Jennifer Heller (BA, 1996) was appointed to the position of director of institutional effectiveness at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. As director of institutional effectiveness, Heller will use research and data analysis to guide decision making and institutional improvement. She oversees the development of a comprehensive, integrated system of data collection, research, assessment, evaluation and reporting that supports strategic academic and operational planning, and she will provide the framework for data collection and analysis to inform evaluation of key institutional goals. Jennifer earned four degrees from the University of Kansas — BA in Religious Studies and BS in English Education, both in 1996, MS in Education in Teaching and Leadership in 1998, and a PhD in American Studies in 2007.
Emily Stratton (MA, 2013) was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grant to fund her work in Accra for 2018. Her project, "Youth Precarity in a 'Pentecostalite' City" is a mixed-methods study in economic anthropology. She will be working with a small group of economically disadvantaged young men in Accra and studying their strategies for upward social mobility. Her study pays special attention to how youth -- regardless of how they may identify religiously or in what kinds of religious activity they do or do not practice -- consume Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity, and how it affects the ways that they go about constructing meaningful livelihoods for themselves in a precarious economy. Stratton is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington.
After 16 years as a correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter, John L. Allen Jr. (MA, 1992) joined The Boston Globe in February 2014 as an associate editor covering “All Things Catholic.”
Torang Asadi received her MA in Religious Studies from the University of Kansas in Spring 2013. She is interested in the intersection of religion and law, the invention of culture, and perceptions of the body in various religious and social movements. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at Duke University.
Kerri Blumenthal (BA, 2003) is pursuing a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at the University of Florida; as a FLAS fellow in Quechua she spends extended time in the Peruvian Andes in dialogue with local communities about agriculture, industrialization, and religious rituals. Her dissertation assesses the impact of large economic structures on the religious lives of individuals living in and around mining communities in the Espinar Province near Cusco.
Kristi Boone (BGS, 2014) reports that she is working diligently on her MA in Religious Studies and Global Development at the University of Leeds.
John Charlton (MA, 1982), with co-author James Sherow, has published a new book titled Railroad Empire across the Heartland: Rephotographing the Westward Journey of Alexander Gardner (University of New Mexico Press).
Ron Cobb (MA, 1976) published his third book, Spiritual Journeys, this year.
Sarah Dees (BA, 2007) Accepted a postdoctoral fellowship (2016-2018) in the Department of Religious Studies at Northwestern University. In addition to revising her first book, she will be involved in a two year research project, "Politics of Religion: At Home and Abroad," sponsored by the Buffett Institute for Global Studies.
Abby Durham (BGS, 2013) recently accepted a position with the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is currently the Birmingham Community Youth Group Coordinator. Abby is also currently attending the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City as a distant learner; she is studying to receive her Master's degree in Jewish Education.
Seth George (MA, 2014) is currently an Active Duty chaplain in the U.S. Army. He studies Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, and investigates the doctrines of non-resistance found within certain Christian churches.
Jordan Goldschmidt (BA, 2008) is currently serving on the Wichita Holocaust Commemoration Council.
Jaimie Gunderson received her MA in Religious Studies from the University of Kansas in Spring 2013. Her research interests focus on the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Religion at Syracuse University.
Madisen Janssen (BA, 2014) is working with the prestigious Teach for America program as a Special Education teacher at a middle school in Kansas City. She is also serving as her school's debate coach, despite having no previous debate experience. She says, "Thank goodness for all of those Religious Studies debates in our classes!"
Jeff McDonald (MA, 2006) is currently an Assistant Professor at Keimyung University in Deagu, South Korea.
Rachel Myslivy is a 2013 graduate of the Religious Studies master's program whose research focuses on the intersection of religion and environmental activism, particularly as seen in communities of Catholic sisters in Kansas. After many years in the workforce and active involvement in the local environmental movement, she came to KU with a clear purpose in mind: to realign professional opportunities to fit with personal goals and priorities. Successes in academia brought her in front of many potential employers – and the efforts paid off, as she is now the Program Director for the Climate and Energy Project.
Jeremy Rapport (MA, 2002) continues to teach classes on American Religious History and New Religious Movements at the College of Wooster in Ohio, where he is preparing for his tenure review in the spring. He and his wife, Kris D'Atri (MA, 2002), have two children: Laura, 9, and Drew, 6.
This year, Joel Rasmussen (BA, 1991) not only published an edited collection of essays entitled William James and the Transatlantic Conversation: Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Philosophy of Religion (co-edited with Martin Halliwell and published by Oxford University Press), as well as Volume 7 of Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks (Princeton University Press), for which he was a translator and editor, but he also was made Associate Professor of Nineteenth-Century Christian Thought in the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, and an Associate Member of the Oxford Faculty of Philosophy.
Vibha Shetiya (MA, 2006) successfully defended her doctoral thesis in the fall of 2014, and received her Ph.D. degree in South Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.
Phillip Spivey (MA, 1995) was promoted to Senior Lecturer in the University of Central Arkansas Department of Philosophy and Religion in Spring 2015. His reserach areas are Jewish Studies, World Religions, and History of Western Philosophy.
Emily Stratton received her MA in Religious Studies from the University of Kansas in Spring 2013. Her research interests pertain to church-society relationships in Africa, with particular emphasis on Ghanaian Pentecostalism. She is currently in her second year of her doctoral program in Religious Studies at Indiana University. This past summer, Emily spent 10 weeks in Ghana on a FLAS Fellowship for foreign language study. Of this experience, Emily reports: "I spent most of my time in Ghana's capital city, Accra, doing directed language study with a highly regarded linguistics professor at the University of Ghana, but I also had some wonderful adventures outside of class time in observing church services, observing the prevalence of religious practices and proselytism in public spaces, conducting informal interviews, and getting better acquainted with daily life in an urban West African setting." Emily has also been busy organizing conferences: her department's annual graduate symposium, which was entitled "Mediating Religion: Modes of Communication in Religious Contexts," and this year's annual Indiana University African Studies graduate symposium, which is entitled "Creating Africa: Expressive Spaces, Constructed Identities." Outside of the academic world, Emily is also a new member of the Bleeding Heartland Roller Derby league.
In 2014, Melodie Woerman (MA, 1983) celebrated 20 years of editing publications for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, where she now serves as the full-time Director of Communications. Melodie serves on a variety of Episcopal Church boards, including a term on the Standing Commission on Communication and Information Technology, and the Steering Committee for Episcopal Relief & Development. She also graciously serves on the board of the Friends of the Department of Religious Studies, of which she is currently the secretary.
Jimmy Yu (MA, 2002), who graduated from KU with a specialization in Chinese Buddhist history, was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Religion at Florida State University.