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Religion Newsletter 2020-2021

In this year's newsletter we celebrate our 2021 graduates and Religion majors who have won awards. You will also find news about Religion majors who have graduated in past years and faculty activities.

• Related: Religion newsletter 2019-20

Seniors: Religion reflections and what comes next

religion dept seniors

Congratulations to our graduating Religion majors!

L-R: Caleb Gruden, Joe Knapik, Molly Bastida, Miranda Sharp and Jack Roche. (Not pictured: Chloe Anderson.)

Chloe Anderson

Chloe will be attending the master's program in Speech-Language Pathology at Eastern Illinois University. Chloe tells us that “upon first glance, this program may seem unrelated to Religious Studies. However, I have found the thought processes and interpersonal skills I have developed in the religion program stretch far beyond one’s initial thoughts on religious studies. This program has impacted me as a person for the positive in a way that I am excited to carry with me through the next parts of my life.”

Molly Bastida

Molly is a double major in Religion and CSD (Communication Science and Disorders).  Next year, Molly will be attending Illinois State University to pursue a Doctorate in Audiology (Au.D.). She says “I am so excited to continue my education and continue incorporating my Religion background into the field of Audiology! I know that my background in Religion will help me be the best, most culturally competent audiologist I can be!” 

In addition, Molly also completed a minor in Interreligious Leadership. Here is what she says about that experience: “Pairing my Religion major with the Interreligious Leadership minor rounded out my whole college experience. This minor allowed me to dive deeper into various religious traditions I might not have been able to otherwise. Due to the minor’s unique structure, I was able to participate in an interreligious training workshop geared towards Augustana and college students, contribute to the Interfaith Youth Core national conference, and complete an internship at Heartland Hospice Care. My internship blended my passion for geriatric care and religious practices for end-of-life care for a variety of religious traditions. I learned so much throughout my minor, but mostly I gained the confidence and skills to be a successful advocate for all religious traditions.” Read Molly’s “More Than I Imagined” profile here

Caleb Gruden

Caleb is a double major in Religion and Pre-Medicine.  He has been admitted to medical school at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz. to study podiatry. He says “my goal is to become a podiatric surgeon and then pursue a master's degree in Religion, as I want to further study and write about Christian medical ethics later in life. Augustana has prepared me well for the road ahead and my Religion degree has opened my mind to many new perspectives I had not yet considered.”

Joseph Knapik

Joe double majored in History and Religion and plans to spend the year immediately after graduating working in the Quad Cities, with the intention of building a portfolio to begin a career in the field of museum studies, library sciences, preservation, or archival sciences. He plans to attend graduate school for a master’s degree after gaining valuable work experience in one of these fields.  

John “Jack” Roche

Jack Roche is a double major in Religion and Business Management and after graduation will be working with his brother-in-law on an entrepreneurial opportunity that ties in with his Business Management major. He hopes that his experience in management at Augustana will help him become a good business partner for his brother-in-law and his future co-workers. Jack says that "the Religion courses here at Augie required me to take on different perspectives in order to truly understand another person’s viewpoint. Becoming a Religion major helped me to realize this aspect of my life and to improve on it. I’ve always had an interest in spirituality and elements that transcend what we know. I hope to apply skills gained from my Religion courses to the real world and to form healthy relationships with people of other backgrounds in my work and home life." 

Miranda Sharp

Miranda is a triple major in Religion, Psychology and Spanish. She has been admitted to Colorado Christian University for a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and is planning to use this degree to enter the field of counseling with a religion-based focus.

Alumni Updates

taylor ashby

Taylor Ashby, 2020

In the past year, Taylor Ashby has been working for law enforcement while based in Minneapolis. She is planning to prepare for graduate work in the field of religion and is currently reading avidly with the aim of further exploring ideas she first learned about in her undergraduate days as a Religion major. While reading the works of Talal Asad and Michel Foucault in her spare time, she has been closely following the trial of Derek Chauvin and the on-going humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia with the hope of learning how to be a better advocate for meaningful change in the future.

sandra morales

Sandra Morales, 2020

Sandra Morales now lives in Iowa City, Iowa and is studying for her JD at the University of Iowa. She is involved in a number of student groups including the Hispanic Latino Law Students Association and the Organization for Women Law Students and Staff. This summer she will be working at the Trey Sucher Law Office, a firm specializing in immigration law, Sandra’s particular field of interest. Sandra says that her Religion major helped prepare her with the reading and interpretive skills that are essential for her current graduate work in Law.

Shelby Burroughs, 2019

Shelby Burroughs is living in Normal, Ill. completing her Clinical Doctorate in Audiology at Illinois State University. She is currently a second year in the program, taking classes and completing clinical hours doing comprehensive audiological evaluations, hearing aid selections, fittings, and checks. The knowledge and appreciation of different religions and cultures that she gained from her Religion major at Augustana has helped in connecting and assisting with a diverse group of patients in clinic.

Ethan Conley-Keck

Ethan Conley-Keck, 2019

After spending a year post-graduation in Boston fundraising for NPR & PBS, Ethan moved to Chicago for a service year with AmeriCorps. He works with Saga Education as an algebra tutor in the Chicago Public School system. Ethan also volunteers with his local mutual aid group. He's currently working on a documentary about a coalition of mutual aid groups in Northwest Chicago which formed a food distribution network. Aside from that, Ethan is writing in preparation for when comedy clubs reopen, and film production can safely resume. 

Ethan says this about his time with the Department of Religion: "My professors helped me see the value of cultivating empathy, staying open minded, endurance, productive criticism, and storytelling. Stories written centuries ago show this is not the first time we've struggled through hard times, and it won't be the last, but we can still look for light in the darkness."   


Giselle Loucks, 2019

Giselle Loucks is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. She plans to serve as a pastor in the ELCA after her graduation from Wartburg. This summer she will be involved in the Clinical Pastoral Education program. 





Christine Vincent, 2019

Christine Vincent is currently living in Columbia, S.C., in her second year at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. She is almost halfway through an MDiv degree and ELCA candidacy, moving toward becoming a Lutheran pastor while working at Faith Lutheran Church, a small rural congregation about 45 minutes away from Columbia. 

She was recently engaged to Isaac Taylor, “my partner in life and all things seminary.” Isaac is also a second-year seminarian, pursuing Lutheran Army Chaplaincy. Christine says that her Religion major at Augustana “opened my eyes to the world of seminary and empowered me to make that future a reality. My professors helped me dive deep into my Lutheran tradition and encouraged me to ask questions about my faith, which led me to jump headfirst into a master’s program almost a thousand miles away from home!”


Adiba Hasan, 2018

Adiba Hasan recently graduated with a Masters in Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. She is currently exploring different opportunities while settling down in Canada. The knowledge and skills attained as a writer and critical thinker enabled her to intern with the International Organization for Migration in Switzerland where she worked with the Return and Reintegration Team. After returning to Toronto, she interned with the Multi-Faith Centre in partnership with the Ba'hai Community of Canada and the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School, where she worked with her supervisor on planning and programming a three-part seminar series relating to "Religion and Migration".

Leah Berger, 2016

Leah (Shelton) Berger is currently living in Davenport, Iowa and working for Transitions Mental Health Services as an Employment Specialist. She uses knowledge and skills gained from her religion coursework and internship to assist her clients with exploring and achieving their vocational and career goals, especially teaching them how to shift their perspectives to see all of the options available to them.


Dezi (Vicky) Gillon, 2016

Dezi Gillon continues to work with community healing and wellness for Black and Brown queer and trans communities. After graduating from Augustana and then completing an MDiv degree at Union Theological Seminary (N.Y.), Dezi moved back to Chicago in 2019, and began to work as a restorative justice coach within Chicago public schools. They currently work at the Transformative Justice Law Project of IL assisting trans folks with legal and programming resources. Dezi says that their Religion and Sociology majors helped them become "interested in community, faith, theology ethics, suffering, love, race, and gender while in undergrad which led me to study theology and ethics at Union." For a conversation about teaching, learning, and social justice with Dezi, see here

dorothy stein

Dorothy Stein, 2012

Dorothy R. (Williams) Stein went on to receive her Master of Divinity at Wartburg Theological Seminary in 2016 and now lives in Gladstone, N.D., and serves as head pastor to a three-point rural ELCA parish while supervising a pastoral intern. Dorothy grew up Roman Catholic in the Chicagoland area and is learning and growing through the culture shock of living in the heart of the agricultural and energy industries. Her undergraduate education, particularly the theology of the Lutheran tradition she has adopted and the values of Wendell Berry, continue to inform how she lives out her calling in ministry in an increasingly diverse area as well as her calling to steward the small farm she now owns with her husband Levi. Their farm includes a garden, orchard, turkeys, chickens, a few beef cows, a couple of dairy cows, a llama, two horses, two dogs, four cats, and some sheep are coming soon!

Faculty News

Khalil Andani


Dr. Andani’s Harvard University Ph.D dissertation “Revelation in Islam: Qur’ānic, Sunni, and Shiʿi Ismaili Perspectives ” was awarded the Best Ph.D. Dissertation of the Year on a Topic of Iranian Studies by the Foundation for Iranian Studies for the 2019-2021 year.

Dr. Andani published a major 75+ page article about the Islamic spiritual doctrine of the Light of Muhammad in the Brill Journal of Sufi Studies. He also presented papers at the following academic conferences: Middle East Studies Association, International Quranic Studies Association, American Society for Islamic Philosophy & Theology, and Institute of Ismaili Studies. He appeared on several popular podcasts to discuss various topics relating to Islam, Reason and Theology, Abbasid History Podcast, and Talk Gnosis, and gave guest lectures on Sunni vs. Shia Islam at Virginia Commonwealth University and on the Fatimid Caliphate at the University of Toronto. Dr. Andani's YouTube channel remains active with new content every month.

Dr. Andani has been selected to present at the The Global Philosophy of Religion Project Online Conference (June 2021) sponsored by The John Templeton Foundation. This conference is held in collaboration with Closer To Truth, broadcast in the U.S. on PBS TV stations and globally on Closer To Truth’s YouTube channel. The Closer To Truth creator and host, Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, will conduct special sessions with speakers and participants. Dr. Andani's talk will be about Islamic Neoplatonism, a model of reality that combines the teachings of Plato, Aristotle and Islamic theology. Dr. Andani will share how Islamic Neoplatonism can address many theological issues currently debated by philosophers of religion, such as God's attributes, divine temporality vs. timelessness, and the usefulness of arguments for the existence of God(s).

Taido Chino


Dr. Chino has a forthcoming publication on Ludwig Feuerbach in The T & T Clark Handbook of Modern Theology (London: T & T Clark). In November 2020, he presented a paper entitled "Neither Essential, nor Accidental: Sin in a relational and apocalyptic key" at the conference for the American Academy of Religion. He has also been leading a series of online conversations this year around theology, race and the church in America. 


Jason Mahn


Dr. Jason Mahn spent much of 2020 (during his sabbatical leave from teaching) writing his new book: Neighbor Love through Fearful Days: Finding Purpose and Meaning in a Time of Crisis, which will come out through Fortress Press in August, 2021. It is his first attempt at writing for a popular (non-academic) audience as he reflects as a theologian, educator, father, husband, and neighbor on what it means to live well in times of fear and loss. (This post on the Vocation Matters blog became an early draft of one the short chapters.)

mahn book cover

In writing the book, Jason incorporated the vocational stories of past and present students, learning valuable lessons from them about finding purpose and meanings in times of crisis. Annelisa Burns, a current religion major, used her Board of Trustees fellowship to serve as a writing consultant and to offer critical, constructive feedback. In the book's acknowledgements, Jason writes this: "Augustana student Annelisa Burns read a version of almost every paragraph that I wrote, some which were hardly decipherable and many which never saw the light of day (mercifully). Annelisa reads perceptively and generously, offers feedback articulately, catches errors, and is not afraid to tell a professor that he can’t say that or should find a better way to say it. I am deeply grateful."


Breanna Nickel


Dr. Nickel, who has served as a Bergendoff Fellow for the past two years, has accepted a tenure-track position at her alma mater, Goshen College, Indiana. The Religion Department congratulates her and wishes her all the best on her new adventure at Goshen. 



Nirmala S. Salgado


Dr. Salgado attended the 2021 Workshop for Department and Division Chairs held by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in June. She was scheduled to attend the CIC workshop last year, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19.



Eric Stewart


Dr. Stewart published the following reviews:
● Review of Sun Wook Kim, Jesus and the Missional Movement in Galilee: Markan Spatial Presentation and Its Hermeneutical Significance in Review of Biblical Literature
● Review of Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, The Slave Metaphor and Gendered Enslavement in Early Christian Discourse: Double Trouble Embodied in Biblical Theology Bulletin 50.1: 61-62.


Michelle Wolff


Dr. Wolff was accepted to the Wabash Center's Teaching and Learning Workshop for Early Career Faculty Teaching Undergraduates 2021-2022. The workshop includes a cohort of 16 faculty peers who form a teaching community by meeting together throughout the year.

During their fall term research leave, Wolff completed a book manuscript on intersex scholar, priest, and activist Sally Gross (1953-2014) and accepted an invitation to write an essay response to Joan Scott's On the Judgment of History, which is forthcoming in Political Theology.

Wolff’s other recent work includes public scholarship, book reviews, conference papers, and colloquia and symposiums as follows:
● “The Ethics of Gender Selection,” co-authored with undergraduate student Aviana Zahara, The Immanent Frame
● “Killjoys and Myth-busters: uses of Affect for Pedagogy,” conference paper for the American Academy of Religion, Boston, 2020
● “Sacred Texts, Religious Feminisms: is there room for religion in revolutions?”, conference paper for the National Women’s Studies Association, 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19)
● “The Role of Religion in Transnational Intersex and Trans Analytics”, conference paper for the National Women’s Studies Association, 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19)
● Incarnational Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary (virtual due to COVID-19)
● Paid consultation for “Bonhoeffer Otherwise” Think Tank

Student Awards

Outstanding Religion Major Award - Chloe Anderson and Molly Bastida



Chloe Anderson

Chloe states that they are grateful for this award and says that their time in the Religion Department at Augustana has been very instrumental to their personal growth. They state that: “when many people reflect on their college experiences, they talk about the extracurricular activities and time outside the classroom. For me, the most change and growth took place in the classroom. Through the readings and reflections, I changed my whole perspective. My vision of the world was widened. I learned to listen to the unheard voices and truly interrogate my own beliefs.” 





Molly Bastida

Molly is from St. Louis and is a double major in Religion and Communication Sciences and Disorders and a minor in Interreligious Leadership. Molly is an active member of the Chi Alpha Pi sorority, Camp Kesem, and Office of Student Life and Leadership. She is excited to continue her education as she pursues a Doctorate in Audiology while continuing to incorporate her background in religious studies during graduate school. She believes that life is extremely interdisciplinary and even though she is not pursuing a graduate degree in religion, her religion major will propel her through her endeavors as a future Audiologist. 

Molly states that she is humbled by this award and grateful to the faculty of the Religion Department for their support throughout her four years at Augustana while doing challenging course work, and for their contribution to her personal growth, and professional development. Molly thanks her professors and fellow religion majors for helping shape her experience at Augustana, she couldn't imagine her time at Augustana without them!


Floyd and Louise Anderson Award - Annelisa Burns



Established by Sharon L. Anderson Telleen '68 (daughter), Barbara R. Anderson Lindquist '71 (daughter), Katherine Telleen Stebe (granddaughter), Paul Telleen (grandson), Anders Lindquist '04 (grandson), Britt Lindquist Simonson (granddaughter), and in memory of Floyd and Louise Anderson. The award is given to a student in the junior year, selected by Religion Department faculty for recognition of excellence in Religious Studies (as measured and defined by the faculty).

Annelisa Burns is a junior from Naperville, Ill., who is triple majoring in Religion, English, and German. She works as a peer tutor in the Reading/Writing Center and also plays viola in the Augustana Symphony Orchestra and is Vice President of the Equestrian Club. She says “I love being a Religion major because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field; my studies seamlessly combine all of my interests. Through my multiple majors and work in the RWC, I’ve been able to attend conferences and do research (that I was scheduled to present at a conference before it was ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19). One of my most meaningful experiences has been getting to work as an editor/writing consultant for Dr. Jason Mahn’s most recent book this past summer.”

In addition to this significant honor from the Religion department, Burns was also recognized by the college to receive the Nils Hasselmo Award for Academic Pursuit, a $5,000 annual prize for an Augustana student pursuing a career in research or higher education teaching. She is very excited to win the Hasselmo award which will help her as she begins preparing to apply to graduate schools. The prize will cover application fees and GRE preparation, and allow her to attend the American Academy of Religion’s National Conference in November. After graduating from Augustana, Burns intends to go to graduate school for religion, and to continue her interdisciplinary work. She is interested in writing, publishing, and perhaps even becoming a professor one day. 

Spring Events

Religion students ended this year with a virtual departmental celebration including games and book prizes for graduating majors.

Because of COVID-19, Religion majors were not able to present at the Midwest American Academy of Religion conference so they presented their Senior Inquiry Research projects (below) at the virtual Spring 2021 Augustana Celebration of Learning.

● Chloe Anderson, "American Ideals and Pauline Freedom: Redeeming Scriptural Concepts of Freedom from American Politics."
● Molly Bastida, “’The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions’…and then what?"
● Caleb Gruden, "Colonization, Exotic Capital, and Popular Culture: The Trifecta That Has Shaped American Vodou."
● Joseph Knapik, "From Spiritualism to Spirituality: The Remnants of a Victorian Movement."
● Miranda Sharp, "The Mediation of Christianity within Trauma Recovery: Association Between Christianity, Posttraumatic Growth, and Social Support"

Writing and Photography by Dan Lee

Even when quarantined in Montana, Dr. Dan Lee remains with the Augustana and Quad Cities community. In March, his personal essay about living and teaching in seclusion over the past year was featured in the Quad City Times

Two photographs (below) by Dan Lee were accepted for a juried exhibition of photography at the Bereskin Gallery & Art Academy in Bettendorf. 

Two Students Enjoying a New Snowfall at Augustana College

Two Students Enjoying a New Snowfall at Augustana College

“Brightly colored leaves of autumn were still lingering on the trees when the first snowfall of the year came, resulting in a spectacular juxtaposition of fall and winter. I was about to take a photo of a student sitting on a bench enjoying the landscape that Mother Nature had painted when another student, who was wearing a white parka, walked into the scene and sat down near the student on the bench. It was a serendipitous coincidence, adding an element of intrigue to the photo. Have trouble spotting the second student? Look for the camera that she is holding.”

Eagle Flying over the Rock River, Watched by the Silvery Moon 

Eagle Flying over the Rock River, Watched by the Silvery Moon 

“My wife and I joined some friends for an evening of boating on the Rock River in Rock Island, Illinois. It was a wonderful evening, made even more wonderful by an eagle flying over the river, watched by the silvery moon. It is an image of hope, an image made possible by the recovery of bald eagles from the brink of extinction.”

Lindberg Center

1 in 2 Augustana grads has double (sometimes triple!) majors

Around the country, about 25% of college students double major. At Augustana, it’s much higher — 53.4% of the Class of 2020 had double or triple majors. What are the advantages?

Autumn Peele

Celebration of Learning showcases the work behind the future of students

From art and anthropology to philosophy and physics, nearly 100 students shared their research and creative projects during the first virtual Celebration of Learning.

Annelisa Burns

Hasselmo winner to explore where religion, environmentalism intersect

A triple major in religion, English and German studies, Annelisa Burns '22 of Naperville, Ill., is the winner of the 2021 Hasselmo Award for Academic Pursuit.

Out of Darkness: 'Two Remain'

"Two Remain," a two-act chamber opera, is based on the true stories of two Holocaust survivors.