School of Religion faculty and 2024 graduates
By School of Religion - June 17, 2024

At the joint Conferring of Degrees for the School Behavioral Health and the School of Religion, distinguished faculty and accomplished graduates were presented with awards.

Distinguished Academic Award, Loma Linda University 2024

Jon Paulien

Professor, School of Religion, Loma Linda University

Director, Center for Understanding World Religions, Loma Linda University

Dean, School of Religion, Loma Linda University (2007-2019)

B.A. Atlantic Union College 1972

M.Div. Andrews University 1975

Ph.D. Andrews University 1987

This recognition is presented to a faculty member, administrator, clinician or staff member selected for having made outstanding contributions to Loma Linda University Health’s academic mission. A person so honored, is general well known and recognized on campus, and has served with distinction.

Dr. Jon Paulien joined Loma Linda University in 2007 as the founding dean of the newly established School of Religion. His passion for teaching was evident early on in his career; combining teaching at the secondary level while serving as a pastor in New York. His career in higher education spanned over 25 years at the Andrews University Adventist Theological Seminary, where he became chair of the Department of New Testament. Dr. Paulien is a specialist in the study of the Johannine literature in the New Testament (Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation), as well as the intersection of faith with contemporary culture. He has authored more than thirty books, over two hundred articles, numerous scholarly papers and other publications.

Dean’s Award, Loma Linda University School of Behavioral Health 2024

Yi Shen Ma

Assistant Professor, School of Religion, Loma Linda University

Associate Director, Center for Christian Bioethics, Loma Linda University

B.A. La Sierra University 2008

M.A. Claremont School of Theology 2012

Ph.D. Claremont School of Theology 2019

M.S.W. Loma Linda University 2024

The School of Behavioral Health Dean’s Award for Master’s Programs recognizes superior academic and professional achievement and dedication to community service.

Dr. Yi Shen Ma graduated with the Master of Social Work degree. Although Yi Shen already possess a Ph.D. and is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Ethical Studies at Loma Linda University, he chose to pursue a Master of Social Work degree to support his passion for trauma-informed care and mental health equity advocacy. In completing his MSW, Yi Shen demonstrated continuous clinical excellence and an exceptional ability to utilize varied and advanced therapeutic interventions to first to support high school students facing emotional challenges and suicide risk,— then later to provide trauma-informed psychotherapy to a diverse client base. Further, he sought out additional clinical experiences including supporting the development and facilitation of workshops aimed at fostering community resilience and engaged in health assessments and coaching for a diabetes prevention program reflecting his commitment to public health and preventive care. According to his professors and clinical supervisors "Yi-Shen is a gifted clinician whose remarkable theoretical knowledge, combined with his exceptional interpersonal abilities, empathy, and commitment to self-improvement, greatly benefits his clients." The school is confident in Yi Shen’s ability to make a meaningful difference in his community, in ways that greatly align with the values and objectives of Loma Linda University.

President’s Award, Loma Linda University School of Religion 2024

Michael Z. Lee

B.S. Western Washington University 2018

M.A. Loma Linda University 2024

Michael Z. Lee is a third-year medical student at Loma Linda University who pursued graduate studies in religion before starting his fourth year of medical school. He hails from Washington state and graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. After completing his undergraduate degree, he attended a one-year Christian studies program at Augustine College in Ottawa, Canada before working as a medical scribe in an outpatient neurology clinic in Bellingham, Washington.  

Throughout his program, Michael’s academic performance has been outstanding.  His current research interests include an exploration of the integration of (and, at times, tension between) healthcare and spirituality. He plans to do a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics, and hopes to continue working in academia thereafter. In his spare time, Michael enjoys reading, writing poetry and short fiction, and engaging in energetic dialogue with his friends.

Dean’s Award, Loma Linda University School of Religion 2024

Akivah Dixon Northern

B.S. St. John's University 1968

M.Div. Yale University 2008

D.Sc. Loma Linda University 2024

As a former Chaplain, Akivah cared for hundreds of patients and their families in hospitals, nursing facilities, and homes. As an Ecological Chaplain, Akivah led many others on healing journeys worldwide, including in the Kilimanjaro Mountains, Niagara Falls, and along the Pacific Shores in Santa Barbara, CA, where she lives. Akivah found that listening, storytelling, and meaning-making in nature profoundly impact people’s health and well-being.

Akivah holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University and is an alumnus of Howard University School of Medicine. Although accepted to medical school at age 52, Akivah’s medical education was cut short by spending thirteen years caring for her aging mother and Auntie Bea, who lived to be 100 and 108 years old, respectively! Not being able to finish medical school was one of her greatest disappointments. However, Akivah’s heart was overjoyed when she was accepted to the Faith and Health doctoral program at Loma Linda University, where she brought her passion for medicine and ministry together. In her final year, Akivah worked with Dr. Bruce Feldstein at Stanford University School of Medicine, co-facilitating an intervention called Reflection Rounds (RR). Akivah’s doctoral research explored Stanford medical students’ joys and challenges during patient encounters. Akivah also participated in a healthcare leadership apprenticeship sponsored by the California State Department of Rehabilitation.

Akivah and her family have lived in Santa Barbara, CA since 1987. Her beloved husband of forty-three years, the late Babatunde Folayemi, was the first African American elected to the Santa Barbara City Council in its 173 years. Their son, Cinque Northern, is a Peabody-awarded, Emmy-nominated, and Oscar-short-listed documentary filmmaker whose films can be viewed streaming on Amazon, ShowTime, and Paramount Plus.