Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York  

Graduate Fellows

Graduate Fellows of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center are advanced doctoral students (ABD) whose primary field of research falls within the general parameters of Orthodox Studies broadly conceived.

Members of the inaugural cohort of Graduate Fellows are: Matthew Baker, Matthew Briel, Ian C. Jones, Matthew Lootens, Lindsey C. Mercer, John David Penniman, Ashley M. Purpura, Zachary Smith, Jonathan Stanfill, and Nathaniel Wood.

In 2013-2014, the Center hosted a Visiting Graduate Fellow, Aaron Hollander, PhD candidate from the University of Chicago and a Visiting Fellow, Professor Emanuela Fogliadini from the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy, Milan.

Current Fellows

Matthew Briel

Matthew did a BA in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame with minors in theology and Italian. His junior year was spent at the Angelicum, the Dominican University in Rome, and his philosophy work there and at Notre Dame focused on Thomas Aquinas. After working for a year, he went on to do the MTS degree at Notre Dame with a focus in the history of Christianity, giving his attention to patristic Greek and Latin theology. There he fell in love with the Greek fathers. After a year teaching high school religion, Italian and Latin in Minnesota, he entered the MA program in classics at the University of Minnesota, where he also taught Latin. During this time he began independent reading in Byzantine history and became fascinated by medieval and modern Orthodoxy. After completing the MA in classics, he came to Fordham’s doctoral program in theology to study medieval Greek theology. He has been able to pursue that interest at Fordham in course work, the various programs sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Studies Center, and fellowships at various institutes for Byzantine studies. His dissertation examines the use and transformation of Thomas Aquinas by a fifteenth century Greek Orthodox theologian, Gennadios Scholarios, in his theology of providence. He spent 2013-2014 academic year at the Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at the University of Vienna as a Fulbright fellow.

Ian Jones

Ian Jones is a Ph.D. candidate in Theology at Fordham University, writing his dissertation on Greek and Latin patristic understandings of human dominion over animals. Under the direction of Dr. George Demacopoulos, he aims to articulate a patristic-based ethical vision for the treatment of animals today. He graduated from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in May 2009, having written an M.A. thesis titled, "Divine Grace and the Human Will in St John Cassian's Thirteenth Conference." He has taught the undergraduate course "Faith and Critical Reason" at Fordham, and the graduate courses "History and Theology of the Church from Origins to the Medieval Period" and "Christian Ethics and Ecology" at St. Vladimir's. Prior to pursuing theological studies, Mr. Jones practiced as an attorney in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, and served as a law clerk in federal district court in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Matthew Lootens

Matt is a doctoral candidate in the history of Christianity (patristic and medieval periods) and a candidate for a doctoral certificate in medieval studies (medieval history and Latin). His dissertation, directed by Fr. Joseph T. Lienhard, SJ, examines Gregory of Nyssa's Contra Eunomium, a fourth-century Greek polemical text. It situates Gregory's text in its late antique controversial and literary setting and argues that the Contra Eunomium is a kind of polemical commentary that witnesses the growing importance of written texts in Christian polemic and disputation. It also explores theological questions raised by the text regarding this new understanding of Christian authorship and theological textual production: where writing and ancient rhetoric fit into theological discourse, how human language works in reference to the divine, and what constitutes proper theological method at the end of the fourth century. Matt also researches more broadly on the Byzantine and western theological tradition, particularly on constructions of heresy and orthodoxy, Byzantine historiography, and theories of knowledge. At Fordham, Matt has taught on the Christian tradition from the New Testament until the eve of the Reformation and has been awarded senior teaching fellowships in the theology and medieval studies departments. In the upcoming year (AY 2013/14), he will be teaching Byzantine Christianity, Early Christian Writings, and Faith and Critical Reason. When not in the classroom or the library, he and his wife Melissa are often outside running, hiking, biking, and bird watching (usually not all at the same time).

John Penniman

John is a historian of late antiquity, with particular interests in the development of Christianity within the cultural worlds of Greece and Rome. His dissertation, which will be completed in early spring 2015, examines the symbolic function of nourishment in early Christian discussions of education, formation, and identity. Beginning with the social, historical, and philosophical underpinnings of the Apostle Paul's division between milk and solid food in 1 Corinthians, he explores how food--particularly the feeding of infants--served as a strategic resource for diverse theories about growth and legitimacy within various ancient Christian texts. In so doing, he examines the legacy of Greek paideia within Christian theories of human development and intellectual transformation.

Jonathan Stanfill

n earned his BA in Pastoral Ministries from Northwest University in Washington. While his interest in New Testament studies led him to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, it was an unexpected encounter with the Apostolic Fathers that developed into a love of the second century and an MA in Church History. At Fordham, he has focused on Byzantine Christianity, and more specifically, his current research grapples with the intersection of ethnicity, religious identity, and pastoral care in late antiquity. His dissertation, under the supervision of George Demacopoulos and entitled "Embracing the Barbarian: The Syrians and Goths in the Pastoral Strategy of John Chrysostom," explores how this fifth-century bishop of Constantinople employed a multi-faceted strategy for incorporating marginalized ethnicities into his Nicene Orthodox community.

Nathaniel Wood

Nate earned a BA in philosophy, theology, and biblical studies at Huntington University in Indiana. Raised a Baptist, he first encountered--and fell in love with--the Orthodox Church while studying abroad Israel and Egypt. After Huntington, he went to Emory University to pursue an MTS in historical and systematic theology, focusing his thesis on Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas' work on the Trinity and personhood. Curiosity led him to take a course on Russian philosophy, where he first developed an interest in the Orthodox theology of the 19th-century Russian religious renaissance. At Fordham, he has further cultivated that interest and is currently finishing his doctoral dissertation on Russian Orthodox political theology. The dissertation, directed by Aristotle Papanikolaou, explores the role of theosis as divine-human communion in the politics of Vladimir Soloviev, Sergius Bulgakov, and S.L. Frank in critical conversation with the anti-liberal political theology of John Milbank and Radical Orthodoxy. The goal of the dissertation is to develop a distinctively Christian understanding of political life, rooted in the doctrine of theosis, that is at least provisionally compatible with Western pluralistic democracies. Thanks to the generous support of the Orthodox Christian Studies center, Nate has been able to present on his dissertation research in Belgrade, Serbia and at the Center's 2013 Patterson Triennial Conference.

Additional biographies coming soon.

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