Graduate Student Research

Our graduate students bring a diverse assortment of knowledge and interests to the department. Click below to see what our graduate students have been working on during their time at Georgia State University.

Introduce yourself and give a little bit of background- educational background, research, anything of personal interest you would like to include.

My name is Sabina Ali, and I am a second-year master's student in the Department of Religious Studies. I am Azerbaijani, originally from Moscow, Russia, but I definitely consider myself an ATLien after twenty years of living in Atlanta. I have a B.A. in History and Religious Studies from GSU and an M.T.S. from Emory University. Before returning to GSU, I taught high school and worked for an educational non-profit.

Please give some explanation and background of your research- thesis and otherwise.

My research interests include the cultural histories of religious institutions, movements, and experiences; the intersections, tensions, and ambiguities of individual and collective religious identity formation; and the institutional and systemic dynamics of race, religion, and power in the United States. I am currently exploring contemporary formations and boundary negotiations of Jewish identities. My master's thesis examines the ways Jewish identity is presented by direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry testing companies (such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA).

In addition to my master's research, I have had the opportunity to work as a Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. Molly Bassett and conduct extensive research around the implementation of applied approaches in religious studies classrooms, curriculums, and programs. We thought about how our field might address the “intellectual inequality gap” and reflected on the ways that our department integrates an applied approach through community partnerships in the MA program and applied pedagogies into the major.

How has your experience been in the GSU Religious Studies MA program? What have you liked? What has been challenging?

I was drawn to return to GSU for the MA program because of the incredible wealth of diversity and opportunities available to students. I've experienced support and encouragement from faculty, staff, and peers, and have grown immensely as a researcher, writer, critical thinker, and innovator. Although I am pursuing a more traditional academic route and currently applying to several Religious Studies PhD programs, I have had the opportunity to experience what an applied approach in our field might look like through graduate seminars, as a GRA, and learning from my peers about their work. The most challenging aspect of the MA program is that two years go by so fast! I think that students would benefit from being very intentional with their limited time here and make the most out of it.

Introduce yourself and give a little bit of background- educational background, research, anything of personal interest you would like to include.

My name is Karson Garrett, and I graduated with a BA in History (minor in Religion) from a great institution called Piedmont College. As of now, my major interest is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have focused on 19th-century martyrs in the South Eastern  United States, but I hope to look more into the integration of this New Religious Movement as a fourth sect of Christianity.

 

Please give some explanation and background of your research- thesis and otherwise.

Essentially, much like other outsiders were treated in the South in the 1800s, Latter-Day Saints were often seen as threats to communities. Locals developed a notion that LDS would take women back to Utah for plural marriage (not entirely true, mind you), and vigilante mobs would assemble and murder these missionaries. I stumbled across this topic when I had an assignment to do for a class on Religion in the American South. I went home, sat down, looked at my bookshelf, and my eyes landed on the Book of Mormon. From there, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, and I interviewed the Temple President in Sandy Springs. The rest is history!

How has your experience been in the GSU Religious Studies MA program? What have you liked? What has been challenging?

The program at GSU in Religious Studies has been outstanding in numerous ways. The professors have provided training that not all programs like this have in the U.S. They support us, give us advice, and praise our accomplishments. I like to think of it all as a challenge (in a good way) because it means I have to really work to reach my goals.

Where do you see yourself going next?

I have been asked this question so many times, and I keep answering like this: I don’t know where I’m going next, and I’m at peace with that. I had no idea I’d end up here in the Religious Studies Department, and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have been looking at other MA programs, but I hope to take some time to develop my thoughts and research interests even more.

Introduce yourself and give a little bit of background- educational background, research, anything of personal interest you would like to include.

My name is David Hyde. I finished up my BA in religious studies at GSU in 2018, and began the MA program this fall.

Please give some explanation and background of your research- thesis and otherwise.

My undergraduate honors thesis was about cultural dimensions of species extinction at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More broadly, I am interested in the production of meanings and values (“religious” or otherwise) rhetorically attached to natural landscapes, and how those meanings and values shift in response to rapid change brought on by climate change or more direct anthropogenic environmental disturbances (e.g. mountaintop removal mining, deforestation, pipeline construction etc.).

How has your experience been in the GSU Religious Studies MA program? What have you liked? What has been challenging?

This is my first semester in the MA program, so I’m sure this answer is likely to change. The things I like are the same things that I appreciated as an undergrad – general accessibility to time, knowledge, advice, expertise from the faculty, and the freedom to adapt the program to one’s own individual professional goals and research interests. As for a challenge, time management is what it all comes down to for me personally.

Where do you see yourself going next?

Hard to say. PhD program applications may be in my future – if I’m not completely disaffected by the modern university system in a couple years!

Introduce yourself and give a little bit of background- educational background, research, anything of personal interest you would like to include.

My name is Catherine Moore. Coming from a small family farm to Atlanta in 2008, I am now wrapping up an M.A. in Religious Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. I received a B.A. in Religious Studies with minors in English and Sociology from Georgia State University in 2016. During my time in the Religious Studies Department, I have worked as a research assistant, graduate teaching assistant, and helped create a curriculum for introductory courses. I have interned and volunteered with the International Rescue Committee, Trans Housing Atlanta Project, and Compassion House for the Living and Dying.

Please give some explanation and background of your research- thesis and otherwise.

My thesis examined the impact of inclusive versus affirming theologies and philosophies of refugee outreach organizations on transgender and non-binary refugees and asylum seekers. I have also presented papers at conferences on topics including communal memorization and martyrdom of trans women of color, the use of religious imagery in kink subcultures, and religious and familial experience of trans and non-binary children. My research brings together religion, transgender and queer theories, and sexual practices.

How has your experience been in the GSU Religious Studies MA program? What have you liked? What has been challenging?

My experience has been amazing. I have been allowed to grow intellectually, produce academic works, and develop a pedagogical method. I was able to develop wonderful friendships and professional relationships with my cohort, scholars, activists, and community members. The most challenging aspect was developing and writing a thesis. Though it was challenging, it was highly rewarding. I was supported by faculty who cared about my success and took a vested interested in my work.

Where do you see yourself going next?

I am currently applying to Ph.D. and M.Div programs. My goal, whether at the Ph.D. level or in a theological role, is to work with transgender and queer adults to integrate spiritual and religious techniques into sexual practices as a means of healing from trauma.

Dual-degree student Nancy Ramirez worked with graduate students Sabina Ali and Amber Deal to create an online orientation to Islam for our community partner, Compassion House for Living and Dying, in Dr. Molly Bassett’s fall 2018 graduate seminar. Other students in the course worked on orientations to Religious Literacy, Buddhism in America, and SBNR (Spiritual but not Religious). This video introduces Compassion House volunteers to what they’ll learn in the unit on Islam.

During his time at Georgia State, Steven has been working as a graduate research assistant for The Religious Sounds Map Project. The Religious Sounds Map Project, led by Dr. Kathryn McClymond out of the Department of Religious Studies, records and documents the sounds associated with various religious communities, events, and individual practices in metropolitan Atlanta. Individual and communities in the metro area produce rich oral, musical, environmental, and manufactured sounds that reflect and generate their religious commitments. These sounds offer a unique insight (in-hearing?) into the ways in which religious individuals and groups live out their spirituality, particularly in unofficial and unexpected spaces, such as homes, public parks, auditoriums, and street corners. These sound profiles also reflect the changing demographics of Atlanta over time.

Steven began by assisting with organizing the recordings that had already been done, posting them on the ATLMaps SoundCloud platform, and aligning the work (as much as possible) with ARSP (in terms of file naming, etc.). As part of that process, Steven began a research program of his own, associated with local prisons. Over the last year he has developed relationships with IMAN, a network that works with Muslim returning citizens as they are about to transition out of prison into society. In addition, Steven has volunteered with Common Good Atlanta, a nonprofit that provides incarcerated people with broad, democratic access to higher education (http://www.commongoodatlanta.com/ ). At this time, Steven is preparing to graduate from our MA program and move into PhD program that allows him to continue this work as part of a dissertation project.

Vlad teaches yoga to youths in juvenile detention centers in the Atlanta area. His research is focused on the effects on trauma-sensitive yoga in this setting. Click the video below to hear Vlad give a more in-depth discussion of his research.

LaValla Wilson is the creator of The Dream Machine, a mobile website that provides educational and financial resources to homeless and at-risk youth. She was recently featured in the Grad Student Spotlight for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Through Georgia State University (GSU) Department of Religious Studies required internship Rels 6400  a proposal was submitted to GSU Student Innovative Fellow (SIF). The “Dream Machine,” a mobile-first website for homeless and at-risk-youth began as a research proposal for the Georgia State University Student Innovative Fellow (SIF) program as a component in the required internship course in the MA in Religious Studies and Concentration in Nonprofit Management program. The SIF fellowship is an example of the opportunities available for students to apply their training in religious studies to create practical solutions to real life problems. LaValla worked closely with her advisor during the internship and SIF project, and she kept the department Chair up to speed as the website work progressed. If you would like additional information about GSU’s Religious Studies department, please visit https://www.religiousstudies.gsu.edu or email Dr. Molly Bassett at mbassett(at)gsu.edu.

Read more about her work in the interview here.