McAfee School of Theology Students Selected for German Study Abroad Program Commemorating 500th Anniversary of the Reformation


ATLANTA – Early in the spring semester, Dr. Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Carolyn Ward Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and adviser for McAfee School of Theology's Academic Research Track, emailed her students regarding an opportunity to study in Germany. While many glanced over the email, two of those students took their chances and were rewarded as they were recently chosen to attend a highly selective summer program in Wittenberg.

William (Adam) Peeler, originally from Sparta, Georgia, and Rachel Gentry-Hall, from Tyrone, Georgia, were two of five international students who received scholarships from the German Academic Exchange Service via Phillips University, Marburg. The scholarship will cover travel, tuition and board for the program, which will take place Aug. 14-21.

Peeler and Gentry-Hall will be the first McAfee students to participate in this program. This year's theme is “Concerning Me: Enough,” and the week of study will center on the Reformation movement that took place in Europe, beginning exactly 500 years ago.

Both students will attend a class, titled “The Bible as a Source of Knowledge and Spirituality: Feminist and Queer Readings,” in which they will have the opportunity to examine contemporary biblical translations and discuss their intersections to power, gender roles and sexuality. They also will explore Martin Luther's understanding of key biblical texts.

Peeler and Gentry-Hall are eager to learn more, grow in their understanding of the Bible and meet students from all over the world. They are also ecstatic about the opportunity to walk the streets of Wittenberg.

“I look forward to seeing all of the historical sites in Wittenberg. I am a history nerd, and it'll be amazing to stand in the same places as Martin Luther. Instead of reading about what Luther did, I'll get the opportunity to stand where he stood,” said Peeler.

“I most look forward to seeing the sights of Wittenberg. Standing in front of Castle Church, the church where Martin Luther famously hammered his 95 theses to the door, seems an unreal way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” added Gentry-Hall.

Peeler has not been overseas since he was in elementary school, while Gentry-Hall has never traveled internationally. The trip will be an immensely valuable experience for both, who wish to pursue their Ph.D.s in the near future.

Both students give credit to their family's contributions and sacrifices that have been made in support of their educational pursuits.

“Adam and Rachel are both in their second year of studies and commute a great distance to attend McAfee. Both have significant family obligations, but both have persisted in their pursuit of this very demanding Academic Research Track program. I couldn't be more proud of them,” said Dr. deClaissé-Walford.

The Academic Research Track at McAfee seeks to develop a student's proficiency for theological research. Students with career goals that further academic studies in the fields of biblical studies, historical-theological studies or pastoral studies may follow this track to develop their research skills and focus on a particular field of study. During their course of study, academic track students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher, take a three-hour course for credit on research and design and submit GRE scores. In their last year under the supervision of a professor, students write a thesis of approximately 60 pages, which is submitted to the academic track advisor and the University provost for approval prior to graduation.

Several graduates of the Academic Research Track have gone on to doctoral studies, published books and academic articles and secured places in the Academy. Dr. Leah Robinson, a 2007 Master of Divinity graduate, is now lecturer in practical and pastoral theology at Edinburgh University in Scotland. To learn more about the Academic Research Track and other Master of Divinity concentrations at McAfee, visit the School's admissions page.

About the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology

The James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology was established in 1996. Located in Atlanta, on Mercer University's Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus, the School of Theology offers degree programs leading to a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. The School of Theology also offers several joint programs: an M.Div.-Master of Business Administration, M.Div.-Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and M.Div.-Master of Science in Organizational Leadership with a Concentration in Non-Profit. For more information, visit