2018 Religious Studies Graduates and Awards Winners

Thanks to generous donations to the Religious Studies Program Fund, RS presents annual awards to recognize the extraordinary work of graduating majors.

2018 Awards for Academic Excellence and Citizenship: Alexia “Lexie” Gianitsos and Morgan Mahnke

Lexie and Prof. Sue Ridgely

Lexie Gianitsos’s honors thesis, “Coalition Building Through Language: Immigration and Religious Advocacy in America” connects personal experience to so many of the things that we find valuable about studying religion and examining what matters from academic perspectives. It creatively and persuasively applies the tools of both humanities and social science disciplines and Lexie’s two majors—religious studies and sociology—to a topic of significant humanitarian, religious and public concern. In doing so, Lexie proposes a broad framework for understanding how coalitions across religious and political lines form, communicate and work together. It employs experiential “on the job” learning with a statewide religious coalition, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, and has pioneered what we hope can be a long-term relationship between WCC and Religious Studies and opportunities for future RS students. Lexie has said that her internship with the Wisconsin Council of Churches is a model for her “dream job.” According to staff at WCC, you are the model intern as well. And you are a model to us all of combining academic excellence with service. Congratulations, Lexie!






Morgan Mahnke began studying religion out of personal passion, motivated to focus on her values and commitments by placing them in the larger context of human history and varieties of human meaning-making. In her time in the Religious Studies Program, Morgan has become a wonderful conversation partner, leader and peer mentor in Religious Studies as well as in and across student and community organizations. As a student leader on the staff of Badger Cru, a large campus religious organization, Morgan exercised a daunting number of professional-level tasks and responsibilities. Her passion for and facility in the academic study of religion and commitment to a faith community is not unusual among our students. What is remarkable is the proficiency and maturity Morgan demonstrates in combining insider knowledge and insight and analytical and observational skills in her honors thesis, “Enhanced Worship: The Impact of Leadership on the Millennial Religious Experience.” We look forward to seeing how you build on these skills and insights as you continue to develop as a religious leader.

Morgan also received a 2018 University Book Store Academic Excellence Award for her honors thesis.

These awards are made to undergraduate students who “best exemplify the principle that excellence can be achieved through independent study.” Dr. Norman and Morgan’s family were on hand to see her receive the award.

Congratulations, Morgan! We are so proud of you!

RS is proud of all our graduates.

From capstone explorations of the experience of stained glass windows in a contemporary Madison parish to ancient Daoist healing rituals of consumption to religion in mainstream hip hop, our graduates have demonstrated growth, taught us as they learned, and enriched our program and community. We look forward to seeing how they grow further and contribute farther as non-profit leaders, international educators, scientific researchers and more! 

2018 Graduates:

Majors: Certificates:
Caitlin Acierno (Fall 2017)         Lacey Grant
Morgan Mahnke honors James Kolonko
Sam Ranabhat Ben Snively
Ian Hamilton Angela Tucker
Alexia Gianitsos honors Saba Moges
Adam Lee Rebecca Treisman        
Jamie Atkins Sarah O’Toole
Matthew Stodyck Elaine Dandan
John Baynton Natalie Wheeler
Logan Shallow Ashley Brooks
Megan Kuhl Daniel Bunting
Sophia Angst Erin Guarnieri
Nico Bahaveolos Sophia Hill
  Kali Kinziger
  Bridget Sperry
  Grant Yun