From African America to Southern Culture to exploration of digital landscapes, our graduate students investigate topics as diverse as the American landscape. Many have to opportunity to present their research at professional meetings and conferences, others publish articles in books and academic journals. To get a sense of the breadth of research, browse our list of theses and dissertations.
Mosaic of Impact
American Studies graduate students routinely conduct research and do invaluable academic and activist work outside of the classroom. Below is a mosaic of some of our current students and graduates and the varied, interdisciplinary work that make them unique.
The Village Initiative for Equity in Education was founded in 2016 by Jacqueline Bridgeforth Williams to respond educational inequities, close the opportunity gap, and end the school-to-prison pipeline for Black and minority students in the Williamsburg James City County public school system. I’ve been volunteering with the Village since 2017 and now serve as part of the core team and as the chair of the Publicity and Marketing Committee. In 2020, I worked with the team to build a new website design to showcase the organization’s initiatives: www.villagewjcc.org
Leah Kuragano is currently a professor of modern U.S. history at the University of Winnipeg.
Sara's research intersects the history of museums, mobility studies, and art access. Her scholarly and creative practice includes writing, museum curation, and the digital humanities. A selection of projects is listed below. To read more about Sara's work visit her blog at sarawoodburyintransit.com.
- The Roswell Museum Federal Art Center (2018-present), a Scalar book exploring the archive of the Roswell Museum in New Mexico.
- Changing World Views (2019), a digital exhibit created with the Mariners’ Museum using its collection of maps. Project members: Erika Cosme, website designer; Sara Woodbury, content writer; Bill Barker, map consultant.
- Facemasks: Drawings of Covid-19 Face Coverings (2020): A personal digital humanities project featuring watercolor drawings of facemasks
- Museums in Times of Crisis (March 26, 2021): Virtual symposium hosted through the Equality Lab, co-organized with Laura Beltrán-Rubio.
- “The Artist as Soldier: Howard Cook’s Self-Portrait in a Foxhole,” Arts 2020, 9, 37.
Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary have identified a small, white building tucked away on the William & Mary campus as the structure that once housed the Williamsburg Bray School, an 18th-century institution dedicated to the education of enslaved and free Black children.
Now, we are working with the university to ensure that current and future generations learn about the complex history of what is likely the oldest extant building in the United States dedicated to the education of Black children – and the stories of those who were part of it.
Ravynn K. Stringfield’s investment in Black girlhood, digital community building and new media fantasy narratives is not only the focus of her scholarship, but of the various projects that compliment her dissertation work. Ravynn is a visiting professor of media studies at the University of Richmond and the author of the forthcoming young adult novel Love in 280 Characters or Less. For more about Ravynn’s writing, art, and digital projects, please visit her website: ravynnkstringfield.com
Black Girl Does Grad School is Ravynn’s blog on all things grad school. Established in August 2016, Ravynn has documented her grad school journey from coursework, comps and dissertation, with lots of additional resources and guest contributors’ stories.
Ravynn’s public facing writing has appeared in Shondaland and ZORA magazines; her personal essays have been published in Catapult; and her short fiction has been featured in midnight & indigo, and she won second place in Voyage YA Journal’s 2020 First Chapters contest judged by New York Times Bestselling author, Dhonielle Clayton, with her story, “Passage.” Her fiction is represented by Leah Pierre of Ladderbird Literary.
In 2020, she co-founded the Black fantasy centered podcast, Dreaming in the Dark, with William & Mary alumna, Bezi Yohannes. Season one guests included renowned children’s literacy scholar, Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, author of The Dark Fantastic; and New York Times Bestselling authors, Tracy Deonn (Legendborn) and Roseanne A. Brown (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin).
She has been an invited speaker on organization tools and tricks for grad school at Stanford University, University of Massachusetts Amherst and University of Texas Austin, as well as the keynote speaker for Chapter One Young Writers Conference.
In her free time, she enjoys illustrating, bookbinding and bulletjournaling, which you can find on her creative Instagram: @RavynnCreates.
KELSEY L. SMOOT (They/Them/Theirs) is a poet, advocate, and frequent writer of critical analysis. Their creative and/or public facing writings have been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Body is Not An Apology, and a number of digital presses, which can be accessed via their website: https://queerinsomniac.me/blog
Maxwell Cloe (they/he) is a scholar of queer Appalachian art, cultures, and archives who received their M.A. in American Studies in 2021. Their work engages with oral history, social media archives, digital humanities, and queer ecology. They currently work as a Program Coordinator for William & Mary's Charles Center. The entirety of their work is visible on their website.
The Wildcrafting Our Queerness Project - An ongoing exhibition/archive of queer Appalachian art and oral history. This Scalar project was started in November of 2020 under the guidance of Dr. Liz Losh.
Laura Beltrán-Rubio is a researcher, writer, educator, and curator of art and fashion, with emphasis on the hispanic world. Laura’s research focuses on the adaptation of European fashions, their fusion with Indigenous elements of dress, and their representation in the visual arts in colonial Latin America. Her Ph.D. dissertation, Empire of Fashion: Costume, Consumption and Representation in the Viceroyalty of New Granada, analyzes these processes between the late-18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. More of her work and information is available on her website.
Imperio de la Moda - An archive and blog which aims to develop a material-based approach to the study of early modern fashion and consumption in Spanish America. This ongoing project is a digital companion to Laura's dissertation.
Lindsay Garcia is a socially engaged artist, an interdisciplinary scholar, and a university administrator. Her current academic position is the Assistant Dean of the College for Junior/Senior Studies and Recovery/Substance-Free Student Initiatives at Brown University. Garcia’s research engages with social & environmental justice, critical animal studies, feminist visual culture, and queer theory. Garcia has published in Lateral: Journal of the Cultural Studies Association and Arcadia: Environment and Society Portal. She also exhibits her video, performance, and social practice artwork in museums and galleries and at film festivals internationally. More of her work can be seen on her personal website.
Feminist Pest Control - a collaborative social practice art project which argues that infestation is a structural violence that art has the power to help ameliorate
Queer Apocalypse Solutions - an interactive art-life project by and for queer folks that seeks to provide tools for survival through many apocalypse scenarios
Dr. Helis Sikk (she/her) is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at Brown University. From her Brown University directory page:
"I’m a queer studies scholar who takes a rather feral multidisciplinary approach to explore the relationships between sexuality + gender, and (visual) culture. My research and teaching very much inform each other. Some of the classes I have taught most recently include LGBTQIA+ literature and film, feminist digital humanities, queer comics, and feminist research methodologies. At the moment, I’m writing about queer photographers and self-portraits (which includes the highly despised selfie) and the tension that exists between archives as a metaphor in queer writing and an institutionalized brick-and-mortar space."
For more information, visit here.
Joseph Lawless is a Ph.D. student in the American Studies Program at the College of William & Mary, with an interest in the nexus shared by law, sexuality, and digital personhood. His present research examines the relationship between HIV-criminalization jurisprudence and theories of the affective, the effects of sexuality criminalization on the making of legal subjects more broadly, and the relationship of the digital to the sexual in the fashioning of psychic subjectivities. He is currently preparing an article manuscript, tentatively titled "Of Mammies, Minstrels, and Machines: Movement-Image Automacity and the Impossible Conditions of Black Humanity," that addresses the circulation via cellphone text-messaging systems of racialized digital images, particularly in the file format commonly known as the GIF, the contents of which are complicit in the performance of digital blackface and the reproduction of white supremacist ideologies.