2018-2019 GTU Graduates

Authored by: 
GTU Communications

On May 9, 2019, the Graduate Theological Union honored thirty-five MA and PhD graduates at its 2019 Commencement Exercises held in the LeConte Sanctuary at Zaytuna College. Graduates are listed below by degree, along with each graduate's thesis/dissertation title, area of study or school of affiliation, committee members, and thesis/dissertation abstract; language specialization is noted for MABL graduates in lieu of thesis information.

Master of Arts

Pietro Bartoli                                     

Lived Faith and Official Religion: Lessons from Social Justice Catholics

Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University


Jerome P. Baggett (Coordinator)

Eduardo C. Fernández, S.J.

This thesis is a study of Catholics working in various Catholic organizations in the Bay Area focusing on social justice. Catholic Social Teaching is the defining element of their faith. Their appropriation of variegated cultural strands offers insights into the experience of lived Catholicism in the United States and lessons for the Church in the future.


Brent A. Beavers

No-self, Five Aggregates, and a Fearless Heart in the Interruption of Transgender Othering in Healthcare

Institute of Buddhist Studies


Daijaku J. Kinst(Coordinator)

Scott Mitchell

Studies confirm widespread othering and discrimination of transgender people in healthcare. The gender binary system and harsh consequences that result for transgender patients can be understood and interrupted through the Buddhist teachings of no-self, five aggregates, and a fearless heart.


Luke A. Bruggeman

Aesthetics of the New "High" Culture: Pragmatism and the Language of Conversion in Ram Dass's Psychedelic America

Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University


Kathryn Barush (Coordinator)

Devin Zuber 

By historicizing the birth of William James’s Pragmatism as a product of the earlier American “aesthetic” projects of Jonathan Edwards and Ralph Waldo Emerson, this thesis develops an argument that places the explosion of interest in using and interpreting psychedelics during the 1960s as an inheritance of these older sensibilities.


Suheyla Cetin

The Importance of Muslim Chaplains on University and College Campuses for the Well-Being of Muslim Students in the United States  

Center for Islamic Studies

Judith A. Berling

This thesis aims to show the significance of and need for university Muslim chaplaincy in order to address the emotional challenges and provide spiritual counseling of Muslim students who face religious and racial discrimination in this post 9/11 world, and in the current political climate in the United States.              


Eunsoo Cho

Oppression, Liminality and Communitas: the Spirituality of Transnational Korean Women Immigrating to and from Korea

San Francisco Theological Seminary

Daeseop Yi (Coordinator)

Wendy Farley

This thesis examines discrimination against transnational Asian women within Korea and Korean women in the United States who experience otherness and exist in between cultures and religions. Sharing women’s narratives of their spirituality and relationship with self, others, and God can help create a liberative model of female liminality and communitasto empower women’s lives in the transnational context.


Austin Conley

Evagrius and Dogen: A Contemplation Comparison

Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

Thomas Cattoi (Coordinator)

Richard K. Payne 

Despite coming from drastically different cultures and religious settings, Eihei Dogen and Evagrius Ponticus, developed remarkably similar contemplation practices. Understanding the similarities and differences between their two practices is a topic within Buddhist-Christian dialogue that could lead to fruitful conversation on the nature of contemplation within both traditions.


Anne-Marie Fowler   

Different Infinities: Modeling an Ethic of Jubilaic Debt Forgiveness

Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University


Thomas Cattoi (Coordinator)

Naomi Sheindel Seidman

Lisa Fullam

Is the quality of temporal assumption systemically determinative of ethical emergence? Drawing upon the current-day example of debtor and creditor negotiations concerning unpayable sovereign debt, the lens of sacred time is treated as an interpretative instrument by which to assess the systemic effects that constitutive, as opposed to superadded, theological variables may have upon norms emergence within decidedly secular settings.


Imran Hyder Ghani

A Promenade of Memories: Reading Resistance and Revival in the Historiography of Maulānā Ḥakīm Sayyid 'AbdulḤayy al-Ḥasanī 

Center for Islamic Studies


Marianne Farina, C.S.C.

Maulānā 'Abdul Ḥayy al-Ḥasanīwas a late nineteenth century Muslim scholar, physician, and historian in Lucknow, India. This thesis focuses on his historiography by examining three of his Arabic history works. As a late nineteenth-century Nadwatul ‘Ulamā’ Islamic historiographer in British India, Maulānā ‘Abdul Ḥayy explicitly calls upon all Muslims to learn about the intellectual heritage of Indian ‘ulamā’. In creatively doing so from within the Islamic historiographical tradition, he implicitly invites all Muslims to resist Western epistemic pressures, offering a path to liberation through the preservation and revival of traditional, indigenous curricula.


Jacob S. Good

Setting the Stage: Japanese Theater and Filmic Expression as Pilgrimage 

Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

Kathryn Barush (Coordinator)

Deborah Ross

Lisa Grumbach, Institute of Buddhist Studies/Ryukoku University

The thesis investigated the relationship between Japanese theater within the context of traditional plays and modern filmic presentation in order to explore the concept of pilgrimage within Japanese religion. The subject was examined by utilizing reflection, performance, unstructured play, landscapes, and liminal staging as critical analysis tools to demonstrate the existence of pilgrimage by proxy within Japanese religion.


Heather Nicole Hayes-Haigh

Recognizing our Interconnectedness: Investigating an Ingredient of Moral Agency 

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary


Cynthia Moe-Lobeda (Coordinator)

Wendy Farley

For economically privileged, predominantly white churches in the United States, recognizing the interconnectedness within all creation is a valuable ingredient of moral agency to address environmental crises. Examples of interconnectedness arise from scripture and the natural sciences. Ideas from eco-theologians, feminists, womanists, and liberation theologians deconstruct and reform models of moral agency that better equip communities to address environmental crises.   


Seungkee Jang
Queer Jesus: Intersectionality of LGBTQ Asian Immigrant Clergy

San Francisco Theological Seminary


Laurie Garrett-Cobbina (Coordinator)

Wendy Farley

This study explores the intersectional experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) clergy in Asian immigrant Christianity in the United States. This thesis argues that a spirituality of suffering combined with transformative rituals represents an effective direction for the pastoral care of LGBTQ Asian immigrant ministers because it can support these clergy in becoming spiritually resilient.


Rachel Meyer

Queering the Market God: On Eschatology and Desire 

Pacific School of Religion

Andrea Bieler(Coordinator)

Jay Emerson Johnson

Thomas Cattoi

This thesis takes as its project the search for a life-giving alternative to the Market God, relying upon the work of queer and economic theologians to reclaim desire (named here as the cultivated hunger to consume) from its complex role in contemporary American secular soteriologies of consumption and acquisition. It offers a syncretic vision of salvific hope that reconciles cross-religious teachings in the embrace of emptiness, a rejection of the affiliation of conspicuous consumption with secular fulfillment, and a call for a queer postmodern eschatology rooted in radical relationship.                       


Nimisha Nair
Eco-Theology and Ethics in Advaita Vedānta 

Center for Dharma Studies

Rita D. Sherma(Coordinator)

Purushottama Bilimoria 

This thesis reviews systematic theological applications reflecting on the Principal Upanişads and the Bhagavad Gītā. It examines the possibility of a constructive eco-theology and ethical frameworks based on the central principles of Advaita Vedānta, while critically analyzing and building on the work of Anantanand Rambachan, Rita D. Sherma, and Neil Dalal in the area of Hindu Eco-theology.           


Francis Kemakolam Okorafor
The Driving Force of Desire and Determination, Non-thinking, and Death of the Deluded Self in The Cloud of Unknowingand Hakuin's Wild Ivy

San Francisco Theological Seminary

Wendy Farley(Coordinator)

Daijaku Kinst

This thesis is an exercise in reading together The Cloud of Unknowingalong with Hakuin's Wild Ivy. It pays attention to the themes of the driving force of desire and determination, non-thinking, and the death of the deluded self as it appears in both texts. The researcher is astonished at the birth of compassion that happens at the moment of enlightenment. This study shows how interreligious learning helps to deepen our Christian particularity.                        


Han Byul Park           

Concerning the Spiritual in "The Life of Jesus" by Kim Ki-Chang 

Pacific School of Religion

Rossitza Schroeder (Coordinator)

Ronald Y. Nakasone 

Randi J. Walker

This study explores the spirituality of Korean Christian artist Kim Ki-chang (1913~2001, pen name “Woon-bo”) through an examination of his series "The Life of Jesus." This series conveyed European and American Christian culture combined with Confucian and Buddhist Korean traditions to picture Christ in an ideal image of patriarchal and masculine elitism.


Hameem Rahman     

In Search of True Enlightenment: A Comparative Study of Ghazālīan and Kantian Ethics

Center for Islamic Studies

Marianne Farina, C.S.C .

This project brings into conversation the Islamic Tradition with the Enlightenment through a comparative study of Muhammad Abu al-Hamid al-Ghazālī and Immanuel Kant. The focus on Kant and Ghazālī is not only due to their individual prowess but because, as the thesis argues, set the standard by which their respective traditions are defined. Putting Kant and Ghazālī into discourse is akin to putting into conversation the Enlightenment and Islam. This project forwards the primary thesis that Islam and the Enlightenment produced two incompatible paradigms by their fundamental assumptions of the nature of the Self and its relation to that which is moral.

Barouyr Shernezian   

Saints in the Liturgical Life of the Armenian Orthodox Church

Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute

John Klentos (Coordinator)

Nikitas Lulias 

Anushavan Tanielian, Saint Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church

Saints are significant in Armenian Orthodox Church liturgical life, although commemorating or celebrating feast days has become tradition without much knowledge or explanation. This thesis highlights the importance of the saints in the life of the faithful through analysis of the liturgical prayers, hymns, and traditions. It intends to address the questions of why saints are present in the church and what the specific meaning that they deliver to the faithful might be.


Rhiana E. Wiggins    

The Buddhist Teachings of Impermanence as Heuristic Means: Transforming Fear and Denial of Death and Dying 

Institute for Buddhist Studies


Daijaku J. Kinst (Coordinator)

Scott Mitchell

Clinical narratives and modern medical anthropological research have demonstrated that the US healthcare system exacerbates fear and denial of death and dying, and it leads to greater suffering. Using feminist pastoral dharmology, the soteriology of the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence, combined with Buddhist contemplative practices, this thesis offers a heuristic means to move from fear and denial of death and dying to a holistic acceptance that is ultimately liberating.


Doctor of Theology

Horacio R. Da Valle

Latino/a Personal Identity: A Postmodern Critique of the Modern Self
Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Thomas Cattoi (Coordinator)

Eduardo C. Fernández, S.J.

Jay Emerson Johnson

Luis N. Rivera-Pagán, Princeton Theological Seminary

The central focus of this dissertation is the anthropological question of personal identity from the perspective of Latino/a theology. Using a Foucauldian critique to modern certainties about the self, this dissertation asserts that a notion of human praxis correlative to Foucault's concept of care of the self opens the possibility of resistance to power and to the free articulation of identities.


Moakumla Longchar

Reclaiming Naga Ethical Principles through Narrative Preaching 


Linda L. Clader (Coordinator)

Mary Donovan Turner

Sangyil Park

The tribal Naga culture is on the verge of extinction, as acceptance of the gospel has been understood to require a rejection of traditional ways. This work proposes that North American narrative homiletic theory, critically assessed, in conversation with a postcolonial analysis of the tribal-Christian cultural encounter in Nagaland, offers a valuable framework for a renewed Naga homiletic that could guide the Naga church in reintegrating the rich but endangered Naga social ethos and cultural values with a revitalized Christian tradition.                                                     


Doctor of Philosophy

Evan Hershman

Jesus as Teacher in the Gospel of Mark: The Function of a Motif 
Biblical Studies

Jean-François Racine (Coordinator)

Eugene Eung-Chun Park 

Anthony A. Long, University of California, Berkeley

The subject of the portrayal of Jesus's teachings in the first gospel has gone understudied by New Testament scholars. This dissertation is a study of the narrative purpose of the portrayal of Jesus as teacher in the Gospel of Mark, and a comparison of the Markan portrayal with depictions of teachers in other Greco-Roman literature.                         


Jeanyoun Kim

Gendered Ideologies of Merit and Service: A History of San Francisco National Training School, 1891-1934


Randi J. Walker, (Coordinator)

Joseph Chinnici, O.F.M.

Yong-Shin Park, Yonsei University


This dissertation is an exploration of women’s entrance into the religious professions in northern California between 1880 and 1935. Itattemptsto add the concept to religiousvocation to the categories of professionalization in the Progressive Era when new professions were beginning to be establishedon a national scale. By observing an intersection between gender and economics, the study demonstrates how the little-studiedProtestant religious training school heuristically illustrates significant issues about women’s role in religion and society.


KyungRae Kim

Not Puppet, but Human: a Defense of Human Freedom against Arguments for Theological and Scientific Determinism

Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Robert J. Russell (Coordinator)

Ted F. Peters 

George E. Griener, S.J.

Noreen Herzfeld, Saint John’s University and College of St. Benedict


In this scientific age, arguments for physical determinism and psychological determinism, along with traditional arguments for theological determinism, threaten the possibility of human freedom. This dissertation gives alternative interpretations of each of these arguments and shows that the reality of human freedom has not been disproved. Instead it argues that humans have freedom and such freedom makes genuine love possible.


Stephen M. King

Prisms of Perfection: The Vita Icon Images of Saint Francis of Assisi as Revelatory and Transformative of Franciscan Spirituality

Christian Spirituality

William J. Short, O.F.M. (Coordinator)

Arthur G. Holder

Beate Fricke, University of Bern, Switzerland


The vita icons of Saint Francis presented beholders with a likeness of the developing spirituality of the nascent Franciscan movement. Today these images impart presences of Saint Francis that have the capacity to serve as loci for transformative religious experience in the lives of adherents of this spiritual tradition within the broader sphere of Christian spirituality.


Sarah Kohles, O.S.F.

Women at the Window: A Feminist Reading of Sisera’s Mother (Judges 5:28-30), Michal (2 Sam 6:16-23), and Jezebel (2 Kgs 9:30-37)

Biblical Studies

Gina Hens-Piazza (Coordinator)

Rebecca K. Esterson

Carol Dempsey, University of Portland


Women at the window is a common literary motif in Hebrew Bible narratives, particularly Sisera’s mother (Judges 5:28-30), Michal (2 Samuel 6:16-23), and Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30-37). Engaging literary methods and sociohistoric research through a feminist lens allows for interpreting these women as positively featured in their window scenes rather than contained, thereby broadening and challenging the existing interpretation of the woman at the window motif.


Henry S. Kuo

Remembering the Church's Catholicity: Reformed Ecclessiology, Dangerous Memory, and Confessional Identity

Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Marion Grau (Coordinator)

Kevin F. Burke, S.J.

Shannon Craigo-Snell, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary


This dissertation contributes to Reformed ecclesiology by articulating a theological topography of Reformed approaches to understanding catholicity. Using Johann Baptist Metz’s concept of dangerous memory, it understands Reformed catholicity as being rooted in confessing the church’s dangerous memories, and concretely expressed in confessional statements taken together as a whole as a testimony to the whole Christ. 


Andrew T. Lewis

Trinitarian Clearing: Space, Breath, Non-Representation

Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Thomas Cattoi (Coordinator)

Jay Emerson Johnson

Mark Manolopoulos, Monash University


Space, this dissertation suggests, is socially constituted through and constitutive of an inter-weaving of the energies of diverse particulars and communal collectives, creaturely and divine. This stands in contrast to a frequented conception that posits space as a representational process. To counter this inadequate spatial imaginary, this dissertation theologically reworks Martin Heidegger’s metaphor of the ‘clearing’—a space breathed open through Trinitarian interrelations. 


César Melgar

Prophetic Exegesis in the War Scroll (1QM 10-12)

Biblical Studies

LeAnn Flesher (Coordinator)

John C. Endres, S.J.

Michael Graves, Wheaton College


The War Scroll (1QM) from Qumran depicts a battle between the sectarians and the Sons of Darkness. The liturgies in 1QM 10-12 interpret the Scriptures prophetically, as the allusions to Torah, the Prophets, Enoch and Jubilees predict the outcome of the war and encourage the sectarians to hope for a renewed city of Zion.


Kijung Nam

John Wesley’s Editing of Pseudo-Macarius’s Spiritual Homilies: A Redactional Study Focusing on the Theme of the Spiritual Senses
Christian Spirituality

Arthur G. Holder (Coordinator)

Thomas Cattoi

Richard Heitzenrater, Duke Divinity School

Wesley’s editorial intentions were affected by his concerns about early modern intellectuals’ tendency to focus on the immanent instead of the transcendent in dealing with divine revelation. Accordingly, Wesley’s notion of the spiritual senses provides insights into how to overcome the weak points in contemporary epistemology constructed on the base of the Kantian distinction between noumena and phenomena.


Jennifer Christine Owens-Jofré

"She Walks with Us": Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mariology, and Ministry
Interdisciplinary Studies

Eduardo C. Fernández, S.J. (Coordinator)

Deborah Ross

Nancy Pineda-Madrid, Boston College

This dissertation introduces grounded theory to mujerista theology and supports the claim that la Virgen de Guadalupe walks with those who suffer, encouraging her friends to do the same.  It uses grounded theory to analyze in-depth interviews from participant observation at a Los Angeles Catholic parish.  This claim informs a practical Mariology and a theology of accompaniment for the marginalized.  


Hyun Ho Park

Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Slander, Labeling and Violence: Intergroup Conflict, Recategorization, and Identity Construction in Acts 21:17-23:35

Biblical Studies

Jean-François Racine (Coordinator)

Rebecca K. Esterson

Darren Look, University of California, Berkeley


Acts 21:17—23:32 constructs the Jewish people caught in a vicious cycle of slandering, labeling, and inflicting violence. It attempts to break this cycle by presenting Paul’s multiple subgroup and/or superordinate identities (e.g., a Jew, a Roman, a Pharisee), yet the passage falls into the same cycle in the construction of Christian identity.


Stephan J. Quarles

Cruciform Knowledge of God: The Cross, Apophasis, Soteriology, and Michel Foucault’s 'History of Madness
Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Jay Emerson Johnson (Coordinator)

Justin C. Gable

Mark D. Jordan, Harvard Divinity School


This dissertation articulates an apophatic theology of the cross using  Michel Foucault’s History of Madnessas a starting point. The question concerns the potential for theology to be cruciform—placed under the unknowing power of the cross— and what happens doctrinally when theology is cruciform.


Mohammad Waqas Sajjad

For the Love of the Prophet: Deobandi-Barelvi Polemics and the Ulama in Pakistan
Cultural and Historical Studies of Religion

Marianne Farina, C.S.C .

Judith A. Berling

SherAli Tareen, Franklin and Marshall College

This dissertation argues that the conflict between Deobandi and Barelvi traditions in Pakistan has escalated due to changes in the methods and formats of their exchanges. These include polemical texts, oral and online debates, and debates on history, which come now from lower-ranking rather than elite ulama, resulting in categorical opposition on matters that had earlier demonstrated nuanced differences.       


Effendi Kusuma Sunur

Information and the Human Soul: a Dialogue between Thomistic Metaphysics, Information Theory and Contemporary Philosophies 

Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Michael J. Dodds, O.P. (Coordinator) 
Robert J. Russell

Paolo Gamberini, University of San Francisco


This dissertation is about the dialog between the theological conviction of the human soul in Catholic teaching and the concept of information in contemporary natural sciences. Bio-information is not the human soul but a power of the human soul that must be distinguished from the intellectual power of the human soul.


I Sil Yoon

The Impact of Theological Foundations of Restorative Justice for the Human Rights Protections of North Korean Stateless Women as Victims of Human Trafficking
Ethics and Social Theory

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda (Coordinator)

William O'Neill, S.J.

Alex Chow, University of Edinburgh


Using a case study of North Korean women who reside in China, This dissertation explores the theological foundations of restorative justice for protecting the human rights of trafficked stateless women. Theologically-grounded restorative justice, in its complementary relationship with other justice systems, aids the victims’ healing from crime and calls for cooperative efforts from local and global communities toward institutional change.