Jona Yadidi '21
I currently work at Stephen Wise Temple (one of the largest synagogues in Los Angeles) as their community engagement coordinator and my direct supervisor is another Oxy alumn! How fun it is.
Joscelyn Guzman '18
I now live in Sacramento, CA and work for a TRIO program called "Educational Talent Search" (ETS). I serve as an ETS Program Advisor at Grant Union High School and I support a caseload of 270 predominantly low-income, first-generation students. As an ETS Program Advisor, I help ETS students be successful in high school and beyond. I essentially am a college and career counselor to my students. I love my job, I love the city I live in, and I love life right now!
Miriam Hamburger '17
After graduation, I started an apprenticeship in the restoration department of the GRASSI Museum for Ethnology in Leipzig, Germany, where I was later hired to work full-time in the object depot of the museum. Since 2019, I've taken a provenance research position in the same museum, where I work with indigenous communities in Australia, Rapa Nui, and other areas to return ancestral remains which were taken in the colonial period. I'm also involved in various restitution cases concerning material and immaterial heritage. Alongside repatriation, I’m currently working towards an M.A. in Religious Studies at the University Leipzig.
Griffin Wynne '17
After graduating in 2017, I moved to Philadelphia to do PR for a small punk music label. I also worked at a bar, sold vintage clothes, taught art to kids, and worried a lot about capitalistic standards of success and being a failure with no "elite-sounding" career or research plans. (Ah, to be 22.) In 2018 I was hired as a staff writer for Bustle. I currently write about gender, dating, sex, and relationships for Bustle, Cosmopolitan, and a few other publications. I'm working on my first book, a collection of non-fiction essays, learning how to skateboard, and I play guitar in a punk band called Tom Braidy (like Tom Brady with braids.)
Lisa Chang '16
I recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education with my Master's in Higher Education with a focus on international education. My amazing experience at Oxy, which I still reminisce upon fondly, inspired me to pursue a career in Higher Education. Furthermore, my interest in international education was sparked by my Fulbright experience in South Korea, which I completed from 2016 to 2018. Despite graduating in the midst of a pandemic and facing nationwide institutional hiring freezes, I was recently selected to be a Fellowships and Scholarships Advisor at Vanderbilt University. I look forward to moving to Nashville and helping students apply for the Fulbright, Goldwater, Marshall, and other prestigious fellowships.
Aneesah Ettress '16
Since graduating from Oxy in 2016 and working as a Post-bac Fellow with the Oxy CDLA for two years, I've moved on to graduate school. I'm entering into my second year at UChicago Divinity School working on my MDiv in Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture. The ministry program has taken me into spaces that I didn't know I'd encounter; in my first year of the program, I co-facilitated a spirituality group in the women's unit of Cook County Jail. My work there was both meaningful and reorienting; in unexpected ways, it has informed my roles as the Digital Humanities Fellow in The Regenstein Library and as the Graduate Intern of Academic Initiatives at the Smart Museum of Art. I currently live about a 5-minute walk from the center of UChicago's campus in the Disciples Divinity House. The house has an incredible spiritual and intellectual community that I'm looking forward to contributing to next year as a House Scholar. Overall, my experience in graduate school has been an adventure and I'm grateful to the Oxy RELS department for preparing me for interdisciplinary study at the graduate level.
Afrika Bakenra '15
I have moved back to LA. I just performed at the BET Experience. Currently, I am a substitute teacher. I am also passionately pursuing music.
Carlina Perna '15
After graduating from Oxy, I participated in the Fulbright program as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) at the Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador, Brazil. I worked primarily with the Inglês sem Fronteiras (English without Borders) at UFBA, which is a federal English language program offered at many universities across Brazil. This June I began working as a Litigation Assistant for Altshuler Berzon LLP, a public interest law firm in San Francisco that specializes in labor and employment, environmental, constitutional, campaign and election, and civil rights law. I am enjoying applying the research, writing, and critical thinking/analysis skills I gained as a RELS major in a practical way oriented towards establishing and promoting social justice.
Leah Wolf '15
I graduated from LMU with my MA in elementary education this spring and I accepted a job to work as a fifth grade teacher at Equitas Academy in the Pico Union neighborhood of LA!
Faryn Borella '14
I am graduating spring 2019 with a Master of Arts in Religious Leadership for Social Change from Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union, and I will be starting rabbinical school at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia this fall.
Brian Holtvedt '14
After graduating from Oxy, I spent a year living at home in Bend, Oregon before applying to Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and serving for a year in Tacoma, Washington. My placement during that year was as a Day Program Assistant at L'Arche Tahoma Hope - an organization that has communities around the world that seek to bring together people with and without disabilities to live together in mutual respect and relationship. After spending a year as the Day Program Assistant, I loved the organization so much that I decided to move into one of the homes, and am currently a Live-in Assistant, sharing life and assisting the residents (called "core-members" in L'Arche) with day to day tasks like personal care, laundry, cooking, housekeeping as well as fun things like outings. It has proven to be one of the most beautiful things I have been a part of in my life, and has given me the opportunity to ground many of the academic interests that I pursued in the Religious Studies department in practical experience. The combination has proven quite insightful, and I encourage anyone who is interested, specifically, in working with individuals with disabilities or, more broadly, in the processes of building community or self-transformation to check L'Arche out! In my free time I can still be caught reading up on Buddhism and contemporary philosophy, as well as getting out into the beautiful PNW outdoors.
Zia Rutledge '14
I moved home to Taos, NM after graduation and I have been living here since exploring opportunities in the art world. I began last summer with a temporary position as the Curatorial Assistant at the Harwood Museum of Art working on a show titled “Orale" which focused primarily on Chicano/a Art and the lowbrow movement. I worked there last summer from July-September and afterwards, got a job as a personal assistant to one of the artists in the show, Ron Cooper where I am still employed. Ron is also part-owner and founder of a Mezcal company called Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal so my work consists partially of managing art shows and sales and partially of helping with Del Maguey.
Although my time focused mostly on Religious Studies, I feel like my versatile education at Oxy has prepared me to take on any opportunity that presents itself. Thank you to all the professors in the Religious Studies department for your time and dedication!
Marah Bragdon '13
I am currently living in Albany, NY and work for the New York State Assembly. Within the Assembly’s central staff I work for Regional Services, which focuses on communications for various Assembly Members. Besides work I am attempting to hike all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks. Looking towards the future, I plan to work on an election in 2016 and at some point move to Washington D.C.
David A. Cole '13
I now work at the District Attorney of New York on a team within the Major Economic Crimes Bureau investigating money laundering, sanctions evasion, and similar activity. In this, the RELS background continues to prove itself exceptional.
Brian Cropper '13
In May 2015 I wrapped up graduate program at Harvard Divinity School. My culminating research projects revolved around the study of archaeology and religion, a field I hope to pursue down the road. In the mean, time I've accepted a high school position at The Nueva School in San Mateo, California. Gleefully, l will be teaching History and Religious Studies courses, riding my bike and not missing the winter.
Natalie Malter '13
I am currently living in Cambridge, MA and studying at Harvard Divinity School in the Master of Divinity program. This summer I am studying Theological German . I plan to study American Religious Traditions and hope to be ordained in the Unitarian Universalist Church. I am roommates with Brian Cropper ’13 and when I am not busy gallivanting around Boston with him, we are both working on establishing an unofficial Oxy RELS Alumni Chapter in our living room.
Margot Clifford '12
Margot has joined the Admissions staff at Oxy; we’re so glad to have her talents on campus!
Elana Freeman '12
I am currently going into my third year of law school at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan. I love it. Since starting there, I have become increasingly interested in intellectual property (IP), specifically copyright, trademark, and fashion law. This summer, I am interning at an IP law firm here in the city-which I got through an Oxy grad-and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. I am working on trademark prosecution, issues that intersect business and IP, as well as IP litigation. I will continue to nurture my IP interest next academic year as Copyright Chair of Cardozo's IP Law Society. I am also Managing Editor of Cardozo's Alternative Dispute Resolution Competition Team, where I select and coach team members and compete in negotiation, mediation, and arbitration competitions nationally and internationally. It is so much fun. I look forward to continuing to hone my IP skills at Cardozo over the next year, and to continue to do so in a job that (ideally) combines fashion, copyright, and trademark law.
Lily Rowan '12
I am the Instructor of Political Science at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I graduated from the doctoral program in Political Science at Claremont Graduate University in May 2021. The title of my dissertation is "Where Can I Find Services to Help Me Meet My Basic Needs?: Developing a Geospatial Tool to Support College Students Experiencing Homelessness". I also received an M.A. and an M.P.P. from Claremont Graduate University. Since 2017, I have been teaching Political Science courses at community colleges in California and Wyoming.
Lindsey Streeter, '12
After leaving Oxy, I immediately returned back to my part of the state. I loved LA, but I knew that the Bay Area was where I wanted to be! In the summer of 2012, I began working for President Obama's Re-election Campaign, specifically as a development intern. Our work primarily consisted of organizing fundraisers and maintaining donor relations in the Western part of the country. After the election, I started interning for Kiva, a microfinance organization based in SF, and continued working in development, also organizing events, cultivating relationships with donors, and raising funds to support the org's mission. In the fall of 2013, I started working with Sungevity, a Solar Company headquartered in Oakland. I first worked on their marketing team, and then transitioning over to sales. My experience with them was amazing; it helped me realize how much I wanted to continue working in sustainability and renewable energy. I just accepted a position at the Sierra Club, where I will be working as the Assistant Director of Advancement of the West Coast Region. I am ecstatic about this new opportunity - stay tuned!
Isaac Cohen '11
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.
Aaron Landman '11
Religious Studies at Occidental was undoubtedly the best learning experience of my life. One of the most valuable things I took away from my studies, was the ability to have interesting conversations with people. Good conversation lends itself well to sales, so after graduating I took a "sales associate" job at a company called Wildfire. We sold social media marketing software, and did quite well. I joined as employee number ~70, and we grew quickly and were acquired by Google about a year later. After a year or so at Google, I had an existential crisis and quit to go find the meaning of life... And by that I mean I tried to start a goat cheese farm with a co-worker. 6 months on the farm was great, but I decided it would be prudent to wait another decade or two before becoming a gentleman-farmer. I moved back to San Francisco to join a company called Optimizely, where I was employee number ~50 and worked out of a glorified loft. I've been holding on for dear life ever since, as we've grown to almost 500 employees with offices on 4 continents. I'm currently, "Head of Enterprise Media Sales," which is a fancy way of saying I manage a team of salespeople. I have no idea what I'm doing but excited for the new challenge!
Emily Painter '11
Three days after graduating, I leapt from the busy, urban life in LA to a small, rural farm in Sonoma County. After a 3 month stint as an intern, I climbed the proverbial ladder from intern to middle management and became the Farm Store Manager at the height of tomato season (we sold about 35,000lbs of heirloom tomatoes that year from approximately 40 acres of plants! That's almost a 1,000lbs per acre!). After a year at the Farm, I zigged over to North Carolina for a Farm Manager position and then zagged back 6 months later to work in the gardens at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center in Muir Beach, CA. After 5 months meditating and gardening at the Dragon's Gate, I moved to San Francisco to become a yoga teacher and re-enter the wider world of activity. I now teach yoga in the Bay Area and work for Good Eggs, a SF Startup that does online direct-to-consumer food distribution for local Bay Area farmers and foodmakers, as a produce guru (I'll spare you the jargon). When I'm not running in circles with vegetables or on my yoga mat, you can find me in my kitchen making something hard to pronounce (pistache-framboise daquoise or raw guava coconut cream cheesecake, anyone?) or on a mountaintop with a really big smile on my face, rain or shine.
Rob Riccardi '11
Tessa D’Arcangelew '10
Since graduating, I have been working with the ACLU of Northern California as an organizer on the Technology and Civil Liberties team. I engage in policy advocacy and organizing efforts to end unwarranted government surveillance and restore privacy rights in California and beyond.
Rachel Deitch '10
After spending four years in Washington, DC with a grassroots communications and politics firm, I have returned to the classroom to study religion and politics at Harvard Divinity School in the Master of Theological Studies program. This summer, I'm an intern for UNESCO working to facilitate interreligious dialogue through the arts.
Hannah Dreitcer Zyla '10
After some time living and working in churches both in California and Cape Town, South Africa, I attended Yale Divinity School and graduated in May 2014 with a Master of Divinity. I was ordained in September 2014 in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and currently serve as Associate Pastor at Webster Groves Presbyterian Church, where I get to indulge my love of biblical studies on a regular basis. With friends new and old, my spouse, Adam, and I are building an urban intentional community in our home in St. Louis City, and, along with our toddler Junia, are looking forward to welcoming a new
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.
Rosney Daniel '09
After graduating from Oxy, I worked for a year in community outreach and clinical research at the AIDS Research Alliance in Downtown Los Angeles. In 2010, I moved to San Francisco to attend UCSF School of Medicine. I graduated with my M.D. in May of 2014 and I am now in my emergency medicine residency at UCSF. I plan to focus on health outreach to the underserved and teaching ultrasound to health providers as an affordable and effective imaging modality in 3rd world countries across the globe.
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 Chaves '08
After Oxy, I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University in 2019. My area of expertise is in modern western religious thought and continental philosophy of religion, with a focus on Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, and religious and poetic language. My research and special interests range from the philosophy of Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur, theories of narrative, metaphor, and historiography, to the intersections of religion and technology and cyberspace. I am now teaching as an Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University in the Bay Area, living my lifelong dream of becoming an educator. I’m also the president and founder of the Oakland Track Club, a non-profit organization aimed at breaking down the racial, cultural, and economic barriers that plague post-collegiate club and casual running.
I currently live in Oakland with my wife, two children, and cat Picante.
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
In the summer of 2007, I worked for Obama for America as an intern in charge of faith outreach to religious communities in the state of Iowa. That fall, I was hired as a field organizer and won my county for Obama by, turning out a disproportionate number of high school student new voters. I subsequently worked for the campaign in the Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, and Indiana primaries. I landed in Colorado as a Regional Field Director for the general election, where I managed and coached an organizing staff of twelve. Following the successful election of President Obama, I worked for the DNC (OFA 2.0), Sen. Patty Murray's campaign, and NGP VAN, the primary software company to the Democratic Party. In early 2013, I co-founded Empower Engine, a two-person campaign data visualization firm specializing in web-based maps. I practice with the Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound and serve on its board as the member-at-large. I believe the Religious Studies training in deep critical thinking and skillful communication that I received at Oxy has been absolutely essential to my work politics and technology.
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 then completed a masters degree in Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, and am now in a PhD program at Univeristy of Michigan's Asian Languages and Culture program.
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
I am currently the publisher of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (tricycle.org), a magazine that I originally discovered in the Oxy library. I live in my childhood home in Portland, Oregon, with my wife, two daughters, and a dog.
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 completing my Peace Corps service in Namibia from 2007-2009, I joined the Student Conservation Association (SCA) for a summer of trail work and camping in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho. From that experience, I moved over to southwest Virginia to embark upon an AmeriCorps VISTA project at a non-profit affordable housing organization. In April 2012, I began my career with the federal government by accepting a position with the Department of Homeland Security in Vermont. At the beginning of 2015, I transferred to the San Francisco Field Office, where I am currently enjoying the many amazing tourist attractions of the city life.
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.
Lesandre Barley '04
I have continued my religious studies in recent years, looking into Gnosticism, aboriginal shamanism, astrotheology, anthropology, and entheogenic studies. This has now lead to an amateur study of mycology, specifically mycoremediation and mycofiltration, which I plan to implement for waste disposal for my leather/vinyl dye manufacturing business, Rub 'n Restore. I plan to sell my other business, Vinyl Ladies, in the coming months and relocate to Paonia, CO, the center of permaculture and organic farming on the Western slope with my partner and mother, hence the need for a leave-no-trace waste management system.
Steven Barrie-Anthony '04
Steven recently graduated with a Ph.D. from the Religious Studies Department at UCSB. In his work with the Institute of Buddhist Studies, he successfully won a $475,000 Luce grant.
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 the experiences of women in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal as a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellow. 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. 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. After graduating with my MPH in 2009 with a Certificate in Population and Reproductive Health, and also becoming a Certified Health Education Specialist, I worked for the USC Institute for Global Health on curricula development and research studies. In 2011 I joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where I currently serve as a Coordinator for the State of California's Prenatal Screening Program. I review and report screening results, perform case management for patients whose results show an increased risk for birth defects, and educate clinical staff at obstetrician offices and prenatal care clinics in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Throughout my public health education and career I have observed that all health fields would benefit from a deeper understanding of religious factors and cultural 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 Hill '03
Lauren is the VP of Sexual & Reproductive Health Programs at Essential Access Health overseeing statewide programs for family planning & STI prevention in California & Hawaii. She has been working in public health through community healthcare for the past 15 years, serving populations in Los Angeles who have been systematically excluded from the healthcare system. Lauren earned her Master in Public Health from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Global Reproductive Health. Being a Religious Studies major at Oxy gave her 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. 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.
Wanda Luong '02
Since graduation, I have stayed local (for both work and home) and currently live in Lakewood, CA with my partner and 3 year old son. For most of my post-Oxy years, I have been working in community-based non-profit agencies that serve the Asian Pacific Islander communities. My first job out of undergrad was with an organization called Center for the Pacific Asian Family - a domestic violence and sexual assault focused agency. I started as a Children's Advocate and worked there for 3 years. Afterward, I took some time off to travel abroad and then came back to Los Angeles and did more non-profit work. I decided to pursue my Masters in Social Work (MSW) and, with the help of Professor Wright's recommendation letter, I began my two-year MSW program the Fall of 2007 at California State University, Long Beach. Since 2010, I returned to Center for the Pacific Asian Family as the Transitional Program Manager overseeing the services and facilities of our 20-bed transitional housing program. I am constantly in awe of the courage and hope these families have after living through trauma and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of their journey.
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.
Alyson Solomon '00
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.
Jan P. Lee '98
I really enjoyed my time at Oxy majoring in Religious Studies, it never felt like work, it was truly an interesting and fascinating subject to study!
I am now working in Hong Kong, as the Senior Manager for the Urban Land Institute, managing their programs and events, focusing on housing attainability, education and decarbonisation. Feel free to get in touch!
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 and I took a few years off work. During that time, I became very involved in our community. I served as President of the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council, and VP Legislation on our PTA, and am currently serving as Exec VP of our School Foundation, Elected member of our Planning Board, and on our Police Captains Advisory Committee. It is with all the community work that I was convinced to run for Poway Unified School District Board of Education (www.patel4pusd.wordpress.com). It's because of the broad liberal arts education I received at Oxy that I am able to take on this new adventure - thank you Oxy for preparing me for real life - with civic engagement, community service, and objective reasoning skills! 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.
Kristy Wheeler, '94
After graduation in '94, I moved to San Francisco to attend UC Hastings College of the Law. I received my JD in 1997, and after taking and passing the California Bar, started practicing law in San Francisco. I've been a litigator from day one (no surprise to *anyone*), and I've been lucky enough to have a varied career, including time at small firms, as well as an AmLaw100 firm, representing Fortune 500 companies in pharmaceutical products liability litigation, construction defect, insurance coverage, high-liability personal injury tort, and commercial litigation. Because the Bar exam was just so fun the first time around, I eventually decided to move to Las Vegas, and earned a bar license there as well. Upon moving back to Northern California, I married Kevin Montee, a former colleague, and we have a 12 year-old daughter, Alexandra Alice (Ali). I'm currently not practicing, but enjoying my time with Ali's swim and water polo teams.
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
My time at Oxy was deeply formative, especially in connection with my teaching and research at the boundaries of philosophy and religious studies. Currently, I am Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Religious Studies in the General Education Division at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen). My book, Wittgenstein within the Philosophy of Religion (Palgrave-Macmillan), came out in 2014, and since then, I have been working on two projects: a series of articles on Wittgenstein and Confucianism on ethics and language and another on globally engaged philosophy of religion (with articles appearing in Dao, Metaphilosophy, Philosophy East and West, Religious Studies, and Sophia). Over the next several years, I anticipate working additionally on studies of Wittgenstein and comparative religious epistemology and on the theme of "reticence" in comparative philosophical and religious discourses.
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 Lam '91
My family and I are now settled in Salt Lake City. Previously, we were in Chattanooga, TN where I was Chairman of the Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology for 5yrs. I was then recruited to become Chief Medical Officer of a biotech company, Sera Prognostics, in SLC. That job ended in 2020 with the advent of COVID causing suspension of clinical research. I am now due to start as head of maternal fetal medicine and obstetrical services for the regional hospitals in Southern Utah for Intermountain Health.
My training and work in religious studies stay with me today, particularly in my approaches to understanding and management of patient care-understanding the effect of chaos and how people deal with unexplainable events. The training received in East Asian philosophy from Dr. Wright's classes help me to find equilibrium in my job and enables me to better deal with the challenges presented daily.
Happy to speak with any future grads/students!
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 leaving Oxy, I did a master's at Fuller Seminary and a PhD at Duke University (in theology and ethics). Last year I published Rethinking Christian Identity with Wiley-Blackwell. This year I am leaving my job as Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at Cranmer Hall, Durham University (UK) to spend nine months at Notre Dame, where my husband has a fellowship. From August 2014, I will be Research Fellow in Catholic Theology at St John's College, and will be dividing my time during 2014-15 between teaching my boys (ages 7 & 10; my older daughter will be attending middle school and my youngest will be in preschool) and writing a book on the church.
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
I am working as a criminal defense lawyer for the Federal Public Defender's office in San Antonio, Texas. As part of my work, I train other lawyers about sentencing mitigation. My Occidental education impacts my work life in innumerable ways. For starters, I speak Spanish fluently (and daily) 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, where 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.
My husband and I have a joyful 3-year-old daughter. (My stepchildren have since both pursued graduate degrees at the University of Texas in Austin.) She keeps us dancing, playing the guitar and singing, and laughing! As my preschooler's mother, I dialogue daily about why we do wrong things (from "why did my friend hit me?" to "why did I run away from you when you told me to stop?" to questions about the movie Frozen like "why did Hans turn greedy?"), which also brings me back to my studies.
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 active in the music and film industry as a recording artist and music producer. I am currently the co-producer of an atmospheric pop album set for commercial release later this year. Along with the music work, I am involved with a couple of early stage ventures. One is a machine learning communication product. I am always open to explore ways to compliment creative forces and skill sets. Further, I live together with my fiancé near small wineries and farms in Virginia. She works as a consultant in organic products for Wegmans and both of us make frequent trips to DC and on occasion NYC. Look forward to learning about what others are inspired by and focused on!
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.
Martin F. Wilder '89
I graduated in 1989 with an interdisciplinary degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis in Psychology. I tried out the psychology field and worked for a while in group homes and with homeless youth, but I found the work emotionally draining and underpaid. From there, I became a union carpenter and later a propmaker and set-builder, inspired in part by my connections with Bob Huffman of Oxy Summer Theater. My partnership at the time with Anne Huse '89 introduced me to women's land in southern Oregon and I brought my trade skills with me. I spent the next few years literally building intentional community in Oregon, New Mexico, and Arizona. Looking to finance a land purchase, I got onto the set of Stargate on location in Yuma, Arizona and followed the crew to Long Beach to complete the film. That kind of brought me around full circle and a year later, I moved back into Eagle Rock. My partner and I began to talk about wanting to have kids and I decided that the feast or famine life of the Hollywood film industry would not be solid enough to raise a family. I thought a nice steady desk job might do the trick and we moved to Berkeley where I worked in a variety of computer-based fields including database design, operations management and financial management. All the while, my partner and I were still looking to build community. Several of our friends from women's lands had also moved to the East Bay and we formed a kind of urban network of land-based pagan extended family. My partner and I became legal guardians of her 3 year old niece and then had two children through an anonymous sperm donor, Malachite and Mariner. One of my places of employment at the time paid for me to take an extensive skills and aptitude assessment and one of the results was that I should be a minister. Around that same time, I finally fulfilled my inclination to transition from female to male. With two years of hormone replacement, surgeries and legal proceedings, I became officially male and the father of our two children. I was surrounded by lots of love and support, but the changes were more than my partner had anticipated and it took a toll on our relationship. She also did not want to raise our two sons in an urban environment. We moved to Eugene, Oregon and joined an intentional community called Lost Valley where we studied permaculture and sustainable living. Being male also affected my sexuality and I became involved in a Radical Faerie community (the same one mentioned by my classmate Cindy Wolf although our paths never crossed there). However, my heart was won by an amazing woman who I married in 2009. We bought a house in Eugene and I went back to school to get a Master's in Education. I am now teaching high school math and engineering. My wife and I just had a baby this past September named Toby and we are incredibly happy. The two big boys love having a baby brother to play with and show off to their friends.
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
This year, Julie and I celebrated our 32nd year of marriage with our five daughters. Our oldest, Brianna, is happily married with our second named Stacia marrying this Summer. Third daughter, Alissa is attending BIOLA while our fourth & fifth daughters are at home with us. We split our time living between Colorado and Singapore; with fun times in New Zealand and other places in the USA. For the last 8 years I have been consulting businesses, ministries and non profits in strategy and leadership development. At the same time, I have been serving on boards that promote sustainable development and impact investments globally in the developing world. A recent development, I am involved in Green Bond advisory work out of our New Zealand company called Green Capital. We help people & companies that are building Green and ESG related technologies that reduce the carbon footprint in our planet. It has been very rewarding, both professionally and personally. On the ministry side of things, I have been consulting a great non profit that promotes generosity by creating a safe place to talk about giving for high impact friends - the organization is called Generosity Path. I sense it's a new season in our lives and I am grateful for every day we have to give back, spending time with family and loving those deeply around us. May we all experience peace and grace for ourselves and for others.
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.
Melinda Wallingford Meshad '85
During my time at Occidental, I became actively involved downtown with Mission Dolores and those coming up from Central America, escaping civil war. That was really the beginning of me realizing how much I felt called to social work. To make a long story short, I am a licensed clinical social worker and have a long history of working with various high-risk populations. I am back to residing in Los Angeles and have my own private practice, seeing clients and providing clinical back up for my husband's non-profit, the National Veterans Foundation. I have found that my time at Oxy in Religious Studies provided me with the time for soul-searching and personal development, and was a great foundation to my studies in social work and psychology. I do integrate what I have learned in philosophy and religion to help guide clients in their own search for meaning. Much of my focus is in the area of trauma and trauma-informed care. A few years back, I created a two-day training that focuses on the impact of high-stress and adversity including serious trauma events, basing the program on recent brain science and trauma theory. I now train various organizations in what is known as trauma-informed care under my small business Trauma-Informed Consulting. For self-care, I like to travel, mainly exploring natural environments. I enjoy my basic ability to play the mandolin, enjoy writing, time with friends and family, and this year I plan on signing up for a stand up comedy class. Ya, I have a day job, so I can do 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 a while to discern where God was calling me. I had no idea that working at Lutheran Social Services of Southern California would be a pivotal part of that process. I earned my M.Div., from Yale Divinity School in 1995. In 95/96, I served an internship at Lord of Light Lutheran Church/Lutheran Campus Ministry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1997, I was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the ELCA. I served as Associate Pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, Phoenix, AZ (1998-2005) before being as Campus Pastor at Lord of Light/Lutheran Campus Ministry, Ann Arbor. (Déjà vu all over again!) Working with young adults was a joy. I loved watching their hearts transformed during mission trips pilgrimages to the Holy Land. My first sabbatical in 2011 focused on Native American spirituality and arts. In January, 2012, my niece was murdered by her husband (the story was featured on the April 17, 2015 edition of “20/20"). After Shelby’s murder and several other traumas, I resigned my call early this year to take some time for healing. We’ll see what the future holds.
Michael Young '85
I graduated in 1985 from Oxy with a degree in Religious Studies. My focus was mostly in Asian Religions/Philosophy. Since then I became a licensed acupuncturist and have been practicing in California as well as Colorado. My undergraduate focus has helped me gain a deeper understanding of Asian Worldviews. I have also been teaching acupuncture for the last 16 years.
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.
Maria Morales-Kent '84
I graduated in 1984 with a BA in English and minors in Religious Studies and Spanish. Immediately out of Oxy, I worked for the University of Pennsylvania both in the office and as Director of the Western Regional Office. I pursued graduate work with the Coro Foundation in Public Policy and Public Affairs and then worked for Mayor Tom Bradley in his final term in office. At the same time, I founded an organization called College Marketplace in Los Angeles. The non-profit supplemented the work of college counselors in several Los Angeles public schools. College Marketplace was eventually adopted and funded by the Fulfillment Fund. I then happily returned to Occidental as an Admission Officer and Transfer Coordinator.
When I arrived at Thacher, one of the few boarding schools in California, my mandate was to place more kids in the ivies and highly selective schools. At the time the “College List" was primarily focused on the east, the NESCACs, and some UCs. In California it was primarily Stanford or Berkeley. Anticipating the increasing competition for admission, my goal was diversify those choices by broadening our national reach. It meant educating my students, family, and the Board. But I have been successful. I am an advisor at Thacher to senior boys, serve on the Administrative Team and the Academic Council. I am also the School’s ombudsman. I am also a member of the National Merit's Advisory Board, on CMC's Parent Network, and have just been asked to serve on the Advisory Board for Colorado College.
My education at Occidental has been critical to my professional life. The study of the liberal arts helped broaden my thinking and taught me how to analyze and problem solve. More important, I learned how to listen and appreciate others and their diverse backgrounds and life experiences.
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. 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, I'm releasing two books this year, my own on People Patterns (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 (U.S.A.) and served churches in Boise, Idaho; West Valley City, Utah; and Pullman, Washington before accepting a call to serve as Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Plains and Peaks, based in Greeley, Colorado, in 2004. I served 42 congregations with 10,000 members over a 32,000 square mile region in northeastern Colorado and the Nebraska panhandle. In 2006, I completed a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. I received a sabbatical grant in 2009 to follow in the footsteps of Calvin and Knox during the quincentenary celebration of Calvin’s birth. In 2013, I moved to Texas to become Co-leader of the Synod of the Sun, which unites 840 congregations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. I have obtained a reputation as a leading authority on church polity (canon law); a presentation I made on Marriage Equality in the PC(USA) was excerpted for inclusion in Readings in Christianity , 3rd ed. a standard undergraduate text published in 2014. It is offered alongside a counterpoint piece by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). I have been married to Liz Booth ('80) for 34 years. We have two grown daughters. The elder daughter, Jenny, majored in Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna and is pursuing an M.Div. at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Rabbi Misha E. Zinkow '78
After 32 years in a few rabbinic leadership positions in California, Minnesota and Ohio, I retired from my last pulpit in Columbus in 2017.
Since stepping down from the pulpit and staying in the heartland, I have represented an educational tour provider that is based in Jerusalem, Israel, called Makor Educational Journeys. Makor provides immersive travel programs for pre-organized groups to Israel and other global destinations of Jewish heritage and interest. The work checks all of my "retirement buttons," including flexibility, the ability to work from anywhere, a focus on Jewish and Israel education, and (not-to-mention), I no longer have 500 bosses, ;-).
My wife, Rabbi Elka Abrahamson, and I have four children who live from the west coast to the east coast, and four grandchildren under 7, one of whom lives in Eagle Rock, just 5 minutes from Oxy! A local Bengal Tiger in the pipeline.
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
I've been living and working in Berlin, Germany now since the fall of 2018, enjoying every moment (well, maybe except for that Covid thing). My weirdo combination of three master's degrees (theology, business, and TESOL) are allowing me to continue to teach and tutor English in a variety of contexts. Officially I am working part-time at two universities, one a business school and the other a school of technology. In addition I have finished small projects for museum guides, dentists, lawyers, scientists, and other groups who want to improve their language skills. My husband and I continue to be very involved with the international fountain pen community (!!) - you may dimly remember an article written about me some years ago in the alumni magazine. In my spare time, I revel in the cultural and culinary offerings of this amazing city. Any faculty or alums headed this way, please hit me up!
Patricia O'Neil Hoying '76
The highlight of my religious studies education at Oxy was travelling to Israel and participating in the 1975 Ceasarea dig with Dr. Beebe.
After graduating from college I taught religion at Our Lady of Loretto High School for two years, traveled, taught another year at St. Bernard High School, and then returned to school at Mt. St. Marys College and became an R.N. Through nursing I met my husband (a former seminary student who ended up in healthcare). As the parents of three young adults (18, 18, 21) we are learning quite a bit both practically and spiritually. We are active in our parish marriage preparation program, Liturgy and Worship Commission, and the youth education outreach. I volunteer with the non-profit House of Yahweh, which provides housing, food, and social services to those in need in the South Bay.
Thinking back, I remember that Dr. Josselyn and Dr. Beebe taught lessons of the heart along with religious studies. I am most grateful for their affirmation of the whole person.
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.
Noriaki Ito '71
After finishing my four years at Oxy, I went to Kyoto, Japan to do graduate work at Otani University. I owe my life after college to Dr. Franklin Josselyn who was the person who encouraged me to move to Japan to continue my studies in Buddhism. During the four year stay, I received an MA in Shinshu (Japanese Pure Land) studies, and also received ordination in the Higashi Honganji denomination. I returned to Los Angeles and started my work as a priest at the Los Angeles Higashi Honganji temple in Little Tokyo.
This year marks my 40th year as a priest. In 1986, I was asked to go back to Oxy to serve as the Buddhist advisor on campus. I resigned in 2011 having served for 25 years in that capacity. It was the beginning of my encounter in interreligious dialogue primarily thanks to Michael Kerze who was the Director of the Herrick Interfaith Center for a number of years. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with and learning from the students who were a part of the Occidental Buddhist Meditation Group. I continue to head the Los Angeles temple, and also serve as Bishop of the North America district of our denomination. In 2013, I also took on the role of Director of the Shinshu Center of America, an educational arm of our denomination.
This year (2015), I was invited to two extraordinary conferences. The first was the first-ever White House – US Buddhist Leaders Conference in Washington D.C. In May. Then in June, I was a participant in the Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue conference in Rome. The highlight was a private meeting with Pope Francis.
Well into my 60s, I hope to continue to serve for at least a few more years. I am grateful to Oxy and especially to the Religious Studies department for giving me a meaningful direction in my life. I’m sure I will be forgotten soon after my life ends. But it continues to be a wonderful journey on the river of life.
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 raising two kids and working in public radio for a time, I pursued a call to ministry, attended San Francisco Theological Seminary, and was ordained by the Presbytery of San Gabriel to a validated ministry supporting the work of the fifteen chaplains at LA. County+USC Medical Center by developing an interfaith network of over 100 faith groups, businesses and individuals to assist patients and families in need after hospitalization there. I retired from this ministry a couple of years ago, and am living at Westminster Gardens in Duarte, CA. I am developing an interest in spirituality and aging.
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. In retirement, I continue to be a social activist. I am currently Co-Chair of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace and co-chair of its working group in opposition to American uses of torture. I am a Member of the Board of Directors of the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union and serve on its Economic Justice and Criminal Justice Committees. I am President of the Board of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition and Member of the South Bay Committee of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and I am a recipient of that organization’s 2013 Giants of Justice award. I am a founding member and on the Executive Committee of the Christian Muslim Consultative Group of Southern California and on the Board of Directors of ProgressiveChristianity.org.
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.
Michael K. Stone '67
I am happy to say that my studies at Oxy prepared me for an eclectic career, or series of careers, which seem to have in common (1) trying to help people make sense of their world and find ways to act effectively in it, and (2) exploring connections among holy, wholeness, and the health of individuals, communities, and the planet. After graduating from Oxy, I enrolled at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. While there, I received a fellowship with the Christian Century, which is based in Chicago. That led to a position as a stringer with The New York Times , covering religious news in Chicago. I completed a doctorate that combined theology and journalism. My first job was as a straight reporter for the Toronto Star, where I wrote for most desks, but spent the longest stretch — to my surprise — writing for the Business section. Then I was offered a position back in Chicago on the staff of Lt. Governor (later U.S. Senator) Paul Simon, who was running for governor. Paul lost that election, and I accepted a position with the Illinois State Arts Council. I had not particularly planned on finding myself back in academics, but I was subsequently invited to join the faculty of a new college about to open just north of San Francisco. I decided to give it a try for a year, and stayed twenty. I was hired to teach writing and create a program in communications. Since the college was very small, I was able to teach many courses I could never have taught at a large institution, including western cultural history, ethics, world religions, and even Shakespeare. I directed the General Studies Program and collaborated with a psychologist colleague to design an interdisciplinary major we called Meaning, Culture, and Change (focusing especially on psychology, religious studies, philosophy, and literature). Eventually, I served eight years as academic vice president and a year and a half as interim president. The college closed, and I migrated back into journalism, working for 10 years as managing editor of the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth magazine. That led to a position as senior editor at the Center for Ecoliteracy, a Berkeley-based NGO which works with K–12 schools on issues around environment and sustainability. I've written two books, Ecological Literacy and Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability, along with chapters in several other books and a variety of articles. Now retired, I live in San Anselmo, California with my wife Pat.
Carol Millspaugh '66
In 1966 I graduated from Oxy as an English major, with quite a few religion courses as well, and thanks to the guidance and encouragement of Dr. Franklyn Josselyn, I applied and was accepted at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where I graduated with an M.Div. in 1969. I met my future husband, Dick Millspaugh, at Union, and we were married in 1968. Dick now serves as Chief of Chaplains at the VA hospital in La Jolla, CA, and I retired as a United Methodist pastor in 2014. I've had the pleasure of working in churches in Hawaii, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and California, and have truly loved serving as a pastor (a job I never imagined having, as I had never known a woman minister during my growing up years). I was often the first woman pastor in the churches I served, and I found most of the people to be very supportive and responsive even while some could never accept a woman being a pastor! It has been a remarkable journey for me, and I rejoice in God's ongoing faithfulness and guidance even, and perhaps especially, through the difficult parts of that journey.
In my later years of ministry, back here in California, I was blessed to reconnect with my favorite professor, Dr. Josselyn, and we shared some special times together before he died. At the family's request, I was privileged to do his memorial service at Occidental several years ago.
My husband and I are delighted to be back in California, only wishing that our two children, Heather and John and their families could be here as well. A special blessing is being a grandmother now, as John's 3 year old son is a delight and a joy, and I cherish the times we are together. My ministry continues now through volunteer work, support to family members, and participation in our local church. I continue to be grateful for my years at Oxy, for the academic preparation I received, the values the school embraced and shared, and the friendships which continue even now.
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
This 1965 Religion Major has now been retired for 4 years and loves it. Ijust received a lovely certificate marking the 45th anniversary of my ordination by the United Church of Christ. I spent 43 years serving local churches in MA, NH and CA. I'm a '68 graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Now I travel with my sister and brother, enjoy my garden and reading, and stay active in my local church and an interfaith community service organization that works to give folks a hand up (not a hand out).
Guy M. Bennett '64
I studied New Testament at Goettingen and Harvard, but left graduate school before earning an advanced degree because it was taking so long to master the ancient languages necessary for good biblical study. 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 current 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 I have held a number of lay callings since then. We are currently directing the Mormon family history center in Bellevue, Washington, and encouraging youth to apply their computer skills in genealogy. I also spend time with my family and serving the boy scouts, King County Parks and the town of Preston, Washington. (The 2010 census shows 322 people in Preston, and 18 of them are in our extended family.)
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.
Clara Bickford Heer '52
After graduation from Oxy, I received an M. A. in Christian Education from San Francisco Theological Seminary. I have served in related capacities in Garden Grove Presbyterian Church, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Aptos, California, and First Presbyterian Church of Santa Ana. I have been married to a Presbyterian minister, Ray Heer since 1955 and we live at Monte Vista Grove Homes in Pasadena, a retirement community for retired Presbyterian Church Workers.