Religion & Nature

Vickie Machado (M.A. student, 2011) – vickie7@ufl.edu
In 2011, Vickie graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Florida with a B.A. in Religion and a double minor in Geography and Environmental Studies. She was granted University Scholars funding, which allowed her to conduct fieldwork for her senior thesis, “Salvation Mountain: Expanding the notion of Expressive Individualism in American Culture.” After receiving the Jaberg Award, an annual award given to outstanding Religion students, Vickie entered the Religion and Nature program in order to study the intersection of faith and action. Currently, she focuses her studies on bioregionalism, sustainability, social justice and the Catholic Worker Movement.

Alysia Radder (M.A. student, 2011) – aradder@ufl.edu
Alysia graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from SUNY Plattsburgh, yet felt that her positivist education lacked the depth needed to understand and address environmental issues in their fullness. Having shifted her focus towards the Humanities, her interests include Hinduism & ecology, religion & food, and environmental ethics. In addition to her graduate work in the Religion Department, she is pursuing a minor in Nonprofit Organizational Leadership. Her thesis will study food theology and the ritual of prasādam within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), documenting its exportation to the West and examining how the assessment of acceptable ingredients used in its preparation has fluctuated throughout the history of Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism. Alysia is currently the Outreach Director for UF’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra) as well as an academic advisor for the Bhumi Project, an educational campaign dedicated to the promotion of ecological awareness within Hindu communities throughout the world.

Religions of Asia

Joseph Heizman (M.A. student, 2012) – jheizman@ufl.edu
Joseph earned his Bachelor’s at the University of South Florida in Religious Studies. His current focus is on Chinese religions, specifically Ch’en Buddhism. He is interested in the relationship between Buddhism and marital arts, as well as the so called “Ch’en Madmen.”

Kelsie Stewart (M.A. student, 2011) – ditt0@ufl.edu
Kelsie received her B.S., Cum Laude, from the University of Florida in 2009 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Religion. Kelsie currently focuses on contemporary Japanese Buddhism and Japanese language. Her research interests include death and end-of-life issues in Buddhism, Buddhist hospice, and the intersection of science and Buddhism. Kelsie also works with the University of Florida’s Center for Health and Spirituality in teaching the course ‘Health and End-of-life Issues’ which explores topics associated with death and dying including cultural, spiritual, and psychological traditions that affect health decisions, behavior, and medical care.

Religion in the Americas

Matt Hartley (M.A. student, 2011) – pretzelmatt@ufl.edu
Matt Hartley received a B.A. in English, with a Minor in Religon, from the University of North Florida (2005). His undergraduate thesis investigated the role of British Victorian literature in preaching religious and social morality. After 6 years of teaching College Preparation and English in a public high school, Matt began his M.A. in Religion at UF in 2011. Working in the Americas track, his research pertains to how Muslim Youth are emplaced in the American Southeast, and the dynamics of their interreligious relationships.

Matt Pesek (M.A. student, 2013) – matthew.pesek@gmail.com

Matt earned a Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude, from the University of Florida with majors in Political Science and Religion. He has focused his studies on the Abrahamic religions, and spent the summer of 2013 in Israel and the West Bank. Additionally, Matt is very involved in local politics and community service, and is a Student Government Senator for UF representing thousands of graduate students.