Tala AlRaheb 18T

In Emory's Graduate Division of Religion, my academic focus will be on Palestinian Christian women. I want to research the intersection of culture, religion, and law in Palestine and how they influence each other. Looking at the intersection through ethnography will give us a better understanding of the experiences of Palestinian Christian women and open more doors to theorize about ways for promoting equality in the law and inspire them to begin the journey towards liberation.

Assistant Professor of History of Religions and Multifaith Relations Deanna F. Womack, Associate Professor in the Practice of Youth Education and Peacebuilding Elizabeth Corrie, Franklin Parker Professor of Human Development and Ethics John Snarey, and Dan and Lillian Hankey Associate Professor of World Evangelism Arun Jones supported and mentored me throughout the process. All four of these faculty discussed the prospect of applying for a PhD program, read my statement of purpose and gave me advice on how to improve it, and talked to me about what to expect with regard to doctoral studies. I am immensely grateful for their support and guidance throughout the application process.

Byron Wratee, Dr. Karen Scheib, and John BarnesJohn Barnes II 17T 18T

In the Fall of 2018, I will begin the next phase of my academic journey as a PhD student at Fordham University, specializing in systematic theology. My goal is to teach theology in the academy. In conjunction with teaching, I also envision myself as an administrator. Although much of my education has an overwhelming theological focus, I am convinced that the benefits of a well-rounded liberal arts education are invaluable. With that being said, I am interested in the ways institutions of higher education can be more accessible to and be supportive of the particular needs of students of color. As a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, I also understand my vocational identity to be realized in the church. I intend to be very involved in parish life through the areas of religious education/catechesis and spiritual formation.

While Candler is known for its world-renowned faculty, the true gift is the accessibility of these theological and intellectual giants. Numerous faculty members made themselves available to encourage and help me identify possible opportunities in the academy. The most influential faculty members for me include Professor of Theology and Ethics Noel Erskine, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics Elizabeth Bounds, Professor of Pastoral Care and Theology Karen Scheib and Assistant Dean of Worship and Music Khalia Williams. I was grateful to have virtually unrestricted access to these professors. Not only were they concerned about my scholarship, but they were also deeply invested in my personal and spiritual growth. Dr. Erskine was a supportive mentor and spiritual father during my time at Candler. I served as his teaching assistant several times and he was my ThM thesis advisor. His unwavering support and investment in my work was an invaluable gift. Dr. Bounds and Dr. Scheib were two of the first professors I had as a Candler student. They challenged me to ask questions to help broaden my perspective and deepen the scope of my work. Additionally, they helped me to "live into" my calling as an educator and scholar. In addition to thoroughly reviewing my application materials, Dr. Bounds, Dr. Scheib, and Dr. Erskine also provided excellent letters of recommendation. Although I did not have Dean Williams as a professor, her pastoral care and practical advice were essential to my success. She also helped me articulate the womanist component of my scholarship. Her "truth telling" and unbiased support of my ministry in the church helped to bolster the sincerity of my work. I will always be grateful to Candler for facilitating the development of these relationships that will be integral to my growth as a teacher and scholar.

Lahronda Little with Dr. Emmanuel Lartey.Lahronda Little 18T

Candler’s broad course offerings and rigorous instruction prepared the way to explore all that was possible in my second career. Specifically, the certificate programs were key in helping me to shape and develop my interests in public health and women, theology and ministry. It was at the intersection of health and religion that I began to question my long-held understanding of salvation, which at its root means "healing" and "wholeness."

The PhD application process is a test in itself of tenacity, patience, and humility. One of the smartest things I think I did was have ongoing conversations with people who were in various stages of study in the GDR. These students kindly shared the most helpful hints and encouraged me when I felt frustrated. And L. Bevel Jones III Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling Emmanuel Lartey continued to be a wise mentor who perceived more in me than I did of myself. To my wonder, I was accepted into Emory's GDR in the Person, Community, and Religious Life program. Dr. Lartey will supervise my work as I continue to deconstruct narrow and privatized salvation and move to the study of holistic soteriology [salvation].

Adam McDuffie 18T

My area of concentration in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion will be American Religious Cultures. My research focuses on the concept of civil religion, with a particular interest in examining the U.S. military as a religious structure within American civil religion characterized by a "cult of the soldier" which has intensified in an era characterized by a politics of fear.

I am incredibly grateful for the guidance I received from Professor in the Practice of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies Rex Matthews, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Religion, and Culture Nichole Phillips, Assistant Professor of American Religious History Helen Kim, and Assistant Professor in the Practice of the Sociology of Religion Justin Latterell. Their advice on how to prepare for the application process, willingness to proofread drafts of writing samples or write letters of recommendation, and ability to keep me calm during the interminable waiting period between submitting applications and receiving admission decisions were greatly appreciated. I know for certain I would never have survived the application process without the help of Associate Professor of Preaching and Ethics Ted Smith. From the moment I told him I was interested in PhD work, he pushed me to ensure I was on track and making the best use of my time at Candler to prepare myself for the challenges ahead while also offering invaluable advice for making my application package the best it could be.

LaShaunda Reese 18T

I have been accepted into Loyola University Chicago’s PhD program of Integrative Studies of Ethics and Theology (ISET) where my focus will be womanist ethics. I will use my foundation of black church and black religion gained while at Candler to further my studies at Loyola.

The mentoring of Professor of Theology and Ethics Noel Erskine was pivotal in my journey. If not for his sincerity, my introvert ways would have taken over my ability to excel academically in times of turmoil. His spiritual positivity and unique perspective were a great comfort to me.

Byron Wratee 18T

At Boston College’s Graduate School of the Morrissey College of Arts and Science, I will study systematic theology. I was awarded a University Fellowship, which includes a stipend and full-tuition scholarship. I approach my work at the doctoral level seeking to explore the theoretical, practical, and prophetic dimensions of political theology. I bring a lifelong interest in faith, race, and culture that extends across disciplines and professions. The fourth of five children in a black, working-class family, I grew up in a rural town preoccupied with evangelical Christianity. After I graduated from college, I earned a law degree, worked in state government, led grassroots political campaigns, practiced family law, volunteered as a youth minister, and served in the U.S. Army. During my tour in Afghanistan, I realized that religion and politics are inextricable. All wars, like nonviolent resistance movements, are struggles for the ultimate concern. I would like to examine how violence shapes theological thoughts and ritual actions in history and contemporary reality. To give my research a critical race perspective, I would like to focus on African-American military service members who participate in warfighting while resisting racialized policing.

We all relied heavily on the advice of Professor of Theology and Ethics Noel Erskine. He would routinely advise everyone about writing compelling personal statements and a focused research question. Since my first year at Candler, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology Steffen Lösel has advised me about the PhD process. With his help, I finalized my short list of schools. Dr. Lösel also gave me valuable research experience by hiring me as his research assistant, demystifying the life of an academic. Visiting Professor in the Practice of Theology and Culture Tony Alonso reviewed my personal statements and gave me detailed recommendations.

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Religion, and Culture Nichole Phillips wrote a superb recommendation that was so thorough and detailed that faculty members at Boston College actually referred to it and quoted from it during my interview. I never took a class with Assistant Dean of Worship and Music Khalia Williams, but I worked for her in the Office of Worship. Even though I am focusing on systematic theology, I will minor in liturgical theology. Dean Williams wrote an excellent recommendation that highlighted my experience with liturgical theology. Associate Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology Ed Phillips highlighted my knowledge of the history of liturgical theology; I served as his teaching assistant for Introduction to Worship. Finally, I took a course with Charles Howard Candler Professor of Medieval Christianity and Aquinas Professor of Historical Theology Phillip Reynolds for three consecutive semesters. He was the only professor that could speak in detail about my academic performance and potential. Because of their recommendations, I was accepted to Fordham University and Boston College.

Top photo: Cindy Brown 09T

Second photo: Bowtie Photos, LLC