Student Star: Shawntel Ensminger

Name: Shawntel Ensminger
Major: American Religious History

“Each professor in American Religious History is remarkable for their friendliness, compassion and rigor.”

When Shawntel began her doctoral studies at The Florida State University, she was granted a prestigious Presidential University Fellowship, an award for graduate students who are newly admitted to a Ph.D. program. She has also been recognized by the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) with a P.E.O. Scholar Award, a merit-based award for women pursuing a doctoral-level degree.

One aspect that drew her to The Florida State University was the impressive faculty in the Department of Religion. “Each professor in American Religious History is remarkable for their friendliness, compassion and rigor.”

So far, Florida State and its caring faculty have exceeded Shawntel’s expectations. “My dissertation director, Amy Koehlinger, has been inspirational as an advisor and as a friend. She has her finger on the pulse of our field and helps her students feel it as well.”

Shawntel received a master’s degree in Religion from Florida State in 2007; her master’s thesis examined religious seekers and seeker-sensitive churches. As a Ph. D. student, she is exploring the “parallels of religious intolerance directed at women’s religious clothing manifested in print illustrations and cartoons.” She has found the same types of images used to depict Muslim women in modern political cartoons were used against nuns in the Catholic Church during the nineteenth century. Her goal is to understand how these archetypes of intolerance function and to identify what makes them so powerful.

As a single mother and an aspiring professor, Shawntel admires Dr. Koehlinger for her success in her career and family life. “She exemplifies how to be a brilliant professor and a loving mother simultaneously.” Shawntel’s daughter is her inspiration to succeed. “Every minute of my graduate experience has been shaped by my daughter. Even though it’s been a struggle sometimes, I can’t imagine how I’d be as grounded or as driven without her.”

Shawntel was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, and she found that Florida State’s support extended beyond academics. “The response was both unexpected and overwhelming. I’ll never forget how everyone, from professors to friends, went out of their way to help me through my treatments. As I continue to struggle with this disease, the support from my FSU family continues to amaze and humble me.”

After completing her degree, she hopes to teach at the university level. “Beyond the university, however, I hope to be active in the community as a teacher, activist and volunteer. I’ve long dreamed of setting up a foundation to aid single moms fighting their way though school. I will also be active in cancer awareness and activism.”