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 who earned her PhD in Comparative Literature from UT in 2020. Her scholarly work interrogates the many ways in which real children in a range of 20th and 21st-century historical and cultural contexts are made to bear the burden of resolving adult anxieties over survival and vulnerability by being forced to embody an idealized and unrealistic form of superhuman resilience in the aftermath of collective traumas experienced as threats to democracy. She strives to bring to light narratives by and about child victim/survivors that both evidence the real damage caused by this burden and suggest alternative modes of survival that honor the unexpected pleasures to be found in vulnerability, interdependence, and non-normativity of various kinds. Sarah identifies primarily as a childhood studies scholar who also engages extensively with disability studies, trauma and memory studies, queer theory, Whiteness studies, and feminist philosophy. Her dissertation focused on Jewish life-writing from the post-occupation Netherlands, female- and queer-authored literature from post-dictatorship Argentina, and multi-ethnic children's and YA literature from the post-9/11 United States. 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. As a postdoctoral fellow, she is designing and teaching a series of college admissions essay workshops to Austin-area students in partnership with Austin Bat Cave, the AVID program, and Crockett High School. These workshops reframe the college essay as a "story of self" focused on affirming the writer's identities, history, and passions. The materials created for the workshops will form the basis of an open-access college essay writing guide designed to serve students directly, as well as Austin Bat Cave volunteers and AVID instructors, into the future. Sarah also works with the UT Humanities Institute as Program Coordinator for the Difficult Dialogues. In this role, she creates resources, organizes events, and conducts professional development for both faculty and Plan II Honors Program undergraduates facilitating dialogue around sensitive topics such as racial injustice, gender and sexuality, and mental health. 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.