Faculty

Meet the GNL Faculty! The GNL program offers connection to dedicated educators and scholars who are passionate about teaching and student learning outcomes. Our faculty teach engaging online courses and provide personalized attention for each student.  

Associate Professor

Dr. Keune focuses on religion and society in Asia, especially India and Taiwan. With knowledge of several Asian traditions, he explores how people relate to religion as they build communities and navigate their everyday lives. In doing so, Dr. Keune decenters the study of “religion” from its peculiarly Western and Christian roots, to understand alternative ways of thinking about ideas, practices, and values that shape societies beyond the English-speaking western world.  He explores how specific Asian examples of how national governments, local cultures, postcolonial legacies, and legal regimes shape organizations that could be called “religious” and “nonprofit,” while paying close attention to their own local terminologies and conceptual worlds. With a decade of experience living in India, Taiwan, and Germany and language proficiency in Marathi, German, and (increasingly) Mandarin Chinese, Dr. Keune shows how studying something that seems different and far away is essential for discovering yourself and the world nearby. 

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Director

Dr. Marcy has worked with a wide range of nonprofit organizations in the United States and around the world. She has extensive grant writing experience including program design, proposal writing, and budget development and has worked on solicitations from various donors including government agencies and foundations. Dr. Marcy has also managed multimillion dollar international research and training programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. She is passionate about educating the next generation of nonprofit leaders and enjoys mentoring students to help further their professional goals.  

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Associate Professor

Dr. Shipley studies the role spirituality assumes in improving individual wellness, enhancing collective well-being, and advancing a virtue-laden life. He is particularly interested in highlighting how spirituality positively impacts educational settings, social justice projects, and professional conduct. Current research projects explore the rise of the spiritual but not religious and secular spirituality, with a shared focus on the role of spirituality within ethics and public life. Prior to his role at Michigan State University, he worked in the non-profit field, including as a research analyst for the Government Finance Offers Association, where he worked primarily in relation to government transparency and fiduciary responsibility. Dr. Shipley is a dynamic instructor, enthusiastic about the unique privilege of helping others gain skills and understandings to grow not only as professionals, but as humans living in this world with others. 

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Professor

Dr. Gretel Van Wieren studies environmental ethics and religion and nature. She is especially interested in the ways in which social ecological practices such as land restoration and community-based farming have the capacity to create meaningful, sustainable, and just relationships between people and the natural world. In her professional and research capacities, Dr. Van Wieren has worked over the past two decades with a wide variety of environmental and social justice focused nonprofit organizations, including Interfaith Power & Light, Faith in Place, Food Plus Detroit, and Michigan Climate Action Network. Dr. Van Wieren is passionate about helping to facilitate collaborations among diverse stakeholders working to address pressing environmental issues.   

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Professor

Dr. Versluis is interested in the study, development, and practices of social entrepreneurship, especially in connection to the study of religion. He has long been active in scholarly organizations devoted to the study of religion as well as in founding and directing several non-profit organizations, and is the founding president of Hieros (hieros.institute), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that furthers exploring transreligious dimensions of the sacred in contemporary life. Dr. Versluis enjoys teaching; his courses are dynamic, and they often cover material that you will not encounter anywhere else. 

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Assistant Professor

Laura Yares is interested in the ways that religions are taught and learned across the world. She is the Religious Studies department specialist in Jews and Judaism, and she teaches courses on global Jewish culture, religion in America, and religion and non-profits. Her interest in religion and learning has led her into non-profit administration as well as teaching and research. She has worked as a curator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore, as an independent consultant in Washington D.C., and spent 5 years as Director of Education and Research at Hillel, an international non-profit, before joining the faculty at MSU in 2018. She is currently at work on a book exploring how people learn about religious cultures by engaging with the arts, and a new project investigating minority group representation in American public schools.