Graduate Students

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 graduate students is an optimal environment for friendships to blossom out of a common interest in studying world religions.


Shannon D. Clusel
BA, McGill University (Religion with minors in Hispanic Studies and Political Science, 2019)

Shannon was born in France and raised in a French and English bilingual home. She is studying Japanese religions, with a focus on medieval beliefs and practices, including how these might deviate from the narratives established by later scholarship. This involves rethinking the typical boundaries found between Buddhism, Shinto, and Daoism. She also partook in a research project on New Religious Movements, child rearing and state intervention in North America. She co-wrote a chapter on the Order of the Solar Temple in Quebec with Professor Susan J. Palmer.


Tami Cole
BS, Trinity University of San Antonio, TX (Biology, 1998)

Tami is studying Indian Religions with a focus on medieval yoga traditions, specifically Hatha yoga as exemplified in the Hatha Yoga Pradipikia. The focus of her research will attempt to draw links between the psychological and physiological implications of this yogic philosophy and how it relates to contemporary yoga practice. She is studying Sanskrit to aid in a more comprehensive understanding of the sutras.

Richard L. Mason
BA, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Religion and English 2017)

Mason is studying Heathenry/Northern Paganisms/ Asatru as new religious movement. He is especially focused on the unique opportunities that Hawaii provides these faiths. He plans to stay in the UH Manoa system as an Educator.


Zachary N. Soriano
BA, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Religion, 2017)

Zachary is from Honouliuli (Ewa Beach) on the island of Oʻahu. He is interested in the LDS mission in late 19th century Hawaiʻi and how the first missionaries integrated into Hawaiian society. He is also interested in how they were accommodated (or resisted) by the Hawaiian community, Hawaiʻi residents and other religious groups operating at the time. His research entails examination of missionary journals from the late 1800’s as well as Hawaiian and English newspapers in print at that time.

Alec Wilkinson
MA, Oklahoma State University (Philosophy, 2019)

BA, San Diego State University (Philosophy with a minor in Physics, 2017)

Alec’s current interests are studying the lives and teachings of the Marathi speaking Saints and Sages from the Indian State of Maharashtra. Specifically, he is interested in how they wed the knowledge of the Ātman being Brahman, and Brahman being the sole and only reality, with fervent devotion towards the personal God with qualities and attributes. In other words, these Saints tend to intimately wed jñāna and bhakti in such a way that attempts to break down the divide between non-dualistic and dualistic theologies. Some of these Saints include: Sant Nāmdev, Sri Jñāneśvar Mahārāj, Tukārām, Sri Samartha Rāmdās, and Sri Eknāth Mahārāj. Alec is currently working in closer detail with the text written by Sri Samartha Rāmdās, Dāsbodh. He is also interested in studying the development of Advaita Vedanta in America, as well as the overall condition of Hinduism in America.