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Graduate Student Profiles

Saint Louis University’s Department of Theological Studies offers a Ph.D. in Christianity in Antiquity or Constructive Theology designed to be completed in five years. Admitted students are guaranteed at least four years of funding as graduate assistants (research and teaching), with the possibility of a fifth year of funding as an adjunct. The department also offers M.A. programs in these fields.

Our students gain valuable teaching experience in the program and are mentored by faculty to present papers at major conferences like the American Academy of Religion and publish articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. The accomplishments of our students have contributed to the department’s high rate of success placing graduates in tenure-track and full-time teaching jobs in colleges and universities.

Graduate Students


Alec Arnold, Ph.D. Candidate

Alec Arnold's research focuses on the relation between technology and a theology of personhood, communication and mediation.


Isaac Arten, Ph.D. Candidate

Isaac Arten is researching theological anthropology with the intersections of religion and economics. His dissertation is titled: "'To Remove Want and Tame this Ferocious Spirit': Property in Nineteenth-Century English Missionaries' Theological Anthropology.”

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Amanda Berg, Ph.D. Student

Amanda Berg is interested in the development of medical care with monasticism in the 3rd and 4th centuries. She is particularly focused on early Church teachings on suffering, and she recovers those teachings to suggest ways the current health care system might think about defining, addressing, and treating suffering in a medical setting.

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Tony Crescio, Ph.D. Student

Tony Crescio studies moral theology and virtue ethics. He is pursuing a project of "ressourcement" to recapture a patristic understanding of virtue ethics and apply it to a modern understanding of moral formation. Crescio is also interested in the intersection of Scripture, ethics, and sacramental theology.

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Laura Locke Estes, Ph.D. Candidate

Laura Locke Estes studies religion in late antiquity, focusing on the literature of Syriac-speaking Christian communities. She is especially interested in interactions between Christianity and nascent Islam. Her dissertation explores identity formation and literary representation of religious others in dialogue texts by considering how Christians transformed their existing contra-Jewish polemic for use in new Islamic contexts.

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Michael Greve, Ph.D. Student

Michael Greve studies the history of biblical interpretation from the patristic period to contemporary scholarship, particularly the exegesis between Trent and Vatican II. He is especially interested in the interpretation of the Pauline corpus in Catholic theology, and in pursuing authentic ecumenical dialogue through exegetical engagement. His figures of interest would include Cornelius a Lapide, Augustine Calmet, John Owen, F. C. Bauer, Johann Mohler, Geerhardus Vos, M. J. Lagrange, Heinrich Schlier, Andre Feuillet, Rudolf Schnackenburg, and Brevard Childs among many others. 

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Joseph Grone, Ph.D. Student

Joseph Grone is interested in liturgical-sacramental theology and doctrinal theology of late antique Christianity. Noting their compelling interrelationship, he explores the ways in which patristic understandings of liturgy and ecclesiology are bound in notions of sanctification and deification, as well as developing expressions of Trinitarian and Christological doctrine.

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David Justice, Ph.D. Student

David Justice studies liberation theology, womanist theology, and the theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Through scholarship he works to shine a light on racism and discrimination in the white American church and advocate for the reform necessary to make racial reconciliation possible. By studying theology and tactics of liberators movements and theologians, he aims to contribute to the ongoing struggle for justice equality.

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Clayton Killion, Ph.D. Student

Clayton Killion is interested in patristic exegesis and late antique Christian doctrines of the body, adornment, and gender.  He is particularly interested in the ways that the Mediterranean generally and early Christianity in particular regulated and made meaning of the hair of a person’s head.

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Charles G. Kim Jr., Ph.D. Candidate

Charles Kim focuses on early Christianity. His dissertation, "From the Orator to Piscator St. Augustine's Preaching the Humble Word in the Sermones ad Populum" will include an analysis of ancient rhetoric, a theology of preaching, and Speech Act Theory. He is concurrently working to translate commentaries on the Psalms from Origen, Arnobius, Jerome, and others for a volume with Fr. David Meconi.

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Ethan Laster, Ph.D. Student

Ethan Laster is broadly interested in historical theology and the development of Christian doctrine and practice in the first millennium CE. In particular, his work focuses on asceticism and mysticism in the Syriac and Greek Patristic traditions, examining how Christology, notions of embodiment, and askesis mutually informed experiences of, and beliefs about, God in late antiquity.

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Stephen Lawson, Ph.D. Candidate

Stephen Lawson studies how modernity conditions developed, how those conditions influence theological work, and the substantial challenges and possibilities of theological work today. Lawson's dissertation contextualizes the life and work of Erik Peterson within the development of the Historicist tradition in German theology and its revolt by Karl Barth in the years after WWI.

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William Potter, Ph.D. Student

William Potter studies religion in western and central Asia in late antiquity. He is primarily interested in cultures of dying, that is, the cultural and social factors that shaped ancient persons' attitudes towards and understandings of dying and the end of life.

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Deepan Rajaratnam, Ph.D. Candidate

A scholar of constructive theology, Deepan Rajaratnam studies the intersection of ecclesiology and pneumatology with a particular interest in the laity. Building on the foundation laid by Yves Congar and incorporating ideas from Ormand Rush, Rajaratnam’s work focuses on the sense of the faithful in relation to local church. Employing a framework of communion ecclesiology and ecclesial synodality, Rajaratnam engages ethnography to further assess the sense of the faithful within local churches. Rajaratnam was selected as the Religion & Public Life Fellow for Lived Religion in the Digital Age Project for 2019-2020. Previously, he studied at Boston College where he earned a Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.). For more, visit

Felix Noel Rivera-Merced, Ph.D. Student

Felix Noel Rivera-Merced studies Political Theology, Critical Theory, and Early Modern Christianity. His interests are in understanding how social groups broadly and ecclesial groups in particular,  are shaped and in turn form their constituents. He hopes that the questions, concerns, and insights of Critical theorists and movements can provide an analogue with which to clarify and reinvigorate Ecclesiological concern. His current research is exploring the notion of Subjectivity and Agency from the standpoint of Theological Anthropology. 

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Tracy Russell, Ph.D. Candidate

Tracy Russell studies women and gender in early Christianity, martyrological literature, the discourse surrounding asceticism in hagiographical literature, and the intersection between Greek and Syriac hagiography in the late antique Christianity. Her dissertation focuses on the rhetoric of virginity in female martyr texts in Syriac and Greek from the fourth through seventh centuries.

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Craig Sanders, Ph.D. Candidate

Craig Sanders studies theology of work, focusing on the central role of the Sabbath for theological anthropology and human vocation. His dissertation is titled "Resting in the Finished Work: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 2:1-3 Toward an Anthropological Telos." His research engages with key figures of Catholic Social Teaching and theology of work, such as John Paul II, M. D. Chenu, Karl Barth, and Miroslav Volf.

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Joshua Schendel, Ph.D. Candidate

Joshua Schindel is interested in most everything regarding historical theology and dogmatics. His particular area of research is in early medieval scholasticism and early modern reformed scholasticism.

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Mitchell Stevens, Ph.D. Student

Mitchell Stevens studies 5th-8th century theologians in the eastern Roman Empire, focusing on personhood and ethical action. Principally engaging Maximus the Confessor as the self-conscious inheritor of figures such as Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Stevens strives to show how Maximus's Christianity produce a unique vision of the human person and their ethical nature.

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Josh Sturgeon, Ph.D. Student

Josh Sturgeon studies process theology with a special interest in philosophy of time and ecotheology. Sturgeon seeks to demonstrate the constructive potential of process ideas while engaging in critical conversation with classical theism. 

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Cheslea Trotter, Ph.D. Candidate

Chelsea Trotter studies Christianity in late antiquity, with a particular emphasis on the formation of orthodoxy and heresy in the early Christian church. Her dissertation examines the diverse portrayals and functions of the devil in fourth-century Christian circles and investigates how these portrayals were used by early Christian writers to respond to perceived disturbances in their local communities. She is also interested in biblical exegesis, New Testament textual criticism, papyrology, and the intersection of religion and gender identity.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

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Andrew Tucker, Ph.D. Student

Andrew Tucker studies Christianity in late antiquity. He primarily focuses on early Christian literature written in Syriac, with special interests in how early Christians interpreted Scripture using poetic forms, Christology, and the relationship between poetry and theology.

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Anna Williams, Ph.D. Candidate

Anna Williams studies how early Christians interpreted the Bible. Her dissertation will focus on Theodore of Mopsuestia, a key representative of the Antiochene school of exegesis. She is especially interested in the reception of his biblical exegesis in Greek, Latin, and Syriac authors during and shortly after the Christological controversies.