Students and Alumni

Students and Alumni of the Women’s Spirituality PhD and MA Programs

Our students represent many different spiritual and religious traditions. Some students identify with Native American, African Diasporan, Jewish, Druze, or Hindu traditions. Others follow pagan, Wiccan or Goddess-worshipping spiritual paths. Some students identify as Catholic, Protestant Christian, post-Christian, or Buddhist; others claim an eclectic mix of several traditions.

In the past, the WSE program has had Catholic nuns, and there are several clergy of diverse traditions now in the program. In Spring 2010, the total WSE enrollment comprised some 60 students. One-third of our students are in the MA program, and two-thirds are in the PhD program. About half of our students are in the residential courses, and the other half are taking the semi-distant option.

Approximately 42% of our students identify as women of color, and our international students have come from Thailand, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Israel, and Canada. Differences in sexual orientation and identity are also present, and our students identify as queer, lesbian, heterosexual, Two-Spirit, gender fluid, transgender, and more. In 2008, two of our students were men.

Student Profiles

Loleta Collins, MA semi-distance student
"Greetings everyone! My name is Loleta Collins, and I live in southwestern Ohio. I have been in the process of collecting degrees, so I have a few undergrad degrees (I think maybe I'll wallpaper a hall with them). My associate's degrees are in Liberal Arts and in Small Business Management. My bachelors', from Miami University in Ohio, are in History and in Comparative Religions. I went on to earn my master's in Comparative Religions from Miami University as well.

For my master’s studies, my area of expertise was the social origins of contemporary paganism in the U.S. “I have been an instructor in comparative religions and philosophy since 1999. In May 2008, one of the colleges for which I work, Edison Community College, hired me as the director of the Learning Center. Among other things, I am in charge of managing the tutoring for all the disciplines in the college.

I am also continuing my work as an adjunct for the four colleges and universities I have worked with over the past decade. “The connection between the ‘Western scientific’ view and the internal more Eastern view of people’s spirituality is exactly what I have continued to study even after completing my master’s degree.

This is precisely the reason I chose CIIS for my PhD studies: I required a college that welcomed studies in the realm of contemporary spirituality, and CIIS is one of few out there. I entered the Women’s Spirituality program because I needed a program that would allow me to do much of my studies at a distance yet would give me the variety of studies that my continued exploration of contemporary pagan studies requires.

“After I graduate, not much will change. I very much like the job(s) I currently do, so I plan to more or less stay put. I do, however, plan to finally finish writing a couple of the textbooks I have started.”

Inhui Lee, PhD student
“As a student in this program, I have met the ‘best minds of our time’—prominent scholars in this emerging field and great spirits of many worlds, groundbreaking artists and musicians, and living goddesses such as Ammachi.

Above all, this course of study helps me connect with the ancient, ancestral spiritual traditions of Korea. Before this connection, I felt lost, abandoned, helpless, and often angry. I am back in my motherland, trying to reconnect with my family, the land, and goddesses living in the mountains. “I am currently teaching at a university and writing my dissertation on a Korean shamanic ritual in Korea, where my research subject is situated and research material is abundant.

I am excited about the many academic and spiritual projects I will embark upon based on my work in WSE: connecting Korean Goddesses, such as Mago, with those of other traditions; establishing learning and spiritual facilities that will bring back our Ancient Mothers in a colorful, beautiful, sacred way—something that many women in ancient times and across cultures have done before me.

Being a student in Women’s Spirituality at CIIS in San Francisco is one of the best blessings I have received so far. How else could a once-poor immigrant woman living in the U.S. as a single mother of two on welfare have possibly made it this far? Goddesses work in very mysterious ways. Many more blessings are around the corner, too. Ashé.”

Cecilia Naomi Lipp, MA student and human rights advocate
"Since graduating from UC Berkeley in Multicultural Community, I have worked with Amnesty International USA in San Francisco, and as a gender consultant to the United Nations Human Settlements Program in Asia and the Pacific.

As a trained acupressure practitioner, doula, and herbalist, I was looking for a way to bridge my passion for theology, holistic bodywork, and human rights while continuing to work full-time while living in my mother’s hometown of Fukuoka, Japan. Since joining the WSE program, I relocated to my native San Francisco to be closer to school. I am currently employed in advocacy and research for Survivors International, a Bay Area nonprofit that provides direct services to survivors of torture, war trauma, and gender-based violence.”

“There I was, with my upcoming master’s degree in Women’s Studies—a womanist activist who was about to save the world once and for all—when I accidentally discovered that there was an area of study called Women’s Spirituality. Every word describing this area on the CIIS website was a raindrop dipped in honey to my dry mouth. A thousand years of thirst! To quench my thirst, I entered the WSE PhD program in 2003.”

Alumni Profiles

Nadirah Adeye, MA (2007), who is working as the volunteer and community coordinator at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodside, CA, is once again deep in a chrysalis of personal transformation. In addition to her coordinator duties, another of Nadirah’s responsibilities is supporting diversity efforts at Spirit Rock.

She started 2009 as co-planner and hostess of Spirit Rock’s Day of Renewal for Women of Color—a day rich in beauty, spirit, and success. In October 2008, Nadirah fulfilled a longtime dream by training as a doula. Her focus is finding a way to work as a doula through the medical system to foster increased awareness of how doulas support doctors and nurses in addition to supporting birthing mothers.

Nadirah is involved in two interconnected priestess trainings—Feri, and a community priestessing program that encourages everyone to “come as you are!” She wishes bounteous success and pleasure to all who face down their fears and determinedly pursue aliveness.

Susan G. Carter, PhD (2001), is an adjunct professor at CIIS, where she teaches in the School of Undergraduate Studies and in CIIS graduate programs (including the Women’s Spirituality MA and PhD programs, and the Transformative Leadership master’s and Transformative Studies PhD programs).

Her weekend intensive and online courses include Spirit, Compassion, and Community Activism; Mirrors in History: A Cross-Cultural Exploration; Embodying the Present: Contemporary Women’s Spirituality; Research Writing and Development; Personal Responsibility and Social Change; and Global Studies.

Susan serves on various thesis and dissertation committees, and also teaches at Marylhurst University (Portland, OR) in the Master’s of Interdisciplinary Studies program (Spiritual Traditions and Ethics concentration) and in the Accelerated Online degree program (Business and Real Estate Studies degrees).

Marguerite Rigoglioso, PhD (2008), MA (2001), WSE adjunct faculty, holds a PhD in Humanities from CIIS. Her dissertation was published as "The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece," by Palgrave Macmillan in 2009.

In March 2008, she presented papers based on her research at the American Academy of Religion’s Western Regional conference in Pasadena, CA, and at the Center for the Divine Feminine at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA.

That summer, she taught Priestesses of Ancient Greece at CIIS, and in Fall, she taught the MA Integrative Seminar at CIIS; a course titled Women, Religion, and Social Change for the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology’s Women’s Spirituality Program; and two undergraduate courses at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA—Mystics and Witches, and Theology of Women.

Her handbook, Where to Publish Articles on Women’s Studies, Feminist Religious Studies, and Feminist/Womanist Topics, offers students suggestions on how and where to successfully publish scholarly articles on feminist issues.

It was released in an updated version in February, and continues to be sought after by the international feminist and women’s spirituality community.

Sinem Yilanci, MA (2008), presented her paper on women’s theater at the CIIS 2007 Multiversity Conference. Recently, with two other women from the International Students Group, she organized a movie day at CIIS for International Women’s Day. Her advanced research paper was about Women’s Theater Form in Turkey.

Sinem will contribute her research paper to the work of her friends in Turkey, the creators of this form, who have already produced much material about women’s theater. She values her experience working as a program assistant in WSE for her last two semesters and feels fortunate to have worked with an amazing group of people in the CIIS business office for the last two years.

Mari Ziolkowski, PhD (2003), recently received a promotion to full-time student services/clinical coordinator at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA. Soon, she will shift from supporting clinical training for both MA and doctoral students to focusing solely on PhD students. Mari also co-taught a class in Spring 2008 called Shamans, Mystics and Saints: The Ecstatic Yearning for the Divine, which focused on female shamans and Goddess-intoxicated mystics.

Mari will teach another course focused on cross-cultural, women-centered sacred sexual traditions in 2009.