Graduate Students

Stephanie Brenzel is a doctoral candidate in Judaism. She studies modern Jewish philosophy, especially the works of German-Jewish thinker, Franz Rosenzweig. Her dissertation explores Rosenzweig’s philosophy of love in The Star of Redemption. Other research interests include political philosophy, German-Jewish Literature, and Holocaust theology. Before coming to Northwestern, she earned her BA in German and Religious Studies from Rhodes College. 

Will Caldwell

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.


Jennifer Callaghan is a doctoral candidate in American religions.  Her dissertation, Mass Public: the Word of God, the Language of the People, and U.S. Catholic Liturgical Reform 1940 - 1974 examines the implementation history of vernacular liturgy in Chicago as well as the various narratives surrounding the transition from Latin to English ritual.  Jennifer's research and teaching explore the dynamic landscape of American religion with emphases on religious practices and on the religious tensions within American national self-understanding.  She received an MAIS from the University of Washington's Jackson School of International Studies and a BA from Swarthmore College.  Jennifer is advised by Robert Orsi.


Joel Harrison is a PhD candidate in Theology. His work is focused on the relationship between theology and social theory at the turn of the 20th century in Germany and theory and method in the early history of religious studies. His dissertation, Between Normativity and History: Ernst Troeltsch's Mystic Type and the Creative Agency of Values, reads the "mystic type" in Troeltsch's theological sociology of the Church as a way of understanding his later work in the philosophy of history, particularly his solution to the problem of history and normativity. The dissertation argues that the "mystic type" can be understood philosophically, rather than historically or sociologically, and that a philosophical account of Troeltsch's mystic sheds new light on how he understands the development of Christian authority in history, showing how it is possible for norms to maintain authority while in a continual process of change. Joel holds a BA in English Education from California State University, Long Beach, an MA in English from the University of Northern Colorado, and an MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Areas of specialization: 19th and early 20th century German philosophy, social and critical theory, and ecclesiology. Awards include: DAAD Intensive Summer Language Course Grant (2014). His advisors are Cristina Traina and Mark Alznauer.

Joel has served as the Assistant Chair of the Humanities Residential College since 2015. In addition to that post, Joel will be the Graduate Assistant in the Public Humanities at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and will serve as the Religious Studies Department's Graduate Teaching Fellow through the Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching for the 2017-2018 school year.

James Howard Hill, Jr. is a doctoral student in American Religions. Before coming to Northwestern, he earned an MTS in Social Ethics (Moral Theology) and Culture from Southern Methodist University where he graduated summa cum laude. His research explores the intersection of religion, necropolitics, race, and colonialism in the Americas and throughout Atlantic geographies (Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas). His work also engages the theme of Anticolonialism in African American Religious History, the intersection of religion and retributive justice in the American Imaginary, and Black Political Theology. His advisor is Sylvester Johnson.

Nisheeta Jagtiani

Nisheeta Jagtiani is a doctoral student in Buddhist Studies.  She studies the non-sectarian ideal (Ris med) that gained popularity in East Tibet (Khams) in the 19th century. Through studying the lives of the founders of the Ris med ideal, she examines the closely intertwined relationship between religion, politics and the creation of authoritative figures in Tibet. Nisheeta graduated from the University of Chicago with an M.A. from the Divinity School. Her advisor is Sarah Jacoby.

Harrison King

Harrison King is a doctoral student whose research interests include gender and sexuality studies, animality studies, critical race theory, liberation theology, and popular fiction. Their dissertation project develops the concepts of "flesh" and "meat" to theorize racialized queerness, transness, and animality in the viscously embodied soteriologies of contemporary science fiction. Before coming to Northwestern, they earned an MA in religious studies at Missouri State University. Harrison is advised by Cristina Traina.

Marlon Millner is a doctoral student in theological studies. His areas of interest include colonialism and the production of new religious movements, the intersectionality of religious and racial identity, and religion and materiality, especially constructions of the body. In particular, Marlon is interested in interrogating multiple, disparate, early 20th century sites of global Pentecostalism for emancipatory rhetoric and practices concurrent with other post-colonial and decolonial discourses/movements both within the West among people of color, and in the two-thirds world. Before coming to Northwestern, Marlon was a pastor, a denominational staff person, and a locally elected councilman. He earned a B.A. degree from Morehouse College, and an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School.

Aaron Moldenhauer

Aaron Moldenhauer is a Ph.D. candidate in theology. He studies scholastic and Reformation theology and history, focusing primarily on the relationship between theology and philosophy and the continuities and ruptures between late medieval and Reformation thought. He is writing a dissertation on the Christology of Martin Luther, researching the conceptions of ontology, language, and logic that Luther uses in his account of the person of Christ. He uses Luther’s Christology serves as a lens to shed new light on the relationship between medieval and early modern theology and metaphysics. 

Teddy Nakate

Teddy Nakate is a doctoral student in Theology. Before joining Northwestern University, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Education at Uganda Christian University Mukono (Uganda) where she also served as a Teaching Assistant for three years. She completed a master of philosophy in religious studies at the Norwegian Teacher academy Bergen. Her interests in Christian contextual and liberation theologies focus on religion and human suffering. Specifically she is working toward a dissertation that gives her occasion to reflect on adversity and heartbreak--“Theological Reflection on Human Suffering and Sense Making: An Ethnography of Marginalized HIV Women in Uganda.” Her advisors are Professor Cristie Traina and Professor Christine Helmer.

Courtney Rabada

Courtney Rabada is a doctoral candidate in American Religions. Her research interests include contemporary American religions, gender/sexuality, and institutional rhetoric. Her work focuses on the effects of religion on women’s sexual health, in particular gendered issues of shame, self-confidence, and body image. She earned her B.A. from Indiana University, Bloomington in English Literature and her M.A. from Claremont Graduate University in Religious Studies. Her advisor is Robert Orsi.

Myev Rees is a doctoral candidate studying religion and American popular culture, media, and gender. Her dissertation explores how conservative Christian women in the United States use mainstream and new media platforms to (re)imagine motherhood, female and fetal bodies, and reproductive and sexual agency. Myev received an MA from Miami University of Ohio where her research focused on American religious history and culture, megachurches, and religious self-help literature. She received her BA in Philosophy from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Benjamin Ricciardi

Benjamin Ricciardi is a doctoral student in 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. He is particularly interested in the Kantian strain in modern Jewish thought, especially the Marburg school of Neo-Kantianism. His dissertation analyses the weekday Jewish liturgy as a response to the Problem of Evil. Benjamin’s other areas of interest include early modern philosophy, political philosophy, ethics, and ontotheology. His advisor is Kenneth Seeskin.


Hannah Scheidt is a doctoral candidate studying contemporary atheist culture. Combining methods and approaches from religious studies, cultural studies, and media studies, her dissertation examines how atheists negotiate meanings and values through media. The project aims to show how “atheism” gains positive content, signaling more than simply lack of belief in god(s). Her other research interests include secularism, religion and/of technology, and transhumanism. Hannah graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in Religious Studies and English Literature. Her advisor is Sarah McFarland Taylor.

matthew smith

Matt Smith is a doctoral student in American Religions. He specializes in the inter-disciplinary study of religion and race in America, with specific interest in Anglo-American Protestantism and its intersections with white imperial formations during the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth century. Areas of interests: U.S. empire, race and gender/sexuality, racial and settler colonialism, secularism and the politics of freedom, the theological and the political, and critical white studies. Before coming to Northwestern, Matt earned his Masters degree from Princeton Seminary and his Bachelors from Anderson University. His adviser is Sylvester Johnson.

Miranda Smith

Miranda Smith is a doctoral student in Buddhist Studies. She is primarily interested in Tibetan literature, especially autobiography and poetry. She plans to study modern Tibetan poets and examine how they sustain, depart from and reinvent Tibetan literary tradition. She is also interested in poetry as a technology of the self. Her other interests include women’s religious history, autobiography studies, and poetics. Before arriving at Northwestern, she received an MTS from Harvard Divinity School, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso, and a BA from Mount Holyoke College. Her advisor is Sarah Jacoby.

Lily Stewart

Lily Stewart is a doctoral student in Medieval Religious History. She focuses her studies on medieval perceptions and experiences of saints, sanctity, and the afterlife. Lily is interested in exploring how women, the poor, the disabled, and other marginalized groups fit within medieval structures of spirituality and devotion, and where (or whether) they were allocated space in various models of the afterlife. Before coming to Northwestern, she earned a post-baccalaureate certificate in post-classical Latin as a Mellon fellow at UCLA. She received her BA in Religious Studies from Scripps College. Lily’s advisors are Richard Kieckhefer and Barbara Newman.

Jeffrey Wheatley is a doctoral student in American Religions. He researches race, religion, empire, and state power in the United States, especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Related focal points include pedagogy, theory and method, global Christianity, secularism, the history of the study of religion, and popular use of the octopus as an image for visualizing dangerous others. His current project examines American understandings of “superstition” and “fanaticism,” paying attention to how these terms have been used to surveil and govern populations deemed dangerous. Jeff co-wrote and published the article “The Protestant Secular in the Study of American Religion: Reappraisal and Suggestions,” in the journal Religion. He currently co-coordinates the Global Politics & Religion graduate student working group. Jeff holds an MA in American Religious History from Florida State University and a BA in History from Arizona State University. You can view his CV here. He is on Twitter @wheatleyjt.

Sarah Wolf

Sarah Wolf is a doctoral candidate in Ancient Judaism. She studies practices of textual interpretation in ancient and medieval Jewish culture. She is currently working on her dissertation, "The Rabbinic Legal Imagination: Between Praxis and Scholasticism in the Babylonian Talmud," in which she reveals the competing drives towards practical law and scholastic thought in late antique Jewish literature. Her advisors are Barry Wimpfheimer and Mira Balberg.

Darcie Price-Wallace

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.