Alumni Advisory Board Members
Heather Abraham (BA 2007, MA 2008)
Heather is managing editor of Religion Nerd eMagazine. Her interests lie in various areas of religious studies including Marian phenomena, New Religious Movements, women issues, the sacred feminine, and interfaith dialogue. In writing her master’s thesis, Heather traveled to Turkey to conduct ethnographic research with interfaith pilgrims at Our Lady of Ephesus. Her first book, The Bookie’s Daughter: A memoir of Growing up in a Crazy, Crime-Ridden Family came out in 2012.
Grene Baranco (BA 2004)
After graduating from Georgia State University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Grene went on to become the General Manager at Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead. In 2007, she applied for and won the only smart car dealership in the state of Georgia. She is currently back at Georgia State pursuing a Masters degree in Religious Studies. She is on the board of Common Cause, GA and the Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation, and is excited to have recently joined the Religious Studies Alumni board.
Suzanne Degnats (MA 2013)
After completing her MA, Suzanne continues to be part of the Religious Life Stories Project and the Moral Injury Project in the department. Suzanne is very grateful to the Religious Studies Department and all of the faculty and staff for not only allowing her to pursue her interest of the religious life of the individual, but pushing her to grow in her academic and personal goals of understanding human nature and our place in society. She feels that her study of religion at GSU has enhanced her understanding and acceptance of people of all religions (and none), and has positively altered her critical thinking, writing, and intercommunications. Suzanne adamantly feels that the university experience should not just be considered a job training experience, but should enhance and challenge the thinking of the student in order to prepare them for a lifetime of learning. Joining the alumni board and supporting the department have allowed her to express this desire in a practical manner.
David Dreyer (BA 2001)
David is a business litigation attorney at Chamberlain Hrdlicka, a 2004 graduate of Emory Law, where he served as Student Bar Association President, and a 2001 graduate of Georgia State University, where he majored in Philosophy, with a concentration in Religious Studies, and Political Science. While at GSU, David founded and served as President of the GSU Young Democrats and received the Student Leadership Award.
David is committed to improving his community, and in addition to serving on the Religious Studies Advisory Board, is on the Grant Park Conservancy Board of Directors and the Red Clay Democrats Board of Directors. David previously served at chair of the Georgia Lawyers Chapter of the American Constitution Society, a progressive law and policy group, and remains active in the federal judicial nominations process. David lives in Grant Park with his wife, Melissa, and his two children.
Justin Howell (BA 1997, MEd 2003)
Justin is currently the Director of Development for the IRC, and he served as the IRC Education and Learning Manager for two years before assuming the development position. In 2013, Justin was recognized with the IRC “Employee of the Year” award. Justin earned his BA in philosophy and sociology and his MEd, with a focus on science education and pedagogy. In addition to his education at Georgia State University, Justin earned a Certificate in Grant Writing from Emory University (2014). Before joining the IRC, Justin was an educator. He helped establish two non-traditional public schools in the Philadelphia area, and he served as an ESOL/science teacher at the DeKalb International Student Center. In that position he worked with refugee and immigrant communities. He is currently a school board member for the International Community School in Decatur, Georgia.
Derek Jackson (BA 1997)
Derek currently lives in Alpharetta with his wife, Gillian, and his two children. He is co-owner of a small import company, which involves a good bit of travel to Asia. He enjoys spending time with my family, playing guitar, and hiking/camping.
He chose to join the Alumni Board because he would like to see the Religious Studies Department continue to grow and prosper. He believes the mission of the Department—and what it produces—is of global importance, and he wants to help serve in any way that he can.
Mike Luttrell (BA 2001)
Mike joined Emory University in 2010 as the Director of Information Technology in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. He designs, implements, and maintains the enterprise applications and IT infrastructure of the center. His experience spans over 20 years in the field of information technology in both higher education and corporate sectors. The Religious Studies program gave him a great appreciation for viewing religion both in practice and as a belief system.
Ndola Owuo-Hagood (BA 2005 & 2008, MA 2010 )
Ndola Owuo-Hagood graduated with her B.A. in Religious Studies with a minor in Philosophy at Georgia State University in 2005. She then returned Georgia State and completed a 2nd B.A. in Anthropology with a concentration in Women’s Studies in 2008. She returned a final time to earn her M.A. in Religious Studies in 2010, completing a thesis titled “A Hermeneutical Exegesis of Creation in Islam.” She is currently a homeschooling mother of 3 young ladies. When time permits she designs and bakes custom cakes for Marie’s at Ummat’s Café, her family’s restaurant, which provides fine catering services in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
Amna Shirazi (BA 1997, JD 2000)
After growing up in Atlanta, Amna attended American University in Washington, D.C.. She subsequently earned her Bachelors (’97) and Juris Doctor (’00) degrees from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is set to receive her LLM with a focus on Democratic Governance from Emory University School of Law in 2012.
As a well-known community educator, Amna is a constant and reliable source to Atlanta area newspapers who frequently publish her remarks about current immigrant issues and immigration policy. She has a successful immigration practice focusing on deportation defense, detention, asylum/human rights, family immigration, domestic violence and consular issues, and handles all manners of appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals as well as litigation in the federal courts. She has been admitted in 2000 to the State bar of Georgia; Supreme Court of Georgia; U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia; U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. She is an active member of her community and is on the Steering Committee of the Young Leaders of the World Affairs Council, and commits her time to numerous local charitable organizations and political causes.
Former Board Members
Leslie Andrews (BA 2012)
After graduating from GSU with B.A. in Religious Studies, instead of jumping straight into Grad School, she turned her sights on a less typical outlet for the RELS graduate – business. In June ‘12, Leslie began assisting with the design of diversity programs at Chick-fil-A, Inc. She also continued to utilize her research and writing background for leadership within the corporation. Her experience continues to support her advocacy of Liberal Arts education. She has found that students with Liberal Arts degrees are seen as valued assets in business because of their acute analytical and writing skills.
Leslie is grateful for the outstanding people, experiences, and lessons that challenged her while a Religious Studies student at GSU. Each inevitably prepared her to create thoughtful responses to the needs she encounters in society. She is thrilled about the opportunity to now serve the Religious Studies department as a member of its Advisory Board and looks forward to building strong relationships within the GSU community over the next year.
Lori Ann Feig-Sandoval (BA 1982)
In 2006, Lori completed coursework for her Master’s in Religious Studies at Georgia State University but left before writing her thesis to focus on educating her young son at home. In the 1990’s, Lori earned her Master of Arts in Communications in 1984, and her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (including religious studies courses) in 1982, both from Georgia State University. She also holds a degree in nursing from Riverside City College (1978).
Lori supports the Religious Studies Department because, in all of her pursuits, it seems essential as a social being to try to understand and honor what is heartfelt about people’s beliefs and behaviors. Whether they were neighbors, patients, parents of patients or of her son’s friends, clients, political candidates, foreign combatants or dignitaries, or even strangers she read about in the news, it seemed that religion, or a reaction against religion, often helped form one’s moral code and sense of purpose. Lori believes that religious studies as an academic discipline offers a way, for anyone who desires it, a way to better comprehend the world’s diverse, historical and contemporary religious impulses, themes, experiences, and practices.
Betty Woodman (MA 2003)
Betty received her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Emory University in 2012, concentrating in sustainability ethics, leadership, and education. The findings of her research contribute to the fields of sustainability ethics and decision-making, leadership studies, bullying programs, peace studies, and sustainability education. Previous experiences include executive management, engineering, and corporate education. She also received a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.