Graduate Students

Graduate Students Spring 2015









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Feyza Akova

Interests: Social Theory, Religion, and Culture with a focus on Turkey

Feyza Akova is a third year graduate student in the Department of Sociology. She holds an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Houston, and bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Istanbul. Before coming to Notre Dame, she worked as a Reseach Intern at non-profit organizations in the U.S. Her research interests include social theory, religion, and  culture with a focus on Turkey.

Katie Comeau

Katie Comeau

Interests: Religion, Organizations, Development, Theory

Katie Comeau is a fifth year graduate student in Notre Dame’s Department of Sociology with affiliations at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in sociology from Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. In the summer of 2016, Katie received her M.A. and her thesis was titled “Where Can I Find More Money?: How the Challenges of Fundraising Impacts the Religious Identity of Faith-Based Organizations.” Katie currently works for Notre Dame's Well-being at Work project directed by Dr. Matthew Bloom. In the past, she worked for Dr. Samuel Valenzuela, Dr. Kraig Beyerlein, Dr. Christian Smith and Dr. Patricia Arend. Her dissertation tries to understand how religion influences international development by comparing how group styles and cultural models of help influence the work of NGOs and their faith-affiliated counterparts. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Katie will be on a Fulbright in Jamaica to collect data for her dissertation.

Ethan Fridmanski


Ethan Fridmanski

Interests: Sociology of Religion, Sociology of Technology, Quantitative Methods

Ethan is in his fourth year of graduate studies at Notre Dame.  He hails from Danville Illinois, a smaller city in east central Illinois.  During his undergraduate studies at Illinois State University he studied History with minors in Sociology and Philosophy.  While he studied History he focused on intellectual history during the enlightenment, communication technology, and 19th century American religious history.  His research interests at Notre Dame are much the same.  Ethan's areas of interest are the sociology of religion and the sociology of technology with methodological interests in statistics and network analysis.

His Master's Thesis (titled: Online Communities: A case study of the nonreligious in the age of the Internet) looks at variation in online political activity among the nonreligious and religious populations of America.  After this project he hopes to continue studying communication technology and religion.  His dissertation will look at how developments in communication technologies during the 19th and 20th century have affected the American religious population.  This project will focus on three main technological developments: the telegraph/telephone, television, and the Internet.

Stefanie Isreal

Stefanie Israel de Souza

Interests: Urban/Community Sociology, Political Sociology, Social Networks, Cultural Sociology, Brazil

Stefanie is a Kellogg Dissertation Year Fellow and PhD Candidate in sociology at Notre Dame. She received her M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Palmer Theological Seminary in 2011, as well as her B.A. from Linfield College in 2006, graduating magna cum laude with majors in sociology and religious studies and minors in Latin American studies and Spanish. 

Her dissertation, “Expiration Date: Mega-Events and Police Reform in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas,” is based on 24 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2012 and 2017 in two neighboring favelas originally considered model communities of a proximity policing program called “pacification.” The pacification program, implemented beginning in 2008, aimed to undermine territorial domination of drug dealers in select favelas in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Her research examines changing social relations in these communities over time in the wake of this state intervention, from early “success” in 2012 to a situation of violence and instability in 2016 and 2017. She develops a theory of intersecting temporalities to make sense of these community-level changes in a way that connects the global to the local. Her dissertation research was funded by a Fulbright Study-Research Grant, a Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship, and a USAID-Notre Dame Global Development Fellowship.



Sarah Johnson

Interests: Nonreligion, Religion, Ritual, Culture, Qualitative Methods 

Sarah is doing a PhD in Liturgical Studies in the Department of Theology and is also affiliated with the Center for the Study of Religion and Society. The focus of her research is the relationship between nonreligion and Christian ritual in North America. Sarah is a Louisville Institute Doctoral Fellow and holds a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She received an M.A.R. in Liturgical Studies from Yale Divinity School (2010), and an M.T.S. from the University of Waterloo (2008), where she also completed a B.A. in Religious Studies (2007).



Abigail Jorgensen

Interests:  Culture, Gender & Family, Political Sociology, Quantitative & Qualitative Methods

Abigail Jorgensen is a third year doctoral student in sociology at the University of Notre Dame and a Notebaert Fellow. Her current work focuses on the motherhood shift, warfare theory, and child mortality. Prior to joining the Department of Sociology, Abigail earned a Bachelor of Arts in both Political Science and Gender Studies at the University of Notre Dame with a minor in Theology.



Brianna McCaslin

Interests:  Gender, Religion, Sex, Culture

Brianna received her B.A. in sociology and English from Marian University and her M.A. in sociology from IUPUI. She joined the sociology department at Notre Dame in 2015. Her research interests include gender, religion, sex and culture, with specific interests in the role these institutional messages play in individual identity and intimate relationships. Her master's thesis examines the religious identity negotiation of married Catholic women who use contraception.



Bridget Ritz

Interests: Theory, Religion Culture, Demography

Bridget Ritz is a third year graduate student in the Department of Sociology and a Graduate Fellow with Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture. At the CSRS, she works with Christian Smith on the Global Religion Research Initiative. Her research interests are religion, culture, embodiment, and social theory. Bridget received her M.A. in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago (2015) and her B.A. in Politics from Ave Maria University (2013).

Michael Rotolo

Michael Rotolo

Interests: Religion, Culture, Cognition, Morality, Linguistics, Emotion, Theory

Michael Rotolo is a third year graduate student and University Presidential Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Notre Dame. He received his M.Div at Princeton Theological Seminary (2016) and his B.A. in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2013). Michael currently works on the Intergenerational Religious Transmission Project (IRTP) and Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI) with Christian Smith. His Masters thesis draws on theories from the cognitive sciences to explore the unconscious semantic structures by which religious adults from across the United States understand religion to be operating in their lives.

peter ryan

Peter Ryan

Interests: Religion, Social Movements, Theory, Culture

Peter graduated from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands in 2002 with an emphasis in Literature and Creative Writing. He has spent the interim decade working in the nonprofit world, helping to set up volunteer programs in Syria and the Palestinian Territories. His areas of interest include social movements, religion, and qualitative methods.




Audrey Seah

Interests: Ritual, Conflict Resolution, Catholicism, Disability, Culture, Qualitative Methods

Audrey is a Ph.D. candidate in Liturgical Studies and World Religion, World Church in the Department of Theology. She is affiliated with CSR and the Kellogg Institute. Her dissertation examines the formation and expression of narratives around deafness in the worship of Deaf Catholic ecclesial communities in the U.S. and its theological implications. She is also engaged in research on religious rituals of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. She received her M.A. in Theology (2012) and Th.M. (2014) from Saint John's School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota and a B.A. in Music Composition from Fresno State (2003).Research interests: Ritual, Conflict Resolution, Catholicism, Disability, Culture, Qualitative Methods

brandon sepulvado

Brandon Sepulvado

Interests: Social Networks, Religion, Culture, Social Theory, and Social Psychology

Brandon is a fourth year graduate student and an affiliate of both the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications. He recently graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana (magna cum laude, 2012) with a B.A. in philosophy and sociology, and his interests lie primarily in social networks, belief systems, social psychology, cognitive sociology, and social theory.  Broadly conceived, Brandon wants to know why and how certain belief systems evolve and how to assess the fitness of different systems. As a result, Brandon is currently interested in how beliefs structure adherents' networks and in the role identity plays system evolution. Feel free to visit his website or contact him for more detailed information.

justin vanness

Justin Van Ness

Interests: Culture, Qualitative Methods, Social Movements and Collective Behavior, Microsociology, Sociological Theory, and Religion

Justin graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a B.S. in Sociology and B.A. in Psychology. He joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame in 2012. He is an affiliate of the Center for the Study of Social Movements and the Center for the Study of Religion and Society. 

More information, including his CV and publications, can be found at

Michael Wood

Michael Wood

Interests: Religion, Theory and Culture, and Religious and Secular Divides

Michael is a fourth year graduate student in the Department of Sociology. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 2013 with a B.S. in Sociology and a minor in Portuguese, and in 2014 with an M.S. in Sociology.  He is currently part of the Lilly Parenting Project.

Greg Wurm Edited


Gregory Wurm

Research Interests:  Family, Religion, Theory, and Qualitative Methodologies

Greg is first year graduate student in the Department of Sociology.  He graduated from Brigham Young University with a BS in 2016 and an MS in 2018.