Nibley Fellowship Awards 2014–15

08.29.2014 | The Maxwell Institute

The purpose of the Nibley Fellowship program is to support and encourage LDS scholars pursuing graduate work germane to the study of scripture. Preference is given to PhD students with a proven record of academic excellence and a compelling research agenda.

Once again, we have received a stack of high quality submissions for the Nibley Fellowship awards. Twenty-three impressive applicants, ranging from new Master’s students to advanced PhD candidates, competed for eight fellowships for the academic year 2014-15. We are also awarding three conference and travel grants. We are grateful to all of those who applied and congratulate this year’s impressive groups of recipients. Here are the awards:

Dissertation Fellowship

Joseph M. Spencer, PhD candidate, University of New Mexico

Bio: Joseph Spencer holds degrees from Brigham Young University, San Jose State University, and the University of New Mexico. He is the author of An Other Testament (2012) and For Zion (2014), as well as of articles in both philosophy and Mormon studies published in a variety of journals. He currently serves as the associate director of the Mormon Theology Seminar and an associate editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. His current work in philosophy focuses on the intersection of analytic and continental philosophy. His work in Mormon studies is dedicated to scriptural theology. Previous Nibley Fellowships were awarded for 2013-14.

Considerations: Joseph M. Spencer is awarded this year’s Hugh Nibley Dissertation Fellowship in recognition of his outstanding performance and promise as a scholar of scriptural theology. His referees consider him an intensely dedicated student, a brilliant scholar, and a fine philosophical mind—nothing short of exceptional. This is far from hyperbole as his impressive list of insightful publications confirm. Spencer’s intensive training in philosophy and theology has not only allowed him to make significant contributions in those specific areas of research, but has also given him a unique vantage from which to view and study scripture. The results are already impressive, and his groundbreaking and seminal studies on the Book of Mormon in particular are evidently just an earnest of things to come. We congratulate Joseph M. Spencer on this award.

Graduate Stipends

Alexander Douglas, PhD Candidate, Harvard University

Bio: Alex Douglas originally hails from Atlanta, Georgia, but he has spent most of the past decade living in Boston and studying at Harvard. After earning his Bachelor’s degree there in Economics, he switched his focus and got his Master’s in Ancient Near Eastern Studies. He is currently in his fourth year of a PhD program in the Old Testament. In addition to his studies, he teaches early morning Seminary, he has taught Institute classes at Boston University and for his stake, and he teaches Biblical Hebrew at Harvard. Previous Nibley Fellowships awarded for 2013-14.

Considerations: Alex Douglas is a serious, devoted, and talented student of the Hebrew Bible with a sharp and penetrating intellect and a gift for teaching, according to his Harvard referees. His research is currently focused on the Hebrew Bible and the early Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, known as the Septuagint, and he has already published his first article on the Septuagint in a major academic journal. This is just a taste of the excellent and innovative work of scholarship that his advisors see Douglas producing for his dissertation on Septuagint Isaiah. Douglas is equally serious about bringing the insights he gains from his studies to the LDS community through teaching (currently seminary and Institute), and writing. We congratulate Alex Douglas on this award.

Mark Ellison, PhD Student, Vanderbilt University

Bio: Mark Ellison is a PhD student in early Christianity and early Christian art at Vanderbilt University. He earned an M.A. in Religious Studies (history and archaeology of Christianity and Judaism in late antiquity) from the University of South Florida, and an M.Ed. and B.A. from Brigham Young University. He also studied New Testament Greek at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. From 1990–2013 he worked full-time for LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. His research interests include the functions of early Christian art and its relationship to Christian texts, marriage and celibacy in early Christianity, families and the house-church setting, and the physical spaces of early Christian liturgy. Previous Nibley Fellowships awarded for 2013-14.

Considerations: The fact that Mark Ellison has completed twenty marathons means that he knows a thing or two about pacing, and about finishing. After one year in his PhD program he has already attended and/or presented at three academic conferences, and has papers accepted for two other conferences later in 2014; he has conducted field research throughout the United States, building in the process a database of early Christian sarcophagi; has organized an interdisciplinary seminar on Late Antiquity for 2014-15 together with two Vanderbilt professors; and has been invited to join a project with Prof. Robin Jensen to co-edit a Handbook of Early Christian Art for Routledge. As his referees say, in every conceivable way, he has had an outstanding first year in his program. His research is focused on early Christian marriage and biblical imagery in early Christian art, and promises to bridge the fields of Art History and the intellectual and religious history of Late Antiquity. We congratulate Mark Ellison on this award.

Graduate Research Award

Philip Abbot, MA student, Pepperdine University

Considerations: Philip Abbott is an exceptionally promising Master’s student. Prepared with an excellent command of New Testament Greek, Abbott is currently focused on the New Testament and the literature of second Temple Judaism. His perceptive raising of questions proved to be particularly useful when he was invited to join two faculty members at Pepperdine to study and prepare for publication an ancient Greek manuscript containing the oldest known copy of Romans 4:23-5:13. We congratulate Philip Abbot on this award.

Daniel Becerra, PhD student, Duke University

Considerations: After a year studying the New Testament and Early Christianity at Duke University Daniel Becerra has already distinguished himself by virtue of his insightful comments and written analysis. His referees note in particular his ability to give close readings of texts based on a deft knowledge of the primary languages and the social environment in which the text was composed. In an environment that is intellectually vibrant, thoughtful, and filled with highly motivated students, Becerra stands out as a particularly mature and goal oriented young scholar who is asking interesting, probing questions.  We congratulate Daniel Becerra on this award.

Ryan C. Davis, PhD Candidate, University of Texas at Austin

Considerations: Ryan Davis is an exemplary PhD candidate who is deepening his understand of the Hebrew Bible through the study of its ancient Near Eastern context. Having written excellent pre-dissertation qualifying exams, he is now immersed in the study of the Psalms in dialogue with the corpus of prayers and related texts from Mesopotamia. This fascinating dissertation topic is expected to result in a valuable dissertation, not least due to the fact, as his advisor says, that Davis is obviously very intelligent, but also creative and diligent. We congratulate Ryan Davis on this award.

Luke Drake, PhD student, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Considerations: Luke Drake has not only made an outstanding start in the first year of his PhD program, but has also published his first edited book with a prestigious academic press. His referee pays Drake perhaps the highest compliment when he notes that in class he was a stimulating dialogue partner for both his advisor and the other students. In part, this is because Drake is extensively trained in ancient and modern languages; he is widely conversant already with all of the major issues in the study of the New Testament and early Christianity; and he has read widely, already, in relevant fields of scholarship. Luke Drake promises to be an extraordinary scholar of the New Testament and Early Christianity, and we congratulate him on this award.

Courtney J. Innes, PhD Student, The University of British Columbia

Considerations: Even after a year in her PhD program it is clear that Courtney Innes is an articulate, nuanced student of late antique Judaism and Christianity who is interested in exploring the parting of the ways through textual and material artifacts. Her archeological interests have already resulted in a fascinating publication on the Jewish Synagogues and cemeteries in the Fayum, taken from her Cambridge University dissertation. An impressive year of course work in languages and biblical studies have just added to her record of superb academic achievement. We congratulate Courtney Innes on this award.

Conference & Travel Grants

Alan Taylor Farnes, PhD Student, University of Birmingham, UK

For travel to 2014 SBL Annual meeting, San Diego.

Mark Ellison, PhD Student, Vanderbilt University

For research travel.

Courtney Innes, PhD Student, The University of British Columbia

For research travel.