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Graduate Mentors



Daniel Ballon-Garst (Mellon I)

Program: Graduate Division of Religion

Field / Specialization: American Religious History; Histories of Race, Religion, and Sexuality in the U.S.; Religion & Politics; Legal Studies

What aspects of the program do you look forward to most, or what goals do you plan to accomplish as a graduate mentor? As a first-generation college student who grew up in a border town in San Diego, California, I know how important it was to my educational experience to have encountered mentors along the way who helped me develop confidence as a scholar and navigate the grad school experience.  As an MMUF Graduate Mentor, I look forward to serving in that same role to our MMUF fellows, helping them hone their scholarly voices and demystifying the transition to graduate school.


Brenton Boyd (Mellon II)

Program: English and WGSS

Field / Specialization: Black Literary, Religious, and Performance Cultures; Critical Philosophy of Race; Queer/Trans Studies; Coloniality; Black Theology / Mysticism

What do you enjoy or find most rewarding about working with our MMUF fellows? I’ve truly enjoyed learning with and from developing researchers as they navigate complex, highly-specific projects and lend their unique voices to the conversations that excite them most. More than introducing our fellows to scholars and methods across such conversations, I cherish the honor of supporting them through the difficult and rewarding moments of their young intellectual journeys.


Courtney Bowden (Mellon I)

Program: Graduate Division of Religion

Field / Specialization: Courtney Ariel Bowden is a songwriter, writer, and storyteller. She graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Vanderbilt University with a Master of Divinity and certificates in Religion, Arts & Contemporary Culture, and the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender & Sexuality. She is currently a doctoral fellow at Emory University in the Graduate Division of Religion, American Religious Cultures. Her research interests center around Black women’s spiritual lineages. She identifies as an artist-scholar who shows up learning & unlearning in community.

What aspects of the program do you look forward to the most, or what goals do you plan to accomplish as a graduate mentor? While much is centered around doing and production, I most look forward to being with these human beings. I look forward to learning, unlearning, listening, laughing, and gathering in shared communal space. I am inspired by the questions folks are cultivating! I hope we contribute to the nurturing and development of these curiosities, and to one another.


Agnes Sastre-Rivera (Mellon II)

Program: Comparative Literature

Field / Specialization: Caribbean Studies specializing in landscapes, tourism, memory, and histories of colonialism. Within these topics, I am also interested in queer/cuir-ness literature and media, and intersectional feminist and decolonial thought.

What do you enjoy or find most rewarding about working with our MMUF fellows? My favorite part of working as a Graduate Mentor for the MMUF program is summarized in the Puerto Rican saying: "hablar las cosas en arroz y habichuelas"/ "to speak in terms of rice and beans," which means to speak most clearly and simply possible. Academic scholarship and research are often intimidating. I remember that when I was a Mellon fellow, I often felt out of place, confused, and didn't want to ask questions to avoid being perceived as incapable. My joy and motivation to work for the Mellon Fellows are to be a person they can come to with practical and scholarly questions they don't feel comfortable asking others. Having these conversations and taking their concerns seriously has often increased their confidence and allowed them to present the best work they can do. I enjoy seeing the Fellows grow and thrive in their work- and it is the most excellent satisfaction to know that I helped (even if it was in a small capacity) on their road to success.


Jessie Washington (Writing Coach)

Program: Graduate Division of Religion

Field / Specialization: Black Women; Mental Health; Suicide Prevention; Religion, Spirituality, and the Black Church

What aspects of the program do you look forward to most, or what goals do you plan to accomplish as a graduate mentor? I am looking forward to being the MMUF Writing Coach because I love to write and help others get excited about their writing.


Past Graduate Mentors Include:

Agnes Sastre-RiveraGraduate Division of Religion (GDR)

Dr. Andrea Dionne Warmack: Department of Philosophy

Dr. Camille Goldmon: Department of History

Christina Desert: Graduate Division of Religion (GDR)

Dr. Diana Louis: Department of English

Dr. Elaine Penagos: Graduate Division of Religion (GDR)

Dr. Erica Harris: Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Gloria Jirsaraie: Department of English

Dr. Jamil Drake: Graduate Division of Religion (GDR)

Dr. Meredith Coleman-Tobias: Graduate Division of Religion (GDR)

Taína Figueroa: Department of Philosophy

Dr. Tiara Jackson: Comparative Literature

Dr. Timothy Rainey: Graduate Division of Religion (GDR)