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Photo of Jacob Barrett in front of Presidents Hall stairs

Jacob Barrett

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2022

Advisor: Russell T. McCutcheon 

Jacob is originally from Colorado Springs, CO and completed his B.A. in Philosophy & Religion from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2020. He successfully completed the Religion in Culture M.A. program at the University of Alabama in 2022 and is pursuing a PhD from the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests are grounded in questions about religion and governance, law, and the state through contemporary examples from American politics. More specifically, he looks at issues of religious freedom and how notions of “sincere belief” play out through the courts while drawing on social theory and making use of the computational analysis. He is also the Media and Communications Coordinator for the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR).

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Caity Bell

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2020

Advisor: Steven Ramey 

Caity Bell, from Fort Payne, AL, graduated from the University of Alabama in 2018 with a B.A. in anthropology and religious studies. In addition to her M.A. in religion in culture, she plans to obtain a museum certificate from the university in order to better aid her research, which examines the various ways museums both construct and influence representations, particularly  those of minority groups in the United States. Caity will be working in northeast Alabama as an archivist after completing her M.A.

Jack Bernardi

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2021

Advisor: K. Merinda Simmons 

Jack Bernardi returned to his his alma mater to pursue the REL MA after earning a BS in Pure Mathematics in 2017. In 2019-20 Jack held the prestigious Graduate Council Fellowship and served as a half-time in the Fall of 2019 as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for American Studies. For 2020-21 he held the position of Graduate Research Assistant to the American Examples initiative in the Department. He graduated with his MA in May 2021 and begins his funded PhD in the Fall of 2021 at Virginia Tech, in its interdisciplinary Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) program.
Joseph DeFrank

Joseph DeFrank

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2022

Advisor: Michael J. Altman 

Joseph DeFrank from Canton, GA, completed the M.A. in Religion in Culture at the University of Alabama in May 2022. He also graduated in the Spring of 2020 with a B.S. in History and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Young Harris College. An Irish-American scholar for an academic year at Queen’s University of Belfast, some of his main interests include the study of religion in the United States, new religious movements, and what the future of “religion” might be.

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Savannah Finver

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2020

Advisor: Vaia Touna 

Savannah graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas College in May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy/Religious Studies. After a short break from academia, she is excited to pursue her Masters degree at the University of Alabama. Her current interests are in the intersection of religion and politics in America, with a special interest in fringe groups. You'll most likely find her curled up with a book in the corner of the library. Her hobbies include research, writing, reading, teaching, and talking philosophy with friends around a bonfire. In 2018-19 Savannah held UA's prestigious Graduate Council Fellowship. After completing her M.A. degree, she will begin a Ph.D. at Ohio State University.

Morgan Sadie Frick

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2021

Advisor: Russell T. McCutcheon 

Morgan Sadie Frick, from Dallas, TX, graduated from the University of Alabama in May 2019 with a B.A. in Religious Studies. In 2019-20 Morgan held the prestigious National Alumni Association Graduate Fellowship and served as a half-time in the Fall of 2019 as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for American Studies. And then, in 2020-21 held a Graduate Research Assistantship as part of the UA team implementing the university's COVID protocols. She graduate from the MA in May 2021 and plans to further her studies toward becoming a Physician's Assistant. Visit her website.

Emma Gibson

MA

Graduation Year: 2019

Advisor: Nathan R. B. Loewen 

Emma Gibson is from Charleston, SC, and graduated from Furman University in 2017 with a B.A. in Philosophy. Her interest in religious studies led her to the M.A. program at Alabama where she was able to combine her philosophical background to the critical study of religion. She defended her thesis, “Reorienting Phenomenological Method for the Critical Study of Religion,” and completed her M.A. in Spring of 2019. While working on her thesis, Emma was drawn to the idea of applying phenomenology and critical theory to fields outside of the humanities. She is now a student at Clemson University where she is pursuing a Master’s in Architecture.

Visit her website here.
Sarah Griswold

Sarah Griswold

MA

Graduation Year: 2018

Advisor: Michael J. Altman 

Sarah completed her M.A. in Spring 2018, after holding the prestigious Graduate Council Fellowship for 2018-19. Her thesis, entitled “Their Throats Were Constricted: Nationalism, History, and Memorials in Nana Rao Park,” studied the methods and effects of competing histories and memorials in Kanpur, India. Prior to her M.A., Sarah completed a B.S. with a double major in Mathematics with a concentration in Statistics and Religious Studies from The University of Alabama. She now works as Manager of Guest Experience at the Atlanta History Center in Atlanta, GA. Visit her website here.
Sonya Harwood

Sonya Harwood-Johnson

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2022

Advisor: Steven Ramey 

Starting the M.A. in  Fall 2020, Sonya Harwood-Johnson is originally from Grimes, Iowa, and received her B.S. in Anthropology and Religious Studies, with a minor in Environmental Studies, from Iowa State University in May of 2020. Her research has focused on American Esoteric traditions, such as Wicca and the Feminist Reclaiming movement. Her paper, titled “Esoteric Negotiation: An Insider-Outsider Perspective” was accepted to the UMAAR conference in April 2020. Sonya’s longtime interest in working with international students resulted in REL MA internships at UA’s Capstone International office which then led to her being hired, in December 2022, as a full-time staff member at UA, working as an International Program Assistant in its International Student & Scholar Services office.

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Photo of Allison Isidore

Allison Isidore

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2021

Advisor: Richard Newton 

Allison Isidore, from Montclair, NJ, graduated from McDaniel College in May 2019 with a B.A. in Religious Studies with a minor in History. Her interests include the impact of religious minorities on the Civil Rights Movement. While completing her MA here at UA, which she earned in May 2021, she interned at the Center for Instructional Technology while also teaching online courses of her own. Visit her website.

Sierra Lawson

MA

Graduation Year: 2019

Advisor: Russell T. McCutcheon 

Sierra is from Wyoming and completed her B.A. in anthropology, religious studies, and Spanish at The University of Alabama and, in 2019, successfully completed the M.A. in Religious Studies, also at UA. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is based in the Religion and Culture track with a focus on social theory. In her studies, Sierra analyzes the discourses that narrate apparitions of the Virgin Mary with specific interests in the history of the Iberian peninsula and colonial Latin America. She also provides service to professional organizations in her field in the form of website management and digital curation.

Visit her website here.

Matt McCullough

MA

Graduation Year: 2020

Advisor: Theodore Louis Trost 

Matthew is from Huntsville, AL and received his B.A. in Religious Studies and Political Science from the University of Alabama in 2017. He is interested in combining these two disciplines and studying the effects of religion in contemporary American politics. Particularly focused on competing perceptions about Christianity and the ideal relationship between church and state, he hopes to find new ways to think about how these issues impact not only elections and policy making but also the religion itself and the way individuals identify with it. After graduation Matt plans to get involved in education, possibly working in secondary ed.

Keeley McMurray

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2020

Advisor: Michael J. Altman 

From Huntsville, AL, Keeley McMurray graduated from the University of Alabama in 2018 with a BA in Religious Studies and English and a minor in Theater.  She is primarily interested in how “religion” and its orbiting discourses can be studied as rhetoric, deployed as a tool used to organize and reproduce a specific social world.  Specifically, she is curious as to how this rhetoric functions in American politics and law, as a necessary feature that works to negotiate similarity and difference by creating governable individuals.  When she’s not lost in quiet contemplation, Keeley enjoys animals, live music, and a lot of laughing.  She hopes to be a lifelong learner, teacher and friend to all. In 2018-19 Keeley held the prestigious National Alumni Association Graduate Fellowship and, in 2019-20, Keeley was the inaugural holder of the American Examples Graduate Research Assistantship, funding by the Luce Foundation. After successfully defending her thesis and completing her M.A. degree, Keeley will pursue her Ph.D. at Florida State University.
Peyton Mitzel

Peyton Mitzel

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2022

Advisor: Steven Ramey 

Peyton Mitzel graduated from Temple University in 2020 with a B.A. in English and Religion and completed the M.A. in Religion in Culture at the University of Alabama in May 2022. Peyton finds the relationship between literary theory and the study of religion fascinating, while also having an interest in their connection to philosophy.

Jeremee Nute

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2021

Advisor: Steven Ramey 

Jeremee Nute is originally from Bevier, Missouri. He graduated from Missouri Western State University in May 2019 with a B.S in Mathematics Education and Philosophy with a concentration in Religious Studies. His research interests include Chinese religiosity, secularism, comparative studies, and philosophy of religion. He earned the MA in Religious Studies at UA in May 2021.
Marco Morillo

Marco Pflanzen

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2022

Advisor: K. Merinda Simmons 

Marco Pflanzen is from Ashburn, VA, and completed the M.A. in Religion in Culture in May 2022. They graduated from Shenandoah University in 2020 with a B.M. in Violin Performance and a Minor in Religious Studies. Their current research primarily focuses on considering the relationship between sex and secularism and its impact on economic, social, and political structures in the United States. They also enjoy researching within the disciplines of feminist and queer theory, critical race theory, crip theory, and musicology.

Marco was awarded an A&S Dean’s Merit award for both years of their M.A. at UA.

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Judah Siekkinen

Judah Siekkinen

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2022

Advisor: Steven Ramey 

Judah graduated from Youngstown State University with a B.A. in Religious Studies & Geography. At the University of Alabama, he completed the M.A. in Religion in Culture in May 2022. He is interested in nationalism, feminism, mysticism, and pop culture as well as questions of accessibility and opportunity in higher education.

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Emma Welch

Emma Welch

MA (Religious Studies)

Graduation Year: 2022

Advisor: Russell T. McCutcheon 

Emma Welch, originally from Toney, AL, completed the M.A. in Religion in Culture at the University of Alabama in May 2022 after graduating in May of 2020 with a B.A. in Religion from Samford University. Her interests include religion’s relationship to violence as well as how the theologies of marginalized groups are shaped by their situation.  She was a runner-up for Theta Alpha Kappa’s 2020 Clark Award (for best undergraduate essay). She is pursuing further graduate work at Vanderbilt University.

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