights, just war, international relations and the global common good, and theology of migration, including the roles of feminist and comparative ethics in the above fields. Her dissertation undertakes theological and ethical analysis of the concept "Responsibility to Protect" in contemporary international relations, considered in light of the just war tradition and Christian theological thinking about sovereignty. Teaching competencies include the above, as well as comparative ethics in the Abrahamic traditions, business ethics, and principal elements of Christian theological thought. Laura is also committed to the advancement of professional development, particularly for graduate students, and pedagogical excellence in the academy, and has worked for the Teaching Resource Center and in Graduate Studies in the office of the Vice President for Research at UVA.

Scott Bailey
BA, Duke University
Scott Bailey is a PhD student in Philosophical Theology. His work focuses on contemporary systematic theology with an emphasis on the intersection of phenomenology and Protestant dogmatic theology.

David Barr
BA, Covenant College, 2010
David Barr is a second year MA student in Theology, Ethics and Culture. His work focuses on biblical and philosophical hermeneutics.

Gillian Breckenridge
MA, University of Edinburgh, 2005
STM, Union Theological Seminary, 2006
Gillian Breckenridge is a fifth year PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture with an emphasis in Systematic Theology. Research interests include the work of Karl Barth, the theological “canon,” and the relationship of this canon with more marginalized theological voices. Gillian is particularly interested in the intersections of theology and ethics, and the academy and Christian life, and seeks to read mainline systematic theologians with attention to the practical, ethical and theological concerns of feminist and liberationist communities. Gillian lives in and manages an Episcopal student community house in Charlottesville and coordinates the student fellowship at a local Episcopal Church.

Winn Collier
BA, Pensacola Christian College, 1993
ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1997
Winn is a second year PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture, with a focus on Religion & Culture. Winn’s interests are in the "lived" theology of Christian communities, particularly the intersections of sacramental theology, resurrection and a theology of place. Winn hopes to explore what a sacramental/spiritual theology for the neighborhood might look like, attempting to put a sacramental theology (such as found in Alexander Schmemann) in conversation with Wendell Berry.

Roger Conarroe 
BA, University of Virginia
Roger is a first year MA student, with an interest in philosophical ethics. His current research is investigating a semiotic account of justice, and how such an account might relate to ethics and to the concept of gift, understood theologically.

Kendall Cox
BA, Wake Forest University, 2002
MDiv, Regent College, University of British Columbia, 2006
Kendall Cox is a doctoral candidate in Theology, Ethics and Culture. She is writing a dissertation on the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the theologies of Julian of Norwich and Karl Barth, in which she develops Paul Ricoeur’s theory of intertextuality in order to show the coherence of Julian and Barth’s otherwise unprecedented identification of Jesus with the wayward son in the narrative-parable. Her field is philosophical theology, but her research interests are interdisciplinary and include phenomenology, hermeneutics, literary theory, feminist theory and ethics, economic justice, and aesthetics. She recently published an essay on the intersection of theology and phenomenology titled “Liturgy, Kenosis, and Creation: Bonhoeffer and Lacoste on Being before God without God in the World” in Ontology and Ethics: Bonhoeffer and Contemporary Scholarship (Pickwick, 2013). Kendall is also a painter and printmaker; she studied Studio Art as an undergraduate and serves on the board of the ecumenical arts non-profit at the New City Arts Initiative.

Matthew Farley
BA, Stanford University
MTS, University of Notre Dame
MA, Fordham University
Matt is a first year PhD candidate in Philosophical Theology. He is interested in the crisis of cognitive claims that marks modern theology, and in the theological turn in contemporary French phenomenology.

Jeremy Fisher
BA, Walsh University, 2003
MA, Kent State University, 2005
MA, University of Virginia, 2012
Jeremy Fisher is a first year PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture with a concentrated focus on Ethics. His research interests include sociological approaches to religions, especially the work of Ludwig Feuerbach, theodicy, evil and suffering, theological anthropology, and social, political, and environmental ethics.

Carrie Frederick Frost
BA, University of Virginia
MA, University of Virginia
Carrie Frederick Frost is a doctoral student in the Theology, Ethics and Culture program. Her work is in Orthodox Christian theology, with an eye to the theological views of family.

Scott A. Giles 
BA, St. Lawrence University
MA, University of Virginia
Scott is a doctoral candidate in religious studies with particular interest in the relationship between theological ethics, religious expression, politics and public policy.   Scott has more than thirty years of experience working as a senior Congressional staff member, running political campaigns, and advising members of Congress and the executive branch on budget, education and science policy.   He is currently conducting doctoral research on the relationship between religiosity and the definition and justification of lying in the professional life of Congressional staff.

Charles. A. Gillespie
BA, BAH, Villanova University, 2010
MAR, Yale Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music, 2013
Charles A. Gillespie is a first year PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture. His research interests are legion but tend to cluster in a constellation of systematic theology, theological aesthetics, and the intersections of religion and the performing arts and literature. Charlie also integrates his research with practical work in the theatre.

Paul Gleason
BA, Yale University
Paul Gleason is a fourth year PhD student in the Theology, Ethics and Culture program. His interests include hermeneutics, ordinary language philosophy, liturgy, poetry, autobiography, and prayer.

Libby Grammer
BA, Shorter College, 2007
MDiv, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, 2010
Rev. Libby Grammer is a first year MA student in Theology, Ethics and Culture. Her research interests include the church’s social-ethical contemplation on various topics, including (but not limited to): the roles of women in church and society, immigration and solidarity with the sojourner, peace and justice, sexuality and sexual norms, and creation care. Her website is:

Tim Hartman
AB, Stanford University
MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary
Tim's dissertation investigates and reconceptualizes the relationship between divine revelation, religion, and culture within Christian thought to articulate it anew for the present era by using the resources of postcolonial theory and theology to compare the work of two Christian theologians: Kwame Bediako of Ghana (1945-2008) and Karl Barth of Switzerland (1886-1968). His work tends to intersect a number of fields including: contemporary Christian theology, history of Christian doctrine, postcolonial theory and theology, African Christianity, political theology, ecclesiology, and the emerging church movement.

Laura Hawthorne
BA, University of Virginia
Masters in Teaching, University of Virginia
MA, University of Virginia, 2012
Laura F. Hawthorne is a PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture, specializing in Christian ethics and theology. Her research interests include Christian, feminist, and womanist perspectives on evil, sin, and suffering, social and political ethics, political theology, and women and gender in Christian thought.

Sam Heath
BA, UNC Chapel Hill, 2009
Having previously taught high school in North Carolina, Sam is now an MA student in the Theology, Ethics, and Culture program. His research interest is in how modern art and theology interact, specifically how the story of Christian scripture responds to the questions and concerns of modern/contemporary art.

Ross Kane
BA, University of Virginia
MDiv, Duke University
Ross Kane is a doctoral student in Theology, Ethics and Culture. His research interests explore how Christian communities respond to situations of political and armed conflict, particularly in East Africa. 

Peter Kang 
BA, University of Virginia, 2006
Peter is currently working in the Chaplain's Department at the Louisiana State Penitentiary while writing his dissertation. His interests include books and Jesus.

Joseph Lenow 
BA, University of Virginia
MDiv, Duke University
Joe Lenow is a PhD student in Philosophical Theology. His interests include Patristic theology (especially Augustine), contemporary Christology and Trinitarian thought, phenomenology, and the ties between theology and spiritual practice in the Catholic traditions.

Philip Lorish
BA, Furman University
MA, University of Virginia
MPhil, University of Oxford
Philip Lorish is a doctoral candidate in the Religious Studies department of the University of Virginia. His scholarly work is in the field of Religious Ethics, with particular interest in the history and development of Bio-medical Ethics; the Christian political tradition and the reception of Saint Augustine; debates regarding the ethics of armed conflict; the contributions of religious institutions to civic and public life in the modern West; and the historical development and key concepts of Christian Moral Theology, both Protestant and Catholic. Philip's dissertation, “On Meditation and Mastery: Christian Ethics and the New Eugenics,” takes up the challenge posed by the emergence of a “new” or “liberal” eugenics by developing a constructive theological response to developments within reproductive technology. Philip holds a BA in Philosophy from Furman University, an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia, and an M.Phil in Christian Ethics from Oxford.

Chad Marine
Research interests: Religion and Literature.

Jacob Marthaller
BA, California State University, Fullerton, 2012
Jacob Marthaller is a Master’s student in Theology, Ethics and Culture, with an emphasis in Ethics. He is interested in systematic theology, as well as the intersection of secular and faith-based ethical systems, particularly in dialogue with postmodern thought.

Gianni Martin
BA, University of Michigan
MPH, City University of New York
MDiv, University of the South
MA, University of Virginia
MA, The Naval Post-Graduate School
Gianni Martin is an Anglican priest and serves as a US Army chaplain/religious area analyst with the I Corps. He is a PhD candidate and is currently working on his dissertation. The topic is “Rome and Canterbury: A Comparison and Critique of How Two Contemporary Christian Leaders Construct and Engage the Muslim World.”

Christina McRorie
BA, Pepperdine University, 2006
MAR, Yale Divinity School, 2008
Christina is a doctoral student in the Theology, Ethics and Culture program. Her research interests include Christian theological ethics, the history of political economy, and economic ethics within the Abrahamic traditions. Her current research focuses on the conditions for moral agency set by global capitalism and consumer society.

Erika Meitner
Erika Meitner is a non-resident PhD student in TEC. Her focus is the intersection of religion and culture with Jewish Studies. Research interests include new Jewish ritual, material religion, ethnographic approaches to religious practice, and Jewish-American literature. She is currently finishing her degree while working as an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Tech. Her website is

Betsy Mesard
BA, University of Virginia, 2003
Abroad: KU Leuven, Belgium, American University Cairo, Egypt
Betsy is a PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture. Her interests include religious ethics and moral argumentation in Christianity and Islam, political and moral philosophy, and  philosophy of religion. Her dissertation provides a study of Egyptian thinker and activist Abdelwahab Elmessiri (d.2008) as a way to engage with recent reflection on the ethical and cultural dimensions of "critique." In addition to considering Elmessiri's philosophy and his legacy as a thinker and activist, the project provides a comparative study that explores prominent motifs in other theologically informed critical accounts of modernity.

Kristopher Norris
BA, UNC Chapel Hill
MDiv, Duke Divinity School
ThM, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Kristopher Norris is a PhD student in the Theology, Ethics and Culture area of the Religious Studies department. He is an ordained Baptist minister focusing his studies on political ecclesiology, including such topics as church and democracy, just war and pacifism, Christian ethics and public life, and the work of theologians like John Howard Yoder and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A graduate fellow for the Project on Lived Theology and Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, he has also taught courses ranging from Eco-Theology to American Religious History, and is currently teaching Christian Ethics courses at Wesley Theological Seminary. His publications include "'Never Again War': Recent Shifts in the Roman Catholic Just War Tradition and the Question of Functional Pacifism" coming out in the Journal of Religious Ethics in 2014 and Pilgrim Practices: Discipleship for a Missional Church with Cascade Books (2012). He is currently working on a book project, also with Cascade Books, on churches and political practices, co-authored with Sam Speers, the result of a research project sponsored by the Project on Lived Theology.

Travis Pickell 
BA, College of William and Mary, 2006
MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2011
Travis is a doctoral student focusing on religious ethics. His research interests include Christian theological ethics, political theology (ancient and modern), religion and pluralism in late-modernity, environmental ethics, and bioethics. A couple of his favorite thinkers are Augustine and Barth.

Matthew Puffer
BS, North Carolina State University
MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary
Matthew Puffer is a PhD candidate in Religious Ethics. His dissertation examines the development of the "image of God" in Augustine's writings and the role it plays in his moral reasoning and political theology. His research interests include comparative religious ethics and moral anthropology in conversation with environmental, biomedical, business, and war and peace ethics.

Nelson Reveley
AB, Princeton 2005 
MDiv, Union Presbyterian Seminary, 2010
ThM, Princeton Theological Seminary 2011
Nelson is a third year PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture, with an emphasis on theological ethics as they relate (respectively) to economics, the environment, food, consumerism, virtue, and happiness. He is primarily focused on the Christian tradition, particularly Augustinian conceptions of ordered loves, but is similarly interested in the beliefs and practices of other religious traditions regarding love, desire, suffering, formation, and joy.

Leah Sievers
BA, Yale University, 1997
MTS, Harvard Divinity School, 2001
Leah is a doctoral student in Theology, Ethics and Culture and a former Jefferson Graduate Fellow. Her research interests include contemporary Jewish and Christian ethics, the ethics of memory, museology, and Holocaust Studies. Leah is currently working on her dissertation, "Holocaust Museums at a Crossroads." She lives in Richmond with her husband and two children.

Mark Storslee
BA, Furman University
MTh, University of Edinburgh
MTS, Duke University
I am interested in political theology, specifically questions surrounding the relationship between Christian and democratic traditions.

Rachel Teubner
BA, St. Olaf College, 2004
MAR, Yale Divinity School, 2011
Rachel Teubner is a first year PhD student in Theology, Ethics and Culture, with a particular focus on religion and literature. Her research interests are centered in intertextual relationships among Scriptural, theological and literary texts and representations of religious experience in literature, including literary readings of and responses to Scripture and literature as a cultural manifestation of non-institutional religious experience.

Greg Thompson
BA, University of South Carolina
MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary
Greg is a PhD student in the Theology, Ethics and Culture program, and a Fellow at the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. His research interests include theology, social theory, political thought, and American religious history. Greg's current work focuses generally on the role of theological ideas in the service of the common good. Currently he is researching and writing a work on Love as a political idea in the American Civil Rights movement, tentatively entitled "An Experiment in Love: American Civil Rights and the Christian Political Imagination."

Oscar Tovar-Argueta
BA, BS, University of Maryland, College Park
MA, Biola University
MA, Loyola Marymount University
Oscar is a first year PhD student in Philosophical Theology. He is interested in the relationship between history and theology, particularly at the intersection points where historical studies become subversive of traditional dogmatic claims. His research interests include looking at different methodologies that help adjudicate these conflicts. Some thinkers he finds helpful in thinking about these issues include Paul Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann, and Karl Barth.

Nathan Walton 
BA, University of Virginia, 2009
MDiv, Duke Divinity School, 2012
Nathan Walton is a second-year PhD student in the Theology, Ethics and Culture program, specializing in philosophical theology. His research focuses on the American prosperity gospel and he is primarily interested how prosperity theology intersects with questions of Christology, social reform, and theological anthropology.

Free Williams
BA, Swarthmore College, 2003
MA, Vanderbilt University, 2007
Free Williams is a fourth year PhD student in TEC.  Free works on religious ethics, and he is particularly interested in political ethics, the history of Christian ethics, just war theory and church-state relations in the American context.

Aurelius K. Wilson
BA, Morehouse College, 1979
Juris Doctorate, George Washington University, 1982
MA, Howard University, 2004
TEC Philosophical & Lived Theology-PhD Research interests: Epistemology, Modern Theology, Cross cultural articulations of normativity, Praxis/ Spiritual Formation, Religion & Social Ethics.

Dan Wright 
MA, Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 2006
MA, Philosophy, University of Oklahoma, 2009
Dan is a fourth year PhD student studying philosophical theology. His primary interests are Eastern Orthodox theology and phenomenology.

Mike Zielinski
BA, College of William and Mary, 2007
Research interests: liberation theology, social justice, religion and literature, feminism, just war theory.


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