Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Commencement

Congratulations to our 2020-2021 Graduates!

A Message from the Chair

"Remember this as you go forward, the present has a past, you have learned and been taught well, and with this knowledge you must continue to fight for freedom, because freedom is never free! Thank you for choosing American Studies as your educational launch pad. We honor you today knowing what you can do and must do to effect change in this place, this locale, this state, this nation, this universe. Go forward staying in the struggle for freedom whether you speak boldly, loudly, or under your breath…."

U.S. Latina/o Studies Minors

Arias, Javier-Alejandro

Barsotti, Jennifer A.

Brimigion, Madison Dorothy

Castillo, Esmeralda Espinoza

Cortez, Gabriela Alejandra

Fried, Marisa Hallie

Gutierrez, Alyssa Daniela

Han, Philip Gene

Patel, Sahil Kalpesh

Puentes Martínez, Erica

Styles, Zachary Cervera

Thai, Kimberly Ortiz

Williams, Courtney Paige

Bachelor of Arts in American Studies

Avenilla, Julian Miranda*

Bass, Robert Christopher

Bin, Sun Kyu

Blohm, Tyler Peter

Chiaramonte, Michael

Declario, Michael James

Dinman, Chloe Jordan***

Espinoza Castillo, Esmeralda

Han, Philip Gene

Harvey, Margo Hannah*

Hester, Elliece

Howard, Keiron Dwhit

Kammer, Brian Michael

Khan, Nazea Akter

Krinsky, Joshua Evan

Kuo, Linda

Law, Herbert N.

Loventhal, Chad William

Martin, Ryan Geoffrey Edward

Martinez, Alexander Nikolai

Miller, Natalie Marie

Nash, Juliette Teixeira

Puentes Martínez, Erica

Robinson, Hannah Jane**

Solloso, Marcos J

Steinlauf, Noah Benjamin***

Ugalde, Joshua Alexander

Vallinas, Santiago

Watson, Blair Lauren

Weinkam, Sierra Brook

Wisnauskas, Logan Andrew

Wright, Tiara Anyae

*Magna Cum Laude **Summa Cum Laude ***Cum Laude

Graduate Degrees

Benitez, Melissa (M.A., 2020)(Ph.D., 2021)

Choflet, Robert Thomas (Ph.D., 2020)

Minner, Ashley Colleen (Ph.D., 2020)

Mobley, Izetta Autumn (Ph.D., 2020)

Sessoms, Christina (M.A., 2020)

Students Speakers

Graduate Student Speaker: Izetta Autumn Mobley

Undergraduate Student Speaker: Julian Avenilla

American Studies Graduates

Javier-Alejandro Arias (USLT Minor)

"Javier-Alejandro Arias is a Government and Politics Major with a concentration in International Relations and USLT minor.  He works closely with Breaking the Cycle Project at UMD. For his USLT capstone project, Arias researched why certain Central American and Mexican male youth in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County public schools chose to go to college and why others did not. He examined a number of factors, including public school curriculum, lack of funding, family, immigration status, and peer pressure to better understand the reasons why some students choose to attend college and why others do not."

– DR. NANCY MIRABAL

Julian Avenilla

Juan Avenilla

"AMERICAN STUDIES HAS GIVEN ME THE ABILITY TO LOVE INDISCRIMINATELY. EACH CLASS HAS REVEALED HOW THE INTERSECTIONS OF OUR IDENTITIES CREATE DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES FOR EVERY AMERICAN. HENCE, I FEEL EMPOWERED TO LOVE OTHERS, BY LISTENING TO THEIR STORIES, RECOGNIZING THEIR INDIVIDUAL CHALLENGES, AND ADVOCATING AGAINST THE DISCRIMINATION THAT THEY FACE."

"A Banneker-Key Scholar, Julian graduated MAGNA CUM LAUDE and has been awarded the American Studies department’s Outstanding Student Award. It recognizes the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average. In Fall 2019, he was also recognized for academic excellence as a Dean’s Senior Scholar by the College of Arts & Humanities and as a Philip Merrill Presidential Scholar in Spring 2020. He won the Portz Outstanding Honors Student Award from the Honors College as well."

– AMERICAN STUDIES UNDERGRADUATE AWARDS COMMITTEE

M. Benitez (Ph.D.)

M. Benitez

"Younger me never would have imagined that I would one day be graduating with a doctorate. As a first-generation college graduate and as someone who didn’t start undergrad till I was 29, this milestone still feels surreal. Grad school is an intense journey but I am grateful for all the support from faculty, classmates, friends, and family. I’m looking forward to the next leg of this journey."

Sun Kyu Bin

Sun Kyu Bin

"Sunkyu Bin’s Capstone project on “Racial Formation in the Locker Room: How do college athletes talk about race?” exemplifies critical inquiry in the American Studies intellectual tradition.  His research question and approach were among the very best I have seen among undergraduates in terms of originality. The project explored how ideas about race are shared and conveyed through casual discussion among teammates – in this case, a collegiate soccer team.  Sunkyu found that despite the desire many express for a “post-racial” America and the hope that sports can be a unifying force across racial difference, “locker room talk” reveals the forces of racism and racial bias continue to shape everyday interactions in the most casual of spaces. That Sunkyu conducted this study while leading a Div I soccer team as captain is all the more remarkable. Sunkyu’s heart and intellectual curiosity will take him far on the field and off."

– DR. JANELLE WONG

Tyler Blohm

Tyler drew from his father’s history as a minor league baseball player and his own knowledge of the game of baseball in order to investigate the inequalities present in the minor leagues for his capstone project. His work on the project and in class focused on the ways class and race play a role in these inequalities.

– DR. BAYLEY J. MARQUEZ


Tyler Blohm completed his senior year with an in-depth research project that examined “America’s Pastime” with a critical lens focused on the economic insecurity minor league baseball players experience in their day to day lives. The project was strengthened through the inclusion of multiple methods, including interviews and analysis of social media. Tyler brought enthusiasm and an emotional resonance to this important intellectual inquiry.

– DR. JANELLE WONG

Joel Carroll Carlson (MSMC Graduate Certificate)

Carson

"I WISH TO THANK MY INSTRUCTORS AND THE COLLEGE PARK AVIATION MUSEUM STAFF THAT HELPED ME EARN MY MSMC CERTIFICATE.  THE PROGRAM WAS A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THE STORIES OF LOCAL MEN AND WOMEN THAT MADE VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND PRODUCED THE UNIQUE ERCOUPE AIRCRAFT."

Esmeralda Espinoza Castillo (American Studies B.A. and USLT Minor)

Espinoza-Castillo

AMST AND USLT HAS PROVIDED ME WITH A HOME THAT I DIDN’T KNOW EXISTED. AS A FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENT FROM AN IMMIGRANT BACKGROUND, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO SEE MYSELF IN ACADEMIA, NOT ONLY IN THE COURSE MATERIAL BUT ALSO AS A SCHOLAR IN THE HUMANITIES. I AM ETERNALLY GRATEFUL TO THE FACULTY IN THE USLT DEPARTMENT FOR GIVING ME THE EDUCATION AND TOOLS TO EMPOWER MYSELF AND OTHERS. THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME BUILD A FOUNDATION FOR LIFE. 

Michael Declario

Passionate and kind with a great sense of humor are but three characteristics that describe Michael Declario. Mike’s capstone paper was a close look at the treatment of LGBT athletes in college and professional sports. Adopting a truly innovative approach that combined original interviews, a review of scholarship on sports and masculinity, and a close look at some high-profile athletes, Mike examined both the increased opportunities and continued roadblocks for the equal participation of LGBT athletes in sports today. I expect great things in the future for this thoughtful and committed ally, athlete, and scholar!

– DR. MARY CORBIN SIES

Philip Han (American Studies B.A. and USLT Minor)

Philip Han, an AMST major and USLT minor, is interested in immigration history, policy, and law. His USLT capstone paper examines how political rhetoric can impact thinking around immigration and documentation. He is looking to go to law school and hopes to be in a position to make change. 

– DR. NANCY MIRABAL

Marisa Fried (USLT Minor)

Fried

Growing as a student alongside the growing field of USLT has shaped my entire education at UMD. USLT opened my eyes to the pressing need for non-traditional methodologies and non-hegemonic perspectives in the pursuit of knowledge, regardless of the field of study. Thank you for a meaningful 2 years!

iv

Margo Harvey

Harvey

AMERICAN STUDIES IS AN AMAZING DEPARTMENT BECAUSE IT GIVES STUDENTS THE FREEDOM TO EXPLORE WHAT THEY’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT IN A WARM AND TALENTED COMMUNITY, WHILE ALSO ENCOURAGING YOU TO INTERPRET THE WORLD CRITICALLY AND WITH AN EYE TOWARDS SOCIAL JUSTICE. I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER TO BE AN AMERICAN STUDIES ALUM!

Margo Harvey has demonstrated a commitment to scholarship and activism that is the hallmark of American Studies. Margo is the recipient of the American Studies department’s Outstanding Student Award for Spring 2021. This award recognizes the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Furthermore, Margo has also been awarded the Savneet Talwar Best Senior Paper Prize for 2021 for her senior thesis, “No Justice, No Problem: Instagram and the Liberal Co-Optation of ‘Abolish the Police.’” In her thesis, Margo analyzes the “abolish the police” movement that has been become increasingly vigorous and popular in the wake of ongoing protests against the killing of African Americans by police. In particular, Margo focuses on the aesthetics of Instagram posts regarding police abolition, and shows that the concept of police abolition is being “co-opted by liberal ‘defund the police’ counter-discourse after the murder of George Floyd.” Margo argues that “liberal co-optation on Instagram is a process of power that dilutes and obscures abolitionist agendas in favor of maintaining the status quo,” and that while cooptation may not ultimately be successful, “abolition is the only viable option to prevent further police violence.” She concludes by showing how social media can be used to subtly obscure and co-opt the demands of police abolition activists, and that doing so can subvert demands for justice and generate disinformation in the service of powerful anti-democratic institutions that work to prevent the establishment of a more just and less violent society.

The awards committee commends Margo’s innovative approach to the study of race, digital culture, and contemporary public discourse. -Dr. Asim Ali

Keiron Howard

Howard

Keiron Howard wrote an important and revealing senior paper that began from the observation that a disproportionate number of African American men serve time in prison and asked what effects does their incarceration have on their families? The most revealing insights came from interviews with people who had experienced a family member in prison. They gave stark descriptions of the impact of incarceration on the family and the community, but they also suggested good, practical measures that could reduce the negative effects. I remember Keiron’s passion for the topic of his senior research project and his determination to help people understand the challenges that mass incarceration brings to whole families and neighborhoods. In good American Studies fashion, his paper gave voice to community members who had experienced a family member in prison and allowed them to generate good ideas and remedies for mitigating the hardships that fall on family members. I am so proud of Keiron for the insights his research brought to this topic. Keiron Howard (#59) was a defensive lineman for UMD’s football team. He played all four seasons and in every game his senior year.

– DR. MARY CORBIN SIES

Brian Kammer

Kammer

AMERICAN STUDIES HAS OPENED MY MIND TO SO MANY NEW TOPICS AND ALLOWED ME TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AROUND ME. I AM THANKFUL FOR ALL MY PROFESSORS WHO HAVE SUPPORTED ME ALONG THE WAY. #IAMAMST

Nazea Khan

Khan

I AM SO THANKFUL FOR MY JOURNEY IN UNDERGRAD AS AN AMERICAN STUDIES MAJOR BECAUSE IN THIS EVER-CHANGING WORLD I FEEL PREPARED. AMERICAN STUDIES HAS CHALLENGED ME TO THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX, ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS, AND BE COMPASSIONATE. I AM SO EXCITED TO TAKE ON THE WORLD!

Nazea was selected to represent undergraduate majors in American Studies in the College of Arts & Humanities December 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony. ARHU officials were so impressed by Nazea’s ethic of entrepreneurship, hard work, and social justice activism that they published a feature article about her: Entrepreneur Rising https://arhu.umd.edu/news/entrepreneur-rising?  Nazea is passionate about everything she does. Her research on the different responses to the protests of 2020 reflect her commitment to social justice and community.

-Dr. Mary Corbin Sies and Dr. Christina Hanhardt

Joshua Krinsky

Krinsky

Josh Krinsky is an AMST major and a Communication minor. He is interested in pursuing education and becoming a high school teacher. He’s also interested in politics and could foresee a career in politics and/or journalism He has recently published an editorial on President Trump’s and Vice-President’s Pence response to Covid19 and its impact on his generation.

– DR. NANCY MIRABAL


ONE OF THE GREATEST PERKS OF BEING AN AMERICAN STUDIES MAJOR IS THAT IT TRULY PROVIDES STUDENTS THE OPPORTUNITY AND FLEXIBILITY TO PURSUE THEIR INDIVIDUAL ACADEMIC GOALS AND LEARN ABOUT TOPICS THEY ARE INTERESTED IN. PERSONALLY, I THOROUGHLY RESEARCHED AND WROTE IN-DEPTH ABOUT EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITY, A MATTER I AM INCREDIBLY PASSIONATE ABOUT, IN ADDITION TO TAKING AN INDEPENDENT STUDIES COURSE ON THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, A TOPIC OF MY CHOOSING, WHICH ALLOWED ME TO HONE MY ANALYTICAL, ARGUMENTATIVE AND COMMUNICATIVE SKILLS.

Linda Kuo

Linda has been awarded the Savneet Talwar prize for the Department of American Studies best scholarly paper written during the senior year. In “Construction of Labor in Kpop Media and Asian American Racialization,” Linda Kuo examined how representations of ‘Asian’ labor in Kpop genre reality TV shows relate to the construction of Asian American labor regarding the model minority framework. The Undergraduate Awards Committee commended her for delivering a detailed, complex, original, and nuanced argument based on deep readings of key scenes in seven Kpop reality survival shows.

– AMERICAN STUDIES UNDERGRADUATE AWARDS COMMITTEE

Linda is committed to studying fandoms and fan culture, particularly kpop, through theoretical analysis and critique of the racial projects involved in media culture. Her work also demonstrates a care and attention to the agentic and transformative potential within fan engagement.

– DR. BAYLEY J. MARQUEZ

Chad Loventhal

Chad’s love for football led him to investigate the role of head injuries in the game for his capstone project. He draws on the personal experiences of close friends to frame his study and ground himself in a critique of how football has dealt with player injuries at all levels, from high school to the NFL.

– DR. BAYLEY J. MARQUEZ

Ryan Geoffrey Edward Martin

For his senior capstone paper Ryan Martin wrote about the “one and done” rule that determines NBA eligibility. Focusing on the experiences of players while also analyzing other stakeholders’ perspectives, Ryan explored the economic and ethical implications of the rule. Thoughtful and well-researched, the paper reflects Ryan’s sophisticated understanding of the complicated politics of sports as well as his love and deep respect for what sports offers to players, fans, and broader communities. Ryan is a deep, careful, and astute thinker who is sure to make a major mark in whatever he does next!

– DR. CHRISTINA HANHARDT

Alexander Martinez

Alex is the co-winner of the department’s Undergraduate Service Award, given to the graduating seniors who best exemplify American Studies scholars’ dedication to service on campus and in the broader community. The awards committee was impressed with his passion and commitment to working with children through America Reads, Camp Kesem, and at Farquhar Middle School in Montgomery County.

– AMERICAN STUDIES UNDERGRADUATE AWARDS COMMITTEE

Natalie Miller

Natalie cares deeply about the mental health challenges faced by collegiate athletes. Her capstone project uses social media narratives and blogs to examine how college athletes are making their mental health struggles visible and advocating for each other.

– DR. BAYLEY J. MARQUEZ

Ashley Minner (Ph.D.)

Minner

And so, roughly 6 1/2 years later, the journey ends where it began: about a mile from where I paid to park! Over the hills and far away, through the rain, I met a guy in a tiny office (copy machine with a stack of blank diplomas against the back wall) who asked me to wait in the hall until he came out with this cardboard tube and a “congratulations.” I loved it. #phinished

Screenshot from Ashley Minner's Instagram

Juliette Nash

Juliette Nash

Being an American Studies major has taught me the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in our world today, both professionally and socially. I will forever be grateful for this diverse, inclusive, and intelligent department!

Sahil Patel (USLT Minor)

Patel

PURSUING A USLT MINOR HAS SHAPED MY OUTLOOK AND UNDERSTANDING OF HOW PUBLIC POLICIES AND THE MEDIA CAN DIRECTLY AFFECT THE EXPERIENCES OF MINORITY GROUPS THROUGHOUT THE U.S. AFTER PURSUING MY MEDICAL DEGREE THIS FALL, I PLAN ON PROVIDING FOR MINORITY COMMUNITIES AND PUTTING THE KNOWLEDGE I’VE GAINED INTO PRACTICE.

Erica Puentes Martínez (American Studies B.A. and USLT Minor)

Proud to get my #AMST2020 BA! S/o to the best minor program at UMD, US Latina/o Studies.Special s/o to da 🐐Dr. Guerrero 😤💪🏽 & Dr. Mirabal🤘🏽Ty to Dr. Marquez &Dr. Chester 4 guiding me through the capstone process. S/o 2 my advisor Dr. Sies. AndLETS GO ABB @esforprez + @buppletea

— Slick (@slick_rica) May 26, 2020

Senior Erica Puentes Martínez, a double major in American Studies and African American studies, with a minor in U.S. Latina/o studies, has been named one of the University of Maryland’s Undergraduate Researchers of the Year for 2020. Puentes, who was nominated by six faculty members from the departments of American studies and African American studies, was one of seven undergraduates from across campus selected to receive the award, given annually by the Office of Undergraduate Studies to recognize exceptional accomplishments in undergraduate research. 

– THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & HUMANITIES

Hannah Robinson

Hannah Robinson

I AM INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL TO HAVE STUMBLED UPON AMERICAN STUDIES —  THIS DEPARTMENT HAS GIVEN ME THE TOOLS TO UNDERSTAND AND CRITIQUE SOCIETY AND CULTURE, THE FREEDOM TO EXPLORE WHAT INTERESTS ME MOST, AND THE INSPIRATION TO ENVISION AND CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR A MORE JUST WORLD.

Hannah Robinson graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors in American Studies. Hannah’s honors thesis, entitled “‘Render the State Useless’: Transformative Justice and Community Mediation in Washington, D.C.,” documents a year-long ethnographic research project that examines “alternative models of justice and community-building outside of and against the state.” As part of her long-standing interest in transformative justice, Hannah’s research combines academic theories and models of social justice with an ethnographic analysis of the lived experience of community activists. Over the course of this year—and despite the pandemic—Hannah conducted a series of ethnographic interviews with several activists at two Washington, D.C. non-profit organizations in order to understand how local activists work to create community safety without relying on policing, and what type of society is prefigured by the ongoing efforts of these community members. Hannah shows that “because the carceral state is within us and shows up on the micro-political level, responses to the carceral state often must also start in our relationships and our communities.” In her ethnographic research, she finds that activists in D.C. “are subversive in their attempts to provide alternative ways to address conflict, harm, and violence.” Indeed, these activists have conceived—and are working toward creating—a future in which people can live in safety, conflicts are resolved without violence, and structural injustices have been dismantled. The awards committee commends Hannah for her brilliant use of ethnographic methods to highlight the lives and experiences of local activists in a way that advances our understanding of what justice means. -Dr. Asim Ali

Marcos Solloso

Solloso

SWITCHING OVER FROM A BUSINESS BACKGROUND, I DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. HOWEVER, WHAT I CAME TO FIND WAS A DIVERSE AND CURIOUS GROUP, PURSUING INTERESTING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING FIELDS OF RESEARCH. THE INTERDISCIPLINARY EXPERIENCE HAS SHARPENED MY CRITICAL THINKING ABILITIES AND IS ESSENTIAL FOR ANYONE. THANK YOU ALL AMSTERS!

Marcos has been awarded the department’s Undergraduate Service Award for December 2020 graduates, given to graduating seniors who best exemplify American Studies scholars’ dedication to service on campus and in the broader community. The awards committee was impressed by Marcos’s combination of campus volunteer activities, service to the community, and social activism. He earned a minor in Technology Entrepreneurship in the Southern Management Leadership Program; those skills are evident in his service achievements. Highlights from his very rich and full service resume include co-founding the Montgomery County Summer Youth Program, which focused on familiarizing students with entrepreneurship ideas and techniques at a young age; setting up a pro bono scholarship consulting service to help students find resources to fund their educations; working on behalf of campus clubs and organizations to enrich students’ learning opportunities; and winning the Raptors for Change competition, using his entrepreneurship skills to fund relief for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The committee also wanted to recognize Marcos’s purposeful efforts throughout his undergraduate career to learn about and devise ways to help address a range of social problems and challenges. Both the range and volume of his service accomplishments are extraordinary and exemplary.

-Undergraduate Awards Committee

Noah Steinlauf

Steinlauf

Noah Steinlauf embodies the intellectual passion and rigor we hope to foster in American Studies.  Noah demonstrates an astute understanding of key concepts in our field. He devoted his summer to deep learning around race, identity, and communication, through reading, regular discussion, and applied research.  He is interdisciplinary in his approach, bringing together history and surveys to create a truly unique honors thesis on coded racial speech and racial stereotypes. He has developed a strong critical eye and writing skills and consistently strives to understand how a humanistic perspective can inform a path toward justice.

Noah’s academic excellence has been recognized with the American Studies department’s Outstanding Student Award for December 2020 graduating majors. It honors the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average. In summer 2020, Noah was also selected for the Maryland Summer Scholars program, which provides opportunities for UMD undergraduates to spend much of the summer working closely with faculty mentors on ambitious research, scholarly, or artistic projects. Noah worked with Professor Janelle Wong learning about survey research and assisted her with a National Science Foundation-funded research project, the Collaborative Multiracial Post-election Survey by developing a memo on “hard-to-reach” groups in survey populations. Noah also assisted Wong with several research articles, including one that examines race and political attitudes among the self-identified “non-religious” and one on Asian American politics.  For these papers, he provided support with literature reviews and proofreading. Noah graduated with honors in American Studies. His honors thesis was titled, “The History and Mechanics of Racial Dog Whistles in American Politics.”

-Dr. Mary Corbin Sies and Dr. Janelle Wong

Zachary Styles

Styles

USLT has been a unique academic experience as it’s not only broadened my historical and political knowledge, it’s also helped me clarify questions I’ve had regarding my own identity. A special “thank you” to Drs. Guerrero and Mirabal for their support throughout my brief tenure at UMD!

Joshua Ugalde

Ugalde

A four-year member of Maryland’s wrestling team, Joshua drew from his knowledge and experience of high school and college athletics to write a senior capstone project to explore the current topic of toxic masculinity. He drew upon three bodies of evidence to research his topic: his own experiences as a Latino athlete who knows his way around a locker room, interviews with a Latina community member who considers herself a feminist and critic of toxic masculinity, and films that portray toxic masculinity from a “boys will be boys” perspective.

– DR. MARY CORBIN SIES

Santiago Vallinas

I AM PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN STUDIES GRADUATE FROM UMD. THE KNOWLEDGE I HAVE GAINED FROM THE FACULTY HAS CHANGED THE WAY I EXPERIENCE THE WORLD. I AM EXCITED TO KEEP EXPLORING THIS FIELD OF STUDY AS I ADVANCE BOTH MY EDUCATION AND CAREER. 

Santiago’s project employed an intersectional approach to understanding the use of dating apps by today’s college students. By paying attention to race, gender, and sexuality he discussed many of the ways dating apps are pushing our understandings of how people meet others.

– DR. BAYLEY J. MARQUEZ

Blair Watson

watson

Blair Watson (#22) played for UMD’s Big Ten Championship women’s basketball team. During her senior year, Blair was the strongest defensive player on the team. When she wasn’t shutting down the opposing team’s top player, she was busy sinking three-pointers from her favorite spot in the corner. Here is the highlight video for Blair’s senior year.

– DR. MARY CORBIN SIES
Blair cares deeply about educational inequality particularly in the local contexts of Washington DC and Baltimore. Her capstone examined the way social structures influence educational inequality for Black students and what might be done to alleviate those inequalities. 

– DR. BAYLEY J. MARQUEZ

Sierra Weinkam

Sierra is the co-winner of the department’s Undergraduate Service Award, given to the graduating seniors who best exemplify American Studies scholars’ dedication to service on campus and in the broader community. The awards committee applauded her tireless dedication to educating the campus and members of the Greek system about violence against women and sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention.

– AMERICAN STUDIES UNDERGRADUATE AWARDS COMMITTEE

Courtney Paige Williams (USLT Minor)

Courtney Paige Williams is an English Major and USLT minor. Her USLT capstone project examined the politics of Voluntourism in Latin America. She examined how projects that promote volunteer opportunities in Latin America were more suited to the needs of US volunteers as opposed to the communities they visited. Labelling them a form of tourism, Williams researched how these nuances impacted volunteers and the communities they were expected to serve. 

– DR. NANCY MIRABAL

Tiara Wright

Wright

Tiara’s senior thesis project was a timely and revealing investigation of issues of race, power, and sexual abuse in the US gymnastics community. Most particularly, Tiara’s work documented the effects on young gymnasts of the criminal behaviors of Dr. Larry Nassar, a high-ranking doctor involved in treating athletes at the highest levels of US gymnastics. Tiara is an All-Around member of the UMD gymnastics team. She matched the Maryland Gymnastics record on bars where she earned a 9.950. In her Senior Day showcase, Wright led the Terrapins to a season-high team score 196.975, the highest team score since 2004. 

– DR. MARY CORBIN SIES AND DR. ROB CHESTER

Graduate Students

Izetta Autumn Mobley (Ph.D.)

Melissa Benitez (M.A.)

Molly Benitez conducts research on non-traditional workers in skilled blue-collar trades. In addition to the Ph.D. in American Studies, they have earned an M.A., a Certificate in Women’s Studies and been awarded a dissertation writing fellowship from the American Association of University Women.

Christina Sessoms (M.A.)

Christina Sessoms

TO MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY, THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING ME IN THIS BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT! THE NUMEROUS WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT HAVE NEVER GONE UNNOTICED NOR UNAPPRECIATED. TO THE DEPARTMENT FACULTY AND STAFF THAT I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE OF WORKING WITH OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, THANK YOU FOR ADVOCATING FOR ME AND CULTIVATING NEW IDEAS THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO MY GROWTH AS AN EMERGING SCHOLAR. MY TIME HERE AT MARYLAND HAS CERTAINLY BEEN TRANSFORMATIVE! NEXT UP… MY PHD! WHOO HOO!