Graduate Students

Below is the list of current graduate students and details about their research interests.

Current Graduate Students

I.O Abukar (ilyasabukar@gmail.com)
Mr. Abukar is a McNair fellow and doctoral student in the American Studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Comparative Literature and a minor in English from the Pennsylvania State University. His research interests concern the acculturation process for Somali refugees resettling in the United States, black subjectivity, black ethnicities, and Diaspora

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Bimbola Akinbola (akinbola@umd.edu)
Bimbola Akinbola is a doctoral student in the Department of American Studies and a University Flagship Fellow. She received her B.A from Macalester College where she double majored in American Studies and Studio Art. Focusing on a small network of women artists working in the U.S and Nigeria, her research considers how their artistic creations function as “diaspora spaces” and facilitate the creation of real and imagined diasporic communities.

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Aaron Allen (acallen@umd.edu)
Aaron Allen is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles where he received his B.A. in Sociology and M.A. in African American Studies. His research interests include mixed race studies, critical race studies, social movements, and the cultural politics of neoliberalism. He is currently working on his dissertation, which examines contemporary mixed race identity and knowledge production within California’s higher education system.

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A. Anthony (aanthon1@umd.edu)
A 2005 honors alumnus of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Literature, A. Anthony is excited to be an incoming cohort member in the American Studies Ph.D. program here at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research will concentrate on mixed-race youth racial/gender identity formations, racial passing, histories of racialization in the U.S., and alleged “post-racial” politics in the United States.  His research will focus on the use of literature, young adult fiction, and science fiction.

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Portia Barker (portia.barker@yahoo.com)
Portia is a Ph.D. student in American Studies.  Her research interests include African-American material culture, African-American middle-class, and African-American Women’s Studies.  African American folk art and lore as well as contemporary pop culture including TV, film and music are also of interest.  She earned a B.A. in History from Texas Christian University in 2006 and an M.A. in American Studies from The University of Alabama in 2008.  Portia is a native of Houston, Texas.

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Tatiana Benjamin (tbenjam1@umd.edu)
Tatiana is a Ph.D. student in American Studies. She received her M.A. in Afro-American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a B.A. in History and Religion from Clark Atlanta University. Her research interests include West Indian American identity, transnationalism and the negotiation of blackness within the African Diaspora. Her current research interest is centered on West Indian deportees and their negation of space and place through a transnational framework.

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Aaron Bryant (aebryant@umd.edu)
Aaron is curator for the James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University.  His honors include a Burroughs-Wright Fellowship with the Association of African American Museums, a Lord Baltimore Fellowship with the Maryland Historical Society, an Exhibition Research and Design Fellowship with the Historical Electronics Museum, and a Gertrude Johnson Williams National Literary Prize.  His current curatorial projects include: “Most Daring Dream: Robert Houston Photography and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign,” a traveling exhibition of photographs taken during Houston’s Life Magazine coverage of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s March in DC; “Paper, Paint and Steel: The Art of Mel Edwards, Sam Gilliam, Richard Hunt and William T. Williams,” a collaborative project with the four artists; and “William H. Johnson: An American Modern,” a traveling exhibition and catalog organized in association with the Smithsonian.  Aaron has written for Black Enterprise, The Crisis Magazine, Africana.com, the New England Theatre Journal, Black Issues Book Review and Callaloo.  He received his Bachelors in History from Duke and his Masters in Fine Arts from Yale.

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Leah Bush (ljbush@gmail.com)
Leah Bush is a graduate student in the Department of American Studies. Her research interests center around an interdisciplinary examination of relationships between music, style, and identity formation in the Baltimore Goth subculture. Leah is also examining nightclub events as “Gothic Spaces” for communal gatherings of adult Goths. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Eastern University, and she studied social stratification and youth criminal justice at the University of Oxford. Leah works as a musician in the Baltimore area.

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Gina Callahan (gcallaha@umd.edu)
Gina Callahan is an ABD doctoral candidate in American Studies with research interests including the body, gender and labor, and the non-governmental sector. She is finalizing a dissertation project focusing on the contemporary anti-human trafficking movement in Washington, D.C. Gina currently lives in Manila where she works in the Cultural Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy and manages the Department of State’s Education USA initiative in the Philippines. Previously, Gina spent eight years working in external relations at University of Maryland. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University.

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Mike Casiano (mc3267@gmail.com)
Mike Casiano is a doctoral student in the department. His research interests include critical finance studies, theories of money and value, Marxist social theory, and political economy. His work interrogates the proliferation of financial instruments in everyday life, particularly the affective dimensions of chronic debt. Mike is active in labor organization on campus.

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Yujie Chen (chenyj@umd.edu)
Yujie “Julie” Chen is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies. Prior to the doctoral program, she has earned a M.A. in International Studies and a B.A. in English. Her dissertation explores how labor is invisiblized and redefined in the discourses around “big data” and what it means for American cultural diversity. She has published her works in Triple C: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, an international peer-reviewed journal, and Powerline. In 2012, Yujie was selected as a Graduate Lilly Fellow by the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center (formerly known as Center for Teaching Excellence). Courses she has taught include “Cultural Diversity, Work and Play in the Digital Age” and “Introduction to American Studies.”

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Cornelia Cody (cornelia.cody@nyu.edu)
Cornelia is a Ph.D. student. Her research focuses on humor, specifically New York City humor.  Her dissertation will be on the humor elements of the New York City personal experience narrative.  Cornelia is an adjunct instructor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  She teaches a course titled “What’s So Funny About New York?” for the Undergraduate Drama department.

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Kirsten Crase (klcrase@umd.edu)
Kirsten is a doctoral candidate in the American Studies program.  Her research interests include ethnography, cultural landscape studies, place-based studies, environmental history, public history, urban studies, and Appalachian Studies.  Her dissertation employs ethnographic and cultural landscape studies methods to comparatively explore the discourses of place, home, and environment in two communities undergoing significant upheavals in their physical, cultural, and built environments: Southeast Washington, D.C. and the Appalachian coalfields community of Letcher County, Kentucky.  She has taught courses in material culture and ethnography for the American Studies department, as well as a course on historical research methods for the Historic Preservation program.  She has also taught introductory American Studies courses for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s American Studies department.  Kirsten holds a B.A. in American Studies and History from St. Olaf College, and she is also pursuing a certificate in Historic Preservation.

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Nicole Currier (ncurrier@wau.edu)
Nicole Currier is a Ph.D. student in American Studies. She holds a B.A. in History from Atlantic Union College, and an M.A. in American Studies from University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her research interests include race/ethnicity, popular culture, and travel/tourism. A part-time student with more than 15 years of teaching and administrative experience in higher education, she is currently Interim Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland.

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Jason Ezelle (sezelle@umd.edu)

Jason joined the American Studies PhD program in 2012, having previously earned degrees in English from Maryville College (BA) and the University of Virginia (MA) before completing an M.S. in Information Science from the University of Tennessee. His research interests focus on the interfacing of queer culture and rural development. Political economy, poetics, and affective labor inform this research. A 2009 recipient of the Martin Duberman LGBT Visiting Scholars fellowship at the New York Public Library, Jason has also researched the role of creative historiography in the formation of queer community. He also works as a social science and instructional assessment librarian at the University of South Alabama.

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Ashley Glacel (avglacel@aol.com)
Ashley Glacel is a Ph.D. student interested in studying modern forms of American story-telling in popular culture, specifically how they are and can be used for persuasive, political, and progressive ends by media figures and public intellectuals.  She received her B.A. in Public Policy with a minor in Women’s Studies from the College of William & Mary, and her M.A. in Liberal Studies from the New School for Social Research.

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Daniel Greene (dgreene1@umd.edu)
Daniel Greene is a PhD candidate in American Studies and a University Flagship Fellow. His ethnographic research compares how different institutions reproduce the hope in internet access and internet industries to lift up people, cities, and countries. He draws on years of fieldwork among DC’s start-ups, libraries, and schools, in order to build a political economy of the urban ‘digital divide.’ Other projects examine the economic geography of digital labor and the ethical arguments of drone art. He can be found online at dmgreene.net

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Cassy Griff (cassy.griff@gmail.com)
Cassy Griff is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of American Studies. She is also the Graduate Assistant for U.S. Latina/o Studies (USLT), responsible for recruiting, advising, and organizing events for the 30-plus undergraduates enrolled in the minor. Her dissertation, entitled “Too Much to Belong: Latina/o Racialization, Obesity Epidemic Discourse, and Unassimilable Corporeal Excess” examines the interplay between anti-obesity rhetoric and discourses about Latina/o presence in the United States, arguing that the language surrounding the “War on Obesity” reproduces racialized notions of belonging that preclude Latinas/os from laying claim to the rights and benefits of full citizenship.

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Robert Jiles (rjiles72@gmail.com)
Robert is a doctoral student also working towards a Women’s Studies certificate. He holds a BA in English Composition and American Literature from California State University, San Bernardino and an MA in Africana Studies from Cornell University. Robert’s research focuses on how black queer men negotiate identity and create community in online spaces. Additionally, Robert is interested in the ways in which visual representations of black queer men in blogs, DIY (do-it-yourself) porn sites, and webisodes, articulate belonging. Before completing his BA, Robert worked in the Airline industry as a baggage handler for almost fifteen years.

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Bailey Kier (bkier@umd.edu)
Bailey Kier is a PhD candidate finishing a dissertation examining the rise of environmentalism and its relations to the sexual, racial, and reproductive geographies of the Potomac River Basin. Kier received a B.A. in anthropology from Western Washington University and has been published in the journal Women and Performance. Kier’s major research interests include ecology, queer and gender studies, and studies of science, species, and race.

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Kevin Kim (jung.kevin.kim@gmail.com)
Kevin Kim is a doctoral student in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland. He holds a B.A. with honors in History from Swarthmore College. The majority of his research touches on the influence of food in American life. Specifically, he hopes to study the food and cultural landscapes in the American South, as well as gender and desire in modern American food media. Previously, Kevin traveled to South Korea on a Korean government teaching and research scholarship, where he taught English as a foreign language and studied the art of the Korean tea ceremony.

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Evelyn Lopez(elopez1@umd.edu)
Evelyn Lopez joined the University of Maryland American Studies Graduate Program this fall 2012. Her work is concentrated on Prince George’s County Latino youth gang involvement and their Latinidades. Evelyn recieved her BA at The University of Maryland in Criminology and Criminal Justice, a minor in U.S. Latina/o Studies, and a minor in Spanish Language and Cultures. Since graduating undergrad she has worked in the non-profit sector in Washington D.C. and in Maryland for 4 years, working with gang involved youth. In her spare time she likes to hang out with her family and friends, and she is a big sports fan.

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Shayna Maskell (smaskell@umd.edu)
Shayna Maskell is studying for her Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Maryland, writing her dissertation on the Washington DC punk rock scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s through the lens of social movement and subcultural theory.  She has previously been published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, presented papers on Patti Smith and music as a form of social change, “Bad Brains and the Construction of Identity,” “Class and Race in DC Punk Rock,” and “The World Social Forum and Post-Colonialism.”  Prior to her time at Maryland, she received her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she taught writing for three years and received two teaching awards.

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Joseph Meyer (josephbernardmeyer@gmail.com)
Joseph Meyer is a doctoral student in American Studies at UMD. He received his B.A. in American Studies and History, Single Subject Credential in Social Science, and M.A. in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton. His research interests broadly include Digital Studies, Emerging Media, Identity and Community Formation, Trauma Studies, and Game Studies. His current work examines social networking and shifting conceptions of power and privilege and the material consequences of these shifts.

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AshleyMinner (ashley.minner@gmail.com)
Ashley Minner is a community based visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland. She holds a BFA in Fine Art, an MA and an MFA in Community Art, which she earned at Maryland Institute College of Art. She is a first year PhD in American Studies student at University of Maryland College Park where she is studying vernacular art-as-resistance in tri-racial isolate communities.

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Izetta Autumn Mobley (imobley@umd.edu)

Izetta Autumn Mobley received her B.A. in American Civilization from Brown University. Izetta’s research focuses on how the (dis)abled Black body is framed in contemporary art, visual culture, and museum spaces. Her work reconsiders the genealogy of (dis)ability. She is concerned with the intersections of race, class, and gender. Prior to pursuing graduate study, Izetta worked in the education field, focused on college access for low income and first-generation students.

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Jarah Moesch (www.thejarahtree.com)
Jarah Moesch (ABD) is an experimental artist-scholar who explores the relationship between the queer sick body and universal design concepts to consider how the body is always already designed in and through structural cultural norms and human-built objects in our world. Jarah holds an MFA in Integrated Media Art from Hunter College and is affiliated with Design | Cultures and Creativity, a Living-Learning program in the Honors College. Jarah’s artwork has been shown internationally. www.thejarahtree.com

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Andrew Nelson(kalnelson@umd.edu)
Andrew Nelson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of American Studies. His research interests include African American expressive culture, the cultural history of the American South, material and visual culture, and popular music. He is currently writing a dissertation that uses a small African American community in Alabama as a case study for exploring the dynamic roles played by art and performance–especially photography and music–in the development of African American communities in the rural turn-of-the-century South

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Gabriel Peoples (gpeoples@umd.edu)

Gabriel Peoples earned a B.A. in English and African Studies from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Africana Studies from Cornell University. As a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, his interests include contemporary Black performance, visual culture, and Womenʼs Studies. His dissertation titled, “Viral Bodies: Uncontrollable (Re)productions of Black Masculinity in Popular Culture,” examines photography, film, and viral video to analyze how performances of Black masculinity are widely consumed and appropriated in popular culture. His research forges a new dialogue among visual technologies, viral performance, and larger historic discourses that script Black men as socially deviant. In addition to his research, Gabriel serves as the Assistant Director for the College Park Scholars Arts Program. Outside of his academic work, Gabriel enjoys freelance DJing and performing poetry.

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Christopher J. Pérez (cperez6@umd.edu)
Christopher is a Ph.D. candidate and holds two baccalaureate degrees in English and Women’s Studies from NMSU and a Master’s degree in American Studies from Penn State Harrisburg. His research interests include LGBTQ and Latina/o studies, immigration, and citizenship. Christopher’s dissertation, Queer Asylum: Finding Refuge in American Immigration, examines the history of LGBT immigration in the U.S. with primary ethnographic data of lesbian and gay political asylees. Christopher has taught introductory courses in popular culture and cultural studies, ethnography, film, and LGBTQ Latina/o studies. He has taught research courses in cultural diversity for American Studies at UMD and currently teaches “Advanced Study of Queer Latina/o Cultures” for LGBT Studies at UMD.

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Tony Perry (tonyperry2009@gmail.com)
Tony Perry joined the Department of American Studies in 2012 after receiving an M.A. in American Studies from Purdue University and a B.A. in English and Africana Studies from Bowdoin College. He researches the relationship between enslaved people in antebellum Maryland and the natural environment they inhabited. Specifically, his project provides an ecological analysis of slavery in antebellum Baltimore County by examining relationships between enslaved people and elements of the natural world including soil, plants, animals, and weather.

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T’Sey-Haye Preaster (tseyhaye.preaster@gmail.com)
T’Sey-Haye Preaster received her B.A. in Afro-American Studies and Sociology from Smith College.  T’Sey-Haye’s research interests include Black women’s history (particulary the “women’s club era,” 1896-1950); philanthropy; Black feminist theory; and the intersections and impact of race, gender, and class on cultures of giving, identity formation, and group uplift for/by Black women.

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Xinqian Qiu (poemqiu@gmail.com)
Xinqian Qiu is a Ph.D. student in American Studies, she is also working on two Graduate Certificates “Historic Preservation” and “Museum Scholarship and Material Culture”. Prior to entering the program in 2011, she received her M.A. in Ceramic Art History from Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China. Her research interests involve the transformation and gentrification of ethnic communities (especially Asian Americans) in the metropolitan areas, cultural sustainability, public history, material culture, and also intangible heritage preservation. She is also interested in the U.S. China relationship as well as the political engagement and leadership development among new immigrants. Xinqian has served actively in several prominent Asian American organizations, and is now the Steering Committee member of national Asian & Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation.

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Paul Saiedi (psaiedi@gmail.com)
Paul Saiedi is a Ph.D. candidate and interdisciplinary researcher in American Studies and the University of Maryland. He received both his B.A. in Communications and his M.A. in American Studies from Cal State Fullerton. Paul’s dissertation explores the concepts of embodiment, slacktivism, and the self by examining how their meanings are negotiated on social media platforms and in light of constantly shifting rights, freedoms, and privacy. Paul also received a Women’s Studies certificate while at UMD and served for three years as the head editor of Powerlines, an interdisciplinary online journal for graduate students.

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Shoji Sanders (sanders5192@gmail.com)
Shoji Sanders is a first year doctoral student in the American Studies Department at the University of Maryland-College Park and McNair Fellow. Ms. Sanders earned a B.A. in Public Relations from Marquette University. She is currently interested in investigating the legal and social status of free black people in Antebellum Maryland.

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Mary Savig (SavigM@si.edu)
Mary Savig earned her B.A. in Classical Humanities and Art History from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her M.A, in Art History from George Washington University.  Her broad research objective is to understand the historical development of craft in the 20th century and how it has functioned as an indicator of culture.

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Stephanie Stevenson (steph_stevenson10@yahoo.com)
Stephanie Stevenson entered the American Studies Ph.D. program in the fall of 2010 and is also a Women’s Studies Certificate student. She received a B.A. in American Studies with Honors from UMCP in May 2010 and was a McNair Scholar. In 2011 and 2012, Stephanie was nominated to receive the Delores Zohrab Liebmann Fund Fellowship and was placed on the 2011 Ford Foundation Fellowship’s Predoctoral Competition Honorable Mention List. Since the fall of 2010, Stephanie facilitated a three year longitudinal ethnographic study and in-school intervention program with black middle school girls in a Southwest Baltimore City, MD public school. Here she explores the ways that black early adolescent females navigate everyday relationships with family, teachers, peers, and romantic and/or sexual partners and she collaborates with participants to develop practical and sustainable strategies to promote their healthy academic, social, and sexual development. Stephanie’s other research interests are: youth conflict resolution strategies, interconnected school and social media based peer networks, gender performance, urban social policies, sexual(ity) education programs and policies, and 21st century hip hop culture. She now serves as an AMST undergraduate ambassador, graduate instructor, English lecturer for UMCP’s Upward Bound Program, and a boardmember for UMCP’s College of Arts & Humanities Alumni Chapter Board and the Lakeland Community Heritage Project.

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Heidi Temple (htemple@umd.edu)
With a background in Education, I left public school teaching to pursue a MA in Theatre Studies at Florida State Univ. My specialty areas were Musical Theatre and Disability Studies. While at Maryland, I earned my Women’s Studies certification. My dissertation project works to unearth and examine the ableism that exists in past women’s and feminist movements. I am particularly interested in the cognitive ableism at the heart of many women’s rights arguments. While finishing my dissertation, I am teaching 8th grade English full-time at a local middle school, drinking a lot of wine, and finding solace and understanding in my kitties.

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Maria E. Vargas (mvargas5@umd.edu)
Maria received her B.A in Psychology and Spanish from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM. Her research interests include Women and Gender studies, U.S. Latino studies and Decoloniality.

Her dissertation project interrogates the role of the U.S. military in the civil war and the ways in which the sexual violence targeting indigenous women is reproduced in contemporary violence. In particular her project argues for alternative epistemological frames that recognize genocide as sexualized and gendered structures that have simultaneously operated to produce feminicide.

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Maria I. Velazquez (maria.i.velazquez@gmail.com)
Maria Velazquez is a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research interests include constructions of race, class, gender, and sexuality in contemporary media, as well as community-building and technology. She served on the board of Lifting Voices, a District of Columbia-based nonprofit that helped young people in DC discover the power of creative writing. She blogs for The Hathor Legacy (www.thehathorlegacy.com), a feminist pop culture blog, and recently received the Winnemore Dissertation Fellowship from the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. She has also received a fellowship from the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity’s Interdisciplinary Scholars Program, and was a visiting scholar at University of Hawaii-Manoa with the Biographical Research Center. Maria is a Ron Brown Scholar and an alumna of Smith College.

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Jessica Walker (jesskw3@gmail.com)
Jessica is Ph.D. student in American Studies and a certificate student in Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland College Park.  She received her B.A. from Bowdoin College in Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies in 2009.  Jessica’s research interests focus on exploring the relationship between Black women and their cooking practices with special attention to “soul food”. This includes analyzing representations of Black women and soul food in popular media as well as observing how women articulate the cultural meaning of food. Other interests include African-American Material Culture, Cultural Anthropology, and Black Feminist Theory. Jessica is a native of Cleveland, Ohio.

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Shane Walsh (shanebwalsh@gmail.com)
Shane is a Ph.D. student in the Department of American Studies.  He earned his B.A. in Anthropology from Washington College and his M.A. in African American Studies at Morgan State University.  He has served as research assistant to the curator of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore, and expects to focus his research on museum studies and material culture.

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Kevin Winstead (kwins@umd.edu)
Kevin is a Ph.D. student in American Studies. He comes to the program from Southern Illinois University where he received his B.S. in Marketing and his M.A. in Sociology. His current research interest centers around social movements, religion, the social construction of reality, and material culture. Kevin’s previous work focused on the mobilization dynamics of the civil rights movements and the subsequent Black Catholic sub movement.

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Terrance Wooten (terrance.wooten@gmail.com)
Terrance Wooten is a doctoral candidate in the Department. His research interests include: critical race, gender and legal studies; queer theory; popular culture; theories of black masculinity; and critical homeless studies. His current work examines U.S. housing policy as a form of sexual regulation, particularly looking at the ways in which homeless services is organized around the management of sexual deviance and the figure of the sex offender. Throughout his tenure in academia, he has worked as a homeless service provider in Montgomery County, Maryland, serving homeless adults in both shelter and permanent supportive housing.

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Kalima Young (kalimayoung@verizon.net)
Kalima Young is a graduate student in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received her MA in Mass Communications at Towson University and a BA in Communications and Women Studies at Goucher College in Maryland. A Project Coordinator at the Maryland Institute College of Art, lecturer at Towson University and videographer, her research focuses on the role of historical race and gender-based trauma in African American identity formation and cultural production.