Back row: Shadi Halabi, Shelley Dennis, Brock Perry, Anna Blaedel, Ashley Boggan, Christian Kakez A Kapend, Kwang Yu Lee, Wang Eun Serl. Front row: Amy Chase, Lindsey Guy, Reiko Yuge, Midori Hartman. Not pictured: Fernando Linhares.

The Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) at Drew University welcomed 13 new students to campus this fall, selected from an extraordinarily competitive pool of applicants.

Our incoming students are diverse in culture, language and area of study.  They hail from colleges and universities across the United States and around the globe.  A little over half of the entering students come from the United States, but others have joined the GDR from as far away as Korea, Japan and Africa.  Students have come with dedication and determination; drawn to Drew’s GDR for its unique ability that allows a connection to a broader intellectual context, while providing necessary grounding in their specific discipline.

On August 23, 2012, students attended a two-day orientation where they were officially welcomed and greeted by professors, deans and staff.  While the day began with routine check-ins and obtaining parking permits, it quickly led into an opportunity to engage with peers, meet with advisors, and socialize with faculty.  An Academic Life Workshop was led by Dr. Virginia Burrus, and Dr. Ernest Rubinstein gave a tour of the Rose Memorial Library, where students will spend many hours, days and nights learning the depths and breadths of their discipline.  To officially end the day students and their families were invited to attend a picnic dinner on the lawn of Seminary Hall.  Perhaps they had a few moments to reflect on what has brought them to Drew University and its Graduate Division of Religion. Orientation marked the beginning of yet another chapter at the University and in the lives of its 13 new students.

While the academic year is in full swing for students busy with course work, studying for exams, juggling families and sometimes traveling long distances to attend classes please take a few moments to get to know some of this falls newest classmates and why they chose Drew.Wendy Parrinello, Administrative Assistant to the GDR.

Anna Blaedel has been doing theological praxis as a pastor of United Methodist churches in Osage and Des Moines, Iowa for the last 4 ½ years.  Before that, she received her M.Div. from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, and also has a BA in Religious Studies from University of Iowa, in Iowa City, IA.  Anna maintains a love for academic study of religion and a desire to continue engaging constructive, expansive, embodied, queer, process-relational theology.  Her intellectual interests include theo-ethics of issues and practices around food, eating, and sustainability; scholarship that is accountable and responsive to communities and contexts in/outside the church, and in/outside the academy.  Anna is excited about: the transdisciplinary approach to theological engagement; opportunity to work with and learn from incredible scholars both on faculty, and other students in the program; and creativity that emerges at the intersections of process, political, postmodern, and theopoetic theologies.

Ashley Boggan is most recently coming from the University of Chicago where she received an M.A. in the History of Christianity. However, she is an Arkansan at heart, having grown up in Little Rock, AR and receiving a BA in Art History from the University of Arkansas. At Drew, Ashley is specializing in 19th c. American Religious History, specifically Methodism right before, during, and right after the American Civil War (ca.1840-1880). She is very excited to have access to and to have the opportunity to work at the United Methodist Archives. No other campus in the U.S. has such an immense resource available to students and historians of the United Methodist tradition.

Amy Chase has come to Drew from Bellevue, WA, where she graduated in 2010 from the Seattle campus of Fuller Theological Seminary.  Her intellectual interests include the fate of the nations in the Hebrew prophet’s utopian visions, how such concepts as “God’s will” and “God’s ways” are invoked to compel behavior within communities.  She is excited most at the plethora of brainy people, the freedom to explore diverse interpretive methods, and the opportunity to tutor in the ESOL program.

Shelley Dennis graduated with a Master of Arts in Theological Research from Andover Newton Theological School, and a Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities from Northern Arizona University.  She’s interested in drawing from religious traditions while yet exposing these traditions to post-structural, post-colonial, ecological and queer critique in an endeavor to construct a theology conducive to the development of sustainable communities. She is excited at the breadth and depth of critical and constructive approaches to religious scholarship engaged in by the professors and students of the Graduate Division of Religion.

Linzi Guy graduated with a Master of Arts from Drew University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.  Linzi’s interest in Jesus and poverty include working with a hermeneutic of the empowerment and subjectivity of the poor in order to find liberating readings of the economics of the gospels. She is excited about: the vibrant and supportive intellectual community that Drew offers; the diversity of interests, backgrounds, and experiences of her peers; and the way these will shape how she learns in conversation with them.

Shadi Halibi is coming from Union Theological Seminary in New York, New York.  He is most interested in feminist biblical criticism, gender and sexuality in the Hebrew Bible, specifically, the female and male relationships in Hebrew Bible narrative. Shadi is excited most about the faculty, where he’ll have the opportunity to learn from people whom he’s been citing since his early undergraduate work.

Midori Hartman has come to Drew after the recent completion of a Master of Arts in Theological Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology, British Columbia.  Midori is eager to pursue her interests in late antique hagiographies and ancient narrative at Drew, as well as to further ground herself in biblical studies and theology/philosophy. She is pleased that there are such a wide number of classes that can help her pursue her various areas of interest. Midori is most excited about the collaborative and intellectually-stimulating atmosphere that Drew presents in both its day-to-day activities and in the special events that the theological school often houses, such as the various lecture series.

Christian Kakez-A-Kapend came to Drew this past August after serving for a couple of years as an Associate Pastor and Pastor of Heart of Africa at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas.  Christian is a Congolese National of Uruund origin and an ordained United Methodist elder in the South Congo/Zambia Episcopal Area.  He earned his M.T.S. (Magna Cum Laude) from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, B.D. (Honors) from Africa University, Diplôme de Graduat (Distinction) from Université de Lubumbashi. Christian’s focus is Systemic Theology and his areas of interest include, but are not limited to: Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology and torture.  There are many things that excite Christian about the Drew Community and especially this program.  He counts it a privilege to be associated with such a reputable Ph.D. program, nationally and internationally, and also a great honor to be able to learn and collaborate with such a high caliber of instructors, who are notable for leadership in the church and society, prolific scholarship, and commitment to excellence in teaching.  In his words: “Through their publications, they always will figure in my scholarly journey wherever I go.   While I find the faculty, staff, and my fellow students to be cordial, all the worship services in Craig Chapel are just meaningful and uplifting.  I’m looking forward to what God has in store for us all.”

Kwang Yu Lee came to Drew from Korea in 2007, where he finished his M.Div. and M.A.  Lee’s interests are still changing and evolving.  Most recently he is deeply interested in human desire untamed and unlimited, which solely aims to have more and more, to live longer and longer, and to stay younger and younger at the expense of nature and humanity – at a global level.  Kwang Yu asks: Is it possible for us to tame our desire rather than to make attempts to stimulate it more and more?  What excites him most about Drew’s Theological School is its academic atmosphere that is fully interdisciplinary and open to any kind of discourse.  Having studied theology (M.Div.) and philosophy (M.A.), Kwang Yu will now pursue his Ph.D. in psychology at Drew, where he has a unique opportunity to study all three.

Fernando Linhares has recently completed his M.Div. at New Brunswick Theological Seminary and has been a lawyer since 1993.  His intellectual interests are restorative justice and humanizing the criminal justice system. He is excited most at Drew’s faculty, reputation and location.

Brock Perry has come to Drew with a Master of Arts in religious studies from Chicago Theological Seminary.  His scholarly interests are focused on bringing queer theory and constructive theology into dialogue with one another to address issues of queer embodiment.  Recently, this focus has taken the shape of re-thinking the ontology of both queerness and divinity, using affect theory as critical support for articulating the ways that divinity emerges within queer atmospheres of everyday experience. He was especially drawn to the GDR because of the interdisciplinary nature of both the program and the research of the faculty.  It is one of the few places where it seems possible to work between philosophy, theology, and cultural studies while productively challenging the distinctness and effectiveness of disciplinary boundaries.

Wang-Eun Serl, originally from South Korea, has earned a Master of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he resided before coming to Drew to study Theology and Philosophy.  He is interested in process philosophy, creation and evolution, and religion-science dialogue. He would like to study evolution of consciousness with regard to process thought and the relationship between consciousness and religious faith.  Wang-Eun is excited about the great faculty members at Drew and the beautiful campus located in the forest.

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