Meet the Team

Meet the Team

Partners in planning your next step.

The staff of Candler’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid aren’t just emissaries for Candler; they are servant leaders committed to supporting you in your theological journey. Part Sherpa, part counselor, part career coach, they partner with you to discover where your interests and passions and Candler’s unique brand of theological education intersect. Sure, they love to talk about Candler, but they equally love to listen to the stories and context each prospective student brings with them. Through that listening, they can help you discern your call, consider the range of academic options available, and determine how a theological degree will help prepare you for your next step. Email Candler’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.


Samuel Martinez

Samuel Martinez

Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid

Sam is a native of “Scratch Out,” Arkansas—more officially known as New Edinburg, population 127—and comes to Candler with experience serving in both the church and the academy. He earned his MTS from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, and is currently finishing up his PhD in Christian theology at Yale, with a focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. He’s served churches in Texas as an associate pastor and as a director of music and media. Outside the office, Sam enjoys, well, being outside, including cycling and snow skiing. And if you’re looking for some good background music while you complete your application, just get him on speaker phone—he moonlighted as a professional pianist in college and can play most anything by ear, with a sweet spot in his soul for jazz, gospel and Johnny Cash. But you may want to come visit in person: Sam always (“ALWAYS,” he stresses) has candy in his office. Jelly beans, anyone?


Ashly Cargle-Thompson

Associate Director of Financial Aid & Admissions

Hailing from the Midwest, Ashly began her career at Candler as the program coordinator for the Doctor of Ministry, International Initiatives, and Theological Education Between the Times programs. She earned her BA from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, majoring in comparative religion with an emphasis in Islam and triple-minoring in anthropology, psychology, and English. Before pursuing graduate studies, Ashly realized a longtime dream by playing professional basketball for the Stirling Senators in Perth, Western Australia. Upon returning to the U.S., she completed her MA at the University of Chicago Divinity School with an emphasis in Islamic studies and anthropology of religion. Her research focused on the formation of identity and selfhood among conservative Muslim women through their evolving interpretations of Qur’anic passages about menstruation and purity. In her spare time, Ashly enjoys reading, cooking, swimming, and hiking.


Katy Daniel

Assistant Director of Operations and Communications

A native of Cartersville, Georgia, Katy graduated from Auburn University with a BS in apparel design and production management and a minor in human development and family studies. She comes to Candler from John Marshall Law School, where she served as an admissions clerk. Katy is a mentor for the Auburn Alumni Network and serves as a Kid Ministry Volunteer at Trinity Anglican Church in Atlanta. In her free time, you can find her cooking, hiking, camping, or doing yoga. Katy also enjoys crafting of all sorts—she spent time at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, where she took classes in pottery, basketry, natural dying, and millinery (hat-making!), and also learned to contra dance.


Julia Falgout

Housing Coordinator

A first-year MDiv student pursuing a chaplaincy concentration, Julia earned her BS in psychology from Young Harris College with a religious studies minor. During college, she studied abroad in Italy, which gave her a deep passion and appreciation for different cultures. The experience also led her to serve as a young adult missionary in Warsaw, Poland through The UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries Young Adult Service Program. At Candler, Julia lives with fellow students in the Park Avenue Baptist Church formation community. An Atlanta native, her love and knowledge of her home city makes Julia a perfect resource to help incoming students find housing that meets their needs. In her free time, Julia enjoys traveling, reading, and photography.


Katelyn Hayes

Interim Admissions Advisor

A native of Decatur, Alabama (much smaller than Decatur, Georgia), Katelyn graduated from Samford University, where she majored in health sciences and minored in business and religion. She had big plans to work in healthcare administration—but God had a very different idea and she wound up near the larger Decatur at Candler, finding her stride in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program. For her thesis, she studied how group fitness culture can serve the same social needs as traditional ideas of church culture and liturgy. Katelyn’s Candler years stood out for the wide range of people, backgrounds, and places that she was able to connect with on and off campus. (She also suggests taking weekend study trips to various Atlanta public libraries when your routine needs a shake-up!) Along with her MTS research, she’s passionate about community mental health, and has found spaces to nurture that throughout her college and grad school careers. When she’s not answering your questions about life at Candler, Katelyn continues the research she started as a student and puts it into real-life practice, which includes curating a health and wellness curriculum for kids at her church. She also finds joy and centering through her own yoga practice, as well as cooking and baking for loved ones.


Callie Hill

Callie Hill

Admissions Analyst

Callie comes to Candler from University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, where she worked as an international recruitment officer. She holds a BA from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. When asked about her hobbies, she replies, “Oh no… there are too many!” So if you can’t find Callie in the office, you may find her cooking or baking, singing and playing guitar, hiking in the summer, or snowboarding in the winter (can we come along?). She also loves DIY home projects and volunteering at the local animal shelter. Callie, her husband, and their rescue cat Meadow are excited to be here in Atlanta! 


Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams

Admissions Advisor

Rachel has the special distinction of being a "Key West Conch," a nickname given only to those born in Key West, Florida. A United Methodist pastor’s kid, she earned her BA in international affairs from Florida State University and her MDiv from Candler, the second generation in her family to do so—both of her parents are also Candler alumni! Between degrees, Rachel served as assistant director of ministry for the FSU/Tallahassee Community College Wesley Foundation, and as volunteer coordinator for Side by Side Kids Inc., a free, faith-based after school program in Austin, Texas. During her time at Candler, she was a pastoral resident at Eastside Church, where she directed justice and outreach ministries, launched the middle school youth program, and led initiatives to build community partnerships.

Rachel and her husband Nick root hard for Florida State football and have a dog named Hooch (part beagle/part monster). She loves books and rereads the Harry Potter series annually—she’s even led classes at Eastside on the boy wizard and the gospel. In her spare time, Rachel also enjoys hiking, traveling, and photography.


Allison Burnette

Allison Burnette

Social Media Manager, MDiv '23

Hometown: Tallahassee, FL

Alma mater: Florida State University (BS in Advertising and International Affairs)

Fun fact: I lived in London for 9 months during and after college but have been told my attempts at a British accent are terrible.

Why did you choose Candler? I was really drawn to the contextual education element. I loved knowing I could make an impact and get hands on experience from day one.

What do you love about Candler? My classmates are all so interesting. We come from different cities, countries, backgrounds, careers, and experiences, each of which give us a unique lens with which we are approaching the content. What seems obvious to them is groundbreaking to me and vice versa.

What do you love about Atlanta? I love that Atlanta is a city of neighborhoods. Each one is so unique and has a great deal of local pride, which really appeals to me. Each time I've moved to a different part of the city, I've enjoyed discovering the nearby coffee shops and pocket parks that make it feel like home.


Deanna Ferree Womack

Deanna Womack

Assistant Professor of History of Religions and Multifaith Relations; Chair of Admissions and Scholarship Committee

Raised in the small farming town of Nevada, Missouri, Deanna cultivated a passion for studying world Christianity and multifaith relations through her church. With a Presbyterian pastor for a father, she met people from all over and found religion as a way to connect with the wider world. She earned her BA at Macalester College with a degree in international studies and religious studies and then deepened her understanding of Christian-Muslim relations at Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Deanna taught in Lebanon for two years—where she fostered a lifelong love of Middle Eastern food—before returning to PTS to complete her doctoral work. In her spare time, she tinkers in her herb garden and enjoys watching the Marvel movies with her family (they once dressed up as Avengers for their church Trunk-or-Treat!). And if you take her class on Islam in America, you’ll find the latest Ms. Marvel graphic novel on the syllabus, featuring a Pakistani-American Muslim as the titular superhero—Deanna’s read all 10!


Admissions Interns

Emily Elder

Emily Elder, MDiv '22

Hometown: Vienna, Austria, and Philadelphia, PA

Alma mater: University of Virginia (religious studies and German studies)

Fun fact: Lived in Vienna, where her parents were missionaries, until 3rd grade

What do you love about Candler? "So far, I love how different the students and professors are from each other, but how they remain united in their passion for the church and theological studies!"

What do you love about Atlanta? "I love how green Atlanta is, and how many parks there are to explore. I like walking the Beltline and grabbing a snack at Ponce City Market, or biking the Silver Comet Trail with a picnic packed. It feels like there’s always something fun going on in this city."


Tim Elofson

Timothy Elofson, MDiv '21

Hometown: Mansfield, MA

Alma mater: Azusa Pacific University

Fun fact: Avid coffee drinker since age 3!

Areas of study at Candler: MDiv Concentration in Formation and Witness

Influential professors:Dr. Greg Ellison, Dr. Tom Elliott, Dr. Jennifer Ayres, and Dr. Kyle Lambelet


David Fitzer

David Fitzer, MDiv '23

Hometown: Long Island, New York

Alma mater: Bethune-Cookman University (music major with a minor in business administration)

Fun fact: Classically trained vocalist; loves travel and trying different cuisines.

Areas of study at Candler: Dual Master's degree in Business Administration and Divinity

Why did you choose Candler? Finding a place that shared in my morals and values was very important to me. Candler proves daily to be a place that accepts everyone as they enter the program; being surrounded by faculty and staff that push each student to be greater in their ministerial journey truly inspires me to be greater. 

Activities at Candler: The Candler Singers


Tayler Johnson

Tayler Johnson, MDiv '21

Hometown: Corpus Christi, TX

Alma mater: The University of Texas

Fun fact: Was the 2002 Anderson County Mutton Bustin' Champion

Activities at Candler: Runs Candler's intramural team "Second to Nun"

Impactful class and professor: Dr. Kyle Lambelet's "Theology and Ethics of Reconciliation"

Why do you love Candler? "I love that it encourages me to think and be outside of my comfort zone."


Trelenny Joiner

Trelenny Joiner, MDiv '23

Hometown: Pensacola, FL

Alma mater: Spelman College

Fun fact: I spent two weeks in Ghana on vacation.

What do you love about Candler? I love the professors.

Why did you choose Candler? I was interested in the Contextual Education program.


Jared Ramos

Jared Ramos, MDiv '22

Hometown: Rosenberg, TX (in the Houston area)

Alma mater: Texas A&M University! Whoop! (Leadership Studies)

Fun fact: I only drink iced lattes, even in the dead of winter.

Areas of study: religious education and spiritual formation

What do you love about Candler? I love the diversity of students and the way that Candler makes space for everyone! I have found such a deep community here and have discovered so much about myself!

What do you love about Atlanta? The city is so much bigger than anywhere else that I have lived! I love the fast paced nature and the energy of all the different people and art that the city holds! 


Victoria Shen

Victoria (Yun-Ching) Shen, MTS '21

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan and Columbia, South Carolina

Alma maters: University of South Carolina (History and International Studies)

Fun fact: Top four reasons for staying in the U.S.: Chick-fil-A, mac and cheese, Welch's Fruit Snacks, and non-dairy yogurt.

Areas of study at Candler: History, Scripture, Tradition of Christianity. Primary interests are denominational disputes in Reformation history, and East Asian Christian history, especially the Chinese and Taiwanese churches.

What do you love about Candler? "I love Candler because it is very diverse and I can interact with different people from all around the world. Candler provides me flexible choices of classes, which enrich and challenge my theology and historical research at the same time."

Influential professors: Dr. David Pacini, Dr. Steffen Lösel, Dr. Helen Kim


Student Ambassadors

Trey Davis

Trey Davis, MDiv '23

Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana

Alma mater: Centenary College of Louisiana (history and music)

Activities at Candler: Sacred Worth; Black Student Caucus; Candler Coordinating Council; Episcopal and Anglican Studies Program; Candler Sings; Worship Planning

Why do you love Candler? "Its commitment to intentional community, the personal nature of our school experience, the academic rigor and the fact Emory is an all-around incredible educational institution. Knowing that I’m doing something bigger than myself keeps me committed to my studies!"

What do you love about Atlanta? "Metro-Atlanta is so sprawling and so diverse in terms of its culture. My favorite places to visit are coffee shops, art museums, restaurants, and music shops!"


Ben Fletcher

Ben Fletcher, MDiv '21

Denomination: UMC

Hometown: Summerville, SC

Alma mater: University of Georgia (BS in Agricultural Engineering with an emphasis in Natural Resource Management)

Fun fact: Solo backpacked 52 miles in the European Alps

Why do you love Atlanta? "I love that Atlanta is a big city with a small town feel. Of course there are large skyscrapers and busy highways, but most of Atlanta consists of quaint homes as well as eclectic restaurants, shops, and bars nestled among an abundance of trees and greenery."


Jordan Grassi

Jordan Grassi, MDiv '21

Hometown: Key West, Florida

Alma mater: Belmont University (songwriting major with a minor in theology)

Activities at Candler: Candler Latin American Community President; Social Concerns Network; and Candler Singers

Why do you love Candler? “I’m really grateful that almost all of my classes have helped me draw applicable connections to my vocational understanding while also challenging me to think critically and/or differently about my vocation and call.”

Impactful class and professor: Liturgical Theology with Dr. Tony Alonso; Feminist & Womanist Ethics with Dr. Ellen Ott Marshall


Yves Kinangwa

Yves Kinangwa, MDiv '21

Denomination: UMC

Hometown: Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Alma mater: Africa University (studied environmental studies)

Activities at Candler: Candler International Student Association; Candler Creation Keepers; Black Student Caucus; and Candler African Theological Student Association

What do you love about Candler? "The spirit first, the people second and the building last."


Margaret Kuester

Margaret Kuester, MDiv '22

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Alma mater: Samford University (international relations and French double major)

Why do you love Candler? “Candler introduced me to some of my favorite people. I’ve never felt more welcomed or loved for who I am than by those I met at Candler. The community I have built at Candler has been academic support as well as emotional and spiritual support throughout my time, and I look forward to being friends for life.”

What do you love about Atlanta? “I really enjoy museums and dining out, and Atlanta is a great city for that.”

Impactful class and professor: Womanist Feminist Spirituality and Worship with Dr. Khalia J. Williams


Justala Simpson

Justala Simpson, MDiv '23

Hometown: Montgomery, Alabama

Alma mater: Huntingdon College (religion major with minors in history and political science)

Activities at Candler: Office of Worship; Voices of Imani

Why do you love Candler? “Candler is a community that truly lends itself to the people in and around it. This, by all accounts, is the driving force behind my dedication to seeking truth and caring for my neighbor. Ministry mandates that and I am eager about what this journey will unfold in my life.”

ConEd Site: Lee Arrendale State Prison


Noah Ward

Noah Ward, MDiv '22

Denomination: Presbyterian Church (USA)

Hometown: Springfield, MO

Alma mater: Baylor University (studied political science and philosophy)

Fun fact: When he's not studying, you'll find him running or working on his Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Con Ed I site: Gwinnett Medical Center

What do you love about Candler? "Candler has provided me a terrific chance to balance both academics and hands on experience. It constantly challenges us to integrate these two vital parts of seminary education. Through this duel focus I think I have not just become a better student, but also a better caregiver."


Astria Wilson

Astria Wilson, MDiv '21

Hometown: Ruston, Louisiana

Alma mater: Clark Atlanta University (political science)

Actitivities at Candler: Speaker of the Legislature-Emory’s Graduate Student Government Association; Vice President-Black Student Caucus; Divisional Representative-The Collective; Events Office

Why do you love Candler? “I always feel welcomed and affirmed by the community.  My scholarship and service are held with high regard, and I am always encouraged to follow my passions while being creative.”