Current Students

Kristi Woodward Bain

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 Christianity track. 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 Christianity. 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. She studies post-Vatican II American Catholicism and is particularly interested in prayer practices among contemporary Catholics. Her dissertation is titled, "Catholicism Remixed: Millennial Catholic Prayer and the Making of Catholic Subjectivities." Kate co-edited "From the Pews in the Back: Young Women in Catholicism" (2007), a collection of essays about contemporary American Catholic identity. Her advisor is Robert Orsi.

Joshua Feigelson is a doctoral candidate whose dissertation focuses on the notion of "holy secularity" in the work of late-20th century Jewish theologian and communal leader Yitz Greenberg. His advisor is Robert Orsi. Josh's research interests include American Judaism, religion and higher education, and definitions of the religious and the secular. From 2005-2011 Josh served as the rabbi at Northwestern Hillel, and began his doctoral work during his tenure. In addition to his academic work at Northwestern, Josh is the founder and educational director of Ask Big Questions, a national initiative that trains college students as facilitators for community conversations. He holds rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York, and a B.A. in music from Yale University.

Joel Harrison is a doctoral student in Theology and Religious Reflection. Before coming to Northwestern, he completed master's degrees in English and theology focusing on the use of critical theory in both fields. His research interests are in the intersection of social theory and Christian and Jewish theology at the turn of the 20th century. Specifically, Joel is interested in the relationship between Lutheran "Kingdom of God" theology, Jewish messianism, and Marxist utopia from around 1890 to the 1930s. He is also an avid reader of 20th century anti-war literature, especially the work of Kurt Vonnegut and has been known to write short fiction on occasion. His advisor is Christine Helmer.

Alyssa Henningis a doctoral student 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, but is particularly interested in Jewish bioethics, the role(s) of religious perspectives in American bioethics discourse, and bioethics policy-making.

Lynn JencksLynn Jencks is a doctoral candidate in the Theology and Religious Reflection 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 and Religious Reflection. 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.

Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley is a PhD student studying medieval Christianity. Her interests include saints, both in the Christian tradition and in a comparative perspective, the history of childhood, and the history of biblical interpretation. She is currently the Assistant Master for the Communications Residential College. In addition, she serves on the Executive Boards of the Northwestern University Interfaith Initiative and the Graduate Women Across Northwestern student groups. Her advisor is Richard Kiekhefer.

Aaron Moldenhauer is a doctoral student in Theology and Religious Reflection. 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.

Victoria N.J. Prussing is a doctoral candidate in Medieval Christianity. Her research intestes center on the Middle Ages, with special interest in mysticism, gender, monasticism, heathcare, and religion in everyday life. Her dissertation explores the significance of illness in medieval monastic culture, with a focus on late medieval German nuns. Recent awards include the Fulbright Graduate Fellowship 2008-2009 (Germany), and the DAAD Scholarship 2008-2009 (declin ed). Her advisor is Richard Kieckhefer.

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 and Religious Reflection. 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 first year doctoral student in American Religions. His research explores formations of religious contestation, racialization, the state, and capitalism with a focus on nineteenth-century North America. Of late he has been researching the epistemologies at work in missions to Native Americans, representations of Catholic exceptionalism in the American West, and Gilded Age corporate religious sensibilities. Jeff earned his M.A. in American Religious History at Florida State where he studied the relationship between the Catholic Church and African Americans in New York City, ca. 1900. He is on Twitter @wheatleyjt.

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.

Religious Studies Photos

July 11, 2014