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
Rob Riccardi is in the graduate program studying the Eastern Classics at St. John's college in Santa Fe, NM. More info: http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/GI/EC/EC.shtml
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Steven Barrie-Anthony ‘04
Steven is in 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.
Alani R. Price ’04
The fall after graduating from Occidental, I travelled to Nepal on a Fulbright US Student Fellowship to perform ethnographic research on Hindu post-birth rituals and women’s lives in the Kathmandu Valley. I lived in several different Nepalese villages and made life-long friends and family while gaining a deeper understanding of Nepali language and culture. Upon returning to the US, I spent a year and a half working as a receptionist and deciding my next step. Based on my experiences in Nepal, I decided to pursue an interest in women’s health by enrolling in UCLA’s School of Public Health in the Department of Community Health Sciences. For me, this program melds 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. For classes, topics I have researched in the context of South Asia include maternal mortality, maternal morbidities such as uterine prolapse, traditional birth practices, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and sex trafficking and HIV. I believe all health fields need more professionals with an understanding of religious and cultural factors and contexts. 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. Among various other activities, I attended and contributed to the third National AIDS Conference in Kathmandu, edited and wrote standard operating procedures for positive prevention programs, and performed an on-site organizational capacity analysis and needs assessment of an FHI implementing agency, a local NGO working with the drug-using population. In my second and final year at UCLA earning the Master of Public Health, I have been active in inviting speakers to UCLA through the Reproductive Health Interest Group, as well as phone-banking in the previous election, and offering commentary at a public hearing about reproductive safety in the adult film industry here in Los Angeles. I am excited and confident to move forward and begin my career after graduating in June 2009.
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
Since graduating from Oxy, I took a couple years off to travel. I lived and worked in Maui for part of the year, and spent the rest of the year traveling. Most of my time was spent in Nicaragua, where I did my study abroad at Oxy. Having the time to do what I wanted while there really helped me in developing my spanish language skills and my understanding of the culture. I am now back on Maui and I have returned to school. I am currently striving towards becoming a registered nurse. I am finishing prerequisites, and I will be entering the nursing program at Maui Community College in the Fall. I look back on my time in the Religious Studies Department at Oxy with fond memories and I hope everyone is still learning and loving life.
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
Since graduating from Oxy, I pursued a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena with the idea being that it would prepare me for teaching on the collegiate level. After graduating from Fuller in 2003 I pursued another degree from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. The degree was a Master of Arts in Biblical Languages (MABL) and the program was/is designed to prepare students for PhD studies. I graduated from the GTU in 2005 and moved to Scotland where I pursued a PhD in New Testament at the University of St. Andrews. I am currently writing my dissertation on the relationship between the genre of the gospels and their intended/implied audience. I lived in residence at St. Andrews for two years and moved back to Los Angeles in October of 2007. I have taught courses at Loyola Marymount University and Pepperdine University on the New Testament, the Gospels and Early Christianity. My plan is to submit my dissertation in August of 2009 and I will begin applying for teaching positions around the same time. Hopefully something pans out.
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.
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.
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 in the 13+ (has it really been that long?) years since I graduated: 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 three children to our family: Margalit Leora (7), Akiva Yosef (5), and Hadassah (Dassi) Lailey (1). 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 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 am currently an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands. I received my Ph.D. in American Religious History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003. I have written a book, Around the Family Altar: Domesticity in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1865-1900 (University Press of Florida, 2005) which examines nineteenth-century African American familial religious life in the home. I have written other articles and entries on varied aspects of African American religious history. My article on the evolving ethnic identities and beliefs of a religious community in Georgia, entitled, “The Final Frontier: Secrecy, Identity, and the Media in the Rise and Fall of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors”, was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion v 74, n 2 (June 2006): 302-323. I chair the steering committee of the Afro American Religious History Group of the American Academy of Religion. I am currently researching twentieth and twenty-first century black new religious movements for my next book project. I came to Oxy as an Econ major looking to enter the world of commercial finance and took Keith Naylor’s Religion in America class my sophomore year, got hooked on the study of religion, and soon changed my major to Religious Studies. One of the best decisions I have ever made. Thanks Keith!
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
After graduating from Oxy I worked in commercial radio for several years before returning for my master’s in Information Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I then worked for the Center of Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance as a digital information specialist before returning to the University of Hawaii to complete the PhD in an interdisciplinary program (Computer Science, Management Information Systems, Communications). I am now an Assistant Professor in the School of Communications, specializing in information and communication technology and policy in Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region. Although this may seem a far stretch from Religious Studies, I find that my Oxy major has helped me in many ways! In particular, the interdisciplinarity of the program and the way we focused on looking at phenomena from multiple angles (and breaking down artificial boundaries) has influenced my career path. Jim and I have been married for thirteen years, and he works for the Department of Defense (while studying for his second master’s degree with the intention of an early retirement and career change). We met in a bookstore (in the philosophy and religion section). My youngest brother (19 years) and sister (24 years) are also studying at Manoa.
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
After graduating from Occidental, I went on to get my MFA at Cornell University. Upon receiving my degree, I took the path most traveled and headed for New York City. In 1994-95, I attended the Whitney Program, an intensive year-long study program for artists, curators, and writers. I lived in New York for 6 years, working in nonprofit arts organizations before moving to Ireland in 2000. I’m now based in Dublin with my husband Gerard Byrne. He is an artist also and Head of the Time Based Media School at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, which means we spend some time there each month. For the past five years, alongside working as an artist and occasionally writing critical texts and publishing, I’ve taught a graduate seminar in Contemporary Arts Practices in Dublin. Last year, I began a PhD at Goldsmiths College at the University of London in the Visual Cultures Department. So our lives are now a bit more complicated and our time at home in Dublin more hectic. Luckily, the distances are not huge (although I probably can’t say the same for my carbon footprint). I enjoyed the honors of representing Ireland in the 2005 Venice Biennial and 2007 Moscow Biennial, as well as participating in various other exhibitions over the last six years in The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia, the US and UK. It seems that I’m writing for the Art Department’s newsletter and not Religious Studies; I was a double major. And although my career outwardly reflects one field more than the other, the complexity of thinking across different discourses in religious studies prepared me for the work of being an artist. In studying religion, I encountered questions that continue to occupy my art practice such as, How do we come to knowledge? Or, more simply, How do we know? Big questions, and I have yet to find answers. What I have found, is a way of thinking in art that exists in close dialogue with philosophy, and which is less about individual expression or truth, and more about gaps that undo the two.
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
After graduating from Occidental, I lived in Amsterdam for many years where I continued studying and worked as a musician in the music business. After returning to the United States in 2000, I began my current work as a legal recruiter for law firms around the world. Along with my work, I have been active in support of many political campaigns. Recently I devoted almost two years supporting the Obama/Biden campaign with a focus on fundraising and volunteering in various battleground states and my home state of the now Blue State of Virginia. In Charlottesville, VA I had the great opportunity to work in support of President Obama alongside Oxy students Emily Deans, Tessa D’Arcangelew, Nonda Hanneman, and recent graduate Sara ElAmine. They all made Oxy proud with their dedicated hard work in support of Obama/Biden. In close connection with my interest in politics, I am becoming more involved with environmental sustainability and innovation projects around the world. And when outside, I am busy growing edible fruit and nut trees in my back yard. This hobby began with a little citrus tree I grew in my dorm room at Oxy. My Oxy focus on Religious Studies has not had a direct or obvious impact on my work but I do refer often in my personal life (especially since the passing in 2004 of my sweet father Langdon Gilkey) to the diverse and timeless religious and secular works I read during my days at Oxy.
Always fun to make contact with fellow Oxy grads regardless of class year so I look forward to hearing from Oxy grads and especially those who are in the DC/VA area. And maybe some time I will make it out to Oxy and take a dip in the outdoor pool…
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, PhD ’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 am happy to report that I just earned tenure and fellow RS major and Oxy alum Debbie Symons and her sweet family were on hand to help celebrate (She even won the limbo contest!). I have done a lot of work exploring religion in Latin American and Religion and Immigration here in the States. Recently 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 and I am off to Sundance in January for the first time. I have been married to Narciso since 1997 and have two great kids: Aurora (3) and Dante (9). We live in OC and lots of time at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm.
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, Ph.D. ’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
After graduating in 1986, my first job was with Procter & Gamble as a salesperson in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. And I changed my degree to Religious Studies from Economics my freshman year! While there in Glendale from 1986-1988, I met my wife Julie at Glendale Presbyterian Church. We were married in May, 1989. That same year I started as a commercial real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Commercial, specializing in Industrial properties. After five years in the marketplace, I began working at a religious non profit called the Charles E. Fuller Institute for Evangelism & Church Growth (CEFI) as the National and International Sales Manager & Customer Service Manager. Julie and I started a church called Vision Christian Fellowship with friends in our South Pasadena apartment in 1990. At the same time we started at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA in the School of World Missions – Inter Cultural Studies Masters. The church grew fast and we decided to spend more time at the church than seminary at the strong recommendation of professors at Fuller. In 1992, I volunteered and then went full time with Global Harvest Ministries (GHM) with Dr. C. Peter Wagner. We mobilized prayer for the unevangelized in 10/40 Window. At GHM, which started the Wagner Institute for Practical Ministry I assisted Dr. Wagner with the following key initiatives over 7 years (1992-1999): National and Regional Conferences, seminars, a publishing company, an international accreditation association, an international leadership school (Wagner Leadership Institute), a bookstore (The Arsenal), an online sales company, the fundraising & building of the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, CO. When we moved to Colorado Springs in 1994 we started another church called Vision for the Nations Fellowship, a house church.
In 1999, my friends and I started a private investment & consulting company. On September 10, 2001 my partners and I started a humanitarian non governmental organization called Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG – can be found at www.hisg.org). The vision is to see reproducible, sustainable development solutions for the global poor. Last year, HISG with the support of donors (individuals and foundations) and the global network of national aid workers & humanitarian NGOs, it has helped the poor in 81 countries, has a network of 30+ warehouses, seven offices (London, Vancouver, Nairobi, Geneva, Singapore, Denver, New York), 40 staff and training programs in disaster response and community development. In another humanitarian innovation, we have also started a philanthropic venture fund that provides funding for mid sized companies in developing countries that create jobs for the poor. I reside in Colorado Springs, CO with Julie (20 years married) and five daughters – Brianna, Stacia, Alissa, Hana and Mikayla. We also have a residence in upstate New York.
David P. Cropper ’85
My RS major has had nothing to do with what I have done since Oxy. And everything. I have a double major in English Studies and Religous Studies. 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 there, I got into management at that Bank, and then went to manage the real estate function at Comerica Bank. In 1997 I left the banking business to become a real estate developer and am now a partner at TMG Partners in San Francisco. My college majors are a significant source of curiosity and wonder with my peers-all of them are Finance, Econ, and MBA students. I have three children in elementary and high school, and we are practicing Presbyterians. My RS classes did prepare me for the debates, challenges, and joys of having three challenging, thoughtful, questioning children of faith. I have talked with them often (especially my older son who is applying to Oxy this winter) about the classes I took from Dale Wright, Axel Steuer, and a great class called “Early Christian Life and Literature” taught by a professor whose name I do not now recall. In general, I fell into the RS major. 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.
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.
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!
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.
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