Current Student Bios
Tazeen Ali is a PhD student in the Texts and Traditions track, focusing on the relationship between the discursive constructions of gender and sexuality in the exegetical and jurisprudential traditions of Islam under the supervision of Dr. Kecia Ali. She is interested in the historical transformations of Islamic law from the pre-modern to modern eras and the resultant politics of women’s bodies and social engagement, with a focus on the impact of modernity on religious identity, particularly in the context of South Asia, as well as in Muslim minority communities in North America and Europe. She earned her MA in Islamic Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and her BA in Biology and Religious Studies at Lehigh University.
Evan Christopher Anhorn
Evan is a doctoral student in the religion and society track, working under Professor Adam Seligman. His work engages the role of Islamic law and theology in promoting and shaping civic participation and engagement for Muslims in Canada and Germany. He is furthermore interested in minority Muslims in the West, the problem of tolerance and community boundaries, the social construction of sacred knowledge, Islam and gender, religious authority and legitimacy, adult religious education and the relationship of religious institutions to the broader society.
Ellie Ash is a doctoral student in Religion and Society, focusing on contemporary American Judaism and working under Nancy Ammerman. She is interested in the social construction of religious commitment and the influence of formal religious ideology on lay practices and understandings, and hopes to write about these themes in connection to the place of Jewish law in Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish religiosity in North America. She has a BA in Linguistics from Stanford University (2012) and an MA in Social Science from the University of Chicago (2016).
John Balch is a second-year doctoral student in the Religion in Science track. He earned a B.A. in Religion, Globalization, and Culture at Hendrix College, and an M.A. in Religion and Nature of the University of Florida. In the past, John has focused his studies on naturalistic forms of spirituality and the interrelation between environmental and religious systems. At BU, John is focusing on bio-cultural approaches to the study of religion, particularly the paradigms of niche construction and distributed cognition.
Benae Beamon is a Ph.D candidate in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies in the Religion and Society track. She earned her B.A. in religion from Colgate University and her M.A.R. from Yale Divinity School with a concentration in ethics. She focuses on black queer ethics, folding the study of black churches and philosophical hermeneutics into sexual ethics discourse. Using social history to uncover black moral and social thought surrounding sexuality and building primarily on womanist ethics, queer theory, and black theology, she explores the experience and reality of black queer and transwomen. More broadly, she also has interests in the black arts, such as African American literature, African American poetry, and specifically tap dance, as they relate to queerness.
Amina Chaudary is a doctoral candidate focusing on historical and contemporary trends of Islam in America with guidance from Stephen Prothero. She has researched identity of American Muslims as hyphenated individuals and is exploring the American religious landscape over the past few decades as it intersects with Islam. She is also a fellow at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations. She holds an MA from Harvard University’s Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Program in History and Culture of the Islamic World and an MA from Columbia University with a focus on South Asian and Middle Eastern studies. She has worked on and researched the Muslim world engagement project and the study of Islam in America at various capacities for over 10 years, including work for high ranking global thought leaders like Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. Amina founded, and currently serves as the Editor in Chief of The Islamic Monthly, an award winning magazine that focuses on intelligent discussion pertinent to the Muslim world. She established an influential leader series for the magazine where she’s interviewed prominent global thinkers on the clash of civilizations and Muslim engagement. Among her interviews are Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Secretary Madeleine Albright and Noam Chomsky.
Jordan Conley is a Ph.D student at the Graduate Division of Religious Studies working in the Texts and Traditions track, specializing in Ancient Christianity (Origins to Late Empire). In 2009, she graduated with a BA in Religion and Classics from the University of Puget Sound, and in 2014, she earned an MTS from Harvard Divinity School with a focus on New Testament and Early Christianity. Her current research interests include ancient and late antique discourses of affliction, practices of incubation, pilgrimage to healing sites, and the social function of monasteries, with attention to the themes of agency, instrumentality, and performance. Moreover, she studies healing practices and narratives as informed by physical structures and material culture and hence is interested in the intersection between texts and archaeology.
Garrett Fugate is a third-year doctoral student in the texts and traditions track under the guidance of professor Kecia Ali. He received an MA in architecture from the University of Kansas pursuing research in sacred space. Currently, his primary interests are in Islamic law, gender, sexuality, queer theory, architecture, and Muslim American piety.
Marina F. Garner
Marina F. Garner is a doctoral student in the Religious Thought – Philosophy of Religion track, under the advising of Professor David Decosimo. Marina received her B.A. in Theology from Universidade Adventista de São Paulo, Brazil, and an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion at Trinity International University, IL. Marina’s interests are mostly in the area of philosophy of religion, with particular attention to theistic ethical theories, metaethics and the problem of evil. The answer to questions such as what is “the good,” the foundation of morality and how then should we live in contemporary western religious thought is her current research focus. When not hovering over books, Marina spends her free time laughing with friends, exploring new places in Boston and daydreaming about the next travel adventure with her husband.
Kira Ganga Kieffer
Kira Ganga Kieffer is a Ph.D. student specializing in American Religious History under the direction of Prof. Steve Prothero. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Religion and History from Brown University. Her research interests include U.S. religion and politics, American culture, evangelicalism, liberal religion and consumerism, and alternative health practices. Kira has conducted field research in Pentecostal churches and archival research, and her interdisciplinary work combines ethnographic and historical methods.
Chris Halloran is a doctoral student in the Religion & Science track. Through the Lindamood Fellowship, he works with Drs. Patrick McNamara and Wesley Wildman studying the neurobiology of religious cognition, focusing on the role of brain dopamine in the comprehension of religious concepts and theory of mind. His interests include the formulation of a science-driven metaphysical and epistemological pragmatist theory of religion and the intersection of science with religious and “non-religious” (cf. Humanist) communities in 21st century American politics, education, and media. He received his B.S. in Biology and Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, accompanied by research in the Department of Neuropharmacology of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. He went on to Harvard Divinity School, receiving his M.T.S. with a focus on philosophy of religion, the philosophy and history of science, and pragmatism. Before coming to Boston, Chris taught at Miami-Dade College and at its Honors College.
Josh earned a B.A. in philosophy from Gordon College in 2005 and a M.T.S. from Boston University School of Theology in 2011. This is his fifth year in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies. His disciplinary terrain includes philosophy of religion, aesthetics, semiotics, and literary studies. He’s especially curious about concepts of transcendence and the limits of language and reference. Josh’s dissertation research investigates the use of techniques from classical western mysticism in the rhetoric of American literature, particularly in the novels of Cormac McCarthy.
Andrew M. Henry
Andrew M. Henry is a Ph.D student in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies specializing in Ancient Christianity (Origins to Late Empire) under Dr. David Frankfurter. Andrew’s research focuses on the popular and domestic religious activity of the eastern Mediterranean with a particular interest in the material evidence of these practices such as ritual space, magico-religious artifact assemblages, and apotropaic objects. Stemming from these interests, Andrew studies theoretical issues pertaining to the limitations and abilities of archaeology to interpret questions on domestic religious activity in Late Antiquity. A graduate from Messiah College, Andrew attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Post-Baccalaureate Program in Classical Languages and worked as a collections assistant at the U.Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology before coming to BU.
Johnathan is a PhD student in the Religious Thought-Philosophy of Religion track. His main research interests are in philosophy of religion, post-Holocaust thought, and modern Jewish thought. Johnathan earned his B.A. in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and completed his M.A. in philosophy at Boston University. As a graduate student in the philosophy department at BU, on top of his coursework in philosophy Johnathan devoted much of his time to pursuing coursework and research in philosophy of religion, Holocaust studies, and modern Jewish thought. Along with pursuing his interests in contemporary moral and political philosophy, Johnathan wrote seminar papers on Spinoza’s critique of religion, Elie Wiesel’s fiction, Holocaust historiography, and on accounts of evil from Kant and Hegel to Levinas, Fackenheim, and in recent publications in philosophy. In doctoral work, Johnathan hopes to continue to pursue his interests in probing the responses (and non-responses) to the Holocaust by philosophers, theologians, writers, and historians.
Steve Lloyd is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies. Before arriving at BU, Steve earned a BA at Loyola University Maryland, where he double majored in history and theology. He then earned a MAR at Yale Divinity School, where he studied the history of Christian Missions. Steve’s main area of focus is the history of Christianity in Africa. Broadly speaking, he is fascinated by the history of the meeting of “global” and “local,” and the implications that this contact has for the symbols, rituals, and narratives of a given community. Steve is also interested in the connection between Christianity and the construction of race and ethnicity, particularly in the context of South Africa. He is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is committed to ecumenical dialog and missions. Steve’s wife Emily is an Episcopal priest, and they live in Stonington, Connecticut.
Kaitlyn Martin Fox
Kaitlyn Martin Fox is a third-year doctoral student in the religious thought track investigating the role of religious experience at the intersection of narrative, memory, and trauma under the direction of Dr. Shelly Rambo. She received a BA from Hardin-Simmons University in Religion and English and a MTS from Boston University School of Theology. Kaitlyn studies how the potentials and liabilities of stories change in the wake of traumatic historical events like the Holocaust. By examining forms of post-Holocaust memory in literature, memorials, and classrooms she explores how historical narratives inform our identities, ritual engagement with the past, and visions for the future. She looks at these sites of collective remembering to ask how the existential and literary complexities of trauma disrupt these narratives and require us to see them anew.
Paul is a doctoral student in Religious thought, concentrating in the philosophy of religion. As an M.A. student in systematic and philosophical theology at the Graduate Theological Union, Paul focused on the thought of Paul Tillich and Martin Heidegger. Currently, Paul works at the confluence of critical animal studies, philosophy, and religion, helping to trace the ways in which ‘animals’ have contributed to the construction of our ‘modern’ concept(s) of religion. His interests include German Idealism (especially, Hegel and Schelling), literary theory, and baking.
Leah Mickens is a third-year doctoral student in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies’ Religion and Society track. Her research interests include the Roman Catholic Church’s evolving views on liberalism, liberal democracy and modernity, Catholic social teachings, and the rise of atheism as a popular movement. She is particularly interested in the varieties of Catholic traditionalism, especially the Priestly Society of St. Pius X. Leah is also fascinated by the sociology of morality, i.e., the ways in which religious discourse influences public conceptions of right and wrong. She plans to examine how different religious groups construe morality, and how their differences in belief are manifested at the individual and institutional levels. Leah earned a BA in international relations from Oglethorpe University with a double minor in Japanese and history (2005). She received a master of library and information science from the University of South Carolina (2006), and she also has a master of science in digital media (2009) from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Chad Moore is a doctoral student in the Religion and Society track. Hailing from Ft. Worth, Texas, Chad holds a B.A. in Religion from Hardin-Simmons University and an M.T. S. from Boston University School of Theology. His work focuses on evangelical Christianity in the U.S., and his specific interests involve understanding the social dynamics underlying how anxiety kindled in changing environments is socially experienced, collectively processed, and cooperatively combated within conservative Christian communities. Seeking to understand these dynamics, Chad often finds himself juggling concepts from the fields of social theory, psychology, theology, law, politics, and history. While at the GDRS, Chad hopes to become a better juggler, make a helpful contribution to the understanding of contemporary American religion, and continue honing his car-dodging skills while biking Boston’s busy streets.
Kendra M. H. Moore is a PhD student in the Religion and Science track at the Graduate Division of Religious Studies. She primarily focuses her work on the psychology and neuroscience of religion. She graduated with a Bachelor of Behavioral Sciences from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and subsequently graduated with a Master of Theological Studies from Boston University. Her research centers on the role of the religious imagination and how this knowledge might unveil the cognitive constructs that influence human behavior on an ethical and moral level. This research addresses how central and authoritative religious images (such as concepts of God and afterlife) construct or deconstruct human relationships, institutions, biases, rituals, and ideas of self. Kendra hopes her research can further our understanding of how to be responsible bearers of the concepts that inform our perspectives of the world. When she is not reading and writing, Kendra enjoys being outdoors, and in Boston this often means walking around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.
Jonathan Morgan is a doctoral student studying Psychology and Religion. He holds a BA from North Carolina State University in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Truth and an MTS from Boston University in Psychology and Theology. His research interests range from the individual to the collective: How does personality relate to religiosity? How do collective religious practices and beliefs relate to mental health as a culture develops? How might these questions be pursued in such a way as to help people and communities flourish? As a Lindamood Fellow Jonathan is working with Drs. Wesley Wildman and Patrick McNamara on research exploring the neurological underpinnings of religious cognition.
Amanda J. G. Napior is studying to become an anthropologist of religion, under the advising of Dr. Linda Barnes and Dr. Adam Seligman. Amanda’s work draws theoretically upon ritual studies, women, gender and sexuality studies, and whiteness studies in the context of American religious history. From this theoretical-contextual frame, she is exploring how New Religious Movements in the United States have emerged via combination, appropriation, and acculturation, and how modalities derived from them have been integrated into institutional settings, such as in rehabilitation programs in American prisons. How practices like yoga or Narcotics Anonymous are perceived and utilized in prison—and by whom—speaks to how understandings of “religion,” have changed; to how power is differently implicated in turning various practices into therapeutic interventions; and finally, to the ways in which people make sense of ambiguities and tensions in their lives and find dignity amidst them. These issues are of fascination to the historian and anthropologist of religion. With a background as a hairstylist, yoga instructor, and teacher in a house of correction, Amanda has consistently turned scholarly attention to phenomena she has noticed in practice. Amanda received an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School with a focus in Christianity and a B.A. with emphasis in American religious history from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Eva Pascal is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies in the History of Christianity under the supervision of Dr. Dana Robert. She received her MDiv from Harvard Divinity School and from 2006-2010 taught classes on Christianity and Buddhism, world religions, and theology at the McGilvary School of Divinity at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Her research interests include the history of Christianity in Asia and encounters with other religious traditions, especially Buddhism. She is particularly interested in Christian-Buddhist historical interaction and exchange in Southeast Asia. Her dissertation explores early modern missionaries and their contribution to the construction of Buddhism as a distinct religion. Her second area of research explores the intersection of religion and development in mission through burgeoning faith-based non-governmental organizations. She is a Research Fellow at the Center for Global Christianity & Mission, and the Project Director of the multimedia site Old & New in Shona Religion.
Scott Possiel is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Division of Religions Studies studying Ancient Mediterranean Religion under Dr. David Frankfurter. His research focuses on the interaction of textuality and material culture in Late Antique Religions. Utilizing theories of orality and literacy, materiality, and semiotics, Scott seeks to understand textual objects as more than mere devices for communication, but as physical manifestations of their words. Scott’s interests lead him to study a diverse array of religious traditions that frequently borrow from, mix, and permeate the boundaries of Judaism, Christianity, magico-religious literature, and Graeco-Roman cults. He works primarily on Greek and Coptic papyri and inscriptions from the 2nd to 8th centuries CE. Scott is a 2014 graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and a 2012 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
M. I. Rey
M. I. Rey is a PhD student within the Text and Traditions track in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies program. Current research interests include examining archaeological theories on ethnogenesis in the ancient Near East, sociological approaches on intersectionality and how this impacts foreign women within the biblical narrative, and the literary construction of ethnic identity in the ancient Near East. She is also interested in the application of feminist hermeneutics and intercultural criticism. Rey holds an S.T.M. in Hebrew Bible from Boston University School of Theology (2012), an M.A. in Old Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (2011), and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University (2009). Rey has presented papers at the New England & Eastern Canada Regional Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (2012; 2013), and was a 2012 recipient of The American Schools of Oriental Research Heritage Fellowship at which time she excavated at Khirbet Qeiyafa in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Rey is currently a Hispanic Theological Initiative Fellow, and serves on the Journal of the American Academy of Religion Book Review Staff as a book review assistant editor.
David Rohr earned his M.Div from BU’s School of Theology in 2012 and is currently working on his PhD in “Science, Philosophy, and Religion” at BU’s Department of Religious and Theological Studies. Dave is working with Nancy Ammerman and Wesley Wildman on the Dimensions of Spirituality Project and with Wesley Wildman and Patrick McNamara on the Neuroscience and Religious Cognition Project. Broadly speaking, his research concerns the intersection of scientific and religious perspectives on human nature. More specifically, he is interested in the implications for theological anthropology of contemporary sciences of the mind like neuroscience, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology. Dave’s long-term goal is to contribute to the development of a theological anthropology that is (1) consistent with contemporary science; (2) capable of integrating biological, neurological, and cultural influences on human life; (3) inclusive of the vast diversity of religious paths charted and explored by human beings; and (4) capable of affirming the existential and theological significance of such religious quests. When he is not reading or writing, Dave spends his free time watching movies, hiking, and laughing with his wife and best friend, Courtney.
Staci Rosenthal is beginning her PhD in the Religion and Society track, asking the question “How do the different ways American Jews memorialize the Holocaust contribute to a ‘ritualization’ of the Holocaust in liturgical and religious settings?” Under the supervision of Dr. Linda Barnes and Dr. Adam Seligman, Staci plans on cross-culturally examining the American Holocaust narratives with Poland’s relationship to this era in their own history. Staci earned her MS in Medical Anthropology from Boston University’s Medical Campus, where she wrote her thesis on women who became pregnant during the Holocaust. She earned her BA in Anthropology from Brandeis University.
Brandon J. Simonson is a Ph.D. candidate in Jewish Studies studying Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Languages under the direction of Alejandro F. Botta. His research interests surround the corpus of legal documents from the Jewish community at Elephantine and the influence of law on life in ancient Israel, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. He received a master’s degree in Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures from Tel Aviv University, a master’s degree in Hebrew Bible from Vanderbilt University, and a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Languages, Religion, and Classics from Luther College. At Vanderbilt University, Brandon received the W. Kendrick Grobel Award for outstanding achievement in biblical studies. In May 2016, Brandon received the The Edwin S. and Ruth M. White Prize and The Angela J. and James J. Rallis Memorial Award for his dissertation research in Aramaic onomastics from the Boston University Center for the Humanities.
Kate Stockly is a PhD student in the Science, Philosophy, and Religion program. She holds a BA from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion and Psychology (separate majors) with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies and an MA from the University of Washington in Comparative Religion. Her research interests are driven by a desire to develop a well-rounded religious anthropology – to understand how and why humans are homo religiosus. With this goal in mind, she investigates the ways in which the cognitive, neurological, and sociological aspects of human nature culminate in dynamic interaction to contribute to religiosity and religious experience. As a case study, Kate has explored many aspects of American religion and is currently co-authoring a book on evangelical megachurches. Kate is also interested exploring the philosophical assumptions of contemporary neuroscience and biology and the theoretical and theological implications of including scientific methods and data in conversations about religion.
Ben Suitt is a Ph.D. student at the Graduate Division of Religious Studies specializing in Social Ethics in the Religion and Society track. He earned a BS in Business with minors in Religion and Studio Art in 2010 from Wake Forest University and a Masters of Theological Studies in 2012 from Emory University with a certificate of Religious Education, studying closely with Dr. Timothy Jackson. His current research interests focus upon religious engagement with political structures as well as systems of justice and their effect on society and culture. This emphasis involves a range of conversations about just-war theory, social justice, and critical theory about power. Along with other humanistic interests, he wishes to investigate the narrative created by the United States’ involvement in violent conflict and how it shapes contemporary Christian ethics with regard to participation in war, conscientious objection, and pacifism.
Adam Westbrook is a PhD student in the Religion and Society track. Adam received his MA from the University of Denver in Religious Studies (2009) and his BA in Sociology from Ithaca College (2004). While an MA student, Adam’s research focused on religious pluralism, the democratic imperative of religious literacy, as well as the role religion can play in conflict and conflict-mediation. He has spent time studying intergroup conflicts throughout the world, has facilitated and led interreligious dialogue in the United States and Israel/Palestine, and has also worked with an NGO in Northern Ireland that attempts to reconcile Catholic and Protestant communities through joint community development projects. In addition to the aforementioned areas of research, other interests include ethics, pedagogies of religious studies, religious freedom and democracy, and bridging the academy with the broader community. Adam looks very forward to collaborating with the GDRS faculty and other graduate students in the BU community over the next several years while a PhD student.