We want to hear from RELS alum! If you’d like to add or update your info, please email one of the RELS faculty.
Margot Clifford ’12
Margot has joined the Admissions staff at Oxy; we’re so glad to have her talents on campus!
Elana Freeman ’12
Continuing her own studies, Elana’s been reading a few books, including Theodore Abel's Why Hitler Came to Power, Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time and Heidegger's Discourse on Thinking. She writes: “I am thoroughly enjoying all three. It's been such a luxury to be able to take my time with each, analyzing and contemplating every word, every page, etc.)” She’s also been interning at Sustainability Matters, a small start-up company in downtown San Diego that provides marketing and consulting for manufacturers of sustainable building materials. About her work, she writes: “It's really great to be able to get my feet wet, so to speak, in the sustainable building market; The company represents only what products it deems, by it's own, quite rigorous criteria, are "sustainable," which is really great, and I've been able to a feel for what "green" building technology initiatives, products, and, amongst other things, databases are out there, where the market is heading, etc.” What’s next? “I have also begun studying for the LSAT that I will take in December, and have been working as a hostess at Market Restaurant to make some extra money for my prospective traveling ventures before graduate school, which, right now, I am thinking is going to be a joint JD/MBA degree.”
Jeff Eamon ’11
After graduating from Oxy I traveled around Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand before starting as a consultant at the Federal Public Defenders in Portland, Oregon. While I don’t plan on going into law, it has been a great experience and I have gotten the opportunity to work with some really amazing people. I have continued my study of Arabic at Portland State University and will be attending Middlebury College’s Arabic Language School in Oakland this summer to study Standard Arabic and Levantine dialect. In the fall I will be applying for an MA or MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies before studying language abroad during the Winter/Spring. With my degree I plan to do super awesome things.
Rob Riccardi ’11
Tessa D’Arcangelew '10
I was a religious studies minor at Occidental. I am now working at the ACLU of Northern California as an Organizer, primarily on our immigrants’ rights project and a campaign to engage young adults in political advocacy.
Erin Conley ’09
After I graduated from Oxy, I attended Cal State Long Beach for a year to begin the adventure of learning ancient Greek while I applied to graduate school. Since my enrollment at Claremont School of Theology (CST) in the fall, I have been busy studying two biblical languages (Greek and Hebrew), expanding my knowledge about the world of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and, more recently, formulating a final thesis project. I am privileged to work with very knowledgeable students and faculty. I enjoy spending time with my CST friends and colleagues here as we discuss all manner of things. I plan to graduate in May 2012 with a Master’s degree in Early Christian Studies and Women’s Studies, and I remain grateful to the wonderful faculty and students at Oxy who pushed me to achieve my potential.
Mallory Nezam ’09
After graduation, I left to travel Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. After travel I lived and worked in Granada, Spain for about a year, teaching for the government. Here, I started an English theater troop to help kids learn English. This marked my official movement towards working in the arts. I was on the verge of moving to Paris but a worsening knee injury led me back home to St. Louis. MO. Here, I worked with a literary non-profit (inspired by Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia) and then all sorts of stuff exploded. I moved into a great part of the city, founded and now direct a conceptual performance art troop that performs strictly in public spaces (http://www.stl-improv-anywhere.tumblr.com/), started teaching yoga again, intern in the education department at the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum and am helping put on a conference on music & art in St. Louis. This summer I will be working on an urban planning/art project in North St. Louis with Theaster Gates! Lastly, I’m looking into grad school for 2012: USC’s dual Masters in Urban Planning & Public Art. Stoked!
Ryan Bowen ’08
Since graduating from Oxy in 2008, I studied holistic healing through massage therapy, rode my bicycle across the United States to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration, then traveled to Rwanda with a non-profit to document street children’s lives in the capital city of Kigali and the restorative efforts of a sports ministry working there. After those travels, I lived briefly in Washington State working with kids, and then moved to Long Island, New York and worked in afterschool programs for the next two years teaching photography and video production to underserved adolescent youth. In August of 2011 I moved to Santiago, Dominican Republic, focusing on photography and coordinating CIEE study abroad programs year-round at the PUCMM Catholic University.
Kevin G. Chaves ’08
Kevin is in the Ph.D program in Religious Studies (in the field of Modern Religious Though, Ethics, & Philosophy) at Stanford University.
Peter C. Delgado ’08
For the first couple of years after graduation, I spent time working as a Substitute Teacher at Mountain View School District. I worked at various schools within the district during the day as a substitute, and then in the afternoons I ran an After School Program at one of the schools. It was a great experience because it allowed me to work in the classroom environment with all ages during the day, and have a steady class of students of my own that I could come back to every afternoon.
As time went on, I came to the realization that while I loved working with the kids helping them learn, the school environment was just not for me. More recently, I’ve started a career at New York Life Insurance Company in Pasadena. It’s great because I get the chance to help people in their times of need and give them options for how they can improve their financial situation. It also provides me with the opportunity to present to people on a regular basis and show them the ways that they can meet their financial goals. It’s been very exciting so far. Still missing my Religious classes, though!
Alena Mihas '08
After graduating from Oxy, I went on to do a Masters of Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago. Since then I have been in healthcare investment banking at Jefferies LLC. My husband and I are expecting our first child in November.
Jeffrey W. Pecaro ’08
After leaving Oxy in May 2008, I took a couple of months off that summer to visit friends, then began work in September at an ocean conservation group, Oceana, in Washington DC. My job focuses on e-activism, using the internet to connect with and attract new members, and engage them in taking action in support of our campaigns to protect the oceans. The blend of my Biology and Religious Studies majors at Oxy has helped me work to span the gap between the scientific side of ocean conservation and the environmental values of the general public. Still, even my comps project on conservation ethics, atheism and religious belief couldn’t prepare me for the deluge of passionate, often-wacky emails I get about religion and ocean conservation.
James E. Taber '08
Jimmy Taber is the Director of New Generations - NY, the New Israel Fund's young activist community. He spent 2011-2012 in Israel working for the Joint Distribution Committee's Center for International Migration and Integration managing Israel's Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Program for asylum seekers and migrant workers. Prior to his work at the JDC, Jimmy received an MA and MBA from Brandeis University's Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership.
Leah M. Concannon ’07
Last I updated the Oxy Religious Studies community, I was about to embark on my Latin American adventures with a one-way ticket to Argentina. Turns out I have been living there (in Buenos Aires), pretty much ever since. I have had many jobs and experiences here that I am grateful for. And now I am especially grateful to be getting ready to move back home to New York City. I currently work for Babymed.com, a women’s health/pregnancy/fertility website, where I have a wide variety of responsibilities (it’s a small operation consisting of my childhood best friend and a few others), including writing about prenatal yoga. We are preparing for a major redesign and I am excited to be a part of the page/hopeful for its (and my) future!
Noah T. Glusenkamp ’07
Noah worked his way up through the Obama for President campaign, beginning as a Deputy Field Director—in charge of Religious outreach—in Iowa, working with the campaign in Colorado, and eventually being appointed a Regional Director stationed in Indiana (one of the swing states). Finally, he worked in Washington DC for the Democratic National Committee following the successful election of President Obama.
Eric C. Haynie ’07
After graduating Oxy, I worked at an NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal. The organization worked towards reunifying children displaced from home and family by conflict, as well as infrastructure development in a few villages that did not have electricity, reliable water sources, etc. I helped—as an intern—with grants, project development, and administrative planning. My time there was funded by a grant/donation I received from the Tides Foundation. I then worked at an NGO in the San Fernando Valley called Friends of the Family, which is a resource center for struggling families. I worked in the development (and programs) department of the organization, writing grants and reports for various programs and projects, help with evaluations, and do a little bit of youth program development. I have just been accepted into a graduate program in Religious Studies at the University of Colorado.
Whitney S. Lewis ’07
After graduating from Oxy, I knew I wanted to do something that utilized both my interest in Religious Studies as well as my passion for social justice. I knew I also wanted to do something working for immigration rights, but I didn’t know how to find a job combining all of my interests. After a long search and lots of research, I decided to go to Sevilla, Spain where I worked for an NGO. The organization I worked for, The Movement for Peace, Disarmament and Liberty, was a perfect fit for me. Primarily, I worked in the Centro Acogido de Refugiados (or the welcoming center for immigrants and refugees) tutoring new arrivals to Spain and planning cultural events and outings for them. My Religious Studies background served me well in this capacity. Many of the immigrants and refugees I worked with were from Muslim countries, others were from Catholic backgrounds and others had animist belief systems. Dealing with and reconciling the fundamental belief systems of these various groups of people while also trying to ease their transition to life in Spain was a challenge, but it was something I felt well equipped to do. After Spain, I was able to continue my religious education when I went on a three week trip throughout the Mediterranean following the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. After returning home to Chicago, I decided to return to the West Coast to pursue a Master’s in Social Work degree, which I am applying to do at the University of Washington in Seattle, where I am currently living and looking for a new challenge to take on!
Gabrielle F. Meury ‘07
After I graduated from Oxy in 2007, I headed straight to Syracuse Law school, where I mainly focused on Communication Law and Policy (an interdisciplinary certificate program with the Maxwell school of citizenship and the Newhouse school of Journalism), and had the privilege of editing the International Human Rights Law Journal and the Syracuse Science and Technology Law Reporter. After law school, I headed home to California (no more snowy Halloweens and -10 degree Valentine's Days for me!), and worked for Environment California in Los Angeles for over a year. Throughout law school I had a strong feeling that the legal profession wasn't going to be my "calling," but it finally took actually working in the field to realize that I truly craved a more meaningful livelihood. Now, I am finishing up my Masters in Education, along with two teaching credentials in mild/moderate and moderate/severe disabilities, at Claremont Graduate University. I began working for Pomona Unified School District in September of 2013, teaching a Special Day Class of kindergartners through third graders with severe disabilities, and I will continue to be their teacher in the upcoming school year. I have come to realize that the best social justice program we can provide is an excellent education that helps the next generation realize their personal power, individual strengths, and their imagination. Also, I've never experienced so many joyful, "lightbulb," meaningful interactions in my LIFE.
My years at Oxy, most poignantly- working for the Office of Religious and Spiritual life, long talks with professors about the topic of "vocation" and "being called,"- helped me to "hear" and to trust my inner voice. More importantly, my years with Oxy's RELS taught me to listen.
Sam W. Mowe ’07
Since graduating I spent a year in Nepal on a Fulbright grant, a year working as a bellhop at the hippest hotel in Manhattan, and for the last year I’ve been at Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a popular quarterly Buddhist magazine (also based in NYC), where I’m currently the associate editor.
Timothy G. Maes ’06
Since graduating in May 2006, I have been living in New York City. I celebrated my first few months out of college by exploring NYC and riding the subway anywhere it would take me. Along with the end of my first summer in any sort of humidity, and the end of a lot of free events, came the first time in my life (or that I can remember) that there wasn’t a school expecting me to show up in the fall. Facing this novel reality, I began working as a paralegal with the antitrust group of a New York City law firm. In two years I saw some interesting cases, as well as some long hours. I am currently applying to law schools all over the country and am eager to see what comes next. I am planning on working with a public interest law firm until this summer, as well as doing some traveling, before going back to school. I have fond memories of RS courses and professors, and revisit my texts often. My first serious exposure to legal analysis was in my Religion and the U.S. Supreme Court course with Professor Naylor, and I am sure that our semester spent laboring over the Establishment Clause has provided me with a solid foundation.
Lauren F. Constancio ’05
I was a Religious Studies major at Oxy with a Biology minor. The last year and a half I have been living in San Luis Obispo, California, getting my Masters degree in Biology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In my precious free time, I try to volunteer as much as possible at Pacific Wildlife Care, the local animal rehab center in Morro Bay. When I graduate in a year, I plan on moving back to Los Angeles to work in a public health or veterinary laboratory. I would also like to continue volunteering at local zoos and rehab centers, because its become a real passion. Working with all the professors and students within the Religious Studies Department at Occidental was great. Dale Wright was my advisor and had a lot of insight and advice that was always very helpful to me as I made my way through the program. He was one of my favorite professors in the department. I have always felt that having the opportunity to take so many different religious studies classes made me a more well-rounded student while at Oxy. Now, I am able to look at things from a different perspective and have a more open-minded view of the world. Many people have commented to me that a religious studies background and a passion for biology seems like an unorthodox combination. However, I truly believe that taking classes from both ends of the “spectrum,” so to speak has made me a more balanced individual, and it was a lot of fun.
Ana Maria Garay ’05
Since graduating I have been pursuing my Post-baccalaureate and now M.A. degree in Speech-Language Pathology. I will graduate from California State University, Long Beach with my M.A. degree this May! I recently found out that I was nominated for the Dean’s List and that I am representing my Department with this title.
In January of this year, I was hired by Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) to work in speech and language services on a waiver. I am currently providing speech and language services to preschool students in the Inglewood Head Start preschool system. I am having the best time!
I am passionate about my profession and recently visited students in the Romance Languages Department at Oxy to speak about my experiences at Oxy as well as inform students about my profession. Go Beach! GO OXY!!!
Stephanie K. Langlais ’05
After Oxy, I worked at Coldwell Banker for a few years before joining the Peace Corps in 2007. I served as a Health Volunteer in Namibia from 2008-2009. Upon returning to the States, I spent time at home in sunny California, catching up with family and friends. Shortly thereafter, I participated in a 6-month AmeriCorps program in Idaho. It was a collaborative effort among AmeriCorps, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Student Conservation Association (SCA). After completing that program, I moved to Southwest Virginia to start a year-long VISTA program with a non-profit housing organization. I’ll be riding this dream until the end of November and then the sky is the limit!
Meghan A. Lisicich ‘05
After graduating from Oxy, I spent a month in Prague completing a TESOL certificate through Trinity College London. My time in Prague inspired me to apply to graduate programs, so I returned to the U.S. to work on applications. Once accepted, I deferred admission and spent a year traveling in Europe prior to moving to Washington DC in 2007 to begin an M.A. in Hinduism and Islam at the George Washington University. In 2008 I had a daughter, Evelyn, and remained at home with her full time while completing my Master's. In 2011, I moved from D.C. to Berkeley, CA. I began contemplating law school, but as I knew little about the law I enrolled in some evening paralegal courses to learn more, still remaining at home during the day, and welcoming a second daughter, Helen, last year. I enjoyed the courses and continued taking them, completing a Paralegal Certificate at Merritt College in Oakland this spring. I am hoping now to enjoy some summer travel and then begin studying for the LSAT.
Ana Makins-Sagan ’05
After graduating from Oxy, I lived and worked in Nagasaki, Japan teaching English to children from 5-15 years old. It was a wonderful experience filled with lots of fun adventures, travel around Asia, and of course dancing! I am now at the School for Oriental and African Studies, London, for a masters degree in Medical Anthropology. In many ways I feel the classes I took at Oxy were a great foundation towards what I am doing now, I just wish I could remember it a little bit better! Having studied about different world views, I have found (in both living abroad and now being back in school) that the way in which I learned to think at Oxy has influenced how I approach situations regardless of it being daily life or academic. While I don’t know what career path, I’m headed down I am focusing on the idea that it is the journey not the destination, and Oxy was certainly a large part of the journey!
Aubrey B. White ’05
After working with urban planning-related non-profits in Los Angeles for two years following graduation, I’ve made my way to graduate school where I am pursuing a master’s degree in Community and Regional Development at UC Davis. I am currently developing a thesis project around subsistence anglers in the California Delta and safe access to fish in the face of water contamination. The project will hopefully become a radio program to be broadcast in the area. I am also working with faculty at UC Davis to help develop the new Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems undergraduate major that is just now starting up. I spend my free time biking around the country roads surrounding Davis and working on the UC Davis student farm. Come June, I should be finished with my degree and will likely experience the same sense of frenzy and uncertainty I felt upon graduating from Oxy. Fortunately, things seem to work themselves out given a bit of time.
Jason R. Antebi '04
I'm currently the Program Director for KTTH-AM and a talk show host for KIRO-FM, both in Seattle. I've been living here for just under five years and loving it.
Steven Barrie-Anthony ‘04
Steven is a Ph.D. candidate in the Religious Studies Department at UCSB.
Julia R. Cecil ’04
My reason for studying religion at Occidental was so that I might have a better understanding of people from different parts of the world. I had an interest in working with a non-profit and traveling abroad, and studying religion is a wonderful way to gain insight into different cultures. After working for the American Red Cross of Southern Maine in 2005, I realized my focus had changed from an interest in understanding people to that of understanding animals. A few months after moving from Maine to Oregon, I received my certification as an obedience instructor and dog trainer, and I now volunteer locally with the Oregon Humane Society. Currently, I am a full-time psychology student working toward a second undergraduate at Portland State University. Once I complete this degree I will apply to graduate programs focusing on animal behavior. At this point my hope is to study Theory of Mind in dogs and, ultimately, to work with owners whose companion animals suffer from psychological disorders like aggression or separation anxiety. I thoroughly enjoyed every course I took in religion at Occidental, and though my primary drives have since changed I find religion endlessly fascinating.
Grace C. Egbert '04
Since graduating from Oxy, Grace has spent time volunteering in Sri Lanka, received an MFA in Poetry from the University of Montana, and an MTS from Harvard Divinity School in "Religion and Literature." She continues to write, make documentaries on local food and spirituality, and practice meditation. She also teaches Humanities and Media Studies & Production at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.
Evan L. George '04
I'm currently a producer and reporter at KCRW, NPR for Southern California, based in Santa Monica. I produce a national show called "To the Point." Before that I spent 7 years as a reporter and editor for local and state-wide newspapers (using much of what I learned from Dr. Naylor in his class on the constitution and religion.) And I've published two vegetarian cookbooks (in 2011 and 2013) with another Oxy grad under the moniker Hot Knives. (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lust-for-leaf-alex-brown/1113748329?ean=9780738216973)
Alani R. Price ’04
After graduating from Occidental College, I completed ethnographic research on Hindu post-birth rituals and women’s lives in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal as a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellow (http://us.fulbrightonline.org/). I lived in several different Nepalese villages for ten months while gaining a deeper understanding of Nepali language and culture. Based on my experiences in Nepal, I decided to pursue my interest in women’s health at UCLA’s School of Public Health in the Department of Community Health Sciences (http://www.ph.ucla.edu/chs/). I hoped to meld the cultural and women’s studies lessons I learned at Oxy, the reproductive and maternal health needs expressed by my friends and sisters in Nepal (as well as in the US) and the behavioral science and statistics background necessary to advance in a public health career designing, implementing and evaluating community health programs. The summer of 2008, I was granted a fellowship to spend ten weeks back in Kathmandu working as an intern for Family Health International’s Nepal Country Office, which partners with Nepali NGOs and government on HIV and AIDS prevention and research, as well as treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS (http://www.fhi360.org/). After graduating with my MPH in 2009 with a Certificate in Population and Reproductive Health, and also becoming a Certified Health Education Specialist (http://www.nchec.org/), I worked for the USC Institute for Global Health on curricula development and research studies (http://globalhealth.usc.edu/). In 2011 I joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Obstetrics-and-Gynecology/) where I currently serve as a Coordinator for the State of California's Prenatal Screening Program (http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/PNS/Pages/default.aspx). I review and report screening results, provide case management for patients with increased risk for birth defects, and educate clinical staff in the Los Angeles area. Throughout my public health education and career I have observed that all health fields would benefit from more professionals with a deeper understanding of religious and cultural factors and contexts.
Julia C. Provonchee ‘04
After graduating in 2004, I worked for the American Red Cross of Southern Maine in the development department. Shortly thereafter I moved to Portland, Oregon with the plan of switching career paths, focusing on dog behavior and training. I went back to school, this time at Portland State University where I got a BA in Psychology, with a focus on dog behavior. Simultaneously, I received certification as a professional pet dog trainer. In 2011, I began a graduate degree program in Anthrozoology through a modified online program with Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. I finished this two year, master of science degree program this past May, graduating as a member of our country's first Anthrozoological graduate degree program. I now work for City Dog Country Dog in Portland, Oregon under the mentorship of Caroline Spark, PhD. As her assistant, I help to solve behavioral issues and create quality of life solutions for dogs and their owners. Dr. Spark's company also does in-home dog training, as well as service dog training and fun training retreats in Southern Oregon.
Lauren M. Hill ’03
I’m currently getting my Master in Public Health in a Global Health program at Emory University. My focus is in reproductive health which has been realized practically during my program with adolescent sexual health research in Paraguay and a thesis on the intersection of gender and health in the Middle East. I came to public health after getting a start in human rights directly after college. I interned and worked for Human Rights Watch in Los Angeles where I got the opportunity to work on a campaign for safe needle exchange which sparked an interest in public health. My interest in international populations took me to Latin America where I spent 4 months living and working with various community health NGOs and improving my Spanish. From there I was able to come back to LA where I worked with immigrant populations in a community health clinic as an AmeriCorps volunteer for a year. Working in community health helped guide me toward a deeper passion in sexual and reproductive health and lead me to a job at Planned Parenthood of Pasadena. Shortly after starting as a reproductive health assistant I took over the work of managing the clinic in Eagle Rock where I was fortunate to work with many students from Eagle Rock High School and Oxy in collaborative efforts to improve the reproductive health of young people in the area. Being a Religious Studies major at Oxy gave me an incredible foundation for critical thinking, community participation and passion for learning about the way people’s beliefs and traditions shape the way they live. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in grad school to have such a strong foundation in critical reading and writing that many of my colleagues missed in their undergrad experiences. Religious Studies inherently incorporates issues of diversity, critical theory, human behavior and constant inquiry which are perfectly matched with public health and life in general.
Catherine P. Keany ’03
Upon graduating, I returned home to Maui, and worked waiting tables part of the year and traveled in Central America surfing for the other part of the year. I did this for about 5 years, then decided to go back to school and get my nursing degree. I am currently working at Maui Memorial Medical Center as a cardiac nurse... and surfing on my days off: Life is good!
Sophia A. Nur '03
Sophia Nur holds a doctoral degree in the field of Health Communication and Intercultural Communication. Her dissertation specifically focused on an HIV/AIDS behavioral change communication intervention for university students in Ethiopia. She also holds a certificate in Women's Studies from Howard University. Overall, Dr. Nur's career experience focuses on the research, development, and implementation of culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS-related tools and programs both domestically and globally. Currently, Dr. Nur works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention on the National Partnerships Team. Prior to joining CDC, Dr. Nur worked with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs/National AIDS Resource Center- Ethiopia (JHU-CCP/ARC). At the ARC, she coordinated, managed, and provided strategic direction on the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the health communication campaign focused on the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS interventions in Ethiopia. Her overall career and academic experience are centered on gender, HIV/AIDS, and health communication.
Elizabeth A. Todd ’01
After Oxy, I worked at some non-interesting basic jobs before I started a masters program at Loyola for Marriage and Family Therapy and Art Therapy in 2003. I graduated in 2005. It took me a while to find a job, but in 2006 I started working at Maryvale, which is a girl’s group home in Rosemead. I have been there ever since. I am a therapist and work with foster kids aged13-15 and their families. Besides working, I have gone on a couple big trips: Thailand and India. I love to travel and plan to move to Europe in a year and a half. I got married in May 2008 to my husband who I have been with for 7 years so far. In regards to my major relating to my career – I have an interest in people, (their hopes and spirituality), religion and social services. My work is a sort of study of life and how people survive and need love. I’ve always been interested in different types of religions, beliefs and ethics, and what drives someone for the need to believe.
Adrienne M. Carson ’00
Life after Oxy has been eventful. After graduating, I traveled around North Africa before going to work at Deloitte & Touché and then Citigroup in New York. Throughout my career and travels I have always referred back to the materials and experiences from Oxy. I spent a year working in Asia and visited many of the historic sites I first learned about in the Buddhism courses I took with Professor Wright. Currently, I am in my first year of a PhD program at the University of Michigan based on materials I was introduced to in Professor Griffith’s Ethics course. My best memories at Oxy are of Weller Hall and of the care and the time the department’s professors took.
Justin M. Smith ’00
After Oxy I earned an MDiv at nearby Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena (2003). After which time I continued my education at the GTU in Berkeley, CA (MA, Biblical Languages, 2005). Finally, I moved to Scotland to pursue a PhD in New Testament at the University of St. Andrews (2010). Since then I have been working at Azusa Pacific University as an adjunct professor in the Biblical Studies Department and I will begin a one-year full-time post there in the fall.
Lindsay M. Firth ’99
Since graduating from Oxy, I’ve been back in the Bay Area. Most recently I have become the Admin Director for a new nonprofit called the Engage Network, www.engagnet.org, which helps everyday people create social change by equipping them as leaders in their communities. The founders studied and visited evangelical churches as models of creating and supporting community, but we are employing those practices to coalesce a stronger progressive movement. It’s very fun. Prior to that, I found myself working for a digital division of MTV Networks in San Francisco for three years (a blip in an otherwise pristine nonprofit career). I also worked for low-income housing provider in the Tenderloin, and for an organization the created social change by helping women of wealth understand how there money works in the world. Somewhere in there I obtained an MA in Education (which I use!) and a multiple subject teaching credential (not so much). I was on the nonprofit board of Bitch Magazine for three years. Oakland has been my home for the last 5 and a half years and love it. I hike, sing, knit, read, play guitar, eat delicious food, visit old ladies, travel, spend time with my dear ones, and think about religious studies all the time. No, really – I do. I am so glad that was my major and still reflect on my coursework at Oxy.
Akiko Yonekawa '99
Akiko minored in Religious Studies and majored in Art History. She is the Director of Programming at the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of American Jewish University. She works with retreat groups, conferences, field trips and other groups that visit this beautiful Jewish retreat center throughout the year to explore nature, discover Jewish texts and traditions, climb on their ropes course or just enjoy a quiet setting for meetings. She is also a student at American Jewish University, pursuing an MBA in Non-profit Management and an MA in Education. She is honored to be a Wexner Graduate Fellow as well as a Masters Concentration Fellow through the iCenter, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the field of Israel Education.
Andrea H. Howe ’98
I am back in school at Eastern Washington University pursuing a degree in Accounting. I’m currently employed as an Accounting Assistant for a non-profit in Spokane, WA that assists individuals with disabilities in many different areas. While I loved my classes and professors in the Religious Studies Department, I did not find it a practical degree for my current career path. People find my degree fascinating and like to ask me lots of questions about it. I really enjoyed the variety of subject matter and while it may not have practical application for accounting, my degree at Oxy was well-rounded and has helped me in the business field at large.
Douglas T. Jolly ’96
After graduating from Oxy, I began teaching history and coaching soccer at St. Francis High School in La Canada, CA where I spent 5 years. I also began coaching soccer at Oxy where I was an assistant for 3 years. I am now in my 9th year at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, CA. I am the 11th Grade Dean, U.S. History teacher, Boys’ soccer coach, and Director of Summer Programs. I have taught Economics and a world cultures class on Latin America and I have led the start of a boys’ leadership program at my school. I will soon be teaching a sports history course and, in two years, I will teach World Religions. I enjoy working with high school students from the variety of roles I play at Poly. I have been able to use specific ideas from my Oxy coursework in teaching topics such as Rastafarianism to my Latin America class and the Second Great Awakening, Social Gospel, and slave religion to my U.S. history students. Of course I use my experiences from the Religious Studies Department more fully in teaching my students to think, read, and write. In my real life, I am getting married in July! I also still play soccer and basketball and I try to travel when possible – this summer, my fiancee and I took 3 weeks to drive up the coast to Seattle, camping along the way, stopping to taste wine in Napa and see a bunch of plays in Ashland, OR.
Darshana R. Patel ‘96
After graduating from Occidental in 1996 with a major in biochemistry and minor in religious studies, I started a career journey whose destination remains unclear. I was an intern at Monsanto in St. Louis for the summer and completed a Pre-Intramural Research Training Award at the NIH one year later. I decided basic research was the life for me and focused my energies on completing my Ph.D. in biochemistry at U.C. Irvine by 2002. With passion for science and a desire to cure disease, I took on a post-doctoral research position at Genentech, Inc. in South San Francisco doing protein engineering to counter autoimmune disease. Upon completing my postdoc, I expanded my skill set by a career shift to project management where I broadened my understanding of the oncology drug development process. Also during this time, I married and had three daughters. After careful introspection and reflection, my husband and I decided we needed to adjust our priorities so, in 2010, we relocated to a community called Rancho Peñasquitos in San Diego. Currently, I am enjoying my time as homemaker, mother, school volunteer, and President of the Rancho de los Peñasquitos Town Council, an all-volunteer, non-profit, community based civic organization. I have managed to use nearly every aspect of my liberal college education experience in family, career and community life. Oxy made me set the bar high and I am driven to push it higher as the journey continues.
Elisheva L. Dienstfrey ’95
My life post-Oxy is actually quite relevant to what I studied there (and during my year abroad in Jerusalem at Hebrew University). Here is a summary of what I’ve done since I graduated all those years ago: Upon graduating from Occidental College with a double major in Religious Studies and Music, I began a five year program at the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, ultimately obtaining investiture as Hazzan (Cantor) and a masters of Sacred Music in 2000. While in school at JTS, I married Tobias Dienstfrey, a graduate of Brandeis University and the University of Judaism. After graduating from Cantorial School, I started work as the Hazzan of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, VA. There, I found the perfect blend of a warm community and a fantastic team of professionals. I found a true home in Alexandria with Tobias, and we have joyfully welcomed four children to our family: Margalit Leora, Akiva Yosef, Hadassah (Dassi) Lailey, and Lev Amitai. I love my job. Not only do I get to sing all the time (the most public part of my job is leading services, which are mostly sung, and performing in concerts), but I also have the privilege of working as member of the clergy in other ways. I officiate at life cycle events, from baby namings to weddings to funerals, I visit those who are sick in the community, I meet with people to counsel and console. I put together musical performances, I write articles for our Synagogue Bulletin, and I even sing and play guitar with our synagogue band, Ein Lanu Z'man (Hebrew for "We Have No Time"). And I teach – a lot. I work with the parents of newborns, I teach in the preschool, I work with our school-age religious school students. I tutor b’nai mitzvah, teach the teens in the confirmation program, and I direct a high school a cappella group. I also teach in our adult education program, teaching a variety of subjects including basic Jewish ritual, Jewish music and Jewish liturgy. But the best part of my job is learning from the amazing people I work, meet, and pray with — my congregants, my colleagues and my friends. The Religious Studies Program at Occidental started me on this great journey that I hope will never end. Many thanks to all those who helped direct me on this path!
Paula S. Wallace ’94
Since graduating from Oxy in 1994, I went on to get my Masters degree in Theology from Claremont Graduate School in 1996. I got married during my studies there to Michael Wallace and we had our first son, Isaac. After graduation, my husband was commissioned in the United States Navy and we went to Japan for the next 6 years. In Japan , I was able to teach English and Western Culture and Philosophy at the Japanese Military Academy. It was a fantastic and greatly enriching experience. When we moved back to the states in 2002, we had our second son, Malcolm “Mac”. We have moved around quite a bit since then, living in Newport, RI, Virginia Beach, VA, Ocean Springs, MS, Fairfax, VA, Omaha, NE, Washington, DC and now, San Diego, CA. In the States I have enjoyed a career as a Hospice Chaplain. Being able to serve the spiritual needs of those for whom death is near has been a tremendous privilege. My religious studies background has been paramount in my ability to serve a diverse and challenging religious community during my time as a Chaplain. I have been able to serve the spiritual needs of patients from many faith traditions ranging from all parts of Christianity, Buddhism and Muslim faiths as well as many others.
Julius H. Bailey ’93
I was promoted to Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands and published my second book, Race Patriotism: Protest and Print Culture in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (University of Tennessee Press, 2012).
Thomas D. Carroll '92
Since graduating from Oxy in '92 (major in philosophy, minor in religious studies), I went into a career in higher education. I received an M.A. in Philosophy from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from Boston University. At present, I am a full time faculty member at Xing Wei College in Shanghai, a college that bills itself as the first liberal arts college in mainland China. My experiences at Oxy have been enormously helpful over the years, especially in exploring the borderlands between the academic fields of religious studies and philosophy, but my time at Oxy formed my imagination for what a small liberal arts college can be, something that has been very useful in contributing to the building of this new college. And of course, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to take Professor Wright's History of Chinese Thought course all those years ago...
Karin Z. Dworkin ’92
After graduating, I married Jason Dworkin (’91) and earned an M.A. in Women’s Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. My husband and I lived for a few years in the redwoods above Santa Cruz. I taught religion and philosophy until 2002, when we moved to Maryland for Jason’s work at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he is Chief of the Astrochemistry Laboratory. Six weeks after our arrival we welcomed our daughter, Julia Mielikki. I stayed at home with her until this Fall, and now I love teaching in the Philosophy Department at Anne Arundel Community College. On the side, I’m involved with belly dance and soap-making. We live in a wooded area outside Annapolis.
Malek Moazzam-Doulat, ’92
Malek earned a Ph.D. at Stoney Brook. He is currently teaching courses on Islam and contemporary religious thought in the Religious Studies Department at Oxy.
Dr. Garrett K. K. Lam ’91
Since graduation in 1991, I spent a year working as an admissions officer at Oxy, then attended medical school at the University of Rochester. I then did a residency in OB/GYN at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, followed by a 3 year fellowship in maternal fetal medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2003, I have been working as a maternal fetal medicine specialist with Phoenix Perinatal Associates/Obstetrix Medical Group. I am the Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Good Samaritan Regional and founder of the Maternal Fetal Center, the 1st center for fetal surgery and therapy in the southwest. We delivered the 1st set of live born conjoined twins in a Phoenix hospital, and my partner and I perform in utero procedures such as laser ablation and transfusions in utero. On the side, I am also assistant director of the OB GYN residency program and clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine. I do research in addition to clinical duties, and recently presented one of the lead presentations at the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy. My major in RS has been instrumental in shaping my career and moral compass in my personal and career paths, as well as in helping with understanding and appreciating values expressed by patients. I still have an appreciation for the East Asian philosophies I learned under Dr. Wright, and keep the copy of Siddhartha in my collection. The only regret I have is not taking a Bioethics course in my college career as that would have been helpful in being introduced to these topics.
Rebecca J. Morrill ’91
After Oxy, I volunteered for two years in Chicago, working at a Catholic Worker house and a Catholic feminist peace and justice organization. I completed a Masters Of Divinity at University of Chicago in 1997 and worked directing a lay missionary program in the United States and Guatemala until 2000. I worked at an Episcopal parish in Chicago for two years and then was recruited to come work at the Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. I have been at Saint Mark’s Cathedral since September of 2002 and currently serve as the Cathedral Liturgist, having oversight over all worship at the Cathedral. I also serve as the liturgical consultant to Episcopal students at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, which allows me to call myself an adjunct faculty member! My experiences as a Religious Studies major were very formative and have allowed me to approach my work in various faith communities with a “wide angle lens,” enabling me to see my work in the broader context of the interplay of religion and culture throughout the world. I remain particularly grateful to Keith Naylor for some very formative class work that shaped how I think about the interaction between religious and national identity.
I have very fond memories of my RS classes at Oxy and have never regretted choosing Religious Studies as my major.
Medi A. Volpe ’91
After graduation in 1991, I meandered toward graduate school, earning a master’s from Fuller Seminary in 1997 and PhD from Duke in 2006. I am currently Assistant Professor of the Practice of Theology at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. In May of 2009, I will relocate with my family to Durham, UK, where I will be Honorary Lecturer in Theology at the University of Durham, and my husband will be the Bede Professor of Catholic Theology. I have three children, ages 7, 5 and 2. In terms of publications, I have reviews in Modern Theology (July 2008, and forthcoming 2009), several dictionary articles (forthcoming 2009) and articles in progress. I am currently completing a book entitled Rethinking Christian Identity, which is contracted to Blackwell (in the Challenges in Contemporary Theology series). I will submit the manuscript in May 2009.
Jenifer S. Winter, Ph.D. ’91
Greetings from Honolulu! I am an Associate Professor and Graduate Chair of the School of Communications at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I am also an affiliate faculty member of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies and the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE)/Faculty Mentoring Program (FMP). My research focuses on emerging information and communications technologies (ICTs) and policy, and I am particularly interested in surveillance, privacy, and open data initiatives. My husband, James King, and I are celebrating our eighteenth wedding anniversary this week. (6/5/2013)
Philip B. Wolfson ’91
After graduating from Oxy with a major in Religious Studies, I worked for the next 16 years for LAUSD as a teacher and an administrator. Currently I am working for Green Dot Charter Schools as the Special Education Program Administrator. I got married twelve years ago and my wife and I now have a three-year-old son. I have been practicing Zen meditation off and on for several years and continue to enjoy reading books on Buddhism. We recently joined a (Reform) Jewish temple partly because we want to raise our son in this tradition and partly due to its emphasis on scholarship and community action. At Oxy I focused my studies on Buddhism while writing my thesis on interfaith marriage and its impact on Judaism. I feel that the last 17 years has been a continuation of what I started at Oxy and my time in the Religious Studies Department. I still look for the intersection between Judaism and Buddhism in my daily life and my religious thought, and although it is not my profession, the study of religion is still an important part of my life. Having a background in Zen thought has certainly helped with the stress of working in public schools and all the challenges that come with this rewarding profession.
Erin S. Bayne ’90
I became a Religious Studies major because I was interested in the phenomenon of religion and the human experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my studies, but upon graduation, found that I had no marketable skill. I wasn’t too interested in going to graduate school, at the age of 22, so I floated around for a while. The summer after graduation, I went to Nantucket, for the summer, and it was there that the seed for my future career path was planted. I arrived too late to find a job in a bar or restaurant so I pursued a lead at the local nursing home. I worked as a nursing assistant, making $12.00 an hour (not a bad wage for a summer job in 1990), and soon began to think I would pursue a career in nursing. I knew that I eventually wanted to have a family, and I chose nursing partly for practical reasons, but also because I really enjoyed caring for people. The residents of that nursing home, my first patients, are still vivid in my memories. Several years later, after moving to Maryland and working in retail, I took all my science and math courses and then applied to John’s Hopkins School of Nursing. It was an accelerated program for those who already possessed a bachelor’s degree in another field. I graduated in 1995 and have now been an RN for 13 years. I’ve worked in many settings, from a locked psychiatric unit at John’s Hopkins to a cardiac ICU in Seattle, and many more. I currently work for a blood bank in Northern California. I married in 2002 and have 3 children ages 5 (almost 6) 4 1/2 and 21 months. I live with my family in Merced, CA. How we came to live here is a whole other story that I won’t go into, but I will say that my religious education has never really ended. I have remained intrigued by the subject of religion and my own faith has grown stronger, since having children. I have been exposed to the “evangelical right” more here than in any other time of my life. It has been an eye opening experience, mostly in a positive way, breaking down many of my own preconceived notions. Over the years, I have also lived in New York City, where I had friends with various cultural and religious backgrounds. I attended a private high school in North Hollywood, where the predominant religion was Judaism. I have visited mosques in Paris, as well as grand cathedrals. I have spent time meditating in the mountains of Switzerland. I worked with Muslim Arabs, in Fresno, after 911, trying to help reduce hostility in the community. I’ve been pursued by young LDS mothers, who dropped me like a hot potato, when they realized I could not be converted. I mention all these things because the path of my life has exposed me to a variety of religious experiences. All of these are being filed away and may someday manifest in book form (or so I like to dream). I would say that Religious Studies is a part of me even though I did not choose an academic career. I suppose now it is more of a hobby or area of interest. I still am fascinated by the role religion plays in civilization and by the cultural implications, both negative and positive. My experience at Occidental was enriching in so many ways and much of that had to do with my chosen major. I loved Religion in Modern Culture and African American Religious Traditions, as well as Ideas of the Self in Religious Thought. Actually, I don’t think I ever had a Religious Studies class that I didn’t enjoy.
Sarah K. Pierce ’90
I was a double major in Religious Studies and Studio Art and followed art in-terms of a career. I went to grad school at Cornell University for an MFA before moving to New York to do the Whitney Program. I am now completing a PhD in Curatorial/Knowledge in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College at the University of London. I live in Dublin Ireland (since 2000), with my husband Gerard Byrne who is also an artist, and my son Hugo (3 1/2). I had the opportunity to represent Ireland in the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005, and I show my work throughout the US and Europe. I also teach regularly at the college level, most recently at Bard College in New York, where I was an artist-in-residence, and in September I will begin teaching on the MA in Art at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. In 2013, the first monograph on my work was published by Book Works (London) titled Sketches of Universal History Compiled by Several Authors by Sarah Pierce -- proof positive that my background in religious studies continues to inform my work as an artist! My website lists current projects: http://themetropolitancomplex.com/ and if anyone wants to buy the book it can be ordered here www.bookworks.org.uk/node/1761
Molly L. Roth ’90
Since 1997, I have worked as an attorney with the Federal Public Defender’s Office in the Western District of Texas. I began working with this office in Del Rio, Texas (on the Mexico-US border), and in 1999 moved to the district’s main office in San Antonio. This year (until May) I am in Washington, DC, “on loan” to two federal agencies; (the Office of Defender Services www.fd.org and the United States Sentencing Commission www.ussc.gov). What an exciting time to be in DC! On election night, I walked to U Street and spent time celebrating in one of the spots hard-hit during the riots that followed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, assassination. People were dancing, beating drums, hugging one another, thanking one another, and shouting. A large group of students in their 20s spontaneously sang the national anthem on the metro. It was wonderful. I am married (University of Texas grad), have two step children (Tufts and MIT grads; tried to convince them to go west to Oxy, but no luck!), and am hoping for more children soon. I sang in the Glee Club while at Occidental, am singing with the San Antonio Choral Society when at home, and am singing with the National Cathedral Choral Society while in DC. My Occidental education impacts my work life in innumerable ways. For starters, I speak Spanish fluently (and daily in my job in Texas) in large part because I studied in Costa Rica through a Richter fellowship. Having a liberal arts education is a big leg up for a lawyer; even in my narrow field of federal criminal defense work, I need to understand a variety of fields (such as communications technology, accounting, statistics, etc.). Knowledge of literature helps me draft closing arguments and make analogies that assist juries and judges grasp my clients’ perspectives. And nearly daily, one of my clients is sentenced, and I grapple with the broad question “what is an appropriate punishment?” The Philosophy and Religious Studies courses I took help me wrestle with this question, and articulate requests on behalf of my clients.
I look forward to this newsletter, and to hearing how my professors and colleagues are doing. Thank you, Professor Wright, and all others involved, for creating it.
Steven L. Dwelley ’89
I’m a full time yoga teacher. This appears to be the closest one can come to fulfilling the tenuous job prospects of an East-West Comparative Religions major. When I say yoga, I mean Hatha Yoga, in the Ashtanga tradition of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore. By some mysterious movements of fate, this obscure line of yoga, and its derivatives, have found their way into every major Western city, and millions of people practice. I’ve been able to raise a family with it. Sitting there in the Oxy library, struggling through advanced Buddhist theory, I laid the foundations for practice. When I began seeing the general public’s emergent serious interest in yoga (a threshold was crossed somewhere around 1994), from professionals who knew little about it beyond the fact that they enjoyed yoga class, I had an appreciation for a seed from the East that was finding fertile soil in everyday Western society. Hatha Yoga, and its promise of a fit, flexible body, may seem a long way from Martin Streng’s analysis of Nagarjuna and emptiness- Dale Wright set me on that one- but I’ve found them remarkably relevant to one another. The Western public doesn’t really want to study Sanskrit. But they have a serious thirst at this moment for little bits and pieces of it, and its embodiment in yoga.
Amos W. Gilkey ’89
These days I am focused on a few key projects and areas of work. I founded CleanWave Group which is a platform to accelerate business opportunities for innovative goods and services and cause-focused projects in the Cleantech and environmental sectors. CleanWave Group has a unique interest in bringing innovations and projects together with the music and entertainment industry. This emphasis is a natural development given my own active interest and involvement in these industries as a recording artist. Recently I have been focused on a new recording project slated for commercial release later this year. The project is also focused on soundtracks for the film industry. Further, my interest in innovations with the potential to create positive solutions has lead me to be the co-founder of a unique crowdfunding model due for launch in late summer, 2013.
Ronald J. Provost '89
At Oxy I combined my Biology Degree with a Religious Studies minor and after spending my graduation summer working for the Oxy Oceanology program I headed off to a PhD program in Environmental Biology at the University of Colorado, an interesting location for a marine biologist. I discovered quite early on that my passion was for the joys of teaching -- something I first discovered on the Vantuna helping local teachers with their ocean lessons. After completing a research based masters at CU and marrying my Oxy sweetheart Kirsten Durfee '90, we headed off to Connecticut where we taught, coached and lived residentially at Westminster School. After seven years in the wilds of Connecticut the ocean and the west coast drew us and our young family back. For the past 14 years I have served at various times as science teacher (Environmental Science, Biology, Chemistry, Marine Biology, Astronomy) dean of students, upper school head, lower and middle school head and college counselor at Stevenson School in Pebble Beach. Kirsten and I, and our two boys have lived with and counseled a few hundred students from around the world and watched them launch into their lives. I most recently completed a school symposium series on the Ocean and will be traveling to Central America this summer to work with students on ocean pollution issues. Our own children are heading to college (one a sophomore at Lewis and Clark, the second a HS senior) and we continually espouse the importance of a liberal arts education. I feel blessed to have been able to explore multiple passions at Oxy and learn from Karen King, Dale Wright and Axel Steuer. I still proudly possess my book of "Steuerisms" by Bob DeGroot, as well as my fascination with the historical stories of the New Testament world that I learned from Karen. I feel that my Religious Studies work has helped me with a grounded and rounded life and has given me threads to hold onto when working with students in difficult situations.
Cindy S. Wolf ’89
I spent the first 6 years out of Oxy freelancing as a theater technician and Lighting Designer. In 1993 I assisted Ken Ellis (formerly a professor of Technical Theater at Oxy) in planning the “Sacred Music” portion of the L.A. Festival by identifying and negotiating the use of houses of worship throughout the city to serve as performance venues. Also, I stepped in as lighting designer for one of the dance venues and got to work with Babatunde Olatunji on an invocation to the orisha Oshun. In November of 1993 I moved to Seattle and embarked on a career in wine sales. Currently I am Northwest District Manager for Kobrand Corporation (Importers and distributors of fine wines and spirits). In 1995 I married Keven McKenney. On March 17th, 2008 I gave birth to our daughter, Juliette Marie Wolf McKenney. Over the years I have seen the Salt Lake City Mormon Temple, a Hawaiian City of Refuge, catacombs on the outskirts of Rome, the Vatican, countless relics of countless saints, the Vodoo Museum in New Orleans (truly a fabulous place for anyone wishing to understand more about African religion in the Americas), Marie Laveau’s tomb, a Babalawo’s Botanica shop, the Self-Realization Fellowship compound on top of Mt. Washington, the insides of a number of Masonic Halls and Temples, a Radical Faeries commune in Oregon where they ritually reenact the story of Isis and Osiris every summer, Amma’s darshan, Wiccan solstice rituals and Hassidic Seders. I never tire of exploring the vast number of ways human beings express their spiritual longings and religious beliefs. Thanks to Karen King, I still find it annoying when folks refer to other people’s belief groups as “cults”.
Jeanette R. Solano’88
I am probably one of the few RS majors who actually ended up being a RS professor myself. After Oxy I went to the University of Chicago, The Divinity School to earn my MA (90) and Ph.D. (99). I thoroughly enjoyed my 20′s traveling the world and lived in Brazil and Bolivia. After teaching FT at USC, I moved below the orange curtain and took a tenure track position at Cal State Fullerton. I have done a lot of work exploring religion in Latin America and Religion and Immigration here in the States. I was elected to the American Academy of Religion’s Religion, Film and Visual Culture Steering Committee–which is a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn in the exciting relatively new field of Religion and Film. I have made one documentary and one award-winning short. I have been married to Narciso since 1997 and we have two creative and lively kids, Aurora, 8 and Dante 9 who keep life very full. We have recently moved back to Glendale.
I would love to hear from fellow alums from my time at OXY and if any of recent grads or present students have any questions I would welcome those too.
Cynthia A. Wells ’88
Life is good! Professionally, I am serve at Messiah College with a few different but interrelated hats. I am a Fellow in the Ernest L. Boyer Center, serve as Director of the college’s interdisciplinary core course, and am an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies. My teaching intersects psychology, education, and theology, and my content emphases are spiritual autobiography and multi-ethnic life narrative. I received my Ph.D. in higher education from Ohio State in 2003. This past fall, I finally attended to my passion for theology by enrolling in a Master’s in Theology at Villanova University. I spoke to my undergraduate degree in religion at Oxy in my statement of academic intent: The study of religion and theology has appealed to me since my first year as an undergraduate at Occidental College in 1984. When I studied Early Christian Life and Literature during my second term under Dr. Karen King, I was fascinated. I carefully composed my final paper for the course, a 25 page exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13, on my brand-new typewriter. Despite these initial passions, I sought out what some considered a “more practical” subject and declared psychology as my major. My enthusiasm remained evident as I enrolled in religious studies courses at every opportunity. Ultimately, I added religious studies as a second major. My senior thesis examined themes of reconciliation in the gospel of Luke and explored a passion for racial reconciliation that has remained constant in my life. At that point, graduate study in religion simply was not on my radar screen nor was it a direction encouraged by those in my sphere of influence. The constraint of presumed sensibility overwhelmed my emergent passion. My teaching and administrative work have beckoned me to hone my theological sensibilities, and the study of theology finally became pragmatic! Needless to say, I love it! Personally, I’m a single mom to a wonderful son, Gabe, adopted from Guatemala. He is 7 1/2. I’m enjoying that life “really can begin anew at 40!”. I attended the 20th reunion for the Class of 88 this past summer, and what a great joy that was!
Laura R. Bass ’87
My life since Oxy doesn’t have much directly to do with my major in Religious Studies or my interest during my college years in Japan (I did JYA there in 1985-86). When I graduated in June of 1987, I had no idea of what I would do beyond spending that summer working at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan (by then, I had abandoned an earlier fantasy of opening up a coffeehouse/bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico). At the end of the summer, all I knew was that I wanted to try living in the Chicago of my birth, a place in my mind more solid and rooted than the Southern California where I was raised and went to college. So, that’s where I landed. It was a wonderful, transformative time. I worked for a few months in a vegetarian restaurant in Evanston (the Blind Faith Café – still there) and then got the idea from a friend to teach English as a Second Language. I had students from everywhere: Haiti, Cambodia, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Venezuela, and above all, Mexico. And that’s most directly how I came to where I am now. Though I loved Chicago and my teaching, I wanted to move on, to travel more, and to study Spanish, the language of so many of my students. I spent about a year between 1989 and 1990 in Mexico. When I returned to the U.S. (this time back to L.A), I found a job as a bilingual teacher with L.A. Unified (those were the days before Proposition 227). I spent a year teaching first grade at Dayton Heights elementary. It was just a year, and I could have stuck to it longer, at least long enough to finish my credential. But by then I wanted to go back to school myself. I won’t go into any detail about my years (nine in total) in graduate school. Suffice it to say, I earned an M.A. in Spanish literature at the University of Virginia and went on for a Ph.D. at Princeton. I graduated in 2000, after spending two years in Madrid on a Fulbright. Madrid is now a second home. My main home is New Orleans where I’ve lived since 2000 when I took a visiting position in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane University. That visiting position eventually turned into something more permanent, and as of 2007, I’m an Associate Professor. I’m happy to say that my “tenure book” has just come out–The Drama of the Portrait: Theater and Visual Culture in Early Modern Spain, published by Penn State Press. I live in an old house – what they call a “side hall shotgun” – with my husband Ari Zighelboim and our cat Shuggi. Like me, Ari (who’s a native of Lima, Peru) once studied Japanese, but though we travel a lot, we have are yet to take a trip to Japan. Someday we will.
Lesley A. Dahl ’87
I am living in Corrales, New Mexico where there is no smog, no traffic, and no mean, angry or frustrated people. Also, alas, no great sushi. It’s really lovely here, though, rural (at least in my little town) and beautiful every day. I’ve been here a year and it’s taken me all that time to make the house I bought more livable (by my standards … there was a lot of pink when I moved in, all gone now). This coming year I hope to do nothing but work (i.e., write). I am working on a novel (and have one out, a kid’s book — not the one I had hoped to be published first, but that’s the way that went.) I still think about all the things that occupied my mind while I was at Oxy and often wish that I could still have the kind of time that allows you to just put stuff in your head instead of also having to (and sometimes mostly having to) put stuff out. I remember a conversation with Prof Wright where we were talking about something, maybe it was from Ricouer or The Body’s Recollection of Being, but we kind of hit a wall, the kind that makes your brain twist around and go wonk and we just stopped and Prof Wright said, “Some things are just really hard to think about.” I hold that thought. Those are actually my favorite things to think about, still, and I feel that even these many years away from those days at Oxy, I still have a good framework in my head (scaffolding?) to help me think.
Danelle A. Nightingale ’87
After graduating, I traveled the path of parenthood, spending 12 years in full-time household management, child rearing and homeschooling. In 2002 my husband and I moved to England with our four children. For a number of years I did part time work in primary schools. I was involved in supporting local schools in their Religious Education program. Religious Education is part of the national curriculum here in England, so I would take RE lessons and do RE assemblies, working as an outside resource to supplement a school’s program. Currently, I oversee the children’s ministry at our local church, which my husband pastors. I am in the process of pursuing some theological training and hope to begin an MA program at London School of Theology in the near future.
Kay K. Hiramine, Jr. ’86
Since graduation in 1986, I worked at Procter & Gamble and Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate in sales. I married Julie Menick (Pepperdine 87) in 1989. We then attended Fuller Theological Seminary for two years while simultaneously planting a church called Vision Christian Fellowship in Pasadena, CA. In 1991, I helped run a global prayer ministry and moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado to raise funds for the World Prayer Center - mobilizing prayer for the unreached in the 10/40 Window. We also started a church called Vision for the Nations Fellowship in Colorado with branches in Michigan and New York. In 2001, my business partners and I started the following: Humanitarian International Services Group (www.hisg.org), an international humanitarian NGO training in disaster response, community development and sustainable business; Private Sector Consulting, Inc. which specializes in private sector training in disaster response and mitigation; and J127, a private venture capital fund that invests in foreign companies to create jobs for the poor. I was conferred an honorary doctorate in 2011, LL.D from Kathmandu International University. I am serving on a number of Boards such as Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Order of St. John; SCI; Stop Trafficking Now; Call to All; Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization Strategy Working Group; The Caring People, a single moms ministry and others. I reside in Singapore, New York and Colorado. Julie and I have five daughters.
David P. Cropper ’85
The fact that I have a Religious Studies degree from Occidental has had nothing to do with what I have done since Oxy. And everything. I started out majoring in English and over the course of several years gravitated toward several incredibly interesting courses from Axel Steuer and Dale Wright, among others. During my junior year one of the professors approached me and said something to the effect of: “You have taken all of these classes in your first three years at Oxy without majoring in RS, if you would just take one more and write a senior thesis you can have a double major.” Which I did, and have never regretted it. Immediately after Occidental, I wanted to work in the real estate business and needed to make some money so I got a position in the lender training program for Union Bank. After several years in real estate lending I left the banking business to become a real estate developer and am now a partner at TMG Partners in San Francisco. That I have a degree in English and Religious Studies is a significant source of curiosity and wonder with my peers. Many of them have an MBA and/or strong undergraduate degrees in the typical business track- Finance, Econ, Accounting and Real Estate.
My RS classes did prepare me for the debates, challenges, and joys of having three challenging, thoughtful, questioning children of faith. They also taught me a cultural sensitivity and imbued in me a curiosity that keeps me researching my own faith and that of others.
Coming full circle, my eldest son Brian attended and graduated from Occidental in May 2013. While he changed majors many times, and spent quite a bit of time in the Diplomacy and World Affairs track, he ultimately dropped that path of study and decided to focus on Religious Studies at Oxy. He took a summer off to learn Arabic in Monterey and then spent a semester abroad at the University of Amman in Jordan. He truly valued his time with Professors Naylor, Upson-Saia and Wright (in the smallest of Oxy small worlds, Dr Wright was academic advisor to both me and my son) and is headed to Harvard Divinity School in August 2014 to pursue a Masters of Theological Studies degree.
Gregory P. Mitrovich ’85
I graduated from Oxy in 1985 with a double major in Political Science and Religious Studies. I then traveled to the UK where I completed a Master degree in Russian and East European Area Studies from the University of London, where I focused on the implications of Gorbachev’s Glasnost reforms on U.S.-Soviet security relations. I then completed a Ph.D. in International Relations at USC after which I moved to NYC where I revised my dissertation and published my book “Undermining the Kremlin” with Cornell University Press. My book received the Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize for outstanding book in Diplomatic History by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. I then spent three years at Harvard University as a Research Fellow at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and at the International Security Program at the Kennedy School of Government. I then returned to California to accept a post-doctoral appointment at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. While at Stanford I took part in a project directed by Secretary of State George Shultz entitled “Communicating with the World of Islam” which sought to draw lessons from the Cold War to improve public diplomacy towards the Islamic World. Currently, I am a Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies at Columbia University where I am completing a book on the effectiveness of U.S. public diplomacy from 1940-1950 (i.e., the birth of the American Century) and I am about to start on a second book examining the occupation of Germany after World War II (reviewing it in view of Iraq). While my professional career builds upon my Political Science degree, unquestionably I credit my training in Religious Studies, particularly my course work on the philosophical tradition within Religious Studies, with teaching me to look at issues with a different perspective than what one would get from a traditional political science approach. I am known as a contrarian in my work, always challenging fundamental assumptions about long held truths. That is something I thank the Religious Studies department at Occidental for helping me to develop.
Kristianne K. Rogalsky ’85
Since graduating from Oxy I have focused mainly on raising a family. Immediately after graduation I worked for a year in a group home and then for another school year as a substitute teacher. I married in 86, had a son in 87, stayed home with him and taught childbirth education classes. In 93 we moved to Spokane WA for a year and then in 94 we moved to Richland WA. In 95 we had a daughter. I home schooled my son through 5th grade and he is now a junior at Seattle University as a Chemistry major. My daughter is in 7th grade and I am still home schooling her. Other than home schooling, I volunteer a lot at our church, and as a soccer team manager, and serve on a local pool board etc.
Susan F. Sprowls ’85
After Oxy, I took some time to discern what career path was appropriate. After two deadly years at a pension consulting firm, during which I did extensive volunteer work with AIDS Project Los Angeles and NCCJ’s Interfaith Dialogue Program, I spent a year working at First Lutheran Church, Glendale before accepting a position at Lutheran Social Services of Southern California (LSS/SC). Over time, that evolved from an administrative position to work in development, publications and public relations not only for LSS/SC but also for its sister organization, California Lutheran Homes and Community Services and their umbrella organization, The Paragon Foundation. During these years, I became increasingly convinced that I needed to explore ordained ministry. While active at All Saints (Episcopal) in Pasadena – and blessed abundantly by its ministries – I found myself more at home in the culture of the ELCA and so entered candidacy through what is now the Southwest California Synod. I earned my M.Div., summa cum laude, from Yale Divinity School in 1995. In 95/96, I completed an internship at Lord of Light Lutheran Church/Lutheran Campus Ministry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1997, I was granted one of the first Certificates in Lutheran Studies by Berkeley (Episcopal) Divinity School at Yale. After completing my ordination requirements, I accepted my first call as Associate Pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, Phoenix, AZ (1998-2005). In 2005, I was called as Campus Pastor at Lord of Light/Lutheran Campus Ministry, Ann Arbor. (Déjà vu all over again!) I describe our students as the cream of the crop among “the leaders and best.” They are a joy, have real hearts for service and wrestle earnestly with what it means to live out their faith in their various vocations. This position has allowed me to travel a bit (spring break work trips to New Orleans, Biloxi, Port Arthur and Louisville), to participate in reviews of other campus ministry programs (in exotic places like St.Cloud, MN!), to lend my voice to Churches for Middle East Peace Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill and to accompany our Bishop, John Schreiber, of blessed memory, on his first trip to our companion synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. I’ll be leading a student trip there in February, 2009. Earlier this year, I began a three-year continuing education program called Women Touched by Grace; it’s part of the Lilly Foundation’s “Sustaining Pastoral Excellence” initiative and is proving to be a wonderful opportunity for spiritual and professional growth. In addition, I’m currently serving on the Southeast Michigan Synod Council, the Synod Discipline Committee, the Executive Committee of the Association of Religious Counselors at the University of Michigan and will be a voting member to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. In the personal realm, my call to Phoenix allowed me to care for my grandmother and mother who died in August, 1998 and July, 1999, of congestive heart failure and metastatic colon cancer, respectively. My current ministry team includes Barry (who has learned to answer to Barack), age 6 and Eli, age 2 1/2, both blond cocker spaniels. They are a delight – especially to our students who miss their own pets while away at school. (Eli has his own running club.) I continue to enjoy photography, travel and writing as time permits. I worked on the Obama campaign this fall and was delighted to have a chance to see our President-Elect in person during a visit to the Detroit area.
Michon M. Matthiesen ’84
After graduating from Oxy (1984) with a double major in Religious Studies and English Literature, I went to the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and earned a MA in their Religion and Literature program. After Chicago, I did doctoral coursework in Theology and Literature at Notre Dame, but left before completing the degree, needing to discern whether or not I was being called to the religious life. Some seven years later, after parish work and a second career as an assistant winemaker in No. California (which I relished), I returned to academics, first completing a S.T.L (Licentiate in Sacred Theology) at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, and then going on to a Ph.D program in Systematic Theology at Boston College. I am now Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at St Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, CA. I primarily teach Liturgy and Sacramental Theology, with strong research interests in philosophical theology, and Catholic spirituality and fiction. Oddly enough, what I discovered at Oxy – a love of Thomas Aquinas (thanks to Dr Axel Steuer) and passion for literature – remains quite dominant upon my intellectual landscape. I live with my 7-yr old Standard Poodle, the perfect professor’s companion, in a bucolic area of Atherton.
Lori A. Adelmann ’83
I graduated twenty five years ago and remember fondly the Religious Studies Department at Oxy. I worked in the office for Axel Steuer, JoAnn Hackett and Dale Wright. Dale was a new professor at Oxy during my sophomore (or maybe freshman year). I even babysat his son, Brendan (?) when his wife was pregnant with their daughter (?). The memory is somewhat fuzzy, I admit. Although I went to graduate school in religion, I have not specifically used my religious studies degree. While at Emory University I met and married Russell Sisson. (Russ is now a college professor, teaching at a small United Methodist College in southeastern Kentucky.) Almost three years after we were married, our son, Max, was born. Max is now a junior at Union College studying history and planning a career in education. When Max was five years old I went back to school and earned my degree in Nursing at the University of Tennessee. Then later earned my masters degree at the University of Kentucky. Today I am a Nurse Practitioner working with a group of three OB/GYNs in rural Kentucky. I love my job and feel that I have found my calling working with women, young and old, rich and poor, in improving their health and affecting their healthcare decisions. I rarely use my religious studies degree directly, however, not a day goes by that I don’t realize that the foundation of my nursing education was my education at Oxy. I learned to think critically while at Oxy; I learned to appreciate and begin to understand differing views, religions, and cultures. I became much more tolerant because of the subjects I studied, the books I read, the people I met and the professors who shared their knowledge and experience. Truly, it is what I cherish the most about my education.
Lisa B. Johnson ’83
It was my first Buddhism class with Prof Wright that convinced me to change from an English to a Religious Studies major. Upon graduation, however, I was not sure what I wanted to do or what doors my degree might open for me. The only thing I was sure of was that I did not want to teach. Twenty years, and several careers later, I am an incredibly enthusiastic and content elementary school teacher. So much for my youthful certainty. Upon graduation I worked as an art rep, an office manager, and a copywriter. For about fifteen years my husband and I owned our own design firm and specialized in product development for educational, giftware, toy, and housewares companies. I developed many copywriting contacts that I still enjoy today. However, the dot.com downturn affected our business and when my husband went to work as a creative director for a large apparel/licensing company, and my own children were entering middle school, I decided to go back to school for a teaching credential. I completed my masters in Curriculum Development several years ago and I have worked in the Palos Verdes Unified School District as both a teacher and a writing consultant for about eight years. I have two sons, now a junior and a freshman in college, and we live a very rural lifestyle in Rolling Hills Estates. Wtih four miniature donkeys, chickens, ducks, cats, a dog, and a turtle, we are either crazy, or misplaced farmers. My sons are both musicians and enjoy the access to the entertainment industry while my husband and I try to pretend we live in the country…I’d say we have the best of both worlds. I look back on my Oxy experience as life changing. It was there that I developed a passion for cultural studies, philosophy, and religious inspiration and experience. Combined with my husband’s interest in antiquities, native cultures and primitive art, it has led to a life of shared passion and interest. It has also enabled me to hold my own in numerous religious debates with my own children, who also have expressed an interest in pursuing religious studies. It was my experience at Occidental that opened my eyes to the world around me and this was a gift beyond measure. It took awhile to find my own passion, and it was where I was sure it would not be, but education has proven to be a lifelong quest. As for specific Oxy memories, I am sure I am not alone in the class of ’83 in racking my brain for memories of Obama encounters. In this endeavor, as in so many others, I wish I had been paying closer attention.
I would love to hear about the experiences of other Religious Studies majors as I believe our individual journeys have probably been both varied and unpredictable.
Linda K. Ward ’83
Education has held a central place in my life. Began reading at age five and at age fifty five my book reading count is well over five thousand twice. My religious studies has followed parallel with my health science career. The world history of science and its philosophy has followed parallel with the history of religion and its theology. Even today none of us can escape the contrasts, the debate, the politics of religion and the advancement of science. We must adapt and so had I. My health career has now come to an end, am now starting a Masters in Education to do what I love to do most, teach.
Rev. Hilda G. Pecoraro ’82
I graduated from Oxy in 1982 with a double major in Psychology and Religious Studies. Learning to study, write, question and think at Oxy came in handy as I did my graduate study at Princeton Theological Seminary. I graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1987 with a Master of Divinity degree and a Pastoral Care emphasis. I was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1987 and began serving a small congregation in Las Vegas, Nevada. I served as pastor and head of staff of this same congregation until early 2005. In those years, we grew from about 70 members to over 700 members. We purchased land in a growing part of town, built a lovely facility and provided many exciting opportunities for mission, fellowship, worship and education. After almost 18 years as pastor of Green Valley Presbyterian Church, I resigned in January 2005 to pursue a different type of ministry. My husband and I traveled the country for a year in our motor home and then I did a year-long Clinical Pastoral Education residency at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We then returned to Henderson, Nevada and I have been working for the St. Rose Dominican Hospitals for nearly two years as a full-time Board Certified Chaplain. In addition to my chaplaincy work, I keep busy with preaching as needed around the community and assisting congregations in the area that are in transition. My Oxy education – both formal in the classroom and informal in organizations like Oxy Christian Fellowship – has served me well over the years! I am looking forward to hearing from fellow Oxy grads.
Julia McDermott ‘81
I teach in the department of Communication Studies at Santa Rosa Junior College, and I do freelance editing for several authors of popular fiction. I've lived in Sonoma County since 2002, with my partner Rob, whom I met through the Oxy Abroad program back in 1979-80. I did my graduate work at The Ohio State University and Indiana University. I have four adult children: Kate is an actress in Chicago, Kevin is a theatre technician, Tess is studying environmental science at Humboldt State University, focusing on climate change, and Alex is also in college, majoring in psychology. I have one grandson, Gavin Douglas McDermott, who is an absolute joy. I'm active in progressive politics, particularly on women's issues and other issues of equality. Rob and I travel annually to the United Kingdom and several times a year to Chicago for theatre, and we enjoy wineries, micro-breweries and fine restaurants locally, on the Central Coast, and wherever else we travel.
Laurie S. Chatham '80
I was a Psychology major at Oxy with a Religious Studies minor. I graduated in 1986 from U.S.C. with a master’s degree in Social Work and a master’s degree in Public Administration. I worked with abused adolescent females for three years prior to attending graduate school and then worked as a Social Worker in adoptions for several years, obtaining my license in clinical social work (L.C.S.W.) in 1990. I married Kailim Toy (Princeton, Class of 1976) in 1989. I didn't change my name when I married. After having two children, Leslie and Alex (class of 2014, geology major), I became a full time "stay at home" mom. About the time my children were attending college (Leslie attended CAL Berekely, class of 2012), my parents were having health issues. I supervised the care of my parents (Trudy Stratton Chatham, class of 1945) and Robert Chatham (retired Ford Phillco senior engineer) for the last five years until their deaths. Presently, I am currently working in our family property management business. My husband has taught history for 37 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and will retire in 3 years. At that time, we hope to travel more! We did make it to New Zealand in March to visit Alex while he studied in Dunedin through Oxy's travel abroad program.
Mark C. Christian ’80
Since graduation, I used my Religious Studies degree to enter into a three year Masters program at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, CA. Upon graduation from SFTS, I was ordained as a Presbyterian Pastor, and worked in Children/Youth ministry at Church of the Roses in Santa Rosa. I left there in 1988 and moved to Long Beach where I worked in a church doing Youth Ministry and overseeing the Evangelism and Fellowship ministries. These were interesting years as I actually ended up the only pastor in a large church due to the death of the Sr. Pastor. So, with all this experience, I finally accepted a call to start a new church in Madera. For 5 plus years I built a church from “scratch,” and loved the entire experience. It was amazing how quickly the church grew and how many people were drawn to Christ through this ministry. Unfortunately I also burned out from the load. From there, I ended up working in sales at a Sign Company in Atwater. It wasn’t long before I was managing the business. But, I missed feeling like I was making a difference in people’s lives, so I got my teaching credential and worked in education (Middle School). Now, I’m still in education, but working as a Sales Rep for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt School Publishers and living in Pleasanton, CA. I’ve been blessed with two wonderful children (22 and 19) a terrific step daughter (20), and a beautiful wife, Kelly. Following in the steps of my mother (Class of ’56) and my grandfather (another Oxy alum), I loved my years at Oxy!
David R. Fletcher '80
We just moved back to Southern California after an absence of 33 years! While at Oxy, I took tons of Greek courses at Fuller. Then to seminary in Dallas and ministry in one church there for 25 years. We spent 4 years in Austin and 4 years in Ohio, again in church ministry. I'm a practitioner in very large churches--and loving it. Along the way I have taught in the D.Min. program at Dallas Seminary, Masters at TEDS and inaugurated a D.Min. program at ETS India--and I'm just in the phase of handing it off to an Indian national. Tami and I started a website ten years ago for Executive Pastors, www.XPastor.org<http://www.XPastor.org>. To our great surprise, it receives hundreds of thousands of visits each year. This "after hours" endeavor keeps me off the streets and gives a great deal of free information to church leaders, as well as presents seminars, workshops and a Certification Program in Church Operations, Ministry Strategy and Executive Function. In our new micro publishing house, www.XPPress.org<http://www.XPPress.org>, I'm releasing two books this year, my own on People Patterns (www.5macro.com<http://www.5macro.com>) and an edited work on Crisis Leadership. Oxy "taught me how to think" and helped empower me to be a spiritual entrepreneur. Wahooo!
Rev. Kathleen L. Puntar ’80
In June, 2009, I will celebrate 25 years of ministry as an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church! After graduation from Occidental College, I received my Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. I have served United Methodist Churches throughout Southern California, including Wrightwood, Big Bear Lake and currently as the senior pastor of the Yorba Linda United Methodist Church. I thank God for the academic education and wonderful experiences I had at Occidental! It was in the Chapel where my call to the ordained ministry was confirmed. My husband, Tony Puntar, and I have two daughters — now young adults and pursuing their dreams and career aspirations in college.
Rev. R. Blake Withers ’80
I am the senior pastor of Las Brisas Bible Fellowship in Murrieta, CA. My family is a part of the church planting team that started the church 20 years ago in July. We are actively involved in ministries in the nation of Panama. My graduate degree is a Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. That degree was conferred in 1989. I am married to Laurie Withers for 20 years (in May 2009), and we have three children (16, 14, 13). We live in Wildomar, CA
Rev. Samuel G. Candler ‘78
I loved my time in the Religious Studies Department at Occidental. During my time, my close professors were Axel Steuer, Michael Taylor, Keith Beebe, and the gentle sage, Franklyn Josselyn. This was after I had already spent a good deal of time in the music program at Occidental, studying with Richard Grayson; I had intended to major in that area. Axel and Doug the chaplain helped me go to Yale Divinity School. Since then, I have become a priest in the Episcopal Church. I served parishes in South Carolina and Georgia. I am now the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip, in Atlanta, Georgia. The place is rocking. I still play piano a lot. Come see us.
Rev. Dr. Daniel M. Saperstein ’78
After Oxy, I attended seminary, first at Fuller and then at Princeton, where I received my M.Div. in 1983. I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served churches in Boise, Idaho; West Valley City, Utah; and Pullman, Washington before beginning my current service as Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Plains and Peaks, based in Greeley, Colorado, in 2004. An “E.P.” has all the responsibility of a bishop, only without any authority. I serve 42 congregations with 10,000 members over a 32,000 square mile region in northeastern Colorado and the Nebraska panhandle. I completed a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in 2006 (where Cynthia Campbell ’70 is president). I have gained a reputation in the Presbyterian Church as an authority in church polity, having served on the “Supreme Court” of the Presbyterian Church and now on the denomination’s Advisory Committee on the Constitution. I have just been awarded a Louisville Institute Sabbatical Grant and will be following in the footsteps of Calvin and Knox next summer during the quincentenary celebration of Calvin’s birth. One of my favorite Oxy anecdotes is that I can lay claim (albeit tenuously and briefly) to having been Barack Obama’s “pastor” when, during the Spring term of 1981, I was Acting Chaplain in Herrick Chapel. I don’t recall that he ever attended chapel then (or at any time during his Oxy years), but after the Jeremiah Wright videos hit the airwaves during the primaries, I was nevertheless grateful none of my sermons were videotaped! Best to the whole Oxy Religious Studies community!
Rabbi Misha E. Zinkow ’78
After I graduated from Occidental in 1978, I spent two years in Israel and then entered rabbinic school. I was ordained as a rabbi in 1985, so I am approaching a quarter-century in the rabbinate. I am currently the rabbi of a 600-household synagogue in Columbus, Ohio, where my wife Elka Abrahamson and I live with the youngest of our four children, a junior at Columbus School for Girls. We have three older children, two boys: one lives in Chicago, one in St. Paul, Minnesota, and another daughter who is a freshman at Yale. The classes I took in the Religious Studies Department obviously had something to do with my professional choice, but I did not choose the rabbinate until I had spent that time in Israel. Since there was only one Jewish studies class at Oxy in the late ’70s, my professors in Christianity and Buddhism had a lot of influence on my spiritual development. I have always been indebted to them for the wonderful career I entered and still enjoy.
Erlaine F. Bello-Trombetta '77
I was so inspired by the teaching dynamos of their time Drs. Keith Beebe and Franklin Josselyn who specialized in Biblical literature and Asian religions, respectively, I added Religious Studies to Biochemistry after I realized I had taken enough Religious Studies classes to have a second major. I still have vivid memories of Dr. Josselyn pacing in the front of the room verbally painting a picture of the Buddhist drop of brine analogy – I was hooked! Also, I was part of the search committee that would bring Dr. Axel Steuer with whom I did an independent study in my senior year in Bioethics which back then was in its childhood days. After graduating, I returned home to Hawaii to attend medical school at the University of Hawaii. I stayed for a Flexible internship then finished a Primary Care Internal medicine residency. I worked a year for the Department of Medicine doing patient care and teaching medical students. Afterwards, I headed back to California to do a two year Infectious Diseases fellowship at Harbor –UCLA Medical Center. Since then, I have been living in Honolulu , doing part time private practice in Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine as well as continuing to work for the John A Burns School of Medicine as Associate Chair for Graduate Medical Education, Associate Professor in the Dept of Medicine. I also serve as the Hospital epidemiologist for The Queen’s Medical Center. I am currently in my ninth year as Program Director for the University of Hawaii Internal Medicine Residency Program and hope that I will be able to pass this baton to a successor next year. Currently, I am also enrolled in a Masters of Clinical Research program which I hope to finish this fall. On the personal side, I am married with a fourteen year old daughter and a two year old-Bishon-Pomeranian bundle of canine energy. In my spare time, I do Project Life Scrapbooking, try to solve the slug problem in my vegetable garden, read anything non-medical, especially cookbooks, listen to Glen Beck on The Blaze and do laundry.
Carla L. Mortensen '76
Like many in my cohort, I really enjoyed my time in the Religious Studies Department, studying primarily with Franklyn Josselyn (and serving as his teaching assistant my senior year) and pursuing an independent pattern of study that included political theory with Arpad Kadarkay. During my time at Oxy I also sang in the Glee Club with Hal Gibbons and played in Richard Grayson’s Renaissance Music ensemble. (Candor requires that I, with some fellow miscreants, toured the infamous steam tunnels as well….shhhhhh!) After graduation I attended Harvard Divinity School along with fellow majors Lindsay Harlan and David Powers, but my path led neither to formal academics nor ordination. Instead, armed with three master’s degrees I have been at various times a Foreign Service Officer, a career counselor, a paralegal, an information technology consultant, and am now an ESL instructor at Portland State University. During the 2012-13 academic year I was a Department of State English Language Fellow at Shota Rustaveli State University in Batumi, Georgia (the one next to Armenia, not the one next to Alabama).
Deborah H. Lynes ‘73
After Oxy I went on to graduate study in Japanese studies at Michigan but switched to Linguistics in the end. After grad school, I became a book editor with various academic publishers--general humanities training is useful for some things!
Chris Norby '72
I'm working as an independent land use consultant, after 28 years as an elected official (18 yrs Fullerton City Council, 7 yrs. Orange County Board of Supervisors, 3 yrs California State Assembly). My son Alex graduated from USC last year, I've got 3 stepkids still in school and our Little Johnny who just turned 2! I'm an old dad, but healthy enough to at least see him graduate from Oxy in 2033!
I'm in Fullerton and would love to hear from any alums: 714-990-2064.
William J. Phillips, '70
I graduated Oxy in 1970 as a Rel. Studies major. Dr. Frank Josselyn was a mentor and I was privileged to see him at an Oxy reunion a few years ago.
After Oxy I went to Union Seminary in NYC where I studied for 2 years, but then decided to switch career paths, and completed med school prerequisites across the street at Columbia University. Union holds a special place in my heart since they helped me by allowing me to reside at Union while studying at Columbia, and gave me a job to make my transition possible. After going to med school at Hahnemann Med College in Philly, I went back to NYC to do my residency and fellowship in Cardiology. I am currently the Director of Cardiology at the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, ME. I have 2 wonderful young adult children, looking for their career roles as I did after Oxy, and a cordial relationship with my ex-wife, Pat. I've been back to Oxy for a few reunions over the years, and am pleased the college is doing well and still looks great. My kids, however, decided to go to schools closer to home... Wheaton (MA) and UVM (VT).
One of my good friends and former Oxy Junior year roommate, Ralph Kuncl, recently made me proud by being appointed President of an Oxy rival... Redlands!
All the best to the other Rel. Studies alums.
Rev. Ann E. Mills '69
After a stint in public radio (KUSC-FM), I worked for the Executive of the Presbyterian Synod of Southern California and Hawaii. Then I earned a Masters of Divinity degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary while helping to found Angel Interfaith Network (now celebrating its 25th year), a broad-based network of faith groups, individuals and businesses, providing material support and spiritual care to patients referred by Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, following discharge. I was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 2000. I live in Pasadena with my husband, John. We have four children and five grandchildren.
Rev. Jerald Marvin Stinson '69
After being expelled from Oxy in the last quarter of my senior year for helping lead an obstructive demonstration against the war in Vietnam, I was still able to go on to the Divinity School at Harvard without an undergraduate degree. After jumping through some hoops including writing a paper about why I was a bad boy to demonstrate, I eventually got my Oxy degree, backdated to 1969. I was ordained in the United Church of Christ and just retired after 40 years of ministry. I served three American congregations plus I spent four years in Botswana serving with the United Church Board for World Ministries. The last 12 years of my ministry were spent as Senior Minister of the First Congregational Church of Long Beach. My theology has always been very liberal and I am an Associate Fellow of the Westar Institute (Jesus Seminar). I am a social activist and in retirement I am active with Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and the Christian-Muslim Consultation. I am also on the board of the Southern California ACLU and chair the Advisory Board for the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition.
Duncan Murray '67
I graduated from San Anselmo in 1970 and briefly served a church in Florida. It became apparent that this line of work was not for me. I joined Walt Disney Educational Media as a salesperson in 1972 and became National Sales Manager in 1975. In 1985 I helped start The Disney Channel, which debuted in 1986. I became Director of Sales and then VP, Sales Administration. I left Disney in 1986 to help start a public company, J2 Communications, that produced and distributed home videos. There I was VP, Marketing & Sales. In 1994 I became an independent consultant in Direct Response Television, with clients in the US, the UK and Australia. I retired in 2004 and now live in Eugene, OR with my wife, dog and parakeet. I am very active in my church and in politics at the county and state level.
Lynn Ross-Bryant '66
I graduated from Oxy in 1966 (Carol Lynn Ross), received by my Ph.D. in religious studies at the University of Chicago in 1973 and taught at California State University, Chico; University of Southern California; and retired from University of Colorado, Boulder in 2010. My focus was on religion and culture and I published books on Theodore Roethke: Poetry of the Earth, Poet of the Spirit, Imagination and the Life of the Spirit, and just last year, Pilgrimage to the National Parks: Religion and Nature in the United States. In the early ‘80s I taught part time at Oxy and taught my first course in American religions. That was an area I later specialized in at Colorado and there was a dramatic difference between my first class (which focused on Protestant America) and the classes I taught in this century which covered world religions in the United States. How my perspective changed! My husband and I have retired to Steamboat Springs Colorado where our son lives and where we enjoy skiing, snow shoeing and hiking.
Rev. Diana J. Augspurger '65
I graduated from Oxy in 1965 with a religion major, then went on to Union Theological Seminary in New York City where I received a B.D. (now they call it an M.Div.) in 1968. Then I served 43 years in local church ministry in the United Church of Christ. I retired in 2011 and am thoroughly enjoying having weekends and more freedom.
Guy M. Bennett '64
I studied New Testament at Goettingen and Harvard, but left graduate school before earning an advanced degree. It was taking too many years to master the ancient languages necessary for good biblical study, and the growing family needed some income. I went on to a career in business and managed a prominent general counsel’s office and three of the largest law firms in the U.S. as a non-lawyer executive director. I can reconcile religion with law and justice, but please do not ask me how to reconcile religion with the practice of corporate law. At any rate, I am a Mormon, and one does not retire from the lay ministry. Linda and I served a two-year mission at the Mormon family history center in Salt Lake City in 2008-2009, and since then I have coordinated member activation and outreach work for my local church congregation. I have also volunteered with the boy scouts in many states and served as the council advancement and training chairs here in Seattle for twenty years.
Sandra A. Finstuen '63
I graduated from Oxy in 1963 with a major in Religious Education. I had been under care of the Presbytery of Los Angeles and had been offered a Lane Foundation grant to attend seminary, but my formal education in Religious Studies ended up being put to use as a church layperson. My lay ministry has included serving as a Presbyterian Elder, Chairperson of Worship, Christian Education and Personnel Committees, Chairperson of staff selection committees, Bible study leader, and a member of the Los Ranchos Presbytery Committee on Ministry. Singing in the college choir under Dr. Swan was wonderful preparation for singing in our church choir with my husband for 51 years and playing in our handbell choir. I will be forever grateful for Oxy religion professors like Franklyn Josselyn, Sylvia Lake, and Keith Beebe who helped me to question, learn and grow in my faith. Professionally, I became a teacher in the public schools, earning teaching credentials in Elementary Education, Adult Education and as a Reading Specialist. I retired in 2000 after 29 years as a faculty member, department chairperson, Academic Senate chairperson, and Curriculum Committee chairperson at Long Beach City College. I had the great joy of teaching many hard-working and motivated students over the years, some of whom became teachers themselves. Now my husband and I especially enjoy times with the families of our 3 children with our 6 grandchildren.
Dianne S. Bodeen '62
I was not a Religious Studies major when I was at Oxy, but Dr. Beebe created an independent pattern of study to accommodate my interests in music, world affairs (I went to Ghana on the 2nd Crossroads Africa project) and religion. While I have good memories of Drs. Josselyn and Beebe, I do regret that I didn’t take a world religions course. But after Oxy I crossed the continent (rather a big thing in those days) to Union Seminary in NYC, where I spent a year before receiving an appointment with USIA as a Foreign Service Officer (a tribute to a very general Oxy education!). While in my first post, I met a Methodist short-termer (ironically, without seminary training), and we married a year later in the US (no married women allowed in the F.S. in those days). After a really interesting number of years in a mostly black Presbyterian church in St. Louis, my husband joined the Foreign Service, and we began 27 years with USIA, mostly abroad. In the meantime, I had earned an M.M. in choral conducting at Washington U. and we had acquired two children. Our years overseas provided some wonderful church experiences, and a number of years of total frustration. Our church home in DC while on home leave, Presbyterian USA, has become our home church on retirement, and we are both regularly involved there. A 2-year final assignment in NYC found us at Christ Church Methodist, where not only the pastor, but his wife and two other women were also Oxy grads! I also audited a Christian Ethics course at Union. I’m not surprised to see few pastors come out of the current crops of Religious Studies majors... a reflection not least of the increasing secularization of our society, as well as an expanded sense of ministry. I think we are learning to be a counter-cultural force, however weak, in a society that probably needs some kind of a witness pretty badly at this point in time. We have no patience with the fundamentalist mindset which denies climate change, fights homosexual rights, misunderstands most of Islam, and wants to keep gay boys out of scouts! We find some of the best pastors are women seeking a second career, and we are more than pleased with our progressive pastor. So, no regrets, although I could have taken a more rigorous course of studies at Oxy. I continue to be interested in theological questions as a church-going agnostic (I really do believe in the church as community), I continue to find Jesus a commanding figure, and I’m pleased both of my adult children find church one of the communities they want to be part of, along with their children. I appreciate Presbyterianism and the battles it continues to fight, opting for inclusion and as much independence as an interdependent denomination can handle.
William E. Paden '61
I retired 3 years ago from the University of Vermont, where I was chair of the Religion Dept. for many years, coming here after doing my graduate work at Clarement.
Linda P. Utschig '61
I'm very grateful for the opportunity to attend Occidental, made possible by an alumni scholarship and a California state scholarship. I was the first in my family to graduate from, or even to attend, college. My parents came from farming families. My father was a foreman in heavy construction. Occidental was a wonderful mind-expanding, thought-provoking experience that I will always cherish. I came basically seeking a liberal arts education. I was an active Presbyterian who was intrigued by those "where did I come from, why am I here" kinds of questions. I felt I would find some answers in the study of religion and philosophy. I was also interested in a broad range of other subjects. Dr. H. Keith Beebe was my advisor. His Old Testament scholarship was an eye-opening experience, as was Dr. Silva Lake's studies of the Apostolic fathers. Philosophy, while useful, did not seem to provide definitive answers. I worked part-time in the college library most of the time I was at the college. I married two weeks after graduation. We traveled to Gainesville, Florida, where I worked in the University library while my husband was in graduate school. Then we went to Newport, Rhode Island, where he completed Navy Officers Candidate School. Then we went to Long Beach, California, where I worked as a social worker for Los Angeles County while he served on one of the destroyers that was involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 1964. When our son was a new baby we traveled to Washington, D.C. where for two years my husband completed his Navy obligation. We then returned to California and were living in Pacifica when our daughter was born. I was active in the League of Women Voters. A few years later when I became a single parent, I completed a master's degree in Library Science at San Jose State, intending to work in a public library. But since those jobs were scarce, I took a job setting up and operating a software development library for Amdahl Corporation. Just before I finished my master’s degree, something happened which dramatically changed the course of my life: I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After many years of agnosticism I was quite surprised to find answers to old questions and much more. A year later I remarried and had three more children, the last when I was 43 years of age. My husband and I have served in many different callings in the church, including as ordinance workers in the Oakland Temple. The LDS church is a volunteer church with a lay ministry: no one is paid monetarily for their service in the spiritual work of the church. Everyone earns their living some other way. In recent years I have volunteered at the Santa Clara Family History Center, a branch of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, helping with the cataloging, and assisting in the creation of an on-line union catalog of all the Family History Centers in the Bay Area. I've done extensive family history research, particularly in Norwegian church records going back to the 1700s, available on microfilm from the Family History Library or digitally on-line, and have traced my ancestors and their families as far back as seven generations on their various farms. I hope to be able to write the history of our family, especially of my parents' 77-year journey together, to hand down to our posterity.
Rev. Margaret O. Thomas '54
Although I am not an Oxy religious studies alum, I did take a religion course from Dr. Sylva Lake, but there was no "religious studies" at the time. By 1955, I found myself in a Presbyterian seminary as an M.A. student, before the days when women were even ordained to the ministry; I later went back for additional studies and became a Presbyterian minister. What helped keep me in the church through college was the Student Church rather than academic religious studies.
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