2023 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,

We’re awash in news these days about the collapse of the humanities—shuttered departments, dwindling enrollments—as students seek supposedly more practical pursuits in the STEM and business fields. It’s a distressing story. But our department continues to thrive. Students flock to our classes, our number of majors and minors has held steady, and our alumni are proving every day the real-world benefits of an interdisciplinary American studies education.

In fact, we recently hosted a series of panel discussions about American studies careers, featuring an extraordinary mix of accomplished alumni working in higher education, government, business, museums, Hollywood, nonprofits, law and more. It was beyond inspiring to see students from five, 10 and 15 years ago reflect on their careers and our department’s role in helping make them possible.

We should not reduce the benefits of our department to our alumni’s earnings and job titles, of course. But nor should we ignore the ways we regularly prepare students for a lifetime of learning and, yes, meaningful, rewarding work. We’re proud of that—and proud of our outstanding alumni. Thank you for all the excellent work you’re doing!


Tom Guglielmo
Chair, Department of American Studies

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Department Spotlights 

Junior American studies major Noor Jehan Ansari at the Interrogating GW conference

Interrogating the Past: Students Reveal GW History

In his American studies capstone course, Tom Guglielmo asks students to train a critical eye on the university’s legacy—from Civil War archives to on-campus activism. His recent Interrogating GW class was profiled in the CCAS Spotlight newsmagazine. 

Actress Carrie Compere as Sister Rosetta Tharpe in a musical based on Professor Gayle Wald’s Shout, Sister, Shout!

‘Shout Sister Shout!’ Celebrates Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Helped Invent Rock and Roll

Not many academics get to see their work in stage lights. But that’s exactly what happened to Professor of English and American Studies Gayle F. Wald when her biography of blues-rock pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe was adapted into the musical Shout Sister Shout! at Ford’s Theatre. The book and musical were featured in GW Today.

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Department Kudos

  • Associate Professor Jamie Cohen-Cole presented two papers in Germany while he was on sabbatical conducting research during the 22-23 academic year. His first paper, “Making Meanings: Human Nature and the Future of the Humanities,” was presented in September at a conference on Disciplines in Disarray sponsored by Max Planck Gesellschaft. In December, he gave a paper on “Constructivism, Truth, Alternative Facts, and the Psychology of Human Differences” in a workshop series on Praxiologies of Truth at the University of Erfurt.
  • Led by Professor Melani McAlister, the GW Covid Project has completed its work, with more than 150 oral history interviews with GW students, faculty and staff documenting the experiences of the GW community over the first two years of the pandemic crisis. All the in-depth interviews, mostly conducted by American studies graduate and undergraduate students, have been donated to the GW University Archives and will be open to researchers. The first are available now on the GW Libraries website

  • Professor McAlister was also awarded a year-long fellowship at the Harvard-Radcliffe Institute for 2023-2024. She gave the 2023 Wellborn Lecture at Florida State University titled “Fela Kuti in America: Thinking Music and Politics through Religious Studies.” In addition, she was awarded a Franklin Research Grant through the American Philosophical Society to support archival research in the upcoming academic year, and she was quoted by The Associated Press in the article “Can South Carolina’s Haley and Scott woo the GOP’s white evangelical base away from Trump?” She was elected vice-president (and president elect) of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

  • Professor Elisabeth Anker was interviewed by the BBC on January’s contentious speaker of the house votes. Her participation in the event Ugly Freedoms, Enemies Within, and Birchers was featured by GW Today in the article “GW Professors Discuss Anti-Democratic Tendencies in the Modern World.” Her article “We Go Low” is forthcoming in Contemporary Political Theory as part of a symposium on visionary political theory. Lastly, she published a Critical Exchange Book Review between her book Ugly Freedoms (Duke, 2022) and Jason Frank’s The Democratic Sublime (Oxford, 2021) in Perspectives on Politics from the American Political Science Association.

  • Professor Tom Guglielmo presented a talk for the Gen. Raymond E. Mason Distinguished Lecture Series on World War II at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA. The lecture discussed his recent monograph Divisions: A New History of Racism and Resistance in America's World War II Military. He also gave a keynote address for the 2023 LCPL Benjamin W. Schmidt Symposium on War, Conflict, and Society at Texas Christian University. 

  • Professors Guglielmo and Anker were also promoted to full professors!

  • Associate Professor Suleiman Osman was named a 2023-24 fellow with the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. He was also quoted by The New York Times in the article
     “America, the Bland.”

  • PhD candidate Kwabena Slaughter was awarded an Arts & Humanities Fellowship Grant from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. Slaughter’s essay “A Peripheral Vision: Tracing the Camera’s Kin Onto the Social Epistemology of Photography” was accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of Critical Inquiry. Slaughter wrote an article titled “Twenty-Two Divided by Seven: Geometry at Tuskegee Institute” for the online project Picturing Black History (led by Ohio State University and Getty Images). It was selected for inclusion in the project’s printed book in fall 2023. 

  • PhD candidate GJ Sevillano was accepted as a Bulosan Center Affiliate at UC Davis’ Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Sevillano was nominated to be inducted into GW’s chapter of the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society and was awarded a CCAS Dean’s Graduate Instructorship for fall 2023, and will teach AMST 1000: Consuming Asian America. In addition, Sevillano received a 2023-24 Short-Term Fellowship (2 months) from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens and received a 2023-24 Schlesinger Library Dissertation Grant from the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

  • Sevillano’s peer-reviewed article “Hidden Intimacies: Food, Colonialism, and Culinary Authenticities in Filipino American Cookbooks” was published in Verge: Studies in Global Asias. And their play review of Jovanni Sy's A Taste of Empire was published in BU’s graduate journal of American studies, Ampersand: An American Studies Journal.

  • PhD candidate Samantha Silver presented a paper at Pop Conference 2023 titled “Laughing with the Blues: Blues Resonances in the Stand-up Comedy Records of Hattie Noel” for the panel All That We Can Do With This Emotion: Spaces of Memory and Embodiment in the Savoy Ballroom, Hattie Noel’s Party Records, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Emotion.” Silver was also invited by the guest editors of Theatre Topics to attend an MIT Symposium on Comedy and Embodiment to present her forthcoming journal article titled “Under the Counter: Listening for Humor and History in Drag Comedy Albums.” Silver’s book review of Shawn Levy’s In on the Joke: The Original Queens of Stand-up Comedy was published in the Studies in American Humor.

  • PhD candidate Aryn Kelly presented a paper at Pop Conference 2023 titled “Remembering the Party: Navigating Embodied Memory of Harlem’s ‘Home of Happy Feet’” for the panel All That We Can Do With This Emotion: Spaces of Memory and Embodiment in the Savoy Ballroom, Hattie Noel’s Party Records, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Emotion.”

  • PhD candidate Cam Cannon was awarded the William P. Heidrich Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan. Cannon was also named a 2023 Henry F. May Fund Fellow by the Society for US Intellectual History to support continued dissertation research.

  • PhD candidate Joe Baez contributed an article about Laura Aguilar for the fall volume of the journal ReVista: The Harvard Review of Latin America on LGBTQ+ identities in Latin America.

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Alumni Class Notes

  • Ashley Brown, PhD ’17, was featured in a Washington Post review of her monograph Serving Herself: The Life and Times of Althea Gibson.
  • Laura Feller, PhD ’09, published the book Being Indigenous in Jim Crow Virginia: Powhatan People and the Color Line (University of Oklahoma Press).
  • Shealyn Fraser, MA ’23, wrote the paper “Black Culture? I know that’s right! The Commodification of the Jordan 1 sneaker, and the subculture behind it” for the journal New Errands: The Undergraduate Journal of American Studies, and began an internship at the John W. Kluge Center at The Library of Congress.
  • Polly Gregory, BA ’16, is a costume designer in LA, and has worked on films like The Fabelmans, Nope and Maestro.
  • Virginia Hightower, BA ’07, is vice president of design management for Mill Creek Residential Trust, a national multi-family developer.
  • Paul Kaplan, MA ’79, recently retired after 40+ years as an editor in the fields of defense, architecture/engineering, health and pharmaceuticals.
  • Kathyann Kessler, BA ’74, co-authored the book The Sixth Level, examining women’s leadership.
  • Mallory McGovern, MA ’23, contributed the chapter “Leeds Punk Through a Feminist Lens” to the book Popular Music in Leeds: Histories, Heritage, People and Places.
  • Julia Russo, BA ’23, was awarded the 2023 Julian Clement Chase Undergraduate Research Writing Prize for their article on historic displacement in Foggy Bottom, originally written for Professor Guglielmo’s seminar Interrogating GW.
  • Brooke Schlesinger, BA ’14, is associate director of research at YouGov in Sydney, Australia.

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