2022 American Studies Newsletter

Department of American Studies

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights

Department Kudos 
Alumni Class Notes 

Message from the Chair

Thomas Guglielmo

Dear American Studies Alumni,

I hope you are doing well and enjoying the last few weeks of 2022. It is with great sadness that I share the passing of our longtime American Studies Professor John Michael Vlach on October 30, 2022. A distinguished scholar of 10 books and a curator of numerous museum exhibits, he was a professor in our department for 32 years, mentoring countless students, some of whom went on to become founding curators at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Our small but mighty department stands on the shoulders of eminent former faculty members like Professor Vlach. He helped lay the foundation for so many of the recent achievements this newsletter features.

To everyone in the GW American Studies alumni community, I thank you so much for your ongoing support and involvement. Please stay in touch.


Tom Guglielmo
Chair, Department of American Studies

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Department Spotlights  




American Studies Senior Teaches Youths to Prosper Together

Current senior Rayaan Ahmed has worked to bring mutual aid to students in Minnesota and Somalia as they are learning to address public service, social issues and other important life skills. Rayaan’s project, under Associate Professor of American Studies Dara Orenstein’s faculty leadership, connected the Southside Child Development Center in her hometown of Minneapolis and the Al-Aqsa after school program in her mother’s hometown in Mogadishu. She was profiled in GW Today.




Biden Appoints University Professor Gamble to National Council on the Humanities

Vanessa Northington Gamble, the first woman and African American to hold the position of University Professor at George Washington University and who regularly teaches courses in American Studies, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a member of the National Council on the Humanities. She was featured in GW Today

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Department Kudos

  • Associate Professor Libby Anker’s latest book, Ugly Freedoms, published by Duke University Press in January 2022, reckons with the complex legacy of freedom offered by liberal American democracy. Professor Anker was interviewed by the Los Angeles Review of Books about the monograph last year. 
  • The Department of American Studies recently welcomed our newest faculty member: Assistant Professor Emily Bock. Dr. Bock is a cultural anthropologist whose research and teaching are situated at the intersection of Black studies, queer theory, performance studies, ethnography, social theory and ethics. She is currently writing her book manuscript tentatively titled Ordinary Queens: Queer Performances of the Good Life.
  • Associate Professor Tom Guglielmo’s most recent monograph, Divisions: A New History of Racism and Resistance in America's World War II Military, published by Oxford University Press in October 2021, was the recipient of the Society for Military History's 2021 Distinguished Book Award. In addition, the book was a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize and shortlisted for the MAAH Stone Book Award.
  • Professor Melani McAlister’s book The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals, published by Oxford University Press, was issued in paperback this summer. The new issue includes a substantial new preface from Professor McAlister.
  • Abby Schulte, an MA student in American Studies, recently published her paper, “‘Few Ladies Ever Sit’: Examining Women’s Presence in the Madison White House Parlors,” for the Coalition of Master's Scholars on Material Culture.
  • Professor Gayle Wald received a 2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars fellowship to continue work on her forthcoming monograph This Is Rhythm: Ella Jenkins’ Life in Music, a biography of the musician-educator, Ella Jenkins (b. 1924). In January 2023, Beacon Press will publish her book on African American guitar virtuoso Rosetta Tharpe titled Shout, Sister, Shout! in an updated second edition. The updates take readers from 2007 when Tharpe was in an unmarked grave in Philadelphia through 2018 when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and to the present moment when she is name-checked by pop stars including Lizzo, Beyoncé and Janelle Monáe.

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Alumni Class Notes



  • Sophia Balemian-Spencer, BA ’18, recently passed the D.C. Bar.
  • Rebekah Beaulieu, BA ’03, is president & CEO of the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rowman & Littlefield published her book Endowment Essentials for Museums in August 2022.
  • Ashley Brown, PhD ’17, will have her book Serving Herself: The Life and Times of Althea Gibson published by Oxford University Press in February 2023. Gibson (b.1927- d.2003) was the first African American to compete at and win Grand Slam tennis titles.
  • Cary Cheifetz, BA ’76, was selected by Chambers International for inclusion into its Guide for Divorce Representation of High Net Worth Individuals. He is co-author of New Jersey Family Law, published by LexisNexis and practices family law in Summit, NJ.
  • Jacqueline Drayer, BA ’15, MA ’18, is founder and principal of Mulberry History Advisors, a preservation-consulting firm based in Richmond, Va. She provides clients nationwide with historic designation, preservation planning, Section 106 and communications services.
  • Emily Dufton, MA ’10, PhD ’14, received a 2022 Robert B. Silvers Grant and a 2022 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant for her current manuscript Addiction, Inc.: Medication-Assisted Treatment and the War on Drugs, under contract with The University of Chicago Press.
  • Olivia Dunn, BA ’20, began a job at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, working in procurement, finance and acquisitions across all departments after a year of teaching special education.
  • Lisa Dunn, BA ’92, started a new job in April 2022 at GW in athletics development and alumni relations.


  • Jessica Elfenbein, MA ’89, is in her second term as chair of the Department of History at the University of South Carolina. Her current work is centered on the role of lumbering, manufacturing and conserving forests in South Carolina.
  • Dennis Gale, PhD ’82, is a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and recently completed 10 years of teaching at Stanford University. Temple University Press published his book The Misunderstood History of Gentrification in 2021.
  • David Heinzmann, BA ’90, became a director of investigations with 221B Partners, a Chicago investigative and business intelligence consulting practice, after nearly 30 years as an investigative reporter, including 22 years with the Chicago Tribune.
  • Joseph Malherek, PhD ’15, recently had his book European Émigrés Who Made Capitalist Culture in America, 1918-1968 published by Central European University Press. Noted labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein called it "a marvelous intellectual and cultural history."
  • Paige Roberts, PhD ’00, lives in Portsmouth, N.H., and has been director of archives and special collections at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., since 2012.
  • David Tevelin, BA ’70, JD ’74, served as the first executive director of the State Justice Institute after graduating from GW. He has since written four historical fiction crime novels set in D.C. His latest, Three Dead in Starbucks, was published in November 2022.

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