College of Liberal Arts


Meet the Graduate Fellows


The doctoral students selected for Cohort II of the Engaged Scholar Initiative in Spring 2018 have inventively embraced the social responsibilities of the contemporary Humanities  scholar. The Fellows’ disciplines include History, Comparative Literature, the Classics, Latin American Studies, and English. Cohort II, like their ESI predecessors, demonstrates commitment to the democratizing ethos of shared public education. Each of the selected Fellows’ dissertation research incorporates a methodology that enables and encourages public access to history, information, testimony, and both written and performed practices of social documentation. Their objects of study include a wide range of archival materials, survivors’ testimonies, the digital reading public’s discourses and debates, legal and Human Rights tribunals, and the literatures of the ancient world. The scholars’ areas of specialization range from Animal Studies and Animal-Human Relations, education and child advocacy, memory and trauma, prison reform and social justice, and elaborating the practice of empathetic history. The scholarly achievements of ESI Cohort II feature curation, exhibition, the promotion of multimedia and technology-enhanced public dialogue, mutually beneficial collaboration, and encouragement of the lifelong venture of learning. 

ESI Cohort II will be selecting the second cohort of ESI Undergraduate Fellows in Spring 2019.

Micah Bateman

Micah Bateman is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and researches digital humanities and American poetry from 1776 to the present. His dissertation, "#WebPoetsSociety: Poetry in the Digital Public Sphere," examines how and to what political ends reading publics remediate poetry into social media environments. Micah co-developed the University of Iowa's first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in literature and creative writing after his time as a MFA student in the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His writing appears in several anthologies and venues including Boston ReviewThe Iowa Review, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. He has received the Poetry Society of America's Lyric Poetry Award, and his poetry chapbook, Polis, is published by the Catenary Press. Supervisors: Drs. Chad Bennett and Gretchen Murphy. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Lauren Henley

Lauren N. Henley, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History, researches issues of race, gender, crime, and age in the rural American South during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her dissertation, “Constructing Clementine: Murder, Trauma, and the (Un)making of Community in the Rural South, 1900-1930,” contextualizes violent and habitual crime in Southeastern Texas and Southwestern Louisiana during the Great Migration era. Whereas many early twentieth-century histories of black life focus on migratory patterns to Northern metropolises, “Constructing Clementine” offers a regional analysis of those who remained in the South. Using a specific young black female murderer as a lens to explore sustained terror over time, Henley employs empathetic history to examine how poor black communities coped with unknowable tragedies. She considers how media representations, cultural contexts, and ideological beliefs created (and continue to create) narratives about the murderer and her motivations. This work not only challenges assumptions about who has the propensity to kill—and to do so violently, repeatedly, and without detection—but also the very ways communities made sense of black female criminality in the early twentieth century. Henley is a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow and a Beinecke Scholar. Supervisor: Dr. Daina Ramey Berry. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Colin Maccormack

Colin MacCormack is a Ph.D. candidate in Classics. His dissertation project, Animals and Popular Science in Classical Literature, examines the intersection of poetic and early scientific depictions of animals in ancient Greek and Roman literature and how authors interweave poetics with technical theory. With the Engaged Scholars Initiative, Colin aims to cultivate broader engagement with Classics through the exploration of animals in the ancient world. Alongside his dissertation, he will work to create an interactive database of animals in ancient literature and art to serve as a research tool and resource available to the wider public, accompanied by public-facing scholarship exploring ancient and modern treatments of animals (both real and imaginary). As both classicist and animal-lover, Colin firmly believes animals lend themselves to exploring cultural and intellectual forces at play in literature and film. Through his work, he hopes to broaden our understanding of animals, the tradition of knowledge about them, and how they inform concepts such as empathy, anthropocentrism and science in creative thought. Supervisor: Dr. Ayelet Haimson Lushkov. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Michael Reyes

Michael Reyes studies abolitionism and penal colony heritage in the Caribbean by focusing on transnational carceral narratives and histories of French Guiana. His dissertation: Writers with Rap Sheets—informed by archival research conducted in France’s Archives National d’Outre-Mer—examines the intersectional liberation struggles of imprisoned writers through a literary analysis of their memoirs and auto-fictional texts. Joining the scholarly and activist movement against the carceral state, he aims to create public historical memory projects that challenge prevailing punitive carceral logic with the long-term goal of reversing the prisonization of our landscapes. A GED recipient, community college transfer student and UCLA alumni (B.A. 2014), he obtained a master's degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 where he now pursues a PhD in Comparative Literature with a portfolio in African Diaspora Studies. As a Mellon ESI fellow, one way he will make social inquiries from his dissertation accessible to youth impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline is by working as an advisor for Barrio Writers. Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Wilks. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Sarah Ropp

Sarah Ropp is a former public-school teacher and doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature. Her scholarly work focuses on constructions of the Child as a symbol of national futurity and collective memory. She explores the sociohistorical specificity of the Child, who supposedly represents "us all", and examines how political invocations of this Child result in various forms of violence against living children. Her dissertation project, Surviving Sideways: The Child Victim in Post-Trauma Narratives from the U.S., Argentina and the Netherlands, analyzes how the Jewish child, the child of disappeared parents, and the U.S.-born middle-class white child, respectively, have been made to serve as the literal "poster Children" for national survival and renewal. Post-occupation Netherlands, post-dictatorship Argentina, and post-9/11 U.S. are the loci of her study. As a teacher and scholar, Sarah is deeply invested in counteracting the toxic narrative of hyper-individualism and autonomy that defines our understanding of "the survivor." She critically engages with literature and media that perpetuate or challenge the notion that one must disavow the realities of trauma, victimization, (inter)dependency, minority affiliation, and vulnerability in order to claim survival and wholeness. As an ESI Fellow, Sarah is grateful for the opportunity to combine her academic research with over a decade of experience teaching and studying in diverse cultural contexts, including the Texas-Mexico border, bush Alaska, Asia, and Latin America. She plans to work with Texas educators teaching media literacy, fostering meaningful dialogue on difficult topics, and confronting assimilationist and nationalist attitudes in standardized English Language Arts curricula. Supervisor: Dr. Pascale Bos. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Ricardo Velasco

Ricardo A. Velasco T. (MA Cultural Studies, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá; MA Social Documentation, University of California Santa Cruz) is a PhD Candidate in Latin American Studies in the Teresa Lozano Long Institute. His work combines critical inquiry with creative documentary practice focusing on the intersection of historical memory, human rights, cultural praxis and transitional justice. His Dissertation “Cultural Ecologies of Symbolic Reparation in Transitional Colombia” explores the potential of cultural practices of memory for mending the social fabric, promoting justice, revitalizing community ties and building lasting reconciliation among vulnerable and marginal populations. The dissertation documents and analyzes state and civil society initiatives aimed at restoring the dignity of victims, mobilizing claims for justice through symbolic strategies, or promoting concrete agendas to help displaced families face their material needs. The project involves the development of an online media platform that serves as repository of documentation and interviews, making the research process accessible and making visible the different actors, strategies and processes involved. Ricardo is author of the documentary “After the Crossfire: Memories of Violence and Displacement” (, a testimonial account of the emergence and escalation of the armed conflict in the north Pacific Coast of Colombia. The film has screen in international human rights film festivals as well as in several academic conferences. Supervisor: Dr. Lorraine Leu. Dissertation Concept Paper.