Saint Louis University

Graduate Student Profiles

Alan Blair, Ph.D. Student

Originally from eastern New Mexico, I studied English and Political Science at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where I earned my B.A. in 2001. After a stint in corporate America, I returned to academia, studying literature and film at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, earning my Master's degree in English in 2011. I came to SLU in the fall of 2011, entering the field of American Studies as a means of broadening the scope of my research. My primary scholarly interest is popular music in American culture, and I designed and instructed a course on that subject in the fall of 2013. My other research interests include film, visual culture studies, American literature, and post–World War II U.S. history. I'm instructing a course on the filmmaker Spike Lee in the spring of 2016. But more than anything else, I really want to talk to you about your favorite band.

Kate Boudreau, Ph.D. Student

I am a doctoral candidate. My in-progress dissertation explores the presentation and the perception of teachers in American society. I received my undergraduate degree in English and Secondary Education at Washington University in St. Louis. After teaching high school English for six years and completing my M.A. in English and American Literature at Georgetown University, I returned to St. Louis to complete my doctorate.


Michael Brickey, Ph.D. Student

I am beginning the graduate program in American Studies in the fall of 2016. My academic interests both revolve around and center on the multifaceted space of American metropolitan regions. I am particularly interested in racial and ethnic identities shaped by the social relations that take place and the cultural practices that make place. My history master's thesis looked at the influence of urban planning efforts in shaping the civil rights struggle in East St. Louis, Illinois. I will enter the program with a M.A. in History from San Diego State University, as well as a B.A. in Political Science (minor in Geography) that I received from the University of Missouri. Because of its interdisciplinary methodology, I believe American Studies offers an opportunity to creatively analyze the cultures of place, space, and race for a richer understanding of American life in the metropolitan age.

Aretha D. Butler, Ph.D. Student

I am a fifth-year Ph.D. student originally from the Bronx, New York. I am also pursuing a graduate minor in Women's and Gender Studies at SLU. I attended DePauw University from 2005 to 2009 as a Posse Scholar and majored in Black Studies and Women's Studies. After graduating from DePauw, I taught middle-school math in New York City as a Teach for America corps member. My current research interests include black popular culture, transnational studies, and critical race theory and race in post–civil rights America.

Bryonie Carter, Ph.D. Student

I am a third-year doctoral student in the American Studies Department. My research interests include feminist theories, mythology, and transnational literature, particularly women writers of the so-called "lost generation" in the early twentieth century. I completed my M.A. in Contemporary Approaches to English Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2009, my Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies at UM–St. Louis in 2012, and my B.A. in English at UM–St. Louis in 2007. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor of English at Saint Charles Community College where I teach courses in writing, literature, gender studies, and service learning.

Kimberly Cowan, Ph.D. Student

After receiving both an undergraduate degree and an M.A. in literature, I came to the American Studies Department at SLU in 2011. I currently teach American Studies and English courses for Cor Jesu Academy. Somewhere within those melancholic moderns and their preoccupation with maintaining a cool and composed masculinity, I'm going to finally find a dissertation (I promise this time).

Sabrina Davis, Ph.D. Student

After receiving my B.A. in History from CUNY–Baruch College in 2003 and my M.A. in English from Florida Atlantic University in 2005, I came to SLU's American Studies department to study film adaptations of Jewish American literature (specifically, investigating Jewish identity as portrayed on the page versus on the screen). Immediately following the completion of my coursework, I spent a year as a visiting full-time instructor in the English department at East Central College and I currently teach full-time at Nassau Community College in New York.

Elizabeth Eikmann, Ph.D. Student

I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a certificate from the Pierre Laclede Honors College and a certificate in Gender Studies from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 2013. I am a proud Saint Louis native with a great appreciation for the American city, as my current research reflects. Specifically, my interests include the intersections of gender, race, and the urban, namely issues concerning local and public history. I am a thirdd-year student in the program.

Manuela Engstler, M.A. Student

I'm a second-year Master's student in the American Studies Department. I received my Bachelor's degree at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, in January 2014. I worked on my Bachelor's thesis while I was an exchange student at UMSL and my focus and the title of my thesis is "The Influence of the German Community on Saint Louis Society in Regard to Political and Cultural Life." In my research I'm not only interested in the history of the German community in St. Louis, which dates back to the nineteenth century, but also in the development of the community throughout history to the present day. I'm glad that I can continue my research during my Master's at Saint Louis University.

Amelia Flood, Ph.D. Student

A St. Louis native, I am a second-year Ph.D. student who holds a B.A. cum laude from Knox College in International Relations and Art History. While at Knox, I received a variety of awards including a Ford Fellowship to study art theft and cultural appropriation during World War II. Following my undergraduate work, I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for newspapers in Illinois and the St. Louis area. Currently, I am with SLU's Office of Research Services. My research interests include memory and myth-making in the American experience; the socio-political impact of women's philanthropy, women's organizations, and female entrepreneurship; issues of historical preservation and presentation, particularly in communities of color and female communities; the American experience under the cultural stresses of World War II; and the impact of social media and new technology on societal memory and myth-making.

Christopher Hart, M.A. Student

Originally from Iowa, I completed my undergraduate studies at Western Michigan University with a degree in Literature. After graduation, I spent two years teaching literature and U.S. history in Shenyang, China, where my focus turned back towards America. Now a master's student at SLU, my research interests are centering on American expatriatism: how artistic and intellectual communities arise and are shaped by transnationalism and multiculturalism. Ultimately, how does "Americanness" exert itself in absentia from America and in opposition to local culture?

Victoria Herrera, Ph.D. Student

I am currently a second-year Ph.D. student, after having received my Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, with an honors minor in History, in 2015 from the University of Arizona. My research interests center on American leisure, recreation, and popular culture from 1880 to present. I have a special interest in the cultural history of alcohol, and how breweries and biergardens function as elements of leisure culture. Having spent much of my youth in Arizona, I am also interested in regionalism in the U.S. West.


Cicely B. Hunter, Ph.D. Student

I am a third-year Ph.D. student originally from Kenosha, Wisconsin. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marquette University in the spring of 2014, double majoring in History and Political Science. My current research interests consist of early twentieth-century Black women's history with an emphasis on memory and feminism.

Alicia Jessmon, M.A. Student

Currently I am a second-year Master's student in the American Studies Department. My research interests range along the spectrum of any area ending in "studies" but I prefer to focus on three key areas: urban studies with a focus on the Midwest, gender studies, and queer studies. I earned a B.A. in History, certificate in Gender Studies, and certificate from the Pierre Laclede Honors College from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 2014.

Trevin Jones, Ph.D. Student

I am a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies and my research interests are African American male prison writers: masculinity, enlightenment, and spirituality. I am an avid reader of nonfiction and after I read Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver, followed by The Autobiography of Malcolm X, I continued reading prison narratives by African American males. My research on African American male prison writers explores the dehumanizing effects of incarceration, as well as the different spiritual paths males in this study embark on in their quest for emotional / psychological freedom. In addition to studying at Saint Louis University, I am a full-time English professor at Saint Louis Community College, where I teach courses in creative writing, composition, and literature. I am a native of Oklahoma and I completed my B.A. in English at the University of Oklahoma. After completing my undergraduate degree, I moved to Virginia where I received my M.A. degree in English from Old Dominion University. Also, I received a certificate in creative nonfiction from Washington University in St. Louis.

Adam Kloppe, Ph.D. Student

I am a Ph.D. student at Saint Louis University. I earned my B.A. from Westminster College, and my M.A. in American Studies from SLU. I am currently at work on a dissertation entitled "Orientalism in U.S. Children's Culture, 1898–1989." I have interests in: technology and culture; US imperialism in the twentieth century; and the use of space and place in theme parks, malls, World's Fairs, and other places of consumption.

Mark Koschmann, Ph.D. Student

I am a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies with an emphasis in twentieth-century urban social and cultural studies, race and identity, and religion in America. Currently, I am an instructor in Theology at Concordia University in St. Paul, MN. I have presented several papers at conferences such as "Lutherans as Civil Rights Activists in Chicago," "The Impact of White Flight on Urban Lutheran Congregations," and "Urban Lutheran Congregations in a Post-Ferguson Era." Before coming to SLU, I earned a B.A. in Philosophy at Valparaiso University and studied the Humanities in their interdisciplinary honors college, Christ College. I completed a Master of Divinity at Concordia Seminary in 2011 where I studied Christian theology, ethics, and religion in America.

Susan S. Lee, Ph.D. Student

I have a Bachelor's in Creative Writing from Webster University, a Bachelor's in Spanish from SLU, a Master's in Spanish from SLU, and a Master's in English from the University of South Florida. I also have a certification in Comparative Literary Studies. I am currently working on my Ph.D. My interests include: the connections between Native American and Arab-American identity in literature and film, transnationalism, and cultural studies.

Cindy Lyles, Ph.D. Student

Just when I think I've completed my formal education, life somehow has a way of looping me right back to the ivory tower. I earned my B.A. in Communication with minors in Sociology and African American Studies, and I thought that was it. "World, here I come!" I tried the world and opted for more schooling. So, I earned my M.A. in English, and I was bold enough to say it again: "World, here I come!" The world and I both agreed that I should no longer ignore my academic itch. a revolving door, I find myself back where it all started (my undergraduate alma mater) to earn my Ph.D. My primary interests include twentieth-century black women's poetry set in urban spaces, black urban communities (like East St. Louis), and portrayals of race, gender, and class in black literature. My future goals: graduate again, become a full-time tenured professor, and come for the world and really mean it.

Mary Maxfield, Ph.D. Student

I received my B.A. in Creative Social Change from Fontbonne University and my M.A. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. My research focuses on intersections of new media and social justice activism and has been featured in Feminist Media Studies and They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. For my master's thesis, I critically examined "safe space" as a social-justice aim, comparing the contemporary "trigger warning" and "calling out" debates to other "safety" projects, including women's-only spaces and "public safety"/policing. I am interested in bridging academic research, public intellectualism, and practical social change, and am excited to return to St. Louis to continue that work.

Cara Moore, Ph.D. Student

I have a B.A. in History with a Religious Studies minor, as well as an M.A. in History with a post-baccalaureate in Museum Studies, both from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE). My master's thesis focused on how St. Louis fits into the conversation of blues music with other academically and historically accepted blues cities and how the community growth of St. Louis can be seen to affect the development of blues music in St. Louis. I hope to find a way to blend my interests in local history with my archival experience and love for music's effect on popular culture and societal trends. I work as an archives technician for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and a volunteer gallery attendant at the National Blues Museum. I have also worked as a lecturer at SIUE. Prior to serving as a NARA archives technician, I worked as an archival-science student intern for NARA, a teaching assistant for SIUE's history department, a graduate assistant at the University Museum, and a collections management assistant at a variety of museums.

Eva Navarijo, Ph.D. Student

As an eighth-year doctoral student, I am busy with dissertation work, on a project entitled "Building (Bay) Bridges: A History of Pan-ethnic Student Activism and the Third World Liberation Front in the California Bay Area, 1968–1999." My areas of focus include Latino Studies, Migration Studies, historiography, and transnationalism. I came to SLU as a proud recipient of a Diversity Fellowship. Prior, I received a B.A. in English from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, where I also served as a McNair Scholar.

Susan Nichols, M.A. Student

In Spring 2016, I finished my undergraduate career in American Studies at Saint Louis University, and I am excited to move on to full-time master's degree study starting in Fall 2016. My interests revolve around how sexuality and gender intertwine with U.S. empire and nationhood, as well as how the U.S. has defined what it means to be citizens of this nation, or foreigners to it, over time. I am also interested in better understanding how individuals are shaped by U.S. ideologies of gender and sexuality, and how they are able to move outside the strict categorizations of these ideologies. Originally from Tulsa, I am also interested investigating the history of the Midwest.

Sarah Orler

I am a disability activist and intersectional feminist historian interested in clothing's capacity to reveal the rich histories and connections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. For my master's degree, earned in 2016 from the University of Missouri-Columbia, I conducted research exploring clothing conflict through Margaret Washington's dress-reform politics at the Tuskegee Institute from 1890 to 1920. My doctoral work will continue to draw on queer feminist theory, critical race theory, archival documents, traditional history, and sociology of objects, as I explore clothing objects in the twentieth century and how they are shaped by─ while simultaneously shaping─ society. I ultimately hope to apply my doctoral research in a corporate-commercial or a public history setting, as clothing offers a unique bridge between the intellectualism of academia and the everyday lived experience of individuals.

Nick Porter, Ph.D. Student

Originally from Eastleigh in the UK, I received a Bachelor's Degree in History and American Studies from the University of Winchester. I graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Master's Degree in Popular Culture. My M.A. thesis analyzed representations of race within American professional wrestling. I have continued to study wrestling since moving to St. Louis, and am currently researching for and writing my dissertation which explores professional wrestling in the United States during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Additionally, my scholarly interests extend to other forms of popular culture such as music from the late twentieth century to the present.

Lou W. Robinson, Ph.D. Student

I am finally writing my dissertation, entitled "White Women, Mob Violence, and the Myth of the Black Rapist: Race War in the Heartlands, 1880–1930." Discovering that my family had resided on a site of the 1917 East St. Louis race riot initially ignited my academic interests in Progressive-era racial violence. Trying to comprehend the experience of violence and survival as an aspect of the American experience brought me to American Studies. I have made conference presentations on the East St. Louis riot and the role of fashion and twentieth-century commemoration. I integrate my diverse interests in race and gender through creative writing. In 2012, my script of racial events occurring in the metro area over the last hundred years served as the foundation for a dance performance, Muddy River, produced by Gitana Productions, Inc. I have won first place for one-acts plays in the UMSL E. Desmond Lee Playwriting Competition for Vagrant, which explores gender and vagrancy laws in southern Missouri, and from the Missouri Association of Playwrights for Secret Ways, which proposes how coded quilts may have aided slave escapes. Other award-winning and/or produced plays have explored interracial father/daughter relationships and sexual orientation. I came to American Studies via a B.S. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Chicago, with more than thirty years in practice and teaching, and a M.S. in Mass Communications from Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville.

Anna Schmidt, Ph.D. Student 

I'm currently in my seventh year at SLU, working on a dissertation titled "American Poetry as a Transcultural Spiritual Practice, 1960–Present." It examines poets who have envisioned their work as a spiritual practice that can shape how readers imagine themselves in relation to people of other cultural and religious backgrounds as well as in relation to the nonhuman world. My interests in the intersections of poetry, religion, and comparative ethnic studies began during my undergraduate days at Arizona State University where I received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in African American Studies. I also have a M.F.A. in Creative Writing–Poetry from Eastern Washington University. Feel free to contact me via e-mail.

Roberta Singer, Ph.D. Student

I am a third-year doctoral student interested in the intersections between science, religion, and popular culture, particularly as it relates to how knowledge and truth are created in American life. I want to study how individuals behave and construct meaning for themselves within this ideological framework and, by extension, how the same psychoanalytic tools we use to comprehend individual subject-creation can also be used to understand how larger social structures function. I received my B.A. in Anthropology from Saint Louis University in 2010.

TK Smith, M.A. Student

Attending Saint Louis University for my undergraduate education, I received a B.A. in English and African American Studies, and a certificate in creative writing. Shortly after graduation I accepted a full-time position at Pius XII Memorial Library and began contract writing and freelance editing. Now, as a master's student in the American Studies Department, my academic interests circulate around minority/immigrant culture in America—more specifically, how minority cultures/immigrants use literature, music, and art as tools for cultural retention, anti-assimilation, and protest against the dominant American culture. I am also interested in how minority cultures express being American and how those different expressions define America. Feel free to reach out via e-mail.

Karen Smyth, Ph.D. Student

I received my Bachelor of Arts in American Studies and Women's Studies from Skidmore College in 2005. My interests in both fields and my Mormon-heavy hometown of Houston led to my senior thesis on women in the Mormon church. I received a Master of Arts in American Studies from The College of William and Mary in early 2011, and my Master's thesis discussed the Mormon culture and doctrine prevalent in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga. I received my M.A. in American Studies from SLU in 2013, and am ABD as of Spring 2014. My dissertation is entitled "'The Errand of Angels: Gender, Sexuality, and Feminism in the Mormon Church, 1972–2014." I am very interested in how popular culture and religion intersect in America, and also how those subjects are seen through a feminist lens. I'm happy to answer questions about my work, the department, SLU, living in St. Louis, and so on, so please e-mail me.

Cathryn Stout, Ph.D. Student

Fusing a background in journalism with research on the Global South, I earned a Bachelor's degree in Theater and American Studies from Wellesley College and a Master's degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. In my doctoral studies at Saint Louis University I am researching the ways in which narrative history is not just a genre, but also an essential methodological approach in ethnic and cultural studies. I have studied abroad at the British American Dramatic Academy in London and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In addition to my academic career, I formerly worked as a reporter for the daily newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, and taught writing at Choate Rosemary Hall.

Anna Sweemer, Ph.D. Student

I am a first-year graduate student in the American Studies Department. I grew up in New Jersey, and have since lived in Baltimore, San Diego, and London. I hold a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Baltimore and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from University College London. I am interested in research related to the U.S. military, including representations of the military and warfare in film and literature, veterans affairs, and U.S. military bases abroad. My many other interests include urban education, foreign languages, the U.S.'s place in the world, and the blurred lines between fact, fiction, history, and literature.

Tandra Taylor, Ph.D. Student

As an East St. Louis native, I am excited to be back in St. Louis where it seems I am getting to know this place for the first time. I am a fourth-year doctoral student at Saint Louis University. Before returning home, I earned a Bachelor's degree in French at Spelman College and a Master's degree in Public History from Georgia State University. My research interests include representations of African American women, African American intellectual and cultural history, and food studies.

Maurice Tracy, Ph.D. Student

I received my B.A. in political science from Eastern Illinois University in 2005; in 2007 I received my M.A. in English. I began the path toward a doctoral degree in American Studies here at Saint Louis University in 2007. My fields of interest include: queer studies, visual culture studies, and U.S. citizenship studies, and in each field I tend to focus on the experiences of either gay and lesbian people or black queer people. I have found the faculty in this department to be very understanding and extremely helpful. I have cultivated a community of support here that would be hard to replicate elsewhere.

Joshua Woodard, Ph.D. Student

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student originally from Mobile, AL. I attended the University of Alabama where I attained a B.A. in Business Management and an M.A. in American Studies. While at UA, I focused on twentieth-century history with a concentration on popular culture in the post–World War II era. One of my projects examined the representation of 1960s American counterculture through the cinematic lens of the films Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music and Gimme Shelter, the films associated with Woodstock and Altamont. I also went on to design and teach a one-hour freshman-level course based on the same research. Now at SLU, I continue to focus on post–World War II popular culture with a concentration in the Cold War era.

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