Humanities Institute

Staff Bios

Dr. Pauline Strong

Dr. Pauline Strong, Director

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(Photo credit: Ann Hamilton)


Pauline Strong has taught anthropology, women's and gender studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies at The University of Texas at Austin since 1993. After receiving a bachelor's degree in philosophy at The Colorado College, she completed master's and doctoral degrees in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research centers on historical and contemporary representations of Native Americans and American national identity in such contexts as literature, films, museums, sports arenas, and youth organizations. Strong was a Fellow of the Humanities Institute in 2001 and 2005, and became Director in 2009. 

Strong is the author of American Indians and the American Imaginary: Cultural Representation Across the Centuries (2012) and Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narratives (1999). She is also co-editor (with Sergei Kan) of New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, Representations (2006). Her articles appear in journals and anthologies in the fields of American Studies, cultural studies, history, media studies, Native American Studies, and sports studies as well as anthropology. She is the recipient of several teaching awards, most recently the Provost's Teaching Fellowship, and directs the Difficult Dialogues program.

Dr. Phillip BarrishDr. Phillip Barrish, Associate Director for Health & Humanities

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Phillip Barrish is the Tony Hilfer Professor of American and British literature in the Department of English and Professor of Medical Education at Dell Medical School, as well as a faculty affiliate with the Department of American Studies and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. His current book project is titled American Literature and the Political Economy of Health Care. His previously published books include The Cambridge Introduction to American Literary Realism (2011); White Liberal Identity, Literary Pedagogy, and Classic American Realism (2005); and American Literary Realism, Critical Theory, and Intellectual Prestige, 1880-1995 (2001). Barrish oversees Health Humanities programming at the Humanities Institute and teaches Health Humanities courses to undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. He also runs workshops in Narrative Medicine.

 Kathryn NorthKathryn N North, Administrative Program Coordinator

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Kathryn North received her MA in Asian Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2018 where she studied Hindi and researched the educational and career aspirations of young women in urban India. Prior to joining UT, she worked as an ESL teacher and teacher trainer in New Delhi and was the coordinator for a scholarship program that provided English classes and job-skills training for underprivileged women in Delhi. Kathryn graduated from Wellesley College with a BA in Cinema and Media Studies and Italian Studies, which paved the way for her interest in language learning and teaching.

madaihsMadai Montes, Health & Humanites Assistant

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Madai Montes is the Administrative Assistant for the Health & Humanities Initiative. Madai also supports the Native American & Indigenous Studies Program at UT. She received her BA in History from the College of Idaho with a focus on Latin American Studies.

Madai has an interest in building communities through storytelling and resource sharing; especially for those who have been historically disenfranchised. Before coming to Austin, Madai worked at Rosie’s Place in Boston, MA, a shelter for poor and homeless women, where she taught residents the value of using their voices to influence local policy.

MelissaBiggsHeadshotMelissa Biggs, Guest Curator, Hostile Terrain Exhibition

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(Photo credit: Brian Fitzsimmons)

Melissa Biggs is a cultural anthropologist specializing in issues of representation and cultural heritage, with a focus on food and museums. From 2016-2017, she was a Fulbright Garcia-Robles Scholar located in Guadalajara, Jalisco, where she carried out research on culinary tourism and traditional cooks. Previous projects include “Native American Gaming and Self-Representation,” which examined the relationships between Native casinos, museums, and cultural centers, and her dissertation, “Exhibiting Mexicanidad: The National Museum of Anthropology and Mexico City in the Mexican Imaginary,” based on 18 months of fieldwork at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.

Melissa has taught at Colorado College, the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, Southwestern University, and Texas State University. Prior to receiving the Fulbright, she was the Program Coordinator for the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. She has worked as an ethnographer for a number of policy-oriented projects in Texas, and served as a consultant on a community journalism project addressing the gentrification of East Austin. 

Sarah Ropp HeadshotSarah Ropp, Difficult Dialogues Program Coordinator 

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Sarah Ropp is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature and a Mellon Engaged Scholars Initiative Fellow at UT-Austin. Her work focuses on the exploitation of the child victim/survivor as a symbol of national resilience and renewal in the U.S., Argentina, and the Netherlands. Prior to coming to UT, Sarah was a teacher of high school English in public schools on the Texas/Mexico border and in rural Alaska as well as English as a Second Language in Baltimore, China, and Thailand. She earned her BA at Goucher College, where she studied Spanish, Latin American Studies, and English, and her MA in Comparative Literature at UT-Austin. 

Sarah SchusterSarah Schuster, Graduate Research Assistant

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Sarah Schuster is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century American women writers, especially in relation to disability studies, gender, sexuality, and health humanities. She earned her B.A. at the College of William & Mary, where she wrote a senior thesis on dissociation and troubled embodiment in Julia Ward Howe’s unpublished manuscripts.

 Alissa WilliamsAlissa Williams, Program Assistant

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Alissa Williams is the Program Assistant at HI and works most closely with the Health & Humanities Initiative. Alissa is a recent University of Texas at Austin May 2020 graduate having earned a B.A. in Plan II Honors and the Pre-Health Professions certificate.

Alissa is interested in leveraging her background in both the humanities and health sciences to create space for BIPOC in the cosmetic and skincare industries. She is currently interning as Community Manager at MÜD & Co., a startup in Austin, TX that is dedicated to using artificial intelligence to simplify the skincare selection process.


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    University of Texas at Austin
    Office Address: SAC 4.138
    Mailcode F1900
    Austin, Texas 78712