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The graduate students at the Department of Religion are a diverse group of intellectuals. Many of them come into the program with bachelor's degrees in Religion or Religious Studies, but others have done their previous academic training in related disciplines, such as Philosophy or International Studies. In addition to their formal classroom time, graduate students at the Department often spend a great deal of their free time in social settings together, where they continue to learn from one another. Our small department of only between one and two dozens graduate students is an optimal environment for friendships to blossom out of a common interest in studying world religions.


Sameer VyasSameer Vyas
B.A. University of Western Ontario (2013, World Religions and Cultures)

Sameer studies Indian religious and philosophical traditions, and his primary area of focus is on the non-dual tradition of Advaita Vedanta. His current research involves comparing and analyzing the teachings and understanding of the Self through the perspectives of three Advaitin teachers: Adi Shankara (8th century CE), Ramana Maharshi (20th century CE), and Mooji (21st century CE). Sameer also has an abiding interest in: the nature of self-identity, consciousness, mysticism, and contemporary religious and spiritual movements. He is also currently studying Sanskrit to assist in his research.

Paige KawakamiPaige Kawakami
B.A. University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (2014, Religion)

Paige's focus is Hawaiian religion. She is most interested in how Hawaiian religion and culture affect and are affected by law in Hawaii. Paige received a BA certificate in French language but is now studying Hawaiian language to assist with her research. Her other academic interests include mysticism and new religious movements.

Laura DunnLaura Dunn
B.A. University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (2012, Religion)

Laura studies Indian contemplative and mystical traditions, particularly yoga traditions and their confluence in the post- modern West, while maintaining an avid interest in Buddhist and Christian mysticism. She is also interested in the relevance and usage of Asian mystical religions in modernity and how those traditions merge with Christian and secular worldviews. She has studied Sanskrit and is currently studying Hindi.

Eitan CohenEitan Cohen
B.A. University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (2012, Religion)

Eitan studies Islam, particularly Indonesian and Moroccan Islam. He has studied Hebrew, Arabic, and is currently learning Indonesian to assist his studies. His thesis will focus on comparing and contrasting Indonesian and Moroccan Islamic worldviews. Eitan is also academically interested in Judaism, Christianity, religious conflict, religion and modernity, and Atheism as a form of religion.

Lane DaveyLane Davey
BA University of Hawai‘i: Manoa (1993)
MA Pacific Rim Christian College (2011)

Laneʻs academic interests include Judaism, Christianity and Hawaiian Religion. Her focus area is Christianity and colonization. She plans to research syncretism in the process of Hawaiian Bible translation. Her specialization is biblical studies. In May 2011 she completed a thesis on the Historical (Jewish) Jesus and currently she pursues Greek, Hebrew and Hawaiian language in order to enhance her research.

Charissa FabiaCharissa Fabia
B.A. University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (2010, Religion)

Charissa is a graduate student specializing in indigenous religions. She is currently focusing on Hawaiian religion but is also conducting a research project investigating the religious dimension of healing.

Joanna Kim Joanna Kim
B.A. University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Religion (2013)

Joanna is studying East Asian Buddhism, particularly Korean Buddhism. Her current research focuses on the development of the Jogye Order after the end of the Japanese occupation through the Presidency of Park Chung Hee. Joanna is also interested in indigenous traditions and in their intertwining with transplant religions.

Kelsey NakashigeKelsey Nakashige
University of California, Riverside (2013)

Kelsey’s religious studies interests include Shintoism, East Asian Buddhism, and New Religious Movements. She is primarily interested in Shintoism and Buddhism’s strong roots in Japanese culture and everyday life. Kelsey is currently studying Japanese to assist in her research.

Ali Samji
B.A. in Religious Studies, CSUN

Ali’s research focuses on the confluence between Hindu and Islamic traditions in their pre-modern South Asian context (Sitz im Leben).

Sara Sellers Sara Sellers
B.A. University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia (2012)

Sara is interested in analyzing how non-Protestant religion has impacted American Civil Activist movements throughout American History. In particular, she is studying the integration of Buddhist thoughts into the Civil Rights movement and American society.

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