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Daytime Degree Programs: Department of Religion at University of Mount Olive

Program Description

"Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2b)

Our task in the Department of Religion is to engage students in information gathering and critical thinking. But beyond our commitment to helping you understand the many dimensions of faith, we believe that faith transforms lives. Therefore, we also provide opportunities for students to engage in the spiritual formation process. Integrated into the entire religion curriculum is a process of assisting students in first discovering who they are in Christ and then guiding them in the process of discerning God’s call for engagement in ministry. Spiritual formation reflects the commitment of the religion faculty to address the whole person — body, mind, and spirit.

Classes Tailored to You

At University of Mount Olive, you’ll get the personal attention that you deserve so you get the most out of every course. Classes are small and taught by professors who want to see each student develop into their personal best. In our major classes, the student to faculty ratio is no greater than 15:1, allowing for personal interaction between students and their professor.

Our task is not just to inform students, but also to give opportunity for students to be formed spiritually. Beyond our commitment to helping you understand the faith, we believe that faith transforms. Our emphasis on spiritual formation reflects the commitment of the religion faculty to address the whole person — body, mind, and spirit. Our faculty is equally committed to your intellectual and spiritual development. We are the only undergraduate institution offering spiritual formation as an integral component of our program.

Options for Religion Majors

Minors: Religion, Christian Education

We offer a balance of courses in four program areas:

  • Biblical Studies
  • Theological Studies
  • Historical Studies
  • Applied Studies

Opportunities for Student Enrichment

  • STF: Students Theological Fellowship
    • Lectures
    • Discussions
    • Service Projects
  • Lectures
  • Vivian B. Harrison Memorial Lecture
  • Off campus lectures at seminaries and divinity schools
  • Mentoring
  • Free Will Baptist Historical Collection

Scholarships & Awards

In addition to other sources of funding, the following scholarships and awards may be available to qualified students:

OFWB Ministerial Scholarship

Students who are licensed or ordained in the Original Free Will Baptist Church receive 90% tuition assistance.

Free Will Baptist Ministerial Award

A scholarship given by the North Carolina Ministerial Association of Original Free Will Baptists to an outstanding returning Free Will Baptist student who has demonstrated potential for excellence in the Christian ministry. The student is selected by a committee designated by the Ministerial Association.

W. Burkette Raper Outstanding Student in Religion Award

An award given to an outstanding graduating ministerial student on the basis of academic excellence and evidence of commitment to the Christian ministry.

James A. Evans Religion Award

A scholarship in memory of James A. Evans, who served in the Free Will Baptist ministry for more than fifty years and was the first full-time employee of University of Mount Olive, serving as Director of Public Relations in 1954. The award is given to a returning religion major selected by the religion faculty for scholarship and potential for excellence in Christian service.

What Our Graduates Are Doing Now                                                                                                             

Graduate School in Religion. Our graduates have gone on to study further at places such as:

  • Duke University Divinity School
  • Claremont Graduate University
  • Claremont School of Theology
  • Union Presbyterian Seminary
  • Washington Theological Union
  • Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Brite Divinity School
  • Asbury Theological Seminary
  • Campbell University Divinity School

As part of the liberal arts curriculum, studying religion helps cultivate the skills needed to succeed in almost any career path.

  • Ministers in local churches: Pastors, Associates, and other ministry positions
  • College instructors
  • Mission work
  • Teaching in secondary schools
  • Parachurch ministries



The Department of Religion has highly qualified faculty who are committed to responsible biblical and theological scholarship with a corresponding commitment to preparation for effective ministry and/or further academic study.

Neal Cox, D. Min., Department Chair, Assistant Professor of Religion

Professor Cox brings a deep pastoral interest to his teaching at Mount Olive. A religion graduate of University of Mount Olive, Prof. Cox holds an M.Div. from Duke University Divinity School, and a Certificate in Baptist Studies from Duke University's Baptist House of Studies. He is the Senior Pastor of Wintergreen Original Free Will Baptist Church -- a position he has held since 1999.

Tyanna Yonkers, D.Min., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religion

Dr. Yonkers is the Chair of the Mount Olive Religion Department. She has been teaching at Mount Olive since 1995. Though she teaches an array of courses, her primary area of academic interest is Spirituality. She holds a BA in Special Education from Hood College, an M.Div. with a focus in Christian Education from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. in Spirituality from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. She is currently finishing her dissertation in the area of Spirituality at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, D. C. Dr. Yonkers is also an ordained minister and is currently serving as the stated supply pastor for Holly Grove Presbyterian Church, a position she has held since 2001.

Hollis Phelps, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religion

Dr. Phelps holds a Ph.D. in the Theology, Ethics, and Culture Program from the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. He holds an M.T.S. from Duke University Divinity School (2004) and a B.A. in Religion from University of Mount Olive (2002). His research and teaching interests are rather varied, and include psychoanalytic theory, critical theory, contemporary continental philosophy, and philosophical, political, and secular theologies. Prof. Phelps' dissertation focuses on the French philosopher Alain Badiou, with particular attention directed towards the theological structure of his philosophy. To date, his published work has primarily focused on Badiou. He is also in charge of membership for the Whitehead Research Project and an editorial assistant for The New Whitehead Edition which, when completed, will be the first critical edition of the published and unpublished works of Alfred North Whitehead.

Carla Williamson, M.Div., Campus Chaplain, Instructor of Religion

Carla Williamson is a 2004 graduate of University of Mount Olive where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Religion and minored in Christian Education. Carla earned her Master of Divinity from the Duke University Divinity School in 2008. She earned 2000 hours of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) through a CPE Internship and Resident program at Rex Healthcare in Raleigh North Carolina. Carla has served University of Mount Olive as an adjunct instructor in the evening program for adults and has served as an instructor in the Adult Education program at Johnston Community College. She has served congregations and the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists in numerous ways, including the authorship of Sunday school literature for the OFWB Press as well as literature for children’s programs. Her husband, Aubrey Williamson, is also a graduate of University of Mount Olive ’04 and is the pastor of Saint Mary’s Grove Church in the Cape Fear Conference, where he serves as moderator and on the ordaining council. Carla and Aubrey have three adult sons: Charles and Phillip both of the home and students at Johnston Community College and Bryan, a ’04 graduate of University of Mount Olive.