Graduate Students

Phillip Scott Ellis Green (Ph.D. completed, 2014)

Dr. Green received his BA in comparative religion from the University of Washington in 2002, and after living abroad in Japan for three years returned to earn his MA in religion (emphasis on early Indian Buddhism) at the University of Florida in 2007. His MA thesis examined Buddhist narratives found in avadana literature; specifically, he examined how images of women were portrayed and understood in a Buddhist collection of avadanas known as the Avadanashataka.  Dr. Green earned his Ph.D. in 2014 from the University of Florida.  His dissertation research examined Buddhist traditions among the Khmers during the tenth century via a reexamination of the architectural, art historical, and epigraphical sources in Old Khmer and Sanskrit.  His research was supported by an UF Alumni Fellowship, a Ph.D. Dissertation Research Fellowship through the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), and a field research grant from Friends of Khmer Culture (FOKCI).  Dr. Green currently teaches Sanskrit and Asian religions at the University of Florida.

Bhakti Mamtora (Ph.D. student, 2012)

Bhakti Mamtora graduated from Fordham University with a B.A. in Communications and Media Studies and International Political Economy. In 2012, she received an M.A. in South Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Ms. Mamtora is studying the formation of Vaiṣṇava identity in the  Svāminārāyaṇa Saṃpradāya. She has presented papers at the SECSOR Annual Regional Meeting (2014), international conference on Sahajānanda Svāmī and the Svāminārāyaṇa Saṃpradāya in Historical, Social and Cultural Perspectives (2013), and the University of Toronto Graduate Conference on Crossing Boundaries (2012). Her forthcoming publications include “Compositions of the Upaniṣads” and “Svāminārāyaṇa and the Establishment of the Svāminārāyaṇa Saṃpradāya” in Great Events in Religion: An Encyclopedia of Pivotal Events in Religious History.  She serves as the Southeast Region’s Student Director for the American Academy of Religion. She is also the editor of Speaking of Students Newsletter published by the American Academy of Religion.

Prea Persaud (PhD student, 2013)

Prea Persaud received her B.A. from Rollins College where she completed honors as a religion major. In 2013, she graduated with her M.A. from Syracuse University. Her M.A. thesis was on the development of Hinduism in the Caribbean and the Indo-Caribbean identity. She has presented conference papers on the Indo-Caribbean communities in New York and Florida, the narrative of indentured labor, and the ways in which Hinduism in the Caribbean can be categorized as a “Creole Religion.” She is interested in global Hinduism, religion in the Caribbean, and issues concerning race, identity, transnationalism, and post-colonialism.

Alysia Radder (M.A. student, 2011)

Alysia Radder 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 combined 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.

Jaya Reddy (Ph.D. student, 2010)

Jaya Reddy received an M.A. from University of Wisconsin-Madison where she focused on the ways in which plants are used in Indian Religion, Medicine, and Astrology. Using plants as a focal point, her research examines how these systems of knowledge (religion, medicine, and astrology) interact with each other. She continues to build on these areas of research considering also the dialectic between religion and landscape.

Rodney Sebastian (Ph.D. student, 2011)

Rodney Sebastian is pursuing a Ph.D. from the Department of Religion, University of Florida. Prior to his graduate studies, he had been a Research Associate in the Institute of South Asian Studies, and a research assistant in the Religion Research Cluster, National University of Singapore (NUS).  He completed his Masters of Social Sciences program at the Department of Sociology, NUS. He is currently working on the Vaishnava devotional dance dramas of Manipur and how they have been influential in shaping religion, society and politics in the 18th century.  He authored and co-authored a number of articles on the religion-state nexus and diasporic religious identities  such as “Performing Identities: State-ISKCON interactions in Singapore” (in Proselytizing and the Limits of Religious Pluralism in an Era of Globalization, 2014) , “Who is a Brahmin in Singapore?” (Modern Asian Studies, 2007) and “Making sense of the management of religious movements in Singapore” (University of Tokyo Centre for Philosophy, 2010).

Jodi Shaw (Ph.D. student, 2013)

Jodi Shaw received her B.F.A. in Acting from New York University, and her M.A. in Theology from Loyola Marymount University.  Her M.A. thesis explored the complex directionality of Kuṇḍalinī in Śrīvidyā practice.  One of Jodi’s current areas of inquiry is where embodiment, text, and ritual meet in Goddess and Śaiva worship in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu.  Other interests include the non-dual Śaiva traditions from Kashmir, gender, performance, Tamil village practices, Yoga, and Tamil cinema.

Caleb Simmons (Ph.D. student, 2008)

Caleb Simmons graduated from the Missouri State University (formerly Southwest Missouri State University) with a B.A. in Religious Studies. He received his master’s degree from the Florida State University in Asian religious traditions with an emphasis in Hinduism (Thesis: She Who Slays the Buffalo Demon: Divinity, Identity, and Authority in Iconography of Mahishasuramardini). He has taught Religions of South Asia, Introduction to World Religions, and Asian Humanities at various institutions. Mr. Simmons has authored several encyclopedia articles covering a wide range of topics in South Asian History.