Michael Nilon

Michael Nilon

Doctoral Student


  • Ph.D Religious Studies, University of Virginia, (anticipated 2020)
  • Clinical Pastoral Education Intern, Baycare Health System, Fall 2011
  • M.Div. Harvard Divinity School, 2010
  • B.A. University of Florida, 2001

Dissertation and Clinical Work

My dissertation research will explore the intersection of hospital chaplaincy and mindfulness practices in contemporary biomedical institutions through ethnographic research at St. Vincent’s Jacksonville. I am currently pursing ethnographic research as well as training as a hospital chaplain through CPE programs, volunteer chaplaincy, and PRN work in the Jacksonville area.

Research Interests

My research interests fall along three general lines of inquiry expressed in the following questions:
  • How do hospital chaplains understand the presence of ultimate values in relation to the shape of their other value commitments?
  • What kinds of contemplative or prayer practices undergird and reinforce practices of caregiving as embodied forms of compassion and healing work in clinical settings?
  • How does the history of hospital chaplaincy in modern and late-modern US contexts inform current processes of incorporating spiritual disciplines in chaplaincy that do not derive from and are not inspired by liberal Protestant religion? 
  • Teaching

    University of Virginia

    • Introduction to Eastern Religions, Fall 2017—T.A. for Michael Allen 

    • Buddhist Meditation and Modern World, Spring 2017—T.A. for James Gentry and Leslie Hubbard

    • Islam in Africa, Spring 2016—T.A. for Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton

    • Afro-creole Religions, Fall 2015—T.A. for Jalane Schmidt

    Other Teaching

    • Maureen Joy Charter School Literacy Instructor for Children with Special Needs, August 2012 to June 2014

    Pedagogical Projects

    • Center for Teaching Excellence Course Design Institute—co-designed “The World is Our Laboratory” (Undergraduate Anthropological Methods) with Ira Bashkow, Summer 2016
      • Created an experiential education curriculum that taught ethnographic method and culminated in a community based project to remodel the Alderman Library.
    • Ethnographic Methods Consultant for Religion and Conflict Value Predicate Analysis Project for Peter Ochs, Summer 2016
      • Designed and taught a series of six modules on ethnographic methodology to 10 undergraduate interns conducting research in eight religious communities in Charlottesville.
    • Facilitator Washington Mandela Fellows Program (Young African Leaders Initiative), Summer 2015

    Fellowships and Awards

    • Gregory L. and Nancy H. Curl Jefferson Fellowship, University of Virginia, Fall 2014 to Spring 2020

    • South Atlantic Fellow, University of Virginia, Spring 2015

    • Reverend Theodore H. Wilson Bequest, Harvard Divinity School, Fall 2007 to Spring 2010.

    Papers Presented

    • “Auto-ethnography and Normativity”, Theological, Ethics and Culture Conference: “Religion, Normativity, and Method,” October 14, 2017
      •  Analyzed the implicit norms of empirical methodologies in the narrative turn and their programmatic function in structuring the constitution of knowledge
    • “Ethics and Healing in Palo Monte and Regla de Ocha”, Jefferson Foundation Fellows Weekend Presentation, March 21, 2016
      • Described the interaction of two Afrocuban religions as traditions of healing work.
    • “Imagining Galeno-Islamic Medicine: Balancing Ethics and Healing”, Jefferson Foundation Forum Interdisciplinary Dialogue 2015: “Ethics and Development,” September 21, 2015
      • Compared the meaning making projects of medieval Islamic doctors to novel projects in current biomedicine that attempt to humanize care through storytelling.