University of Iowa religious studies alums are studying and working all over the nation and globe, from Iowa City to Kazakhstan, and from Cincinnati to Switzerland.

We are proud of our alumni, and we like to stay connected. Be sure to check out what our grad alumni and undergrad alumni are up to, and while you're at it, look for the survey link to let us know what you've been up to!

Alumni jobs

In recent years the Department of Religious Studies has placed graduates in a wide array of colleges and universities both in the United States and abroad. Of the 81 graduate students who received doctorates from the Department of Religious Studies from 1998 through 2017, 59 now work as college and university professors, 5 are church professionals, 4 work in counseling or as ethicists, and 4 hold other academic appointments. Below you will find a list describing where and in what capacity our graduates have found employment. 

If you find incorrect information on this page, please email Robin in the main office, or update your information using this form.


  • Emma Rifai: Instructor, Department of Religion and Culture, Virginia Tech University (Blacksburg, Va.)
  • Pranav Prakash: Junior Research Fellowship, Christ Church, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
  • Darcy Metcalfe: Senior Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church (Springfield, Ohio)
  • Peter Yoder (PhD 2011): Assistant Prof of Honors and History, Montreat College (North Carolina)
    • Formerly Theological Seminary, Dallas


  • Iva Patel: Tenure Track, Religion Department, Augsburg University (Minneapolis)
  • Jan Rippentrop Schnell: Assistant Professor of Liturgics, Wartburg Theological Seminary (Waverly, Iowa)


  • Jason Sprague: Lecturer, University of Michigan (Dearborn, Mich.)
  • Kaitlyn Lindgren-Hansen: PhD Student, University of Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa)


  • Gwendolyn Gillson: Assistant Professor of Asian Studies, Illinois College (Jacksonville, Ill.)
  • Jeremy Fricke: Education Director, Tri-Faith Initiative (Iowa City, Iowa)


  • Kyle Dieleman: History Professor, Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, Ill.)
  • Jordan Copeland: Associate Professor, LaSalle University (Philadelphia)
  • Kayla Wheeler: Assistant Professor, Gender and Diversity Studies, Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio)


  • Sumeyye Pakdil Kesgin: Adjunct Professor, Elon University (Elon, N.C.)


  • P.J. Johnston: Visiting Assistant Professor, St. Olaf College (Northfield, Minn.)
  • David Greder: Adjunct Professor, Waldorf University (Forest City, Iowa)


  • Alicia Vermeer: Office and Program Coordinator, Community Youth Concepts (Des Moines, Iowa)


  • Christine Darr: Department Head for Philosophy, Dept. Head for Politics and History, University of Dubuque (Dubuque, Iowa)
  • Abbylynn Helgevold: Assistant Professor and Board of Regents Distinguished Professor in Ethics, Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa)
  • Ezra Plank: Director of the Lausanne International Program, Visiting Prof of Religion, Pepperdine University (Lausanne, Switzerland)
  • Steve Scheperle: Pastor, Grace Community Church Downtown (Iowa City, Iowa)
  • Kari Thompson: Field Organizer, United Electrical Workers
  • Susan Woolever: Adjunct Professor, Pace University (New York)


  • Mitchell Coleman: Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology, Assistant Professor of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, UI Hospitals & Clinics (Iowa City, Iowa)
  • Binita Mehta: Asst. Prof., Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
  • Daniel Morris: Adjunct Professor, Norwich University (Northfield, Vt.)
  • Ryan O'Leary: Professor, University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.)
  • Peter Yoder: Director of Admissions & Lecturer, Historical Theology, Theological Seminary (Dallas, Texas)


  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Binghampton University, SUNY (Binghampton, N.Y.)
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, The College at Brockport, SUNY (Brockport, N.Y.)
  • Adjunct Professor, Clarke University (Dubuque, Iowa)
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Berry College (Mount Berry, Ga.)
  • Verna Ehret: Associate Professor, Mercyhurst University (Erie, Pa.)
  • Tim Stoller: Director, Delta College, SUNY (Brockport, N.Y.)
  • Director of Admissions & Lecturer, Historical Theology Theological Seminary (Dallas, Texas)


  • Assistant Professor, Ithaca College (Ithaca, N.Y.)
  • Adjunct Professor, Nashotah House Theological Seminary (Nashotah, Wis.)
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.)


  • Assistant Professor, Bethany Theological Seminary (Richmond, Ind.)
  • Assistant Professor, Young Harris College (Young Harris, Ga.)
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Mount Mercy University (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
  • Associate Professor, American Public University (Charlestown, W.Va.)
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah)


  • Assistant Professor, University of North Texas (Denton, Texas)
  • Assistant Professor, Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, Texas)
  • Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin Osh Kosh (Osh Kosh, Wis.)
  • Instructor, Hawkeye Community College (Waterloo, Iowa)
  • Program Director, American National University (Roanoke, Va.)
  • Psychiatrist, Virtue Medicine (Iowa City, Iowa)
  • Assistant Professor, Mercyhurst University (Erie, Pa.)


  • Assistant Professor, LaSalle University (Philadelphia)
  • Associate Professor, Grace College (Winona, Ind.)
  • Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire (Eau Claire, Wis.)
  • Assistant Professor/Director, Southern Illinois University (Springfield, Ill.)
  • Assistant Professor, Mercyhurst College (Erie, Pa.)
  • Coordinator, Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.)
  • Assistant Professor, Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, Conn.)

Alumni updates

Undergraduate alumni

We are proud of our alumni and we like to stay connected. If you earned a religious studies degree from the University of Iowa, take our short survey and let us know what you've been up to! We look forward to hearing from you, and we hope you can make connections with one or more of the alumni who have given us permission to share their information:

Undergraduate alumni

BA 1975
Practicing attorney

Aaron Carpenter undergraduate religious studies alumni

BA 2019
Working on Master’s of Divinity at University of Dubuque (December 2021)

Kelsey Dallas undergrad alumni of religious studies

BA 2012

"For the last five years, I've been at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City writing full-time. My editors indulge my reflections on religious trends even as they urge me to write a little faster. (It's hard to break academic writing habits.) Although life on the faith beat is a little too busy these days for much daydreaming, I do find myself thinking back to my time at the University of Iowa a few times a month. Teachers there taught me to love the topics I cover and to respect the people I interview, and I will never stop being grateful."

BA June, 1950
(Maiden name: Condit)

"Donn Hastings and I were married Sept. 1948.  I had taken 2 years of science in preparation for nursing school.  In 1948 the U. of Iowa nursing school would not allow me start training and be married.  So I majored in religion (as did my husband) and took some secretarial  courses in preparation of supporting us while my husband attended McCormick Seminary (Chicago).  The following year (1949/50) nursing school contacted me to let me know they were then taking married students.  I said, "No, you are too late."  While my husband attended seminary in Chicago I worked as a secretary/accountant fo support.  Following his graduation he was a chaplain in the USAF for five years.  Three years of that five were spent at two different air bases in Japan -- Matsushima and Shiroi. I have memories of those three years that are very special.  Following that he had pastorates in Kirkwood, Mo., Morton, Ill., and Indianapolis, In.  During that   time we had three children, and as soon as the youngest was in school I was out the door to work as an office manager/secretary.  In my forties, I decided to study to pass the Certified Public Accountant exam.  My license is dated 3 days before my 50th birthday.  When my husband retired we moved to Grand Prairie, Tx. (DFW area).  I continued to work as an accountant until I was 80 1/2 years old.  I am now 91 still living  alone. I was widowed 22 years ago."  


"The religion department in the la 40s was very special. Dr. Judah Golden was such an exciting and interesting professor. All the professors took great interest in each of us. The religion department was a real oasis for those us who were going to school full-time and trying to support ourselves with part-time jobs.  It was a time when religion became something very interesting and stimulating."

Charles H. Jr. Dick is a undergrad alumni of religious studies

BA 1964

"I have retired from the active practice of law and am serving as a professional Arbitrator and Mediator in San Diego, California, with the JAMS organization--the leading alternative dispute resolution provider in the United States."


"George Forell remains a mentor to this very day. The recent video about Prof Jay Holstein served to remind my how deep an impact Dr. Forell had on me, and his imprint has been indelible. Ethics of Decision remains on my bookshelf as a reminder that 'Not to decide is to decide.'"

BA 1987
Attorney, Madison, Wis.


"Faculty during my undergrad was A+ quality: Nickelsburg, Klemm, Holstein, Kuntz, Boyle, Forell, Bozeman. All-star lineup."

BA 1974
"My wife and I live in Dnipro Ukraine, and I teach online for two universities, one in Slovakia and one in the U.S."

BA 2018
"Currently getting my Master’s from Denver Seminary. "

Melinda Licht is an undergrad alumni in religious studies

BA 2007
(Maiden: Smiths)

"After getting my BA in Religious Studies, I earned a Master's in Theological Studies focusing on the early history of Christianity and the philosophies that shaped its development. I then returned to the UI to get a BS in Biology and spent a few years in biomedical research. Currently, I'm working with the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, trying to promote and aide student and faculty involvement with undergraduate research in all disciplines."


"The Religion Studies Department taught me how to think critically about the development and interplay of religions in society. But it also made college fun. I always smile thinking about Dr. Keen planking between the podium and the chalkboard while talking about medieval interrogation techniques. Dr. Schlutter showing actual photographs when he visited the far-off places we were talking about. Dr. Cates patiently teaching 18-year-olds that sexuality was valid to talk about in an academic setting. Dr. Holstein shocking those same 18-year-olds by actually using a swear word during lecture. Dr. Smith dispelling myths of what "tantra" actually means. Dr. Bozeman putting up with my annoying (and often impolite) senioritis. Dr. Kuntz lighting up when his friends and family brought a retirement cake to the last class that he taught before "retirement". I loved every minute - academic and otherwise."

BA 1971
Retired. "I am an ordained deacon - Archdiocese of Newark, N.J."

BA 1989
Iowa District Court Judge


I am grateful for my time as an undergraduate in the Religious Studies Department. The critical thinking and writing skills I developed through my course work in the Department have been invaluable to me in my career. I am indebted to Professor Kenneth Kuntz for the many hours he spent with me as a mentor and have many fond memories of both his classes and my independent study with him. His guidance made all the difference. I am also very grateful to have taken classes with Professors Holstein, Forell, Klemm and Schweiker. These professors made the study of religion not only compelling, but exceedingly relevant to those of us who have found our liberal arts education to be a springboard for lifelong learning. I also believe the opportunity to study side-by-side with graduate students in many of the upper level Religion classes not only increased the rigor of those courses, but was great preparation for future graduate or professional level studies.   

BA 2019

"I am at Emory University in my first year of a dual degree master program working toward a Master of Public Health and a Master of Theological Studies."


"I had a great experience with the Religious Studies Department at Iowa. It helped me discern what I wanted to do as a career and the professors were excellent. I was especially impacted by Dr. Supp-Montgomerie, Dr. Jordan Smith, and Dr. Nabhan-Warren."

BA 1970
Retired after a 30 year public school teaching career  in West Des Moines, Iowa


"Dr. James Spalding was my advisor in the School of Religion and was instrumental in helping me to be more diverse in my thinking. Drs. Carlston and Baird enriched my experience and helped to prepare me for my further educational experience at Fuller Theological Seminary, of which they had some background."

BA 1986

I am the Chairman and Managing Partner of Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, an 80-attorney full-service law firm in Chicago. I have been practicing as an estate planning attorney for more than 30 years, with a focus on working with high net worth individuals and families on estate and tax planning matters. I currently serve as a member of the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield, Illinois. 

BA 1969
After graduation from Iowa, went on to study at The Church Divinity School of Religion and the Graduate School of Religion in Berkely CA M. Div. (73).  I was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in the Diocese of Iowa in 1973.  I served congregations in Iowa. Idaho, Oregon, and Colorado.

I have two adult children and 3 grandchildren.  I retired from active ministry in 2018 after 45 years.  I live in Gunnison, Colorado.


"I found a life long interest in Biblical Studies, archeology, and an appreciation of non-Christian beliefs. One should avail oneself of the opportunity to learn about what others believe, how they find meaning in their lives, and to understand that there is more find than in business, or law, or physics classes."

Stephanie Yazell is a undergrad alumni in religious studies

BA 2012

I am a Success Coach with TRIO Student Support Services at the University of Iowa!
Reflection:  "I am so thankful for my time learning from the instructors in the Religious Students Department at the University of Iowa! I have carried my passion of learning about religions and cultures with me in my life and continue to use my knowledge in my current work." 

Ben Yuesen is an undergrad alumni in religious studies

BA 2021
​​​​​Working on my MA in English Literature at Western Michigan University.


"The faculty in the department are some of the best, kindest, most intellectually profound people I have had the pleasure of knowing."

Graduate alumni

We appreciate our alumni and we would love to connect with you! If you're a University of Iowa religious studies alum, take our short survey and tell us what you've been up to! We look forward to hearing from you, and we hope you can make connections with one or more of the alumni who have given us permission to share their information:

Graduate alumni

PhD 1972
Retired Professor Emeritus, after 31 years of teaching at Graceland University.  Served as Chairman of the Humanities Division for 13 years, Director of Theology Colloquy, Director of Experimental Curriculum, Religion Department Coordinator, Coordinator of Religious Studies, Kansas City Regional Council for Higher Education. Taught 21 separate courses, authored numerous articles in religious studies and psychology of religion, and published the definitive work on Edwin Diller Starbuck, Pioneer in the Psychology of Religion. Since retirement, served on Graceland's Alumni Board for 10 years, and have been a community volunteer. Finally, I serve as a lay minister in the Community of Christ.

Dena S. Davis is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 1987
Presidential Endowed Chair in Health, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
"About to retire after 12 years at Lehigh University, and just moved to NYC where my new apartment is two blocks from Lincoln Center.  Continue to be active in bioethics.

Frances Flannery is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 2000, MA 1998

Professor of Religion, Department of Philosophy and Religion, James Madison University

Read more about a recent opinion by Dr. Flannery titled, "Understanding the Insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021- Ending the Cycle of Violence".

Jeremy Fricke is a graduate alumni in religious studies

MA 2016

"I am currently serving as Education & Program Director at Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska. Tri-Faith Initiative is a special project in the middle of America where a synagogue, church, mosque, and interfaith center are intentionally co-located as neighbors. I have built a wide variety of curriculum and taught public courses and classes on topics ranging from religion as part of DEI to history of religions of the world and history of religions in America. I am looking forward to increasing my amount of published scholarship over the coming years."


"I really enjoyed my time assisting Dr. Mentzer and Dr. Holstein, and being advised by Dr. Nabhan-Warren, Dr. Supp-Montgomerie, and Dr. Pesantubbee (may she be honored and loved by our memories.) The University of Iowa prepared me well to both be a nuanced scholar and to apply academic understanding to everyday life. I would not be where I am today without the support of the University and the faculty of the University of Iowa Religious Studies Department."

Ronald Flowers is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 1967

"I am retired from being a professor in the Department of Religion at Texas Christian University for 37 years. My wife and I had 3 children, 4 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. My wife, Leah, died nearly 8 years ago from Alzheimer’s disease. Most of my scholarship was in the area of church and state relations."


"The broad program turned out to be ideal for my career as professor in a department of religion that taught undergraduates only. Studying religion at a state university stimulated my interest in church/state relations in America."

John R. Gardner is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 1998

Clinical Coordinator for Beauport Ambulance Service in Cape Ann - articulating the response to and management of COVID19 throughout the Cape.  Recently presenter for online international meeting hosted from india for East-West Philosophy, Sanskrit Terminology for the Self, and Life Choices (now on YouTube).  Featured in Reuters International Study on EMS and the Opiod Epidemic. First recorded solo climb of all 48 4000+' peaks of the White Mountains in Winter.


"I was told by my PhD mentor, Fred Smith, in passing, that "once you learn Sanskrit, you can learn anything" - seven (7) successful careers inside and outside academia later, and still using my Sanskrit and Vedic work throughout, truer words were never spoken to me about career and academia."

MA 1969

MA 1974, BA 1971

"Retired after 15 years of teaching at Loyola University Chicago and working 28 years on the Religion Index of the American Theological Library Association, I continue to publish and serve on the Advisory Board of the academic journal Biblical Research."


"I continue to be grateful to the excellent professors that taught me in the department (both as an undergraduate and masters candidate). The course work has been invaluable both in obtaining a doctorate from the University of Chicago and in an academic publishing career."

PhD 1978
"I'm now Professor Emeritus in the Gerontology Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  I served as President of the International Association for the Near-Death Studies and continue as a consulting editor for the Journal of Near-Death Studies. Prior to teaching at the University of Nebraska I taught at Creighton University in Omaha, and at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut."

Benjamin Hubbard is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 1973

Professor emeritus of Religious Studies, Calif. State U., Fullerton. Dept. chair for 15 years. Still teaching one course each semester.

"The Iowa program opened my eyes to the amazing and diverse world of religion in America. My major professor George Nickelsburg was a master of the New Testament field. I am forever grateful for my Iowa education."

PhD 2017
Humanities Instructor, The Excel Center & Adjunct Instructor, Drury University (Springfield, Mo.)

Kirk MacGregor is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 2005

"I am Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Department Chair at McPherson College. I am the author of multiple books, including A Historical and Theological Investigation of John's Gospel and Contemporary Theology: An Introduction. My scholarly articles have appeared in such forums as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and the Harvard Theological Review."


"The U of I Department of Religious Studies gave me the pedagogical training to be a successful teacher and the historical and theological training to be a successful researcher. I am forever grateful to the department's outstanding faculty for so heavily investing in my future as a professor and scholar."

John Richard Meyer is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 1967

"I have been retired from the Faculty of Education, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada for 21 years.  During retirement, I have had the opportunity and challenge to provide leadership for a local and a national association of Canadian faculty associations.  My first appointment to the religious studies dept. at McMaster Univ. in reformation and Christian studies led to projects in While engaged in teacher education, I did research in curriculum in world religions at the high school level.  The Ministry of Education of Ontario implemented elective courses in both world religions and later in civics/citizenship education.  Values development projects at an international level became a research stepping stone to teacher education.  Engagement in Social studies Assoc. in the USA was also a natural link to similar projects and their leaders in other countries."

"My recent attention is in the area of "aging matters" that includes illumination of the "spirituality" component.  In late Sept. 2019, my wife, Eva, and I made a nostalgic trip to UI and Iowa City."

"Retired Professor, Jim McCue, whom I had met when he first became a prof in the 'School of Religion'.  My most memorable mentor was the famous George Forell.  Now I would be most interested in being able to reconnect with former classmates and graduates during the 1965-68 era.  We had a memorable visit so well organized by the Chair and assistant and culturally (Iowa City) vetted by Jim and Mary McCue."

A favorite memory: "Grad assistant in Rel.& Culture; with George Forell & some students teaching/learning sometimes at the local pub; meeting students at the Luther House; minister to handful of liberal RC."

PhD 2022
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Department of Classics, University of Iowa

Jason Spargue is a graduate alumni in religious studies

PhD 2019

"I continue to teach Religions of the World as a lecturer in the Department of Literature, Philosophy, and the Arts at the University of Michigan - Dearborn.  I will be completing my third year there this spring.  However, most of my time is spent taking care of my toddler, William, who is just starting to walk."

Ashley Odebiyi (Tickle) is a graduate alumni in religious studies

MA 2015

"I'm currently ABD at the University of Alabama in the Department of History. I will be completing my archival research for my dissertation in Rome on a Fulbright Fellowship beginning in March (hopefully). My dissertation examines the social, political, economic, and religious connections of four communities of pious laywomen called bizzoche in fifteenth century Rome." 
Reflection:  "There are several things I appreciated about my time at UI. I loved working with the various professors and how they made us feel like colleagues not students. I also am glad that we had to take the Teaching class and learn how to create a teaching portfolio. The skills learned in that class will come in handy when I am on the job market in a couple of years. I also appreciated the emphasis that the department and university placed on AltAc and the various workshops dedicated to that, especially since the TT job market continues to shrink." 

Mark VanderSchaaf is a graduate alumni in reigious studies

PhD 1979

"I am now retired after four years as a college humanities professor and thirty years as a city and regional planner. After my four years of college teaching at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA, I went back to school and got an M.S. in urban and regional planning from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by a career as the economic planner for the City of Saint Paul (MN) and the regional planning director for the Metropolitan Council of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Area.  My religious studies Ph.D. contributed to my reputation as an unusually imaginative planner, culminating in becoming the national chair of the American Planning Association's Regional and Intergovernmental Planning Division after I retired in 2016. A highlight of my planning career was my devising and launching Grand Excursion 2004, a yearlong festival of what could be called regional civil religion, helping to generate a wide variety of river-oriented plans and development projects in Mississippi River communities in the 400 miles between the Quad Cities and the Twin Cities. Lessons learned from this event I later was able to apply to efforts to bring public art into neighborhoods near new light rail transit stations in our region. And I am currently editing a series of case studies examining "creative placemaking" in the rail transit corridors of eight major metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Phoenix and Seattle."


"My PhD at what was then called the School of Religion was the first in an experimental program crafted by Professor Robert Scharlemann called "The History of Theology and Religious Thought in the West." When I became the regional planning director for the Twin Cities Area in 2004, my background from this program helped me to cultivate a relationship with a widely-respected theological mentor, T.J. Gorringe, a professor at Exeter University in England. Among his many books I especially admired his pathbreaking "A Theology of the Built Environment." After a series of email conversations, I was able to persuade Professor Gorringe to come to the Twin Cities to do a lecture and workshop in 2009, and on his recommendation I later was selected to be the only out-of-town speaker at a 2013 series on "Spirituality and the City" at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City. Without my School of Religion background I would not have had sufficient theological insight to engage with issues of urban spirituality at this level. Now I am contributing these perspectives to adult education programming at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis."

Alumni news

Note to all University of Iowa religious studies alumni: If you are scheduled to give an upcoming talk, please email us with the info so we can get you featured on this page! Or if you haven't connected with us lately, please visit the previous undergraduate or graduate sections to take a short survey, and to let us know what you've been up to!

Alumni News

Portrait of Iva Patel

Iva Patel, (2020 PhD Alumna) presented at the American Academy of Religion Conference, December 2020: "Sensory Engagement as Authentic and Authenticating Experience: An Argument for Knowing Versus Approximating God in Hindu Songs from Nineteenth Century Gujarat" and "Speaking to Multiple Audiences in a Teaching Demonstration".   

Speech bubble and pen icon

Update your information

Stay connected to the department and university by making sure your contact information is current. 

Mail icon

Sign up for the Iowa Newsletter

Receive the latest news and information for Hawkeyes in your email inbox. Sign up to receive the Iowa Newsletter.

Open book icon

Check out Iowa Magazine

Read stories of Hawkeyes making a difference in Iowa and around the world.