Our Graduate Students

Our Graduate Students

Graduate students in Religious Studies have completed exciting work and have gone on to pursue PhDs at institutions such as UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Princeton, Rice, and elsewhere. Our current graduate students are continuing a tradition of thoughtful, engaged, and creative work in the academic study of religion. On this page, you can learn about the Graduate Organization, meet our current students, and then learn about the thesis work of our past graduates. 

Graduate Organization

The Religious Studies Graduate Student Organization serves primarily to develop greater communication and camaraderie among fellow students and faculty in the Religious Studies Graduate Department for the purpose of helping students prepare for and further their education and career aspirations. We hope this organization will encourage a supportive, cooperative, professional, and educational environment that facilitates the open exchange of ideas. Our aim is to promote stronger understanding and tolerance of world religions through education and discussion of the social, economic, and political factors that influence and are influenced by religious beliefs.

We as an organization have sponsored many of our members to attend various academic conferences – such as the North Carolina Religious Studies Association (NCRSA) and American Academy of Religion (AAR) – by providing a platform for our many talented students to showcase their research with national and international audiences.

We would like to stress that this is not simply an ‘academic’ organization. We provide various opportunities for student involvement on campus and in the department in the hopes of fostering a nurturing environment for members throughout their academic career and beyond. We hold monthly meetings that involve discussion of goals, obstacles, achievements, and opportunities to provide support and guidance to members of the Religious Studies Graduate Student Organization.

For further questions concerning membership/meetings, please contact the Religious Studies Department at religiousstudies@uncc.edu.

Directory of Current Graduate Students


Reverend J R Atkinson
Religious Studies
Graduate Student
Anne Brown
Anne Brown
Religious Studies
Graduate Student
Shannon Dailey
Religious Studies
Emily Faggart
Emily Faggart
Religious Studies
Graduate Student
Albert Hodges
Albert (Otis) Hodges
Religious Studies
Graduate Student
Abby Marks
Religious Studies
Graduate Student
Picture of Shai Nickerson
Shai Nickerson
Religious Studies
Graduate Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant (on leave fall 2023)
Douglas Samson
Religious Studies
Graduate Student and Data Coordinator, CCI
Casey Sheetz
Religious Studies
Graduate Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant

Past Graduates

Where are they now?

PhD studies, university professors and adjuncts, non-profits, various private sector positions, self-employed entrepreneurs, artists, Chinese medicine/acupuncture practitioners, pastors, elementary school teachers. 



David Flaherty. The Insta-Hijra: South Asian Hijra Photographic Performance. Committee Chair: Alexandra Kaloyanides
Aaron Gonzales. Praise the Sun: The Game Dark Souls Illuminated by Ritual Theory. Committee Chair: William Sherman
Tabitha Rice. The Vanity of a Visionary: A Close Reading of the Inquisition and Trial of Francesca de los Apostales (de Avila). Committee Chair: Joanne Maguire
Oliver Richards. Naming the Boogeyman: Constructing Marginalized Religions as Threats to White Bodies in The X-Files. Committee Chair: Sean McCloud


Matthew Argonauta. Elijah the Tishbite: The Zealous He-Prophet's Gender Performance in 1 and 2 Kings. Committee Chair: Barbara Thiede
Jenny Beaumont. Mark: A Messianic Post-War Gospel. Committee Chair: James Tabor
Viola McElveen. Identifying the Voice of the Teacher in the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayat) of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Committee Chair: James Tabor
Wyatt Manlove. Maintenance of a Tradition: An Analysis of Identity and Memory Making Process at Rock Springs Camp-Meeting. Committee Chair: Sean McCloud
Sally Mesibov. I Received an Inward Showing of Trust. Committee Chair: William Sherman
Trina Rumfelt. Dating the Teacher of Richteousness and the Floruit of His Movement: An Evaluation of Methods. Committee Chair: James Tabor
Jonathan Daniel Staton. A Thick Cloud of Forgetting: The Function of Unknowing in The Cloud of Unknowing. Committee Chair: Joanne Maguire


Ryan Cataldo. This Generation Will Not Pass Away before All These Things Take Place. Committee Chair: James Tabor
Sam Davis. Reporting the  Summer of Shame : Clergy Sex Abuse and U.S. Catholic Journalism in 2018. Committee Chair: Kent Brintnall
Justin Sells. Christian Sun Worship and Theurgy in Late Antique Rome. Committee Chair: James Tabor
Lesley Wright. The Broken Shelves: Ex-Mormon Reddit Narratives in Deconversion. Committee Chair: Sean McCloud

Joseph Amezquita Psychonautica: Rhetorical Patterns within Self-Reported Psychedelic Narratives. Committee Chair: Eric Hoenes del Pinal
Joshua Casper. South Park’s Satan: Sympathetic Character and Critical Cultural Mirror. Committee Chair: Sean McCloud

Lindsay Caroll. Sacrifice and Violence: Paśubalí in Nepal. Committee Chair: William Sherman
Jason Graham. Ritual Flexibility: Insights from and for Applied Behavior Analysis. Committee Chair: Joanne Maguire


William Bowmer. The Persistence of Images: Mürti, Monotheism, and Museums. Committee Chair: J. Daniel White
Aleah Cornett. The Name with Which You Ascend to Heaven : Semiotic and Linguistic Ideology in the Midrash of Shemhazai and Aza’el. Committee Chair: John C. Reeves
Gabrielle Haley. The Pragmatism of Food Porn: Modern Media as a Mode of Zen Perpetuation. Committee Chair: Joanne Maguire


Chelsea Caskaddon. Perceived versus Experienced: Religious Othering on a College Campus. Committee Chair: Sean McCloud
Zannah Kimbrel/Zipporah Breunig. Penetrating the Seventh Palace: Reading the Sexual Dimensions of the Hebrew Book of Enoch. Committee Chair: Kent Brintnall
Robert Lee. American Atheism: An Analysis of Eighteenth-Century Stigma Borne by Twenty-First Century Children. Committee Chair: Joanne Maguire


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