• Home
  • Celebrating The Department of Religious Studies' 2020 Graduating Students

Celebrating The Department of Religious Studies' 2020 Graduating Students

Friday, May 8, 2020

Congratulations and Rock Chalk to our 2020 Graduating Religious Studies Students! 

Below is a list of our 2020 graduating students, featuring profiles of students who responded to a department survey. The Department of Religious Studies recognizes the hard work and achievements of all our graduating students, and wish each the very best of continued success in the future. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!


Graduate Students

Renee Cyr 

  • Hometown: Rutland, VT
  • Major, co-major, minor, area of interest: MA in Religious Studies. Research interests are contemporary American death rituals, ritual performance, and American Paganism
  • What is your favorite memory of your time at KU? Hosting Thanksgiving for all the grad students and then the next day our trip out to Cathedral of the plains. I really enjoyed bonding with my fellow grad students, hanging out together, and our endless debates about religion. Also attending AAR and getting to feel like I was a part of the larger scholarly community. Finding people with similar research interests and sharing a love of learning inspired my own research and scholarly pursuits.
  • Activities while at KU:
    • I served as a research assistant for Dr Zogry.
    • I was an intern for the Religion in Kansas Project and created a digital exhibition and public presentation about the Roots of Pentecostalism and produced a digital display of my ethnographic research on the Pagan communities of Northeast Kansas.
    • My book review of Distillations by Mari Ruti was published in Critical Research on Religion and my article Modern Wicca and the Witchcraft Movement was published in NEXT Journal. I presented at the ISJ Research conference a poster Dancing Death: How Day of the Dead Festivals Mark Cultural Continuity and Change and gave an oral presentation titled Perceptions of Wicca and Witchcraft in America. In my second year I helped organize the ISJ conference and presented my paper Performing Death which I also presented at the Death Conference at Brown University. I was also supposed to present my research at the Northwest Regional AAR Conference this spring.
    • I was a GTA for Understanding the Bible, Introduction to Religious Studies, and Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
    • I served as the graduate student faculty representative. I was a volunteer judge for the Undergraduate Research Symposium.  For the Theatre Department I served as Dramaturg for Electra, Assistant Stage Managed the Undergraduate Dance Concert, and Stage Managed Indecent.
  • Which instructor or course gave you the most inspiration during your time at KU? I loved all my coursework, but my favorite was Bill’s [Lindsey] class on life cycle rituals which helped inspire my thesis.
  • What are your plans for the next 12 months? This fall I will be starting the PhD program in Theatre and Performance Studies here at KU. I will be continuing my research on ritual performances of death rituals, memorialization, grief, and healing.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? In five years, I will be finishing up my PhD and entering the job market.
  • What are your life goals for the next 10 years? In yen years I hope to be teaching a combination of courses in Theatre and Religious Studies as well as leading workshops on using storytelling and rituals to help individuals process grief. I also plan to continue to be combining production work with my research.  
  • What is your favorite quote? “There's only now, There's only here, Give in to love, Or live in fear”

Undergraduate Majors

Jonah Brandley

Devin Canfield

  • Hometown: Hutchinson, KS
  • Major, co-major, minor, area of interest: major in Religious Studies, minors in Philosophy, Psychology, Social Justice
  • What is your favorite memory of your time at KU? My favorite memory will always be walking down Jayhawk Boulevard during the springtime to see and smell the flowers and trees in bloom. 
  • Which instructor or course gave you the most inspiration during your time at KU? The most influential professor during my time at KU is Dr. Miller, who led a group of undergraduate students on a semester-long research project that would later be published as Crises, Disasters, and Controversies: The Forgotten Other Side of American Religion. This along with the many other opportunities such as presentations, talks, and published works provided by professors in the Religious Studies department have provided lifelong skills and experiences that I will always cherish. 
  • What are your plans for the next 12 months? Within the next year I will be continuing my education at Washburn School of Law in Topeka, Kansas.  
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? At the five-year mark I will be fresh out of law school and hope to obtain employment in the Kansas City or Denver, Colorado areas. 
  • What are your life goals for the next 10 years? In 2030, ten years after graduation, I will be working in the legal field and will be sure to return to Lawrence to watch some Jayhawk Basketball. 
  • What is your favorite quote? "No man was ever wise by chance." Seneca

Kennedy Froebe 

Michael Harris 

Braden Hodges

Lane Hornback

Meghan Malone

Julia Morgenstern 

Zane Scheffler

Mika Schrader

  • Hometown: Lawrence, Kansas
  • Major, co-major, minor, area of interest: Majors, Religious Studies and History; minors, Jewish Studies, Latin, and Art History; area of interest, Medieval Christianity
  • What is your favorite memory of your time at KU? Going to Scholarship Hall events, especially cookie dough pancake night at Grace Pearson’s Cereal Night
  • Activities while at KU: 
    • Honors History Thesis on the beginning of relic veneration in Christianity, 2019-2020 school year, adviser Dr. Eve Levin
    • Worked as a Honors Seminar Assistant: Fall 2018 and 2019, with Saralyn Reece Hardy; Fall 2017, with Dr. Celka Straughn
    • Study-abroad programs: Archaeology in Israel, Summer 2017 at Tel-es Safi; Lorenzo de’Medici Institute, Spring 2019, Florence Italy
    • Summer Alternative Break to SBP in the Rockaways, New York, 2018; Spring Alternative Break to The Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, 2020
    • Volunteer service: Lawrence Humane Society as a Level 3 Behavior Volunteer; KU Natural History Museum as a Museum Greeter; Border Immersion Pilgrimage, January 2020, volunteering with refugees and new immigrants in Harlingen, Texas
  • Which instructor or course gave you the most inspiration during your time at KU? Dr. Eve Levin
  • What are your plans for the next 12 months? I will be attending Marist College’s Museum Studies Master’s Program in Florence, Italy
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Working at a mid-sized art or history museum as an educator, creating lessons and programs geared towards making museums accessible for all.
  • What are your life goals for the next 10 years? Get my masters, learn Italian and French, and begin a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies.
  • What is your favorite quote? “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” –Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

Lev Smyth

Lester Withers

Undergraduate Minors

William Smith

Alexandra Speakar



Calendar of Events

Religious Studies Success Stories

RT @RNS : This #Hanukkah , writes Alan Avery-Peck, learn about the holiday’s forgotten heroes: Women. https://t.co/mARI5l8OGM