Funding & Awards

two American Studies female students at a graduation award reception


The Elsie M. Carper Prize for Outstanding Senior Research Essay

A student composing a research essay



The Carper Prize is awarded annually to a graduating American Studies major who has exhibited extraordinary research and writing abilities. The prize goes to the best research paper in the senior research seminar. Funding for the award comes from the Carper Endowment, which was amassed through a series of gifts from alumna Elsie M. Carper (BA ’41) and other individuals.

Pioneering reporter and editor Elsie M. Carper (BA ’41) worked at the Washington Post for 48 years, displaying an unwavering commitment to improving media coverage and journalism employment opportunities for African Americans and women. When she became the  Post’s first female assistant managing editor, she used her position to hire a more diverse pool of journalists.

Carper received many prestigious awards for her work on issues like teaching reading and segregation in schools. In 1990 she received a GW Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and in 1993, she was inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists Hall of Fame. Carper gave generously to the Department of American Studies until her death in 2007. Her support helped fund two major initiatives to support student research: the Elsie M. Carper Prize, and the Elsie M. Carpenter Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.

2020-21: Grace Bautista: ‘National Feelings’ of the Philippinesian: Early Twentieth Century Filipino Community Life at The George Washington University and Hannah Delvecchio: "A Life Dedicated to the Sea and One Another: Women in Nineteenth-Century New England Maritime History" 

2019-20: Michael Knapp: "The Trachtenberg Era: George Washington University’s National Ascension From a Local Perspective" and Maya Adelstein: "Internships: A consequential phenomenon at The George Washington University"

2018-19: Lexi Chavin: "Race and Place: The Impact of GWU on the Evolution of Foggy Bottom" and Isabelle Moody: "Examining GW's Student-Led Food Initiatives Through Food Sovereignty"

2017–18: Samantha Gonzalez: “The Sum of the Whole: The Negro Units of the Federal Theatre Project”

2016–17: Ciaran Lithgow, “Constructing the Conservative Vision: Housing Policy in the Cold War”

2015–16: Ariel Amaru, “From Legal to Social Authority: Black Women’s Reporting of Domestic Violence”

2014–15: Altaire DeLeon, “On Negotiating Latino Vernacular Housescapes: The Spatial Performance of Mexican/Mexican-American Citizenship in East Los Angeles”

2013–14: Rachel Holbreich, “First Do Harm”


Kimberly Probolus, MA '17 PhD Student

Kimberly Probolus

MA ’17, PhD Student

"Thanks to the support of the Kasch Foundation, I visited 10 different archival collections [that] allowed me to start my dissertation."

The Horton-Vlach Fund


The Horton-Vlach Fund supplements a broad range of scholarship, from faculty and student research to public events and educational enrichment activities. The fund was launched in 2014 to honor two former professors in American Studies, James Horton and John Vlach, for their extraordinary research and teaching legacies.


Support the Horton-Vlach Fund

Professor John Vlach
Emeritus Professor John Vlach (right) was honored at the reception launching the Horton-Vlach Fund for American Studies.


James Oliver Horton was the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at GW and Historian Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. He taught the “tough stuff” of American history with a quick wit and deep historical knowledge, introducing classes to invisibility issues being raised by black feminists, masculinity challenges for enslaved and newly freed black men and class overlaps and tensions among working-class men and women.

Horton’s graduate teaching produced a generation of museum staff and curators attuned to making African American history central to the history of the country. He acted as historical expert for then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, and he held international influence as a visiting lecturer and professor in parts of Europe and Asia. In 2006 Horton was elected to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. That same year, he received the George Washington University President’s Medal for scholarly achievement and teaching excellence. He died in 2017.

John Vlach continues to serve as an emeritus professor in the Department of American Studies, with special expertise in folklife and folk art, African American folklife and vernacular architecture. He has authored 10 books and served as a guest curator or consultant to numerous museums in the past 30 years. He has contributed to exhibitions from the New Orleans Museum of Art to the Henry Gallery in Seattle, and he continues to be closely involved with several museum and historical preservation projects in Washington, D.C.

At the request of American Studies alumna Libby Ellsworth-Kasch (BA ’08), the Jeffrey C. Kasch Foundation pledged a generous donation to the department to support student research. The foundation’s five-year pledge of annual donations will go toward the Horton-Vlach Fund, to support graduate and undergraduate students who have travel or other expenses related to their original research projects.


Thanks to the generous support of our alumni and donors, the GWU Department of American Studies supports undergraduate research and other innovative projects. If you are doing a project that requires research support, or if you would like to participate in a summer program or other intensive experience that would be related to your course work in American Studies, please apply for the AmSt Undergraduate Research and Training program.

This fund supports a wide variety of educational, research, and training experiences. These might include, but are not limited to:

  • Funds for travel to do research for the senior thesis or other major projects
  • Funds to support participation in summer intensive programs, such as language or other skills
  • Funds to present papers at academic conferences

The American Studies department does not provide funds for ordinary summer courses, internships, or summer living expenses. AmSt Undergrad RSF grants range from $250 to $1500.

Provide a one-page statement of your project, which includes what you will do, when it will occur, and how it will support your research and learning goals as an American studies major. Also provide a brief budget, and ask a faculty member to submit a short letter of support.

Applications for Undergraduate Research/Scholarly Funding should be emailed to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Melani McAlister) and copied to the [email protected] email. Deadlines will be announced via email.

Horton-Vlach Research Trip Spotlight

Thanks to a generous donation from the Jeffrey Kasch Foundation that was contributed to the Horton-Vlach Fund, many of our doctoral students have conducted breakthrough research around the globe.

Vyta Baselice sitting at a table with blueprints, smiling.

Vyta Baselice

PhD candidate Vyta Baselice received summer funding to conduct research on tabby architecture (an early form of concrete) in Georgia and Florida. She visited several historic sites to learn about the labor-intensive tabby production, which used to be performed by slaves. She presented her findings at the American Studies Association conference in Chicago. 

Sara Awartani sitting on a bench, smiling.

Sara Awartani

PhD candidate Sara Awartani used her funding from the Horton-Vlach Fund to visit the Center for Puerto Rican Studies archives in New York City. Her research paper focused on Puerto Rican Nationalist Pedro Albizu Campos and his years-long imprisonment and accusations of U.S.-sanctioned torture

Craig Allen

Craig Lanier Allen

PhD student Craig Allen visited archive collections in Richmond, Va., and Columbia University. The archives provided primary source material that helped Allen further his theories about American intelligence-gathering agencies in postwar Paris in connection with two U.S. ambassadors, David K.E. Bruce and C. Douglas Dillon.


Alumni Giving Back

University Professor Gamble speaks in front of image of Virginia M. Alexander, the subject of a biography that Gamble is writing

Biden appoints University Professor Vanessa Northington Gamble to the National Council on the Humanities

Vanessa Northington Gamble,  University Professor of Medical Humanities and Professor of American Studies, has been confirmed by the U.S.


Saving MLK: Alumnus Author Recounts King’s Days of Peril

In 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr., faced a harrowing nine days in a dangerous prison.

Jason Steinhauer

Jason Steinhauer on "History Disrupted"

American Studies Alum, BA'02, sits down to discuss the publication of his new book.

Melani McAlister

Archival Project Tells GW’s COVID Story

American Studies’ Melani McAlister and a team of students are collecting interviews with the GW community to create a historical archive of pandemic experiences.

Kids at the International Bridge Ceremony

At the Border, A Washington’s Birthday Bash

Elaine Peña returned to her Texas home to investigate why two towns along the U.S.-Mexico border have held a Washington’s birthday party for more than 100 years.
Several GW faculty members shown during a virtual video call

GW Researchers Discuss ‘Democracy Under Siege’ in Wake of Capitol Riots

The Humanities Center hosted a panel featuring several American Studies professors to analyze how white supremacy, anti-blackness, anti-immigrant attitudes, anti-Semitism and truth distortion caused the “MAGA uprising.”

Class Notes, Fall 2020

Craig Lanier Allen, PhD ’19,  was awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Emerging Voices fellowship.

Harry Lewis talking with Dennis and Judy Shepard

MA student Harry Lewis moderates discussion of LGBT rights in America

MA student Harry Lewis was invited to moderate a discussion with Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of the late Matthew Shepard.
Anayeli Nuñez

Helping Spanish Speakers at U.S. Immigration Services

Anayeli Nuñez (BA ’19) combined her love of history with her Spanish-speaking skills during an internship with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Black History Month graphic

Shania Stephen Interviews Michael Dyson

American Studies major Shania Stephen interviewed Michael Dyson, author and sociology professor at Georgetown University.