Current Students


Stephanie BrehmStephanie Brehm is a doctoral candidate in American religions. She studies religion, media, and popular culture in contemporary American life. Her work focuses on religion and humor, combining methodologies from ethnography, history, cultural studies, and media studies. Her advisor is Professor Orsi. Before coming to Northwestern, Stephanie graduated with a B.A. from Florida State University and an M.A. from Miami University of Ohio.

Stephanie Brenzel is a doctoral student in Judaism. Her research interests are   religious movements in modern Judaism and 19th and 20th century continental philosophy. In particular, she studies Jewish responses to change and trauma from a philosophical, historical, and literary perspective. Before coming to Northwestern, Stephanie graduated from Rhodes College and was an English Teaching Assistant with the Fulbright Program. Her advisor is Kenneth Seeskin.

Jennifer CallaghanJennifer Callaghan is a doctoral student in American Religions. She is interested in historical and ethnographic methods. Her primary research interests are American conservative Catholics and the development of the study of religion. Her advisor is Robert Orsi.

Brian ClitesBrian Clites is a doctoral candidate in American Religions. His work combines ethnography, American history, and theories religious authority. He is currently writing his dissertation.

The Politics of the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis: Trauma, Despair, and Reform Amongst the People of God, which explains how lay Catholics have transformed the trauma of sexual abuse into an agenda of social and ecclesiological reform. Brian has recently been awarded The Searle Graduate Teaching Award, a TGS Research Grant, The Francis X. Keenahan Teaching Award and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS). Brian is also Chair of the History of Religions Section for the Midwest American Academy of Religion. His committee is comprised of Robert Orsi (advisor), Sarah Taylor, and Cristina Traina.

Vanessa Crosby is a doctoral candidate in the Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Her second department is Art History, and her primary research interests are medieval sacred architecture and devotional art, particularly in Spain and the Mediterranean region.

Kristin DollKristin Doll is a doctoral candidate in Religion, with a concentration in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. She is currently doing research for a dissertation on church fires and reconstruction in twelfth- and thirteenth-century France. Her other research interests include church architecture, high medieval Marian devotion, and pilgrimage.

Kate DuganKate Dugan  is a doctoral candidate in American religions. Her dissertation, Catholicism Remixed: Millennial Prayer and the Making of Catholic Subjectivity is an ethnographic study of young adults who commit two years evangelizing on college campuses in the U.S. She argues that their prayer forms and devotional practices shape their subjectivities. Kate will defend her dissertation in Spring 2015. Her research has been funded by The Graduate School Graduate Research Grant. Her advisor is Robert Orsi. Kate's broader research interests are in religious experience, women in religion, and the intersection of religious practice and American culture. Kate is the co-editor of From the Pews in the Back: Young Women & Catholicism (Liturgical Press, 2009), which won 2nd place in the 2010 Catholic Press Association's Gender Issues category.

At Northwestern, Kate has taught a seminar on "Contemporary American Catholicism," and TAed a wide variety of introductory courses in Religious Studies, as well as research methods in the School of Education and Social Policy. She spent two years as the student coordinator of the North American Religions Workshop. Kate has also worked with graduate students across the university as a Graduate Teaching Fellow and Graduate Writing Fellow.

Kate graduated with a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, where she studied American Catholicism and worked as a research at The Pluralism Project.  Before coming to Northwestern, she was a community educator in Alaska's Bush and a nutrition educator on a Native American reservation in rural Washington. Visit Kate's research and teaching portfolios at

Will Caldwell is a doctoral candidate in Islam and American Religions. He specializes in the history of early twentieth-century African American Muslims, with a focus on issues of race, empire, and internationalism. Before coming to Northwestern, he received a Master’s degree in religious studies from NYU. His advisors are Sylvester Johnson and Brannon Ingram.

Joel Harrison is a doctoral student in Theology. Before coming to Northwestern, he completed master's degrees in English and theology focusing on the use of critical theory in both fields. His interests are in the intersection of social thought and Christian theology at the turn of the 20th century and questions of theory and method in the early history of religious studies. He is exploring how Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch, and Karl Holl understand the nature of historical experience in the development of their individual social scientific and/or theological methods and how these methods relate to, inform, and contest each other. Areas of specialization: 19th and early 20th century German thought, particularly Neo-Kantian philosophy of religion and history, social and critical theory, modern theology and ecclesiology. Awards include: DAAD Intensive Summer Language Course Grant (2014). His advisor is Christine Helmer.

Alyssa Henning is a doctoral candidate in Religion, Ethics, and Public Life; she is also pursuing a law degree through Northwestern's JD/PhD program. She has wide-ranging interests in bioethics and the relation between law and ethics. Her dissertation, "Lifnim Mishurat Hadin: Jewish Sources, Ethics, and Research with Human Subjects," develops a distinctly Jewish approach to the ethics of using human subjects in medical research by analyzing Jewish narratives to articulate the ethical obligations, beyond regulatory compliance, that researchers owe their subjects. Alyssa holds the 2014-2015 Crown Fellowship from the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. She is an active member of the Society of Jewish Ethics, and her advisor is Laurie Zoloth. Alyssa received her BA in Bioethics and Religious Studies from the University of Virginia.

Lynn JencksLynn Jencks is a doctoral candidate in the Theology concentration. Her studies in Christian Contextual and Liberation Theologies focus on expanding the categories of what constitutes theological expression and who is considered a theologian. She studies methods of collaborating with communities whose non-written theological expressions are under-represented in scholarly theological publications. Her dissertation on Latino Immigrant Charismatic Catholicism in the U.S. demonstrates this collaborative theological method of engaged ethnography. Lynn is a Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellow (2013-2014) and was offered the American Association of University Women American Dissertation Fellowship (2013-2014). Her advisor is Cristie Traina.

Harrison King is a doctoral student in Religion, Ethics, and Public Life. Broadly, his research explores the many productive intersections of animal studies, speculative fiction, and, more recently, queer theory. Before coming to Northwestern, he received his M.A. in religious studies from Missouri State University, writing a thesis on the relationship between religion and anthropogenesis in the science fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin. He hopes to continue this kind of research at Northwestern, focusing on environmental ethics and representations of gender and nonhuman animals in utopian fiction from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His advisor is Cristina Traina.

Candace Kohli is a doctoral student in Theology. She studies the 16th century Protestant Reformation, specializing in the theology of Martin Luther. She is particularly interested in Luther's utilization of gift for an effective, ontological change in his understanding of the virtuous Christian life. She also works on the political theology of the Reformers, looking especially at their understanding of the divine right of kings. Christine Helmer is her advisor.

Aaron Moldenhauer is a doctoral student in Theology. His work concentrates on the Lutheran Reformation, particularly its influence on the parish. His interests include church history and hermeneutics. His advisor is Christine Helmer.

Joseph D. MoserJoseph D. Moser Jr. (Jody) completed a Master's degree from Harvard with a focus in ethics before coming to Northwestern. An ethicist with roots in religion and philosopy, his research interests include alterity, violence, responsibility, and limit cases in phenomenology. His current research focuses upon the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and the 1994 Rwandan Genocide in an effort to bring certain resources of contemporary French phenomenology to discussions and processes of justice and reconciliation in the wake of violence. Joseph received a Fulbright grant in 2010 to conduct his dissertation research – constructing a phenomenological theory of pardon – in Rwanda. A member of the Northwestern Curling Club, Moser is also a two-time National Champion in US College Curling.

Myev Rees is a doctoral student in American Religions. She studies the history and culture of American evangelicalism and religion and reality television and digital media. She is interested in questions related to gender and the body, as well as mediated religious constructions of motherhood, childhood, family, and the home. Myev received an MA in Comparative Religion from Miami University of Ohio where she worked on research related to megachurches, religious self-help literature, the work of Rick Warren. She received her BA in Philosophy from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Benjamin Ricciardi is a doctoral student studying philosophy of religion, especially modern Jewish philosophy.  Before coming to Northwestern, he earned an MA in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a BA in Philosophy from Arizona State University.  His primary interests are the role of reason and autonomy in Western religious (especially Jewish) discourse and how that discourse can interface with the broader secular philosophical conversation in a variety of areas.  He is particularly interested in the Kantian strain in modern Jewish thought.  Secondary areas of interest are early modern philosophy, political philosophy, and ontotheology.    His advisor is Kenneth Seeskin.

Matthew RobinsonMatthew Robinson is a doctoral candidate in Theology. He is currently writing a dissertation on Friedrich Schleiermacher's theory of free sociability (freie Geselligkeit) and Schleiermacher's understanding of the church as a freely sociable community. His areas of specialization are: 19th German thought, Modern Theology and Christian ecclesiology, with a special interest in the role of contextual factors (political and economic) in the development of Christian understandings of church. Awards include: DAAD Research Grant (2012-2013); Columbia Council for European Studies Pre-Dissertation Fellowship (2011); DAAD University Summer Course Grant (2010); TGS Summer Language Grant (2010). In 2013-2014 he is Krister Stendahl Research Fellow at the the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem, Israel. His advisor is Christine Helmer.

Hannah Scheidt is a third-year doctoral student studying Contemporary Religion and Nonreligion. She is currently interested in atheist communities and their use of media and Internet technologies. Past projects include work on transhumanism as well as a study of religion in virtual worlds (fieldwork completed in Second Life). She is interested in not only the interaction of religion and new technologies, but also in the religious dimension of contemporary technologies themselves. Hannah graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in Religious Studies and English Literature.

Ariel Schwartz is a doctoral candidate in the Contemporary Religions track. She specializes in religion, politics, and violence, with particular attention to space and place. Her dissertation research explores violence to places of worship and its impact on religious minorities in the United States. She focuses on phenomenological experiences of violence and the formation of collective memory. She is also interested in material religion, American hate crime law, and issues of secularism and pluralism. Ariel helped to construct a graduate certificate in Religion & Global Politics and currently co-chairs the Religion & Global Politics Graduate Student Workshop at Northwestern.

Jeffrey Wheatley  is a doctoral student in American Religions. Jeff holds an MA from Florida State University in American religious history. He is primarily interested in studying religion alongside politics, race, and imperialism. His current project explores the intersecting dynamics of race and religion within US colonial governance of the Philippines in the early twentieth century. Other research areas include secularism, capitalism, theory and method, and US Catholic history. He is on Twitter @wheatleyjt. Sylvester Johnson is his advisor.

Sarah Wolf is a doctoral student in Rabbinic Judaism. Her primary research interest is the relationship between law and literature in Rabbinic writings, particularly within the Babylonian Talmud. She is also interested in the development of martyrdom discourses in late antiquity. Sarah earned her B.A. in Literature from Yale University. Her advisor is Barry Wimpfheimer.

Stephanie Wolfe is a doctoral candidate in American Religion. Her dissertation, Urban Renewal: The Evangelical Encounter with Race, Poverty and Inequality in Chicago examines evangelical conceptions of urban America, social justice, and racial identity in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Wolfe’s broader interests include urban studies, ethnography, and the intersections among religion, politics, race, and capitalism in American public life. She serves as an Assistant Curator at the Newberry Library for an interactive web-based exhibit entitled Faith in the City: Chicago’s Religious Diversity in the Era of the World’s Fair. She is also a 2014-15 Dissertation Fellow at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Darcie Price-Wallace  is a doctoral student in Buddhist Studies.  She studies different forms of female monasticism and renunciation in contemporary South Asia.   Her research examines the relationship between communities of such women and the social environments in which those communities exist, and the way in which these communities are influenced by and accept or reject the nexus of cultural traditions of which they are a part. Darcie graduated from the University of Chicago with an M.A. from the School of Social Service Administration and an M.A. from the Divinity School.  Her advisor is Sarah Jacoby.

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July 30, 2015