The Religio staff on the front steps of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism

The Religio staff in Vatican City — just steps away from St. Peter's Basilica and the Papal Palace (the Pope's home).

Professor Ari Goldman has taught the “Covering Religion” course at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism every spring for the past 18 years, preparing his students to write about religion for a diverse readership. This year’s course looks at the religions of Italy, including Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The class includes a 10-day trip to Italy in which students put their expertise to work by studying the workings of faith in a region where it is a developing story. This trip is sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation which has subsidized class trips for over a decade to India, Israel, the American South, Moscow and Kazan, Moscow and Kiev, Israel and Ireland. To see previous classes’ websites, click here.

Meet Our Staff

Anne Cohen covers women’s religious orders. Though born in Boston, Anne grew up in Montreal, Canada where she graduated from McGill University in 2011 with a B.A. in History and Political Science. In the summer of 2010, she spent five weeks in Kosovo studying post-conflict transitions and got a first hand look at the effects of religious strife (while learning five words in Albanian!). Guilty pleasures include old movies, cheesy French songs, and bagels. She is currently an M.S. magazine concentrator at the  Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

See all stories by Anne Cohen | | @anneesthercohen


Hoda Emam covers Reform Judaism. Born and raised in Texas, Hoda has always had a deep desire to explore the Middle East region. After receiving a B.A. in Biology from the University of Texas in Arlington, she joined CBS 11 news in Dallas, Texas as a newsroom intern. Soon after, Hoda was offered a position as a reporter in the United Arab Emirates. After spending 4 years in the Middle East working as a journalist and news anchor Hoda decided to move back to the United States to obtain a masters degree. She believes fair and factual religion reporting requires being immersed into a culture and society. Hoda’s recent experience includes working with ABC News and the United Nations. Hoda is currently a Masters of Science candidate in digital media at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

See all stories by Hoda Emam | | @Hoda_Emam

Brandon L. Gates covers men’s religious orders. Brandon  is a native of Charleston, SC and earned his B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina. Brandon has interned at KVVU in Las Vegas and worked as a campus correspondent for CNN University. He co-hosted Your New Nation, a nationally-syndicated radio show where he and his co-hosts engaged in weekly debates ranging from politics to social issues. Brandon is a self-proclaimed news junkie and enjoys all kinds of music, especially 1930s & ’40s jazz. He is a fan of the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Pittsburgh Steelers and of course the Gamecocks football team. Brandon is pursuing an MS in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Brandon is the Social Media Editor for Religio.

See all stories by Brandon Gates | | @TheBGates

Raya Jalabi covers Islam. Raya spent her salad days in London, the child of Lebanese-Iraqi parents. She moved to Philadelphia in 2007 to attend the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a B.A. in History. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She hopes to move to the Middle East upon graduation in May 2012 to start her career cowering in foxholes. Raya is Managing Editor of Religio.

See all stories by Raya Jalabi | | @rayajalabi



Sarah Laing covers Evangelical Christians. Sarah is a broadcast concentrator at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, specializing in radio journalism. Before graduating with a B.A. in Media and Communications (Honours) from the University of Melbourne, Australia, Sarah lived in Canada, England and South Africa.  Her other, less national identity-confusing, experience includes a stint as a breakfast radio host, editing her university magazine, and interning at news radio stations in both hemispheres. She can’t wait to make a wish in the Trevi Fountain.

See all stories by Sarah Laing | | @sarahjanelaing


Trinna Leong covers Opus Dei. Trinna is a Chinese  Malaysian. She had two years of work experience in the online advertising industry before pursuing journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. While in Malaysia, she freelanced for the largest english publication, The Star and contributed to a magazine called Cosmic. With three years of competitive debating under her belt, she aims to flesh out the arguments surrounding international news and politics.

See all stories by Trinna Leong | | @trinnaleong



Teresa Mahoney covers Anglicanism. Teresa is a native Portlandian and a graduate student at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism concentrating in digital media. She has interned for Portland Monthly magazine, KPTV Fox 12 and has most recently worked in the marketing and editorial department of a biotech start-up in Oregon. While she earned her B.A. in Business from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, she is happy to call journalism her new vocation.

See all stories by Teresa Mahoney | | @teresamahoney



Neha Tara Mehta covers Mormonism. Mehta is a journalist from India on a Fulbright fellowship to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the School of International and Public Affairs. She has worked for the last seven years in leading dailies in New Delhi, including the Hindustan Times and Mail Today, a tie-up between the India Today Group and Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Daily Mail. Her international reporting experience includes reporting on the rise in religious extremism in Pakistan and on race attacks on Indian students in Australia. Neha is fascinated by the interplay of religion, culture and politics. In New York, she is concentrating her reportage on the pro-democracy movements in societies living under religious and military oppression. She has reported extensively on the Egyptian community living in the Big Apple, and her master’s thesis is on Tibetan political activism in New York.

See all stories by Neha Tara Mehta | | @nehataramehta

Bogdan Mohora covers Romanian Orthodox Christianity. Mohora earned a B.A. in Photography and Teacher Certification from Central Washington University in
2005. Currently, he works as a senior photo editor at Before coming to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism to study digital media, Bogdan worked
as a freelance media editor in Seattle, WA for various clients such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Amazon and Microsoft and was a photographer and
writer for Melophobe, an online music magazine. In between freelance gigs, Bogdan has been in the habit of using his savings to travel around Eastern Europe and South America and coming home completely broke. Bogdan is Assistant Web Editor for Religio.

See all stories by Bogdan Mohora | | @bmohora

Ines Novacic covers the Papacy. Novacic is a Yugoslavian-Irish multimedia journalist. She’s currently a broadcast concentrator  at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Ines is an intern at NY1 News, where her beat is education. She covers the Irish community in New York, and freelances for the Irish Times newspaper, and for She is interested in education, religion, and immigration, and working with breaking news.

See all stories by Ines Novacic | | @inessanova



Andrea Palatnik covers Russian Orthodox Christianity. Andrea is a Brazilian journalist from Rio de Janeiro. She is currently based in New York City as a freelance reporter while finishing her master’s degree at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for the Agence France-Presse for four years, writing about all kinds of subjects from folk music festivals in Norway to general elections in Brazil. She’s into photojournalism, foreign affairs and everything in between.

See all stories by Andrea Palatnik |



Neha Prakash covers Catholic devotional saints. Neha received a B.A. in Journalism from Penn State University. After college, she interned at AOL/Huffington Post Health as an editorial and web intern, managing websites and social media. Originally from India, she was raised in Bel Air, Md. Neha hopes to cover business and economics or religion in the future. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in print journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Neha is the Religio Web Editor.

See all stories by Neha Prakash | | @nehapk



Anam Siddiq covers Hindus and Sikhs. Anam is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Her concentration is broadcast, but she gained experience in print, magazine and radio journalism throughout her undergraduate career. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in Literary Journalism and History, and followed that up by working with various California news outlets such as KPCC, the OC Register and KQED, where she acquired an exclusive interview with then-governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. Anam has written about issues ranging from animal euthanizations to jinn folklore, but she most enjoys reporting on social justice and religion. She also harbors a peculiar interest in 20th century American history, which she hopes to incorporate faithfully into her writing some day. Anam is Photo Editor of Religio.

See all stories by Anam Siddiq | | @ItsSiddiq

Aby Sam Thomas covers Secular Catholicism. Aby is originally from Kerala, India, although he was born and raised in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Before coming into the world of journalism, Aby worked as an analyst programmer at Accenture for four years, working out of offices in Mumbai, London and New York. An avid reader, a movie enthusiast and a fiction writer, he’s a typical Gemini who loves to dabble in a number of fields and ideas.

See all stories by Aby Sam Thomas | | @thisisaby



Nathan Vickers covers the Waldensian Evangelical Church. Nathan graduated from Truman State University in 2011 with a B.A. in Communications. At Truman he wrote for the school paper, the Index, and reported part-time for KTVO, an ABC affiliate in Kirksville, Mo. Nathan Vickers writes about the Waldensian church, a small, Protestant denomination based in Rome. In New York City Vickers writes about Redeemer Presbyterian church, a megachurch that congregates in Hunter College Auditorium on the Upper East Side.His work has also appeared on the New York Torch website as well as the Latin American News Dispatch.

See all stories by Nathan Vickers | | @nathanvickers


Michael Wilner covers Orthodox Judaism. Michael recently graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Claremont McKenna College, where he was Editor-In-Chief of the student newspaper. He has reported from New York for The Brooklyn Ink and, from Singapore and India for The Straits Times, from London for the BBC and from the Middle East for RealClearWorld, among other ventures.

See all stories by Michael Wilner | | @MWilner12



Meet Our Professors 

Ari L. Goldman, a former religion correspondent for The New York Times, has been teaching the “Covering Religion” seminar at Columbia since 1993. This year’s study-tour to Italy is the twelfth he’s led with Columbia students. In past years, the class has gone to Russia, Ukraine, India, Italy, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. Professor Goldman was born in Hartford, Conn., and was educated at Yeshiva University, Columbia and Harvard. He is the author of three books, including the best-selling The Search for God at Harvard. Professor Goldman and his wife Shira Dicker live in Manhattan and have three children.



Alexander Stille is the San Paolo Professor of International Journalism at Columbia. He graduated with a B.A. from Yale University and earned an M.S. at Columbia. He has worked as a contributor to The New York Times, La Repubblica, The New Yorker magazine, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Correspondent, U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe, and The Toronto Globe and Mail. He is the author of “Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism” (1991); “Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic” (1995); “The Future of the Past” (2002); and “The Sack of Rome: How a Beautiful European Country with a Fabled History and a Storied Culture Was Taken Over by a Man Named Silvio Berlusconi” (2006).


Francesca Trianni (TA) earned her B.A. in Political Science with a special concentration in Sustainable Development from Columbia University. She works for RAI, Italy’s public broadcasting station, as a news producer. Francesca is thrilled to be joining the class this semester as a Teaching Assistant.