Doctoral Candidates


Lee Ann Bambach

Lee Ann Bambach

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Brown University (1986); M.T.S., Harvard School of Theology (1991); J.D., University of Georgia School of Law (1997)

Academic Project: My academic project looks at the intersection of Islamic law (sharia) and U.S. law.

Area of Study: West and South Asian Religions

Dissertation Title: “That Ye Judge With Justice: Faith-Based Dispute Resolution by Muslims in an American Context”; Dissertation Committee: Richard Martin (chair), Abdullahi An-Na'im, Michael Broyde and Devin Stewart

Current Research: My current research focuses on Islamic arbitration in the United States. 

Contact Information: lbambac@emory.edu


Sarah Bogue

Sarah Bogue

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate  

Education: B.A., Davidson College (2007), M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary (2010) 

Academic Project: My practices project was on Presbyterian (PCUSA) women's book clubs, and my practices-themed comprehensive exam was a comparative analysis of Christian and Sufi Muslim theology, comparing "practical" treatises (Isaac of Ninevah, Abu Madyan) and mystical ones (Pseudo-Dionysius, Ibn Arabi and Avicenna).

Area of Study: Historical Studies 

Dissertation Title: “Hrotsvit’s Legends as Discipline and Formation: The ‘Nectar of Heavenly Grace’”; Dissertation Committee: Philip Reynolds (chair), Judith Evans-Grubbs and Jim Morey

Current Research: My dissertation focuses on the work of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, a 10th century Saxon canoness. In particular, I suggest that her hagiographic legends serve a pedagogical purpose, using Hrotsvit's own emphasis on her educational lineage as a lens through which to interpret the stories that follow. The legends offer both exemplars and cautionary tales that seem to emphasize the role of the mind in the service of the faith. The mind must be trained, beaten with the "mallet" of devotion and discipline in order to fulfill its divine calling-- a calling that, as the great commission makes clear, is educational at heart. Hrotsvit's legends give her audience concrete examples of this training/education, indicated most potently though successful rhetoric or catechesis (just as poor, 'haughty' or improper speech indicates a lack of this training). By examining these lives and the role they might have played in the women's community of Gandersheim, we can begin to understand how the essential elements of the Christian faith were communicated in the Ottonian period (9th-11th centuries). 

Contact Information: sbogue@emory.edu


Benjamin Brazil

Benjamin Brazil

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate; Assistant Professor and Director of the Ministry of Writing Program, Earlham School of Religion (Richmond, IN)

Education: B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1999); M.T.S., Candler School of Theology (2005)

Academic Project: My academic project looks at youth travel practices as expressions and enactment of new ideals of self and the emergence of contemporary spirituality (in the “spiritual-but-not-religious sense”)

Area of Study: American Religious Cultures

Dissertation Title: “Wandering Spirits: Youth Travel and Spiritual Seeking, 1964-1980”; Dissertation Committee: Gary Laderman, (Chair), Steve Tipton, Bobbi Patterson, Michael Elliott

Current Research: I continue to explore the wide-ranging travel practices of post-war Americans. I am increasingly interested in the connections between fantasy, practice, and identity.

Contact Information: brazibe@earlham.edu


Ashley Coleman

Ashley Coleman

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Spelman College (2006); Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education (2007)

Academic Project: My intersubjective research methodology combines pragmatic philosophy, ethnography, and black feminist theory to examine black women’s embodiment in The Puerto Rican context. Namely, I explore how ritual experiences in a nondenominational church and a Afro-Puerto Rican drumming community inform the agency necessary for women to self-construct their identity and resist negative stereotypes of black womanhood in Puerto Rican society.

Area of Study: Persons, Community, and Religious Life

Dissertation Title: “Pragmatic Embodiment: Race, Class, Gender, and Religion in The Puerto Rican Imaginary”; Dissertation Committee: John Snarey (chair), Dianne Diakite, Don Seeman 

Current Research: I study race, class, gender and sexuality in the Puerto Rican context and the ways black women in religious and nonreligious sites use ritual to inspire resistance against oppressive social ideologies. 

Contact Information: ashley.coleman@emory.edu


Carolyn Helsel

Carolyn Browning Helsel

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Whitworth University (2001); M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary (2004); Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary (2010)

Academic Project: A Hermeneutic of (Mis)Recognition for Whites Preaching about Racism

Area of Study: Persons, Community and Religious Life (Homiletics)

Dissertation Title: “Mis-Recognizing the Other: White Preachers And the Challenge of Racial Discourse”; Dissertation Chair: Thomas G. Long

Contact Information: carolyn.helsel@emory.edu


Jay Paul Hinds

Jay Paul Hinds

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate; Assistant Professor, Practical Theology, Howard University School of Divinity.

Education: B.A., Felician College (2004); M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary (2007); Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary (2008); Ph.D., Religion, Emory University (2013).

Academic Project:

Area of Study: Persons, Community, and Religious Life

Dissertation Title: “The Son Will Shine Again: A Treatise at the Dawn of a Revolutionary Black Manhood”; Dissertation Committee: John Snarey (chair), Emmanuel Y. Lartey, and Teresa L. Fry Brown.

Current Research: Using an interdisciplinary approach, which includes but is not limited to African American literature, psychoanalytic theories (e.g., Classical Freudian, object relations, and Neo-Freudian [à la Eriksonian] theories), and post-structuralist critical theories, I am continuing to research the myriad benefits of what I have named a son-consciousness to the liberative psychosocial development of black men.

Contact Information: jaypaul.hinds@howard.edu


Michael Karlin

Michael Karlin

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., University of Georgia (1989); M.A., Georgia State University (2007)

Academic Project: My academic project examines the intersection between psychology and religion in contemporary North American culture through ethnographic research methods.

Area of Study: American Religious Cultures

Dissertation Title: “Cosmology is Psychology: An Ethnographic Study of Ritual Innovation, Therapeutic Culture and Narrative Theory Among Chabad-Lubavitch”; Dissertation Committee: Don Seeman (Chair), Joyce Flueckiger, Eric Goldstein, Gary Laderman, Bobbi Patterson

Contact Information: mkarlin@emory.edu


Justin Latterell

Justin Latterell

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Augustana College (2003); M.Div. Union Theological Seminary, New York (2007)

Academic Project: My work focuses on theories of religion and secularism; religious ethics; and the intersections of religion, law and politics.

Area of Study: Ethics and Society

Dissertation Title: “Law Before Lemon: Religion, Power and the Birth of the Secular Purpose Test, 1815-1971”; Dissertation Committee: Co-Chairs: Steven Tipton and John Witte, Jr.; Committee members: Elizabeth Bounds and E. Brooks Holifield.

Contact Information: jlatter@emory.edu


Jeremy Lowe

Jeremy Lowe

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.S., Southern Nazarene University (1998); M.Div., Candler School of Theology (2008)

Academic Project: My work analyzes the ethical relationship between empathy and responsibility

Area of Study: Ethics and Society

Dissertation Title:  “The Responsible ‘We’: Ethics for Empathic, Estranged Beings”; Dissertation Committee: Ellen Ott Marshall (chair), Frans de Waal, Pam Hall, Cynthia Willett

Contact Information: jeremy.lowe@emory.edu


James McCarty

James W. McCarty III

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Pepperdine University (2005); M.A., Claremont School of Theology (2008)

Academic Project: The ethics of reconciliation

Area of Study: Ethics and Society

Dissertation Title: “Political Reconciliation: Theology, Human Rights, and Transitional Justice”; Dissertation Chair: Ellen Ott Marshall

Current Research: I am interested in the role of justice, including human rights, in social and political reconciliation. I am especially interested in racial reconciliation in the United States and political reconciliation after violence. In addition, I am interested in the ethics and practice of conflict transformation and peacebuilding.

Contact Information: jwmccar@emory.edu

Selected Publications: Coeditor with Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon, Violence and Peace, issue five of Practical Matters: http://practicalmattersjournal.org/issue_cover/5; Forthcoming: “The Embrace of Justice: The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Miroslav Volf, and the Ethics of Reconciliation,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 33.2 (2013).

2012 “Nonviolent Law? Linking Nonviolent Social Change and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions,” West Virginia Law Review 114.3 (2012): 969-1005.

2012 Co-authored with Keun-joo Christine Pae, "The Hybridized Public Sphere: Asian American Christian Ethics, Social Justice, and Public Discourse,” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 32.1 (2012): 93-114. (Includes portions of my paper written for the "Introduction to the Study of Religious Practices and Practical Theology" seminar.)


Jake Myers

Jacob D. Myers

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Gardner-Webb University (2001); M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary (2005)

Academic Project: My academic project draws homiletical theory and theology into conversation with poststructural theory.

Area of Study: Persons, Community and Religious Life (Homiletics)

Dissertation Title: “Witnessing the Word Erotic: A Philosophical Theology of Proclamation” Dissertation Committee: Thomas Long (chair), Geoffrey Bennington, Ian McFarland, Jill Robbins and Andrea White

Current Research: My current research is focused on the interplay of gender and sexuality on preaching.

Contact Information: jmyers8@emory.edu


Jenn Ortegren

Jenn Ortegren

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Nebraska Wesleyan University (2003); M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School (2005)

Academic Project: My project examines intersections of religion and class identity in urban India.

Area of Study: West and South Asian Religions

Dissertation Title: To be determined; Dissertation Committee: Joyce Flueckiger (chair), Paul Courtright, V. Narayana Rao

Current Research: My current research is focused on changes in the religious practices of upwardly-mobile Hindu women in the urban neighborhoods of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. 

Contact Information: jortegr@emory.edu


Brendan Ozawa de Silva

Brendan Ozawa de Silva

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.S.F.S., Georgetown University (1996); M.Phil., University of Oxford (1998); M.T.S., Boston University School of Theology (2001); D.Phil., University of Oxford (2003)

Academic Project: My research focuses on what contemplative practices and contemporary findings in cognitive science may have to offer each other in terms of our understanding of the mind, body, and health, particularly with regard to the cultivation of positive emotions such as compassion. I am involved in several current meditation studies in Atlanta and in Japan, and have published recent articles on secular ethics, the mind/body relationship in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan medicine, the secularization and scientific study of contemplative practices, scientific research on compassion meditation, suicide and mental health in Japan, and the introduction of contemplative practices into education.

Area of Study: Persons, Community and Religious Life

Dissertation Title: "Becoming the Wish-Fulfilling Tree: Compassion and the Transformation of Ethical Subjectivity in the Lojong Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism," Dissertation Director, John Dunne.

Contact Information: bozawad@emory.edu


Sarah Farmer Poole

Sarah Farmer Poole

Current Status: Ph.D., Candidate

Education: B.A., Berea College (2001); M.Div., Candler School of Theology (2008)

Academic Project: My research examines the concept of hope as it is operationalized in the lives of marginalized populations, particularly those who experience “confinement”? My research also seeks to gain insight about the ways the practice of art within critical emancipatory pedagogies helps become a conduit of personal and social transformation. Other research interests include psychosocial identity formation, community building and social change and transformative pedagogy. This year, I am a Community Building and Social Change graduate fellow as well as a Religious Practices and Practical Theology fellow.

Area of Study: Person, Community and Religious Life

Dissertation Title: “Hope in Confinement: Exploring Art in Critical Emancipatory Pedagogies”

Contact Information: sfpoole@emory.edu


Melva Sampson

Melva Sampson

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Virginia Union University (1994); M.A., Howard University (1997); M.Div., Emory University (2002)

Academic Project: I utilize womanist and performance theory within an Afrocentric paradigm to illumine and legitimate alternative ways of knowing and their efficacy for preaching. 

Area of Study: Persons, Community, and Religious Life

Dissertation Title: “Knowledge, Performance and the African-Centered Womanist Homiletical Praxis”; Dissertation Committee: Teresa Fry Brown (chair), Dianne Diakite, Emmanuel Lartey and Sarita Davis

Contact Information: msampso@emory.edu


Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., University of Virginia (2002); M.Div., Emory University, Candler School of Theology (2005)

Academic Project: I consider the micro-narratives of three women as they relate to the symbol of the angel to thematize the theological margin in the Christian tradition. 

Area of Study: Theological Studies

Dissertation Title: "Creatures of the Dark: A Marginal Theology"; Dissertation Committee: Wendy Farley (chair), Pamela Hall, Thomas G. Long and Michele Schreiber

Current Research: Mourning and laughter in Christian theology, a theological response to detention centers in the United States, and narrative ethics in popular young adult mass fiction.

Contact Information: jmsmit2@emory.edu


Josey Snyder

Josey Snyder

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2005); M.Div., Candler School of Theology (2009)

Area of Study: Hebrew Bible

Dissertation: “Looking Back at Lot's Wife: A Reception-Critical Character Study”; Dissertation Director: Bill Gilders

Academic Project: My research focuses on the reception of biblical texts, with particular emphasis on Jewish midrashic interpretation and the interaction between early Jewish, Christian, and Islamic interpretations. I am also interested in the relationship between rabbinic midrash and the more recent phenomenon, sometimes called “modern midrash.” My dissertation focuses on the character of Lot’s wife, considering both early and more recent interpretations. For recent interpretations, I am especially interested in the numerous poems that have been written on this biblical character. I have a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.Div. from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. For a list of my publications and my CV, please visit my website:http://emory.academia.edu/JoseySnyder.

Contact Information: josey.snyder@emory.edu


Rebecca Spurrier

Rebecca Spurrier

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Calvin College (2007); M.Div., Candler School of Theology (2010)

Area of Study: Theological Studies

Working Dissertation Title: “Works of Love: Beauty and Fragility in a Community of Difference”; Dissertation Chair: Wendy Farley

Academic Project: an ethnographic study of a Christian church community and the theological struggles and arts through which it weaves difference and disability into the center of its life and work

Current Research: My research engages embodiment theories and disability studies as important resources for theological reflection and liturgical aesthetics. I am committed to the art of ethnography as an approach to the study of embodiment and to the performed theologies and affective dimensions of communal life. My dissertation focuses on a church community in which persons with diagnoses of mental illness are central to the life of the congregation and traces practices within this community that resist models of segregationist charity.  I have lived significant parts of my life in the countries of Zambia and Ukraine and attribute my evolving interest in theology, disability, and liturgy to these experiences.

Contact Information: rebecca.spurrier@emory.edu


Kyle Tau

Kyle Tau

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Point Loma Nazarene University (2005)

M.T.S., Candler School of Theology (2010)

Area of Study: Theological Studies

Dissertation Title: “Ora et Labora: On the Liturgical Reframing of Work”; Dissertation Director: Ian A. McFarland

Academic Project: In my current work I am interested in exploring the relationship between liturgical practices and the moral and political imagination.  My dissertation will focus on the role of fixed hour daily prayer in the Christian tradition, or the Liturgy of the Hours, in shaping its practitioners in an experience of time that is at odds with the understanding of commodified time that dominates contemporary economic calculations particularly with respect to labor.  My goal will be to show that daily liturgical prayer can function as a source for critique and transformation of the dehumanizing discipline our global economic structures impose on workers.  In other areas I like to explore the use of scripture in theological discernment, the history, meaning and practice of the sacraments particularly in relation to life in the body, and the theology of Hans Frei, Karl Barth, and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Contact Information: ktau@emory.edu

Recent Publications: “The Worshipping Self: Receptivity and Agency in Christian Worship” Doxology 28 (Fall 2011): 15-32.


Alexis Wells

Alexis S. Wells

Current Status: Ph.D. Candidate

Education: B.A., Spelman College (2004); M.Div., Candler School of Theology (2007)

Area of Study: American Religious Cultures

Dissertation Title: “Re/Membering the Sacred Womb: The Sacred Cultures of Enslaved Women in Georgia, 1750-1861”; Dissertation Director: Dianne Diakite

Academic Project: My research explores the intersections of gender, religion, and enslavement in the 18th and 19th century United States South. In the dissertation, I use the Georgia Lowcountry and Piedmont to discuss the role of religion in the gender identity formation of enslaved peoples in the South and the impact of gendered experiences of enslavement upon the sacred consciousness of enslaved Africans and African-Americans. In addition to African-American Religious History, my teaching areas include American Religious History, 17th-19th Century African-American History, African-Atlantic Religions, and Women and Religion in the U.S.  

Contact Information: aswells@emory.edu