Graduate Students

Current Graduate Students

Hazim Abdullah-Smith (hazim@umd.edu)

Hazim Abdullah-Smith is interested in how Black cultural production documents the relationship between Black life, space, identity, and sexuality. His research interests span the fields of Black queer studies, literary studies, visual culture and cultural geography. Hazim is earning a certificate in Digital Studies in the Arts and Humanities. He earned his bachelor’s degree in African American Studies at Northwestern University. There, he was a Mellon Mays Fellow and completed a certificate in Civic Engagement.

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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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Brienne Adams (baadams7@terpmail.umd.edu)

Brienne’s research explores how African-Americans engage fictional romantic representations and discuss them in the digital sphere of social media platforms. Her research interests include: popular culture studies, narrative theory, race, gender, sexuality and class construction in novels, television, web series, and film. She received an MA in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, as well as a BA in Literature Studies from Beloit College.

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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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Stephanie Akoumany (Stevenson) (steph_stevenson10@yahoo.com)

Stephanie Akoumany is an American Studies PhD and Women’s Studies Certificate student. She also serves as the Director of Mentoring at the Washington, D.C. non-profit, Mentor Foundation USA, where she develops, implements, and coordinates their School-Based and Company Based Mentoring Programs.

In 2009 she interned on Capitol Hill and introduced President Barack Obama at a televised White House press conference advocating for increased Pell Grants for college students from low to middle socio-economic statuses  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcUb2sd1i1c.

She received a B.A. in American Studies with Honors from University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) in May 2010 and is a McNair Scholar alumna.

From 2010-2013, Stephanie facilitated a three-year longitudinal ethnographic study and in-school intervention program with black middle school girls from economically disadvantaged families in a Southwest Baltimore City, MD public school. Here she explored the ways that black early adolescent females navigated everyday relationships with family, teachers, peers, and romantic and/or sexual partners and she collaborated with participants to develop practical and sustainable strategies to promote their healthy academic, social, and sexual development. She has presented findings from her program at 7 national and 2 international academic conferences.

Stephanie’s teaching and 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 worked as a research assistant in more than 10 Baltimore City Public Schools with Strategic Educational Research Partner’s (SERP) Word Generation Project from 2013-2014. She also taught high school youth as an Upward Bound Saturday Academy English lecturer at UMCP from 2012-2015 and taught a course entitled “Politics and Prose” in 2015 as an Upward Bound Summer Faculty Fellow.

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A. Anthony (aanthon1@umd.edu)

Anthony is a doctoral candidate in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Utilizing interdisciplinary methods such as participant observation, interview and textual analysis, A.Anthony’s work is most concerned with the interrelationships of identity formation, space, and place for transgender women of color in the District of Columbia.

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M. Benitez (mxbntz@umd.edu)

M. Benitez is a Flagship Fellow and PhD candidate in the program. A former welder who worked in the U.S. and abroad, she left the shop-floor to pursue ‘labor’ from a different angle. She graduated magna cum laude from New York University majoring in labor studies and gender studies and is a co-founder of the Reckoning Trade Project that works to educate and train non-traditional workers in blue-collar labor through a community-based framework. M. Benitez brings together the fields of women of color feminism, labor studies, affect theory, critical race theory, and performance studies, to analyze the intersections of labor and identity. Her dissertation challenges us to consider more critically the role our labor plays in creating and producing our identities and bodies, or, as she asks, how do we become our labor?

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Tatiana Benjamin (tbenjam1@umd.edu)

Tatiana is a PhD student in American Studies. She received her M.A. in Afro-American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a BA 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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Victor Bramble (vbramble@terpmail.umd.edu)

Victor Bramble is a PhD student in the department. They received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University with a double major in Ethnic Studies and Modern Culture & Media. Victor is interested in the dynamic, historical role of digital media technologies in the way people negotiate their experience of oppression and exploitation. Their primary research centers pivotal case studies from the last forty years where the implementation of new digital media technologies accompanied widely influential changes to everyday sites for the articulation of governance, resistance, and the normative human and citizen, including welfare administration, routine policing practices, and identity documentation.

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Aaron Bryant (aebryant@umd.edu)

Aaron is a 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 doctoral student in the Department of American Studies. Her research centers around an ethnographic study of relationships between identity formation, music, queer theorizing, and performances of age within music-based subcultures, with a particular focus on the Goth subculture in Baltimore. Leah holds a BA in Sociology from Eastern University, where she studied social stratification at the University of Oxford, and an MA in American Studies from the University of Maryland. She also earned the Graduate Certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture from the University of Maryland, undertaking a research practicum at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage which analyzed performance ethnography and cultural representation at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. In addition to her graduate studies, Leah is a DJ on WMUC 88.1 FM and works as a musician in the Baltimore area.

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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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Nicole Currier (ncurrier@wau.edu)

Nicole Currier is a PhD student in American Studies. She holds a BA 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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Anh Duong (anhduong@umd.edu)

Anh Duong entered the doctoral program in American Studies in the spring of 2016. She earned her MA in American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2008. Her research interests are cultural representation, cultural diversity, cultural sustainability, language and heritage, food studies, festivals, Vietnamese diaspora, immigration policies, racism, and Vietnam-US relations. She actively participates in many educational and cultural activities organized by the US embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam. She was in the International Visitor Leadership Program in 1999 and a Fulbright scholar at the University of California, Berkeley from 2000 to 2001. She is the co-author of “Characteristics of American Culture” (2006), and “Lecture on American Culture and History” (2014), both written in Vietnamese.

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Omar Eaton (oeaton@umd.edu )

Omar is currently a PhD student. He earned a BA in African American Studies from the University of Maryland and an M.Ed from American Intercontinental University. His research interests are Afro Latinx identity as well as Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion in museums and cultural institutions. Omar recruits and manages 200+ interns and fellows at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. He participates on committees that focus on inclusion and advocacy for professionals of color at the Smithsonian. He has worked at the National Park Service, the Office of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission, NASA and was a K-12 teacher in New York City and Washington, DC. Externally, he has board membership for Museum Hue (National Board Chair) and the Museums and Race Steering Committee. Additionally, he participates in sector-wide initiatives like MASS Action (Museums as a Site For Social Action), AAM’s DEAI Working Group, AASLH’s Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce and Leadership Nominating Committee, and has served on the National Program Committees for AAM and AAAM national conferences. Omar has published in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Museum magazine titled “Truth and Reconciliation: Museums as Advocates for Human Rights and Healing” and the Spring 2017 issue of History News titled “Calling Out Afro Latinx Identity.”

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Jason Ezell (sezell@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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Ian Funk (ifunk@umd.edu)

Ian Funk’s work is situated at the confluence of history, queer theory, and literary criticism. His primary research interests include queer histories and politics; performances of race, gender, and sexuality; new materialisms; disability studies; and cultural production and consumption. Projects he is currently working on are concerned with sonic camp and the closet, and heterosexual masculinity in pornography. He holds a BA in History and American Studies from George Washington University.

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Robert Jiles (rjiles72@gmail.com)

Robert is a fifth-year doctoral candidate. Broadly, his research focuses on black representation in popular culture at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and age. Robert’s dissertation project is on visual self-representations of black men with same-sex desire on the Internet. The project brings together his research interests—visual culture, material culture, popular culture, film studies, performance studies, internet studies, black queer theory, critical porn studies, and affect theory—with visual representations located online, such as Darius Clark Monroe’s short film Slow; two web series that include Donja R. Love’s Modern Day Black Gay and Casey Hamilton’s Judy’s; and DIY porn, among other online visual texts. Robert considers the ways that black men with same-sex desire consume and produce online visual representations of their everyday life experiences. He uses visual analysis and ethnography as methodology to theorize the men’s access (as consumer and/or producer) to the online representations as affective encounters that generate acts of self-making with the potential to redress essential notions of blackness and provide nuanced understandings of queer desire in the twenty-first century. Robert has a BA in English Literature and Composition from California State University, San Bernardino, and a Masters in Africana Studies from Cornell University.

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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 BA 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, where he also teaches introductory courses on material culture. His research interests focus on cultural politics of food in the Korean American diaspora, as well as the discursive power of food in popular culture. In 2015, he was the recipient of a Park Break Fellowship in Cultural Resources Management from the George Wright Society and has also held curatorial internships from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Through his work with the University of Maryland’s Certificate Program in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture Studies, he is interested in researching innovative curatorial and exhibition strategies to connect marginalized communities with the museum world through food history. Kevin also serves as the editor for the department’s graduate student publication, Powerlines. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College and holds a BA with honors in History.

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Tim Kumfer (tkumfer@umd.edu)

Tim Kumfer holds broad research interests in race/racialization, political economy, urban space, and social movements. Through his graduate work, he seeks to situate contemporary landscapes of poverty, violence, and imprisonment—and resistance to them—within thick histories of settler colonialism and racial capitalism. He holds a Master’s in Theological Studies degree from Duke University with a concentration in critical theory through the Program in Literature. He also has a background in community organizing, popular education, and direct action activism. Most recently Tim served as the Executive Director of The Potter’s House, a café, and bookstore in northwest Washington, DC, centered on social justice.

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Mark Lockwood (mlockwo@terpmail.umd.edu)

Mark Lockwood is a doctoral student in the department and a Ronald E. McNair fellow. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, he earned an MA in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2017, and a BA in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University in 2015. Mark’s research examines visual representations of black men in gay pornography from the 1980s to the present. More specifically, he is interested in how gay pornography functions as a pivotal site to locate black queer intimacies, sexualities, pleasures, and subjectivities on/screen. His research interests include pornography, sex work, visual culture, labor and culture industries, ethnography, oral history, popular culture, performance studies, and queer of color theory.

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Shoji Malone (Sanders) (ssander1@umd.edu)

Shoji Malone is a PhD student and Ronald E. McNair fellow in the department. She earned a BA in public relations with a minor in marketing from Marquette University. Currently, her research interests include black women’s history, black feminist theory, material culture, and black performance theory. She is exploring the ways that adornment speaks to larger conversations of identity formation for black women.

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Joseph Meyer (josephbernardmeyer@gmail.com)

Joseph Meyer is a doctoral student in American Studies at UMD. He received his BA in American Studies and History, Single Subject Credential in Social Science, and MA 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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Kelsey Michael (ksm@umd.edu)

Kelsey Sherrod Michael’s research lies at the convergence of religion, gender, race, and digital media. Her dissertation project uses ethnography and analysis of digital media forums to study how the evangelical Christian church worship service materializes in experiences of labor and pleasure to produce white womanhood. A native of Florence, Alabama, she is especially interested in religious/gender formations in the U.S. South. Kelsey holds an MA in Folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BA in English from Harding University. She has also worked as a co-producer of the Counter Histories film series for the Southern Foodways Alliance and as a multimedia intern for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. She joined the American Studies program at UMD in 2015 as a doctoral student and University Flagship Fellow.

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Ashley Minner (ashley.minner@gmail.com)

Ashley Minner is a community based visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland. A member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, she has been active in the Baltimore Lumbee community for many years, and regularly visits communities throughout the US South and Global South, as well. Ashley works as a folklorist for the Maryland Traditions Program of the Maryland State Arts Council, and is a part-time lecturer in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Ashley holds a BFA in General Fine Art, and an MA and MFA in Community Art, which she earned at Maryland Institute College of Art. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is studying relationships between the Baltimore Lumbee community and the neighborhood where they first settled. Her research interests include art, folklore, museum scholarship and material culture, cultural studies, community studies, place and identity, thing theory, and the everyday. For more information, visit ashleyminnerart.com.

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Christopher J. Pérez (cperez6@umd.edu)

Christopher is a PhD 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 is a PhD candidate in the department and the recipient of a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. He is a scholar of race and the environment. In his dissertation, he researches the environmental history of slavery in antebellum Maryland. This project provides an ecological analysis of slavery by examining networks of relation between slaves, slaveholders, soils, plants, animals, and weather.

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T’Sey-Haye Preaster (tseyhaye.preaster@gmail.com)

T’Sey-Haye Preaster received her BA in Afro-American Studies and Sociology from Smith College.  T’Sey-Haye’s research interests include Black women’s history (particularly 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 PhD 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 MA 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 PhD candidate and interdisciplinary researcher in American Studies and the University of Maryland. He received both his BA in Communications and his MA 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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Mary Savig (SavigM@si.edu)

Mary Savig earned her BA in Classical Humanities and Art History from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her MA, 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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Christina Sessoms (csessoms@umd.edu)

Christina Sessoms is a doctoral student from the metropolitan Seattle, WA area studying Black women, higher education, and their acts of resistant joy. She received her BA in Comparative Ethnic Studies with a focus on Black Studies and a minor in Political Science from Washington State University in May of 2015. While at UMD, Christina also serves as the graduate assistant for the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct. In addition, she served on the editorial board of Powerlines, the AMST newsletter committee, and continues to be an active member of UMD’s Black Graduate Student Union. In her spare time, Christina enjoys frequenting her favorite brunch spots, exploring unique fitness classes around DC, and visiting the Smithsonian institutions.

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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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Brian Watkins (bwatkins@umd.edu)

Brian is a part-time doctoral student in the department. His areas of interest include LGBTQ studies, race, gender, religion, and family. His research likely will focus on the social construction of family, fictive/self-selected kin as a response to oppression/exclusion, and the interplay of family and LGBTQ identity development. Brian has worked in higher education in a variety of administration and teaching roles for more than 20 years, and currently serves as the Director of Parent and Family Affairs at the University of Maryland. He is also an expert for NBC News Education Nation and an advisor for CampusESP. He frequently is invited to consult with colleges and universities, is a contributor to stories in local and national media, and is a published author on diversity issues in higher education. A first-generation college graduate, Brian earned a Master of Education degree in higher education and student affairs administration from The University of Vermont and a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude in psychology from Hope College. Brian lives in Maryland with his husband, son, and their beloved pets.

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Kevin Winstead (kwins@umd.edu)

Kevin is a PhD student in American Studies. He comes to the program from Southern Illinois University where he received his BS in Marketing and his MA 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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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, a 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.