Religion and Culture Academic News

The following graduate students and faculty members were inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy for Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence this academic year. Joining as members in Fall 2017 were: Si-Hua Chang, Philosophy; and Michelle Murray and Jameson Natwick, both Human Development and Family Science; as an associate: Katarina Krizova, Human Development and Family Science; as a fellow: Lindsay Whittaker, Philosophy; and as faculty scholars: Matthew Komelski, Human Development and Family Science, and Jordan Laney, Religion and Culture.

Inducted as members in Spring 2018 were: Allison Hutchison, English; Chelsea Lyles, Higher Education; and Jessica Stephen Premo, Human Development and Family Science; as an associate: Jarrod Blair, Philosophy; and as a fellow: Katherine Ayers, Sociology.

Members are graduate students with limited or no graduate teaching assistant experience. Associates have at least one semester of teaching experience and/or have participated in curriculum development. Fellows have more than two semesters of teaching experience and/or curriculum development and outstanding teaching evaluations. Faculty scholars are recognized for their commitment to teaching excellence, pedagogical innovation, and inclusive learning environments; they include instructors, faculty members, and postdoctoral scholars.


Michael Saffle, a professor in the Department of Religion and Culture, published “China and Japan in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-century Anglo-American Sheet Music,” Music in Art XLII/1-2 (2017): 329–40.

Athenaeum, a suite of spaces and services in Newman Library dedicated to cultivating digital research skills of faculty and students, had its grand opening January 25. The suite consists of a modular classroom (124 Newman), a collaborative boardroom (126), and a media studio (127).

The speakers at the grand opening were: E. Thomas Ewing, a professor of Department of History and associate dean for graduate studies and research; Sylvester Johnson, a professor in the Department of Religion and Culture and assistant vice provost for the humanities; and Tyler Walter, dean of university libraries.

Sylvester Johnson, the assistant vice provost for the humanities and a professor in the Department of Religion and Culture, served as the 2017 Distinguished Scholar at the 2017 annual conference of the Unitarian Universalist Collegium, which was held October 19–21 in Chicago, Illinois. He presented on the topics “Spirit, Matter, and Machines: Religion and Humanity in a Technological Age” and “Religion and National Security.”

In addition, Johnson gave the 2017 Gates Lecture at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, on October 25; the title of the lecture was “Religion and National Security: Islam, Racialization, and the Politics of Counterterrorism.”

The following students in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences were awarded scholarships for the 2017–2018 academic year.

The Dean’s Rising Senior Scholarship was awarded to Makeda Mesfin, International Studies. Recipients of the Dean’s Rising Junior Scholarship and Rising Sophomore Scholarship were Kevin Foster, Theatre and Cinema, and Jenna Humphrey, International Studies, respectively.

The following students were recipients of a Destiny Scholarship: Olamiposi Akinyemi, Political Science; Taylor Anderson, Political Science; Tyra Anderson, Human Development; Hannah Ange, Literature and Language; Madison Arnesen, Political Science; Curtis Batchelor, National Security and Foreign Affairs; Megan Church, Communication Studies; Danielle Cieslewicz, Fashion Merchandising and Design; Shannon Clarke, Theatre Arts; Sarah Coates, International Studies; Meaghan Doherty, Political Science; Mariah Evans, Criminology; Madeleine Gagne, International Relations; Lidia Guerra, Political Science; Noah Hairston, Multimedia Journalism; Diana Harley, Political Science; Connor Ingalsbe, International Studies; Danielle Jeffers, Multimedia Journalism; Halle Jordan, Multimedia Journalism; Haein Kim, International Studies; Alexander Knight, International Studies; Desiree Laureano, International Relations; A’via Linton, Spanish; Gabrielle Lozama, Multimedia Journalism; Matthew McPherson-Jaramillo, Multimedia Journalism; Casey Molina, Multimedia Journalism; Joshua Morrison, Music; Corrine Murray, Public Relations; Elisa Nicolini, International Relations; Casey Pongonis, Professional and Technical Writing; Collin Sabine, Political Science; Hunter Shinn, Classical Studies; Sierra Spain, Communication Studies; Virginia Stephenson, Multimedia Journalism; Rachel Sutphin, Religion and Culture; Luca Thoms, Political Science; Zachary Weeks, Classical Studies; Cassidy Whitlow, Human Development; Jada Woodson, Fashion Merchandising and Design; Ryea Young, Human Development; Jason Yoxthimer, Communication Studies; and Amy Zelaya, Human Development.

Recipients of the Austin Student Veterans Scholarship were Mallary Brown, School of Education, and William Thomas IV, Political Science.

Awarded the Tom Barton Family Scholarship was Sara McNulty, Political Science.

Jessica King, Communication Studies and International Studies, received the Dean Robert Bates Scholarship as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Senior Challenge Book Scholarship.

The Megan E. Christenson Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Courtney Flickinger, Multimedia Journalism.

Human Development doctoral student Shelby Borowski was recognized with the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Faculty Campaign Scholarship and the Mildred Tate Scholarship.

Sarah Lim, Literature and Language, was recognized with the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Staff Association Scholarship and the Susan Pascoe Farrell Scholarship.

The following students were recipients of a Martha Price Hancock Scholarship: Theodore Alt, Music Education and Music Performance; Vincent DiNardo, Music; Rachel Hargrave, Creative Writing; and Lauren Weaver, Spanish.

Receiving a Laura Jane Harper Scholarship were: Danielle Cieslewicz, Fashion Merchandising and Design; Emilee Cruz, Fashion Merchandising and Design; Benjamin Graulich, Residential Environments and Design; Makahla Stout, Fashion Merchandising and Design; and Junhua Zhang, Consumer Studies.

Stefnie Cerny, Theatre Arts Design and Studio Art, and Sarah Lim, Literature and Language, were recognized with a Hallie L. Hughes Memorial Scholarship.

Kathryn Kowalski, Professional and Technical Writing and Literature and Language, was awarded the Hulick Scholarship for Leadership, Friendship, and Service.

The John and Jane Milne Academic Scholarship was awarded to Juri Oh, Human Development.

The following students received the Moody, Pratt, Minor Scholarship: Matthew Barrett, Russian; Stefnie Cerny, Theatre Arts Design and Studio Art; Emily Hoyt, Human Development; Haley Meade, Religion and Culture and Biochemistry; Makeda Mesfin, International Studies; Caroline Nicotra, Spanish and Biological Sciences; Kaelyn Petrides, Public Relations; and Nikki Tobler, Theatre Performance.

Lyn O’Connell, Human Development, was the recipient of the James D. Moran Memorial Scholarship.

A Nelson–Lehmann–Gold–VanSant Family Scholarship was awarded to Jesse Marie Acierto, Human Development, and Melody Gregory, Human Development.

Recognized with the John Rathbone Scholarship were: Sarah Lim, Literature and Language; Scottie Lynch, History and Business Leadership; and John Mastakas, History.

Mary Karen Read Memorial Scholarships were awarded to Amy Crow, Jordan Fuller, and Vanessa Robinson, all Human Development.

Receiving a Robichaud Family Scholarship were: Jesse Marie Acierto, Human Development; Theodore Alt, Music Education and Music Performance; Paige Bailey, Fashion Merchandising and Design; Raleigh Christian, Political Science; Lauren Farrar, Music and Multimedia Journalism; Jesse Hughes, Music Education; and Kathryn Kowalski, Professional and Technical Writing and Literature and Language.

Sarah Patton, International Studies, was the recipient of the Ora Goodwin Roop Scholarship.

The following were awarded a Margaret Groseclose Skelton Scholarship: Molly Maurin, Human Development and Psychology; Jordan Mercer, Consumer Studies; and Leah Richards, Literature and Language.

The recipient of the Maryellen Spencer Scholarship was Lauren Weaver, Spanish.

Holly Hunter, Public Relations, and Kayla Parrish, Human Development, received a Margaret Rawlinson Svoboda 4–H Scholarship.

Mildred Crawford Weidemann Scholarships were awarded to: John Mastakas, History; Molly Maurin, Human Development and Psychology; Paige Moorman, Fashion Merchandising and Design and Spanish; and Natalie Tabor, Human Development.

Haley Meade, Religion and Culture and Biochemistry, was the recipient of the Mildred E. Young Scholarship.

Students awarded College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Education Abroad Scholarships were also acknowledged; their names appeared in the May 2017 issue of News2Note.

All of the recipients above as well as the donors who support the scholarships were recognized at a dinner on October 19.


Danille Christensen, an assistant professor in the Department of Religion and Culture, published “Materializing the Everyday: ‘Safe’ Scrapbooks, Aesthetic Mess, and the Rhetorics of Workmanship,” Journal of Folklore Research 54.3 (2017): 233–84. Christensen serves as a consulting scholar for These Roots Run Deep: Connecting Communities through Foodways, a project that is developing a series of community forums, events, and workshops centered on Appalachian local foodways.

The Virginia Tech Alpha Mu Pi chapter of the Theta Alpha Kappa National Honor Society for Religious Studies held its third annual induction of members on October 20. Department of Religion and Culture majors Emily Shull, also Business Information Technology and Finance, and Emily Sutphin were inducted by President Austin Owen, Religion and Culture and Classics; Vice President Timothy Miles, Religions and Culture; and Secretary and Treasurer Rachel Sutphin, Religion and Culture and Human Development. Brian Britt, a professor and chair of the Department of Religion and Culture, and Amanda Villar, an academic advisor in the department, serve as faculty sponsor and co-advisor of the chapter respectively.

Michael Saffle, a professor in the Department of Religion and Culture, published “From Broadway to Phineas and Ferb: The Rise of Music(al Comedy) Videos,” Music/Video: Histories, Aesthetics, Media, ed. Gina Arnold, Daniel Cookney, Kirsty Fairclough, and Michael Goddard (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), pp. 41–52.

Emily Satterwhite, an associate professor of Religion and Culture, published “Environmental Health Disparities in the Central Appalachian Region of the United States,” Reviews on Environmental Health 32.3 (2017): 53–66, with Leigh-Anne Krometis, Julia Gohlke, Korine Kolivras, Susan West Marmagas, and Linsey Marr.