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. She received her B.A from Macalester College where she double majored in American Studies and Studio Art.  Her senior thesis used mixed media to explore revisionist memory and interrogate what agency people hold when archiving their own histories. She’s interested in visual and performance art, and occurrences of collective and post memory in communities of color. She is also the recipient of a Flagship Fellowship from the Graduate School.

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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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Gina Callahan (gcallaha@umd.edu)
Gina Callahan is a doctoral candidate who has been a member of the American Studies graduate student community since 2006. She also holds a full-time position within the University’s  University Relations division.  Gina earned a B.A. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University where she also completed minors in Writing Seminars and in the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.  Gina’s research interests include the body, gender and labor, transnational feminism, and the non-governmental sector.  Her dissertation project focuses on the contemporary anti-human trafficking movement in Washington, D.C.

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Mike Casiano (mc3267@gmail.com)
Mike Casiano began the American Studies doctoral program in Fall 2012. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with double bachelors degrees in American Studies and English Literature in May 2012. His research focuses on music performance in public space. Specifically, he looks at how music is deployed in commercial centers and how people interpret and negotiate the presence of noise as a constitutive element of daily rituals. His other interests include hip-hop studies, media studies, visual culture, and U.S. Latino/a studies. Originally from Baltimore, Mike now resides in Hyattsville, Maryland. He received a University Flagship Fellowship from the Graduate School.

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Yujie Chen (chenyj@umd.edu)
Yujie Chen is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies. Prior to coming to the United States in 2008, she earned a M.A. in International Studies (with a focus on the U.S.) from the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China. Her dissertation explores how labor is invisiblized and redefined in the discourses around information and network society. She particularly focuses on the control and organization of labor for the sake of value-creation in online games and smart phones apps. She works for Asian American Studies Program on campus. Other conversational topics she likes include social (dis)connection of media, cultural implications of technological innovations, immigration issues, and U.S.-China relations. Yujie Chen is selected as one of the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Graduate Lilly Fellows for the year 2012-13.”

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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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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 center on the classed, aesthetic, and environmental practices of rural, queer cultures in general and that of the Radical Faeries in particular.  Performance, poetics, and cultural landscapes inform his ways of looking at these cultures.  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 distance librarian at Towson University, where he supports the research of online and off-campus students.

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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)
Dan Greene is a third year PhD student in American Studies and a University Flagship Fellow. He received his BA in Psychology and English from the University of Maryland. Dan then worked as a social worker in local mental health clinics before joining the department in the fall of 2010. His ethnographic research focuses on how internet access and norms of internet use become linked with discourses of social mobility, and how those discourses move across the political and economic terrain of everyday life. Other projects look at the history of the mass media and social movements and the ethics of human-machine relationships. Dan is a dedicated teacher interested in digital learning spaces and currently acts as the graduate mentor for the department’s pedagogy training seminar.

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Cassy Griff (cassy.griff@gmail.com)
Cassy Griff received her B.A. in American Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Cornell University.  Her research examines the various forms of control and discipline enacted upon fat bodies, especially those belonging to Latina and African American women.  She is currently focused on material mechanisms of control and how these modes of discipline shape actual and imagined bodies.

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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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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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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 is a doctoral student in American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a BA from University of Maryland and an M.F.A. in Integrated Media Art from Hunter College.  She is also affiliated with Digital Cultures and Creativity, a Living-Learning program in the Honors College, and is a HASTAC Scholar for 2010-2011.  Her current work is grounded in queer theory and intersectionality and uses performance as a methodology to interrogate how shifting internal identities and external histories are produced through non-visible social networks made present through mobile technologies.  Jarah’s artwork revolves around concepts of gentrification, privacy, and performance of gender, identity,  and sexuality in everyday life through the intersections of power and ritual in public space.  Her artwork – from online and street-level games, to video art and performance – has been exhibited worldwide.

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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 comes to Maryland from Purdue University where he received an M.A. in American Studies. He did is undergraduate work at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME and graduated with a degree in English and Africana Studies. His research investigates how certain American myths function to rationalize violence towards environmental, gendered, and raced bodies. He is also interested in the ways such rationalizations manifest themselves in museum exhibitions displaying American history.

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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 earned her M.A. in Chinese Ceramic Art History and B.A. in English from Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China.  Her research interests involve historic preservation and museums of Asian American heritage.

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Paul Saiedi (psaiedi@gmail.com)
Paul Saiedi received his B.A. in Communications with an emphasis in Print Journalism, and his M.A. in American Studies from the California State University of Fullerton.  Paul is a third year doctoral student and is currently in pre-candidacy, working on his second comprehensive exam.  He is currently pursing research on the complex relationship between neoliberalism as it functions in Internet spaces and through mobile technologies.  His research focuses on how desire moves, constructs, and shifts the ways that race, class, gender, and sexuality are assembled in digital spaces.

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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 is a Ph.D. student in the Department of American Studies at University of Maryland, College Park.  She received her B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Spanish from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM.  Her research interests include intersectional approaches to identity in contemporary diasporic Latina lesbian communities that span different “borders.”  Maria has conducted primary research in New Mexico and Chicago including an ethnographic project with Latina lesbians in the Southwest border (El Paso/Juarez and rural New Mexico and Mexico) and a focus group study with Latina lesbian students in Urbana-Champaign that examined representations of “lesbians” in popular culture.  She is currently working towards expanding her research base by incorporating issues of immigration among Latina lesbians in major metro poles including Washington, DC; New York; and Chicago, IL and examining how meanings are made within those spaces.

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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 earned is B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in African American and African Studies from The Ohio State University.  His current research focuses on the ways in which nonheteronormative black bodies have used popular media, visual art, social spaces, and literature as a way to assert their agency and their political and cultural citizenship rights as well as make claims to racial authenticity.