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Allen Stanton
Majors: Religion

I’m currently at Duke Divinity School, where I am working on my Master of Divinity and living as a Deacon fan-in-exile amongst all the terrible Dukies.  My time in the Religion Department gave me great preparation for my studies at Duke. I’m grateful for all of the opportunities for learning that came in classroom discussions and readings from across the spectrum of religious studies. More than that, I am grateful for the people that taught me, and the amount of personal time they invested in me. It truly is a special place where professors call you into their office when they see you walking down the hall to discuss a book they think you would like, or help you talk through graduate school decisions. It is even more impressive that those relationships exist after you leave; that they don’t end at a class’s final exam or on graduation. More than anything, I am grateful for that.

Michelle Farris
Major: Religion

Getting my MA at the University of Chicago. Friendly faces, homemade cookies, going to prison, writing the longest paper of my entire life, walking up three flights of stairs and gasping for breath, and thinking about religion in more ways than I ever imagined possible. Thanks, everyone!


Varian Shrum
Majors: Religion

I live in Charlotte, NC and work as a Planning & Neighborhood Development Consultant. My program of work focuses on community outreach and engagement in urban neighborhoods. I am also part of the K880 Emerging City Champions program, a collaboration between 8-80 Cities and the Knight Foundation that funded proposals from 25 young civic innovators seeking to make their city more livable. My neighborhood lacks quality public space but has numerous underutilzed lots, so I proposed the creation of a “neighborhood living room” where people can gather and connect. I am currently in the process of implementing my grant.

What do you remember about your time in the Religion Department?
I remember feeling so alive in class discussions. I remember professors who inspired me to think bigger and think deeply. For me, the Religion Department was where Wake Forest delivered on their promise to “educate the whole person.”

Joshua Goocey
Majors: Religion

Enrolled in the Doctor of Theology at Duke University.

Kristy Tayapongsak
Majors: Religion, Minors: Chemistry, Dance

Kristy’s future plans: “I will be moving down the street to attend Wake Forest School of Medicine in the fall… let’s just say I was not quite ready to leave this place.” She writes that “As cliché as it sounds, the Religion department showed me how to love learning for the sake of learning. Studying something that was so close to my heart in such an academic context was immensely challenging, and I would not have had it any other way. My classes were a breath of fresh air amongst the whirlwind of pre-med requisites as well – I truly just got the best of both worlds.”

See Kristy’s exit interview


Natalie Sheary
Major: Religion
Minors: Sociology and American Ethnic Studies

Natalie will be playing on the LPGA Tour after graduation. She writes about her experiences at WFU, “I had an awesome time at Wake interacting with fun and interesting professors in the Religion department. They genuinely cared about the students well being and improvement in the courses. I was lucky to have surrounded myself with such a great crowd and I am proud to say I have been a part of the Wake Forest Religion family.”

Abby Nuetzel
Major: Religion
Minor: Chemistry

Abby writes about her future plans: “I plan on pursuing a career in dentistry with every intention of becoming a general dentist in an undeserved rural community. Access to proper dental care is significantly decreased in rural areas when compared to dental services offered in urban centers, and I hope to help change that. I hope to organize and participate in many international dental service trips throughout my life, returning to East Africa as often as possible.”  She reflects on her time in the Religion Department: “I could not imagine my time at Wake Forest without a major in Religion.  My Religion classes forced me to analyze social hierarchy and class relations in critical and demanding ways.  With my major courses, I was able to explore different cultures and the interactions between a given “secular” culture and a religion. Since I was a pre-dental student, the Religion courses also gave me a refreshing break from the Sciences.  My major in Religion forced me to become a more well-rounded individual, and for that, I am forever grateful.”

Randy Paris
Majors: Religion, Political Science

Randy shares that the Religion Department, “provided that nourishing environment that allowed me to excel in school the way that  I never thought I could have…I felt so emboldened by the support of the Department.” Randy is now an Associate in the White House Presidential Personnel Office.  He works for the team charged with choosing political appointees for all economy-focused agencies and sub-departments in the Obama Administration (Department of Commerce, Department of Treasury, Small Business Administration to name a few).  He helps pick appointees, assist them through the process, and conduct due diligence on them.   Randy says, “Working for the Administration is both challenging and rewarding – challenging in that you are held to a high standard every day and rewarding in that you know you are serving the country in a real way.”

Bailey Anderson
Majors: Religion, Economics

After graduation,  Bailey will be moving back to Dallas and starting work at Stream Realty, LP,  a commercial real estate company. She writes that she “had a great experience in the religion department and enjoyed every single one of my classes. All of the professors are so welcoming and helpful and definitely made my time at Wake amazing.”

Grace Pardo
Majors: Religion, French

Grace writes: “I feel like it was just yesterday that I was a freshman at Wake Forest walking into my very first religion class!  It is now 12 religion classes later and I am wondering, how can I already be graduating?”  Grace is planning to go to graduate school in the Fall and shares that her “time with the religion department was invaluable- no matter if it was late night studying with a peer, sitting in Sheila’s office, or debating theories with a professor, I have no doubt that these experiences and memories will stay with me long after my time here.”

Parker Bradway
Major: Religion

Parker states that the Religion Department helped him become a critical thinker and an active learner. Look for his new country music album on iTunes!

Samantha E. Holquist
Majors: Religion, Political Science

Samantha’s future plans: “I plan to attend law school in Fall 2012, focusing on international law or public law. In the mean time, I am interning with the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C. this summer and Congressman Connie Mack’s Washington, D.C. Office in the fall. In the spring, I hope to obtain another government internship in Washington, D.C.”  She writes that “deciding to major in religion was one of the best decisions I made during my college career. The religion department’s staff is great and the courses are very interesting and thought provoking. By majoring in religion and political science, I was able to gain a better understanding of the relationship between religion and politics, which is particularly important as the world is becoming increasingly interconnected. I hope more students join the religion department. It will alter their view of the world and help them understand different cultures, hopefully making them more accepting; we need more people like that today.”

Andrew Imboden
Majors: Religion,Anthropology

I was actually a double-major in both Religion and Anthropology while at Wake. I found that taking classes in one subject, helped me become and better student and a more critical thinker in the other.
I am now a current full-time staff member at Wake Forest and couldn’t be happier to serve a school that has influenced me so greatly.


Mustafa Abdullah

Major: Religion

I am in Saint Louis working as the Program Associate for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, doing lots of public education on civil liberties issues, local coalition building, and lobbying. I got heavily involved in the aftermath of the Boston tragedy with local interfaith efforts in Saint Louis. I was asked to write a brief statement for the the online Islamic Monthly magazine. I also did a news conference with CAIR Saint Louis and several interfaith allies last week.
In preparing for these really challenging moments, where you’re expected and asked to step up and help people navigate through a tragedy like the Boston Marathon bombing, and particularly for the American Muslim community, deal with the many tensions that are being felt I found myself again revisiting much of what I had learned as a religion major. My studies continue to help provide me a critical framework that has empowered me to see the world as it is from multiple lenses and thus it prepared me to develop narratives of peace and conflict resolution that bring diverse worldviews together and help us move forward. The methods of Dr. Ilesanmi’s comparative religions classes have remained a part of me! Interestingly enough, I gave a big talk at Glastonburry Abbey (a Benedictine Monastery) in Hingham, MA (just 20 or so minutes south of Boston) a few days before the Boston bombing. I gave a talk on “Building the Beloved Community” ( I got an email from the communityaftwerard about how thankful the were to participate in such a conversation with a young Muslim just before the tragedy happened. Again, amidst these tumultuous times, I owe so much gratitude to the religion department for giving me incredibly important tools to stand up for pluralism and help, in small but meaningful ways, build the world that I want to see.

Emma Teal Tallent
Major: Religion

Charlotte, NC. Married , having a baby boy on July 8th and working in sales at RedVentures. Life is good! How amazing and intelligent the faculty and staff were.

Hannh McOwen

Major: Religion

I live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I sell advertising for a destination commerce corporation called OneBoat. We specialize in tourism websites and publications. We’re going national this year!  I LOVED every second of it. The department is caring and nurturing, not unlike a family. I enjoyed approaching topics from a human and an academic level. My writing, reading comprehension skills, and communication skills were always being challenged. My religion major has given me valuable skills that I continue to use today.


Matt Triplett (WFU ’09)

Graduated from Wake Forest in 2009 with a major in Political Science and minors in Religion and Women’s and Gender Studies. He served as a Wake Forest Fellow in the Provost’s Office in 2009 – 2010 and was responsible for a number of initiatives, including the creation of a summer program for high school students, launching the BIG Campus Connect faculty-student engagement week, and speechwriting for the Provost. He will begin law school as a Mordecai Scholar at Duke University in 2010. On the Religion Department, Matt writes, “I had a wonderful experience as a student in the Religion Department. The material was always fascinating and challenging – allowing me to use my interest in politics, race, and gender in innovative ways. The faculty were top-notch and cared about me as an individual, not just as a student. And Sheila Lockheart is amazing! What I didn’t realize as a student, however, was how well my experiences as a Religion minor would prepare me for my post-graduate endeavors. My ability to write well and think critically was strengthened as a student, and I find myself using those skills everyday as I write full-length speeches for the Provost and brainstorm the creation of new academic programs. Perhaps more importantly, the study of religion helped me gain a better understanding of human beliefs, practices, and interaction. Religion is a ubiquitous element of modern culture, and the paradigms and ways of approaching issues that I learned as a religion student help me understand and dissect political events, world happenings, and even everyday human interaction. Religion is one of the most important facets of modern society, and its study has proven enormously beneficial.”


Amanda Nichols (WFU, 08)
Where are you now and what are you doing?
In the summer of 2015 I completed my MA in Religious Studies at the University of Missouri, where I wrote my thesis entitled “Revolutionizing the ‘Modern’ Environmental Discourse: Religion, Revolution, and Mountaintop Removal.” This fall, I began my PhD in Religion and Nature at the University of Florida where I plan to study communities afflicted by issues of environmental injustice looking at how they utilize religion to negotiate environmental and social issues and how religion, in turn, is re-made in the process.

What do you remember about your time in the Religion Department?
I remember how engaging the courses were, especially those with Dr. Johnston, Dr. Neal, and Dr. Ramachandran. They truly inspired me to think critically about the role that religion has in a broader social and cultural context and about issues like gender, race, dichotomization, marginalization, and injustice which I did not yet know how to voice as an undergraduate. I also remember the sense of community that I felt in the department amongst the students and the faculty – the department of Religion is truly a welcoming place, full of smiling faces who are always willing to listen and to share words of wisdom and encouragement. It is the people in this department, more than anything else, that inspired and encouraged me to do what I am doing today.

Ashley Hart (WFU, 08)
Major: Religion

” I live in Asheboro, NC and am on full time Young Life staff!  I loved all of the professors and classes! Also, I remember great chats with Sheila!”

Stacy Epstein McCoy (WFU ’08)

“I spent the last year managing the Consortium for Police Leadership and Equity (CPLE), a research consortium out of UCLA. Our research focused on equity issues in policing related to racial profiling, immigration, and organizational equity. During this time I decided that when my husband, also a Wake alum, graduates with his Ph.D. in a few years, I would like to attend law school. Therefore, about a month ago, I switched jobs and am now a legal assistant for a small firm in Century City where I am learning the corporate side of law. When I eventually go to law school I would like to study International Human Rights Law and, if I end up back at Wake, get an M.A. in Religion. Religion is the backbone of every culture and cannot be ignored when addressing policy or legal issues abroad. I think it is unfortunate that most people in the position to make decisions that affect those living in areas with different religious affiliations do not understand the religion of that area. That is why the study of religion is so important. I learned and grew so much during my time at Wake Forest taking classes in the Religion Department. The professors I grew closest to and who became my true mentors all hailed from the Religion Department and I cannot thank the department enough. Which is why, if circumstances allowed, I would go back to continue studying in a heartbeat!”


Richard Roberts (WFU ’08)

“I am currently employed as the Coordinator of Formative Assessments at the Louisiana Recovery School District. An arm of the Louisiana Department of Education, the Recovery School District takes over management of failing schools in Louisiana with the hopes of improving performance. As the Coordinator of Formative Assessments, I work with teachers and administrators to use formative assessments to fuel and improve instructional practices in New Orleans public education. As a young professional, I have reaped great benefits from majoring in Religion as an undergraduate. The rigorous writing requirements of the Religion department have trained me to write and communicate clearly in my professional career. Also, the critical thinking skills gained through the analysis of other cultures and religions have given me a better understanding of human behavior and decision-making in the modern world.”

Kristen Little (WFU ’08)

“Currently I am living in Durham, NC working on my Master’s of Social Work at UNC Chapel Hill. My interest is in child welfare and this year I will have an internship with Wake County Department of Social Services investigating reports of child abuse and neglect and working with the families and children who are involved with our agency. The strengths of Wake’s religion department is by far the professors. It was a wonderful experience having professors who took a personal interest in me and my education outside of the material being taught in class. I always felt like I was encouraged to explore my interests and discover who I was and what made me come alive in the religion department, and knew that I had the support and endless resources of the faculty behind me. The study of religion is important not only because of the impact religion has had and continues to have on humanity, but also because the study of religion teaches one to be a life long learner, to ask questions and how to find the answers, and how to examine an issue through multiple lenses.”

Matt Imboden (WFU ‘O8)

After completing a BA in Religion and English in 2006, I earned an MA in Religion in 2008 at Wake Forest as well. I have spent the past five years working in Higher Education. The first four in Student Affairs Administration and the past one year in Student Academic Administration in the WFU Schools of Business. I am a current PhD student in Higher Education at UNC-G. The faculty, students, and staff of the WFU Department of Religion are unparalleled, and my time in that community was some of the most formative of my life.

Webb Simpson (WFU ‘O8) 

Webb Simpson Wins The US Open


Lauren Rogers Beam (WFU ’07)

Double major in Religion and Communication. She earned her Master’s in Counseling at UNC, Greensboro and is now working at Wake Forest as a Career Counselor. Since returning, Lauren has conducted career workshops for religion majors and minors, as well as her other duties.

Rashad Daker (WFU ’07)

“I’m currently a 4th year medical student at Wake Forest trying to decide what I’m going to be doing with the rest of my life: orthopaedic surgery versus radiology. I’m looking forward to seeing where I’ll end up come March 2011 and where I’ll finally start working as a doctor! The religion department at Wake was easily one of my favorite aspects of the university. It truly is a diamond in the rough. I stumbled upon it while taking my divisionals and really loved it. You really get to know everyone in the department so well – both fellow students and faculty members alike. I learned such a wide variety of topics under the umbrella subject of religion – and it was a great opportunity to get involved with the whole campus, and the surrounding community. Saying the study of religion is important is definitely an understatement. It really opens you up to discussions with so many different people and so many different things. I ended up talking more about my religion major and experiences than any other science related topic at my medical school interviews!”

Mitchell Currin (WFU ’07)

Received his Masters of Public Administration from University of North Carolina and in February of 2012 came back to Wake Forest as the Assistant Director of Member Services for Athletics. He and his wife, Jennifer Folsom Currin (2007) live in Winston-Salem.

Kendra Plating (WFU ’07)

Pastoral Care Minister at First Baptist Church Greenville, SC (affiliated with the Cooperative Baptists and Alliance of Baptists!) Excellent professors, students, and staff. Very blessed to have had my time in this department! My favorite part of being at Wake Forest.

Carmella George (WFU ’07)

Community Programs Coordinator for the City of Jacksonville, NC


Brandon Edwards
MA: Religion

Appointed in October 2012 as Department Administrator in the Harvard College Freshman Dean’s Office. In this capacity, I am broadly responsible for the finance/budget, human resources, and technology in our department, as well as the day-to-day operation of our office. In May 2012, completely my Master’s in Education with a focus in Human Development.
Too many wonderful memories to capture here, but in short my access to and interaction with wonderful faculty members like Drs. Hoglund, Foskett, Boyd, and Ford. Having spent a considerable amount of time at another institution of higher learning, I can say that what makes WF and the Department of Religion so special is the time spent with teacher-scholars. Miss you all so much!

Jessica Devaney

Digital communications strategist with a decade of experience in technology and social change advocacy. She is the Communications and Production Manager at Just Vision, an organization that creates multimedia tools, including documentary films and educational materials, profiling Palestinian and Israeli civilians working nonviolently to end the occupation and bring freedom, justice, security and peace to the region. Jessica oversees Just Vision’s online communications strategy, including web development and new media engagement; directs design and branding; and manages the post-production of all documentary film and digital video materials. Jessica is the Associate Producer of Budrus (2009), an award-winning documentary about a Palestinian community organizer who unites local political factions along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. It ! was hailed as the year’s “must-see documentary” in the The New York Times. Jessica is the producer of Just Vision’s short film series Home Front: Portraits from Sheikh Jarrah (2011) profiling nonviolent efforts in East Jerusalem and co-producer of the 25-minute documentary My Neighbourhood (2012), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was broadcast on Al Jazeera. Jessica graduated from Wake Forest University in 2006 with an MA in Religion and Society, after conducting extensive research on Palestinian and Israeli women’s movements and interviewing numerous veteran feminist activists. Jessica’s interest in creative unarmed resistance led her to produce a documentary installation, Beauty in the Uprising, which, through interviews with Palestinian and Israeli artists, explores the role of art in resistance, conflict resolution and social change. In 2007, she completed an additional year of study at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsch School of Foreign Service where she focused on global feminisms and online organizing and creative unarmed resistance in the Middle East. She has published articles on these topics in the Practicing Anthropology and presented at academic conferences such as the Society of Applied Anthropology and the National Women’s Studies Association.

Marisa Kinsey
I own 2 Real Estate companies with my brother in NYC. One for Property Management and one for Residential Brokerage. I just got married in 2013 and am looking forward to travelling this summer to Italy and hoping to get back to Wake sometime to show my husband what I loved!  I loved learning in the small classroom environment, with the seminars etc. But what I remember most is the willingness of everyone to help and be so accommodating to me when I had to finish my Junior year from home after my father passed away. Everyone could not have been more helpful and understanding, really making that time much easier for me.


Kyle Layman 

Served as Chief of Staff for Congressman-Elect Raul Ruiz. In his capacity as Ruiz’s 2012 campaign manager, Layman served as a key advisor for Ruiz’s victory over seven-term incumbent Representative Mary Bono Mack. Layman is a native of Burlington, NC and a graduate of Wake Forest University and Georgetown University.


Nathan Gunter (WFU ’02)

“I earned a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2007. Since 2006 I have worked as a communications specialist at Oklahoma City University School of Law and as a contributing writer for the Oklahoma Gazette, the state’s largest alternative newsweekly. This year I was awarded First Place honors by the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists for my Gazette op-ed piece “The Great Taco Caper” about why people should patronize locally owned business over restaurant chains. In 2009 I was a contributor to the book “Cringe: Toe-Curlingly Embarrassing Teenage Diaries, and Bad Poetry,” edited by Sarah Brown and published in the United Kingdom by Michael O’Mara books. I am currently submitting my debut novel to agents and publishers and have had manuscript requests from Viking and Crown.

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