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Current Graduate Students

Graduate students enter our program with a variety of skills, research interests, backgrounds, and professional histories. This diversity of backgrounds is highly valued and enriches our department.

An introductory core sequence ensures that all subsequent courses, symposia, workshops and internships revolve around a common frame of reference. Along with your cohort, you will then move through a rigorous curriculum that offers you sound, ethical and broad professional development.

Current Graduate Students

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Michael Brickey
Ph.D. candidate

I entered the American Studies graduate program in Fall 2016. I study the twentieth-century U.S. and my major research fields are urban history, race and ethnicity, and environmental history. I’m interested in issues related to metropolitan geography, particularly the way “place and space” have historically affected ethnic and racial identity formations, influenced social structure and behaviors, and informed political ideologies from New Deal liberalism to New Right conservatism. I hold a master’s in American Studies from Saint Louis University, a master’s in History from San Diego State University, and a BA in Political Science (Geography minor) from the University of Missouri–Columbia. I have presented research at the Society for American City and Regional Planning History conference and the Urban Affairs Association conference. More recently I have presented papers at the Western Literature Association conference and the Missouri Conference on History.

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Aretha D. Butler
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “On the Front Lines: Culture Wars in the Era of Black Lives Matter, 2012–2018”

I am a doctoral student, originally from the Bronx, New York, and began at SLU in Fall 2012. 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.

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Victoria Cannon
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “Between Visits: Twentieth-Century Tourism on the U.S./Mexico Border”

I am currently a sixth-year Ph.D. student, after having received my Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (with a minor in History) in 2015 from the University of Arizona. My interests include leisure culture, recreation, and tourism, especially in the twentieth-century American West.

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Bryonie Carter
Ph.D. candidate

My research interests include modernism, feminist theories, mythology, and transnational literature. Currently, I am an Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Program at Saint Charles Community College.

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Emily Colmo
Ph.D. student

I entered the American Studies department in 2017 with a BA in History from the University of Missouri–St. Louis. My courses at UMSL sparked my interest in political, social, and cultural aspects of the 1960s as well as the factors that led to the rise of the modern American city. Since coming to SLU, I have become increasingly interested in constructions of femininity and masculinity, as well as popular culture representations of gender. I’ve decided to explore these areas further in American Studies because I find the field’s interdisciplinary approach to be the best way for me truly to understand my research interests. At SLU, I focus on the 1960s, urban studies, and women’s and gender studies. Moving on from my academic history, I am a proud St. Louisan who loves the St. Louis Blues and had a lifelong dream fulfilled when they won the Stanley Cup in 2019. I look forward to working with you all!

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Kimberly Cowan
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “Teaching Mary, Training Martha: Catholic Education for Girls in St. Louis, Missouri, from Suffrage to Rosie the Riveter”

I am a current Ph.D. candidate working on my dissertation, titled “Teaching Mary / Training Martha: Catholic Female Education in St. Louis, Missouri, 1914–1945.” My research pertains to St. Louis history, gender, education, and modernity. I also teach American Studies at a local high school.

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William Critchley-Menor, SJ
M.A. student

I am a Jesuit Scholastic of the Midwest Province of the Jesuits. I am in the second year of the B.A./M.A. program in American Studies. My areas of interest include the lives and work of American women religious and their impact on American culture, black Catholicism, and American Catholicism more generally, as well as social movements, secularism, and racial justice. I am specifically interested in how the lived experience or witness of religious people, as opposed to doctrines or beliefs, affects the perception of religion by non-religious people.

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Elizabeth Eikmann
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “From Footnote to Foreground: St. Louis and the Visualizing of Race and Gender, 1857-1920”

I am a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate with interests in public humanities efforts, including museums and interpretive tourism, and teaching courses on American visual culture. I co-operate RenegadeSTL, an organization that infuses engaging storytelling with our region’s rich and complex history, specializing in off-beat and original tours of St. Louis neighborhoods. My dissertation in progress, “St. Louis Visions: Race, Gender, and Visual Culture in the Gateway City, 1857–1910,” explores the understudied yet rich history of photography in turn-of-the-century St. Louis, paying close attention to the way visual media constructed a particular image of the developing city and visualized racial ideologies to both legitimize and challenge contemporary thought, while also reconstructing a history of local women’s contributions to the photography industry.

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Manuela Engstler
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “Translating a Revolution: Black and White Panthers and the German Student Movement”

I’m a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in American Studies, holding a bachelor’s degree from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, and a master’s degree from SLU. In my bachelor’s thesis I examined the impact of the German community on St. Louis society. For my master’s thesis, titled “Creating Germanness: German Civilian Internment during WWII at Crystal City, Texas,” I focused on the creation of a unified German culture during times of internment. Currently, I’m working on my dissertation titled “Translating a Revolution: Black and White Panthers and the German Student Movement,” examining the adaption, appropriation, and exchange of ideas and ideology among these groups. My other research interests include transnational studies, civil rights and Black Power, as well as modern European history. During my sixth year at SLU, I will be a Graduate Assistant for the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Center for Digital Humanities, where I hope to explore my interests for Public Humanities in the Digital World. With other graduate students from our department I have also co-founded the Graduate Public Humanities Working Group, which is open to all grad students in the humanities and social sciences.

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Amelia Flood
Ph.D. student
Dissertation working title: “American Limbo: Biographies of Imperial Transition in the Virgin Islands”

A St. Louis native, I have completed my master's degree in American Studies and am currently working on my doctoral degree. My planned dissertation will examine empire, race, and resistance among Afro-Danish activists in the US Virgin Islands between 1917 and 1936. My broader research interests include transnational American religion, empire, and race in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. I hold a BA cum laude from Knox College in International Relations and Art History. While at Knox, I received a variety of awards including a Ford Fellowship. Professionally I have worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, in the nonprofit sector as a grant writer, and in positions in research administration and communications in higher education.

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Robin Hoover
Ph.D. candidate

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism at Missouri State University and my Master of Social Science at the University of Colorado–Denver. I have research interests in transnationalism, environmental history, place and region, urban history and the history of the American West.

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Cicely B. Hunter
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “Blaring Silence: The Silent Protest of 1917 and Its Historical Influence on Activism”

I am a doctoral student originally from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and I joined the SLU American Studies Department in Fall 2014. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marquette University in Spring 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.

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Cara Moore Lebonick
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 in with other historical blues cities and how the community growth of St. Louis affected the development of blues music. I hope to continue a St. Louis focus with my dissertation on the effect of the New Deal on local community building. This work began during my requirements for my American Studies MA from SLU. I work full time as an archives specialist at the National Archives at St. Louis. Prior to serving at NARA, I was a teaching assistant for SIUE's history department, a graduate assistant at SIUE’s University Museum, and a collections-management assistant at various museums. I have also worked as a lecturer at SIUE.

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Anastasia Marchenko
Ph.D. student

After graduating from Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia with a B.A. and M.A. in philosophy and aesthetics in 2015, I quickly realized that I would like to continue my educational journey and gain an interdisciplinary perspective. SLU’s Department of American Studies perfectly fits my goals, and it is a privilege for me to be here. I am currently interested in exploring in depth the transformation of culture that took place over the course of the twentieth century in the United States. I see art as a powerful social weapon and truly believe that it could make a difference and change our society for the better.

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Mary Maxfield
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “Tech Support: LGBTQ Networking, Analog Social Media, and St. Louis”

I received my B.A. in Creative Social Change from Fontbonne University and master’s degrees in American Studies from Bowling Green State University and SLU. My research focuses on social justice activism and has been featured in Feminist Media Studies and They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. I am particularly interested in social justice as it relates to LGBTQQIA experiences, space and place, and internet technology. In all my work, I strive to bridge academic research, creative arts, and practical social change.

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Uğur Öztürk
Ph.D. student

Originally from Turkey, I received a bachelor`s degree in American Culture and Literature from Bilkent University. In 2017, I earned my MA in American Studies from Penn State–Harrisburg. In fall 2018, I became a PhD student in SLU’s American Studies department. My research interests involve studying American neoliberalism as a cultural structure that brings market rationality, competition, individualism, and fetishization of wealth into all spheres of life. When I am not studying popular culture to explore the traces of the neoliberal cultural structure, I enjoy writing short stories!

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Emily Quartarone
Ph.D. student

I came to the field of American Studies with a background in the arts and in public humanities. I earned my M.A. in American Studies along with a graduate certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from The George Washington University in 2017. My research interests include transnationalism, residues of imperialism in cultural exchange, governments’ relationships with the arts, the performance of nation on the world stage, and the role of gender and sexuality in racial construction and meaning. My favorite things to talk about are my beloved hometown of Atlanta and cats.

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Cindy N. Reed
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “Narratives of Black Girlhood and the Art of Agency”

I study twentieth-century African American literature, black girls and women in American literature and multimedia texts, and the history and depictions of East St. Louis, Illinois. As a scholar, I seek to understand how race, gender, class, and urban environments converge in black literature. I am a recipient of a 2015 SLU Diversity Fellowship, a 2018 Mellon Foundation Divided City Fellowship through Washington University, and a 2019 SLU Dissertation Fellowship. I am now completing my dissertation about the literary representations of black girls’ creativity and the agency that results from such resourcefulness. My creative work can be seen in Denise Ward-Brown’s Never Been a Time, a 2017 documentary film that reframes the 1917 East St. Louis race riots. My most recent publication, “From One First Lady to Another: The Speculative Worlds of Michelle Obama and The Walking Dead’s Michonne,” appears in the 2017/18 (vol. 40, no. 1) issue of Women & Language.

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Kendyl M. Schmidt
Second-year Ph.D. student

I received my bachelor of arts degree in Political Science and my master's degree in Public Administration and Historical Studies from Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville. My passion lies in Midwestern history with a keen interest in public health and disease in nineteenth-century urban America. I intend to continue the work of my master's thesis on the 1849 cholera epidemic in St. Louis as I pursue my PhD. My Hogwarts house is Ravenclaw.

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George Svanidze
M.A. student

I am an international graduate student at SLU and started my studies in the American Studies MA program in fall 2018. Originally from Moscow, Russia, I received my initial degree at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Science. I graduated with two majors—International Relations and American Studies—with a focus on the interplay of the US and European defense and security policies within the transatlantic framework. I have a broad range of interests, extending from American cultural history, the film industry, music, and literature to women’s studies and intellectual history. The initial area of my research is the impact of core American values on civil movement formation in present-day America.

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Tandra Taylor
Ph.D. candidate
Dissertation working title: “Recipe for Resistance: Black Women, the Evolution of Domestic Science, and Remaking Black Womanhood, 1909–1980”

As an East St. Louis native, I am excited to be back in St. Louis as a doctoral student at SLU, where it seems I am getting to know this place for the first time. 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.