Meet the Office of Student Programming

Ellen Echols PurdumThe Reverend Ellen Echols Purdum
Assistant Dean of Student Life and Spiritual Formation

Ellen Purdum is the Assistant Dean of Student Life and Spiritual Formation. She works collaboratively with faculty, staff and student leaders to continue and enrich the many student services, programs and activities at Candler. She also spends a lot of time listening deeply to the lives of students here. On her best days she hopes that these different aspects of her work help to foster opportunities where spiritual and vocational formation—in their many and diverse varieties—will enhance students' theological education and preparation for ministry and service.

Ellen is also an ordained Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Atlanta and leads worship or preaches most Sundays at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Decatur, Georgia. Prior to becoming a priest, she taught English and service learning electives at the high school level and worked for a national, ecumenical non-profit that supported young adults exploring or preparing for pastoral ministry. Ellen is an associate at the Green Bough House of Prayer, a retreat center in southern Georgia where she goes to be quiet. She lives in Decatur with her husband and a rescued rat terrier named Hannah.


Quentin SamuelsQuentin L. Samuels
Assistant Director of Student Life

For the past several years Quentin has been the Campus Outreach and Ministry Coordinator at the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, from which he was graduated with a degree in business. At Morehouse, Quentin also worked as the Program Coordinator in the Office of the King Collection. Prior to coming to seminary, Quentin worked as Program Coordinator for the Institute for Conservation Leadership in Takoma Park, Maryland, and as Community Development Liaison at Riverside Hospital in Washington, DC, focusing on outpatient services for at-risk youth and young adults.

Community and Spiritual Life Coordinators

Tala Photo 2017Tala AlRaheb

Tala is a second-year Master of Theological Studies (MTS) student from Bethlehem, Palestine, and grew up just blocks from the birthplace of Jesus, the Church of the Nativity. Tala studied psychology and religion at St. Olaf College and was a member of the Interfaith Coalition, which promoted dialogue among various religious groups. Her MTS area of focus is Modern Religious Thought and Experience, and she is particularly interested in Middle Eastern Feminist Theology. She has delivered speeches on politics, women, and Christianity in the Middle East to various churches and community organizations. In her free time, Tala enjoys going on walks, reading, and traveling with her family.

Jiwan Photo 2017Jiwan Dhaliwal

Jiwan Dhaliwal is a first-year MDiv student with a particular interest in world Christianity and religions. She completed her undergrad at Houghton College, where she majored in Philosophy and Theology. Jiwan hopes her education can help nurture communities that thrive in their cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. Jiwan is originally from Toronto, Canada, and has a deep love for winter, snowboarding, basketball and most things Canuck. In her free time you can see her biking and lifting heavy things... only to put them down.

Teresa DurhamTeresa Durham

Teresa is a senior in the Undergraduate College majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and is a native to Atlanta. She played soccer for her first two years at Emory, and since then has gone abroad to Melbourne, Australia, and also worked on environmental toxicology at the Rollins School of Public Health. When she’s not studying, working in the lab, or bouncing around Candler, Teresa can be found watching movies or hosting her own radio show on Emory’s network called “Dollop of Ice Cream Happiness.” After graduation, she hopes to work to further combine her interests in neuroscience, environmental health, and sustainability.

Khalfani Photo 2017Khalfani Lawson

Khalfani Lawson is an MDiv student pursuing a concentration in Religion and Race. He is an alumnus of Kennesaw State University with a BS in Political Science and African & African Diaspora Studies. When Khalfani is away from Candler, he is most likely reading for leisure, writing in his favorite coffee shop, or working on a car.


Rocky Major Photo 2017Rahqwan Major

Rocky is a third-year Master of Divinity student pursuing a certificate in Religion and Health. A native of Englewood, New Jersey, Rocky moved to Atlanta 11 years ago to attend Morehouse College. After receiving his BA in Religion, Rocky found himself settling in Atlanta. Rocky is passionate about the spiritual and emotional health of men. He is interested in creating spaces where pastoral care can be used as a tool to address trauma. When he is not studying, Rocky enjoys public speaking, working out, cooking and spending time with family and friends. Rocky is especially grateful for his extremely talented and beautiful wife Samantha and daughter Reign.

Emily Photo 2017Emily Rivers

Emily Rivers is a first year MDiv student. Hailing from Winston Salem, North Carolina, Emily graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.A. in Religious Studies and a minor in Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. As a licensed yoga and group fitness instructor, Emily strives to be an advocate for health and wellness wherever she goes. Emily is a certified candidate in the United Methodist Church and plans to seek ordination after graduation. In this capacity she hopes to bring her passions for and commitments to holistic health and wellness to the church and the greater world. When Emily is not studying you will find her doing or teaching yoga, running, hiking, soaking up some sun and spending time with friends and family.