***Please note: The PublicsLab will not be admitting a new cohort of public fellows for the 2021-2022 academic year.***
2021-2022 Senior Public Fellow
Jacob Aplaca (he/him/his) is a PhD candidate in English at The Graduate Center, CUNY and an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College, where he teaches courses in queer literature and composition. In 2020, he was awarded the Diana Colbert Innovative Teaching Prize, which honors excellence in course design. His research focuses on contemporary queer autobiographical writing and the tensions that emerge between these fraught tales of queer psychosocial becoming and theoretical discourses that define queerness almost exclusively through rhetorics of fugitivity, antinormativity, and subversion. In addition to his teaching and research, Jacob co-coordinates the “Queeries” queer studies reading group at the GC and writes poetry, some of which has been published in PANK Magazine, Yes Poetry, and Literary Orphans.
2020-2021 Public Fellows
The PublicsLab is excited to share our second cohort of Public Fellows! This cohort consists of ten doctoral students from ten different departments at The Graduate Center. Over the next two years, they will be thinking together about how to transform doctoral education in the humanities to be more publicly engaged.
Jess Applebaum is a dramaturg-scholar whose practice is rooted in contemporary performance and social action. As a dramaturg she works collaboratively with performance makers, academics, and activists to develop and facilitate creative processes. Her work pays particular attention to lifting up the cultural and political context of each project: identifying how the content developed serves both its creators and its audience in a shared, live moment. As a PhD candidate in CUNY’s Theater and Performance program, Jess’ scholarship focuses on the labor of dramaturgy: pushing the perceived boundaries of how research is performed and applied in both creative and academic work. She believes that bodies perform knowledge, process activates power, and that, together, they can inspire new pedagogical and civic practices.
Jess is currently working with Katherine Carl, Curator of the James Gallery at the Graduate Center. With Dr. Carl, Jess is simultaneously learning about curatorial processes and using her skills as producer-dramaturg to consider how the gallery and its layers of space can be further developed as a site for enacting, experimenting, gathering, and creating a place of exchange for multiple publics.
Tania Avilés Vergara
is a language educator, archival researcher, curriculum writer and PhD candidate in the Program of Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures. Her research focuses on literacy practices among the lower ranks of Chilean society at the turn of the 20th century, and her dissertation explores familial letter-writing during Chile’s nation-building process. She worked in Archivo Central Andrés Bello (University of Chile), and she has participated in several cultural projects funded by the Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes (Chile). Recently, she led a language curriculum development project funded by the Center for the Humanities that used archival resources to teach Spanish at CUNY.
For her internship, Tania works as Language Creative and Research Consultant in Vive Cosmetics, a small Latina owned and operated beauty business based in CA.
Madeleine Barnes is a poet, visual artist, and English Literature PhD candidate. Her research focuses on women’s embroidery and life writing as forms of public and private resistance in early modern England and present-day America, with attention to the ways that women’s testimonies are circulated, discredited, and suppressed. Through her internship at the Morgan Library & Museum, she works with Senior Cataloguer Sandra Carpenter to research and catalog nineteenth-century women’s letters, including letters related to one of Scotland’s most infamous murder trials. She aims to improve access to women’s letters by enhancing their descriptions in a sensitive, respectful, and accurate manner. Poetry Editor at Cordella Magazine, Madeleine is dedicated to showcasing the work of underrepresented groups within and outside of academia, dissolving boundaries between art and scholarship. Her debut poetry collection was published by Trio House Press in 2020, and she has taught creative writing and humanities research at Brooklyn College and NYU, where she earned an MFA in Creative Writing.
Rachel Corey is a scholar-activist focused on the decarceration of her home state of Massachusetts. While Rachel is pursuing a PhD in human geography, she continues to organize with people who are currently and formerly incarcerated, their loved ones, and allies. She organizes with the Emancipation Initiative, which focuses on ending life sentences and restoring the right to vote to people who are incarcerated, as well as Freedom Through Art Collective, a collective of currently incarcerated artists. She holds a master’s in Law and Public Policy from Northeastern University and a BA in Growth and Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College.
Britney Moreira is a doctoral student in the Critical Social/Personality Psychology program. Her research interests vary from mass incarceration to spirituality/faith, juvenile (in)justice, and Black adolescent development. They are all rooted in her desire to highlight the power, altruism, and solidarity that lives within the Black community while also using her work to fight oppressive systems that threaten it, such as the criminal justice system. She holds a BA from the University of Michigan where she studied Biopsychology, Cognition, & Neuroscience and Creative Writing & Literature. Her studies and involvement in organizations such as the Prison Creative Arts Project has sparked her interest and advocacy for arts-based alternatives to youth incarceration. Apart from being a scholar and activist, Britney is also a writer of short stories and an avid book collector.
Jeremiah Perez-Torres is a PhD student in the Department of Criminal Justice. His research interests center around terrorism and war. Jay is currently examining the impact of propaganda on radicalization, group sustainability, and group ideology. He uses his work to highlight the power of narratives by groups and states on the public. Before arriving at The Graduate Center, Jay was trained in Intelligence Analysis and utilized this training for NYS Police and the Erie County Crime Analysis Center in Buffalo, NY.
This Fall, Jeremiah will be participating in the United Nations Global Diplomacy Initiative developed by the UN Institute for Training and Research where he will learn and develop skills in diplomacy from diplomats themselves. Jay will develop a global political perspective through a first-hand look at the modern statecraft which will culminate in his development of non/academic outputs based on the skills he has accumulated and the topics explored.
Cameron Rasmussen is a social worker, educator and facilitator, and the Program Director at the Center for Justice at Columbia University. He is committed to reimagining our responses to human behavior and pathways to social justice, and to contributing towards the larger movement of an anti-oppressive social work practice. At the Center for Justice, his work is focused on ending the punishment paradigm and advancing approaches to justice rooted in prevention, healing, and accountability. Cameron is currently a PhD student in the Social Welfare program and an adjunct lecturer at Columbia School of Social Work.
Cameron’s internship is serving as a Collaborator with the Network to Advance Abolitionist Social Work (NAASW). The NAASW is a formation of social workers from different parts of the US supporting abolitionist ideas and efforts within the field of social work. The NAASW engages in political education, research and advocacy efforts to dismantle carceral social work while transforming our field to see abolition as a central framework for just social work practice.
Matthew Timmermans is a PhD candidate in musicology at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. His current research explores representations of identity in opera, musical theatre, and their recordings. As a part of the CUNY faculty, he has taught music history and music theory at Brooklyn College. Matthew is also passionate about dissolving the barriers between academia and other publics. As a part of his fellowship with the PublicsLab, he is interning with OPERA America and has been featured as a lecturer at the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Canadian Opera Company, and on the Metropolitan Opera Guild Podcast. He has also written editorials and reviews for Opera Canada and Ludwig van Toronto. In all his projects, Matthew hopes to confront opera’s colonial past and envision a more inclusive and conscientious future.
Juliana Valente is a PhD student in the Cultural Anthropology program at The Graduate Center. She received her master’s in social anthropology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil, and her bachelor’s in sociology and education from Vassar College. Over the last several years, Juliana has worked at an NGO in Brazil with youth who committed crimes. Her current research is focused on issues related to human rights, crime, violence, and youth in Brazil.
For her internship, Juliana will work as a Graduate Research Intern at ACLU, helping the institution’s affiliates develop and improve their research strategies.
2019-2020 Mellon Humanities Public Fellows
The inaugural cohort of Mellon Humanities Public Fellows consists of twelve doctoral students from nine departments at The Graduate Center. Over the next several years, they will be thinking together about how to transform doctoral education in the humanities to be more publicly engaged.
Jamie Banks is a PhD student in Classics, a polyglot, and a teacher of “twice-exceptional” students, gifted students with special educational needs. Having studied math, physics and poetry before languages, they work to broaden students’ Latin (and Greek) exposure to include post-classical periods of history, technical and scientific texts, and authors from all over. They draw from their varied teaching experience, including as a mathematics TA, storyteller, writing workshop facilitator for incarcerated youth, slam poetry coach and tutor, as well as the research literature in cognitive science and Second Language Acquisition, to invent and adapt methods that will help each student define and reach ambitious learning goals. This inclusivity in content and method is, Jamie finds, one way that the discipline must begin to redress its exclusionary past and critically engage with its longstanding role supporting imperialism and racism, in part through ideas formed through it like “western civilization” and a canon of “great books.”
For the fall semester, Jamie is working on supporting more inclusive Latin instruction, including providing professional development to Latin teachers on trauma-informed pedagogy and learning disabilities, writing easy Latin texts about science to complement the fictional stories currently available, and developing guidelines for classroom language inclusive of the spectrum of gender identities in a heavily gendered language like Latin.
Mica Baum-Tuccillo is a scholar, activist, educator, and licensed social worker. Mica has co-facilitated several community-based research projects, including The Beyond Acceptance Research Collective, And Still They Rise, The Youth Justice Research Collaborative. In early 2022 Mica is launching a 2-year participatory action research study and universal basic income pilot with the Children’s Defense Fund-NY and young people who have direct experience of foster care in NYC. As a doctoral student in Critical Psychology, Mica is writing a dissertation about the ethical-historical production of educational spaces that unleash deep thinking and provoke critical inquiry. In their research, they use eclectic methods to engage with urgent concerns of justice, to trouble boundaries around expertise, and to produce knowledge collaboratively and with joy. Mica holds a BA in Philosophy and Education from Haverford College.
Mica’s Fellowship project is a collaboration with Edge Effect, and PublicsLab Fellows Jess Applebaum and Nic Benaceraf. Together, they are building “Mourning Machine” (current working title), a poly-disciplinary participatory research & dramaturgy project that engages with the power and politics of mourning. In this moment of profound loss, “Mourning Machine” brings together artists, healers, scholars, organizers, spiritual leaders, dramaturgs, librarians, grievers, writers, and more, to study transformation, history, and social justice through the lens of grief and mourning.
Nicolas Benacerraf is an academic, organizer, and artist who creates and studies live performance. As a doctoral student in GC’s Theatre & Performance program, Nic’s scholarship targets the industry of Public Relations as a theatrical form of mass population control. As a creative director and scenographer, Nic engineers consent-based systems and environments for genuine human encounters in theaters, galleries, concert halls, and streets. He is founding partner of Edge Effect Media Group, after serving for 15 years as a founding co-artistic director of The Assembly. He holds a BA from Wesleyan and an MFA from CalArts, and his design work is available at www.nicbenacerraf.com.
Nic is working as Director of Design and co-producer of Everybody Is Gone, a large-scale art installation and performance whose process and outcomes are centered around offering reparative spaces to the Uyghur community, an ethnic Muslim minority group that is currently experiencing extreme oppression at the hands of the Chinese government. The project seeks to draw widespread public attention to the crisis, facilitate collective action to end it, and counteract the Chinese government’s objectives by providing a platform and resources for Uyghur art and culture to be preserved, perpetuated, and celebrated.
Miriam Laytner is a PhD student in cultural anthropology. She is interested in the intersections of science, faith, and the understanding of climate change. Her interest in climate change stems from six years as a scuba instructor and hiking guide across North America, Australia, and the Caribbean. She holds an MA in oral history from Columbia University, an MA in cultural anthropology from the University of Oklahoma, and a BA in History from Barnard College.
Miriam Laytner is serving as the Oral History and Documentation Fellow at New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS)-Anthropology Section for 2020-2021. She is developing a digital oral history archive that will highlight the work of current and former NYAS members, fostering intradisciplinary discussions and connections across the four fields: cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and physical anthropology. In addition, Miriam has been named a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University for 2020-2021. Together with Institute staff, she is working to develop proposals for a multi-year project on religion and climate change.
Ariel G. Mekler is completing her doctorate in political science and women and gender studies. Her research interests include queer transnational scholarship, LGBTIQ rights, and international institutions. Before pursuing her PhD, Ariel worked as a graduate researcher with the inaugural LGBT policy unit at USAID. Since joining The Graduate Center, she has worked as an editorial assistant for philoSOPHIA: A journal of transContinental feminism and presented her research at the New York State Political Science Association and International Studies Association. Her most recent publication is in the Routledge Handbook of Queer Development Studies.
Ariel is currently working as a Strategic Planning & Development intern with CLAGS: Center for LGBTQ Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Although CLAGS is based at the CUNY Graduate Center, its primary work is outward and public-facing with the purpose of providing programming and training opportunities for local, national, and international LGBTQIA communities and members. Ariel is working closely with the CLAGS board to develop a three-year strategic plan addressing CLAGS mission, vision, and values, in addition to providing support in creating development strategies for long-term funding opportunities.
Miriam Moster is a doctoral student in sociology. She earned her MFA in poetry and BA in philosophy and draws on her humanistic background in her social science research. Her current research explores the experiences and life stories of parents who leave strict religious marriages. She is also a board member of Footsteps, an organization that supports individuals who leave the ultra-Orthodox community.
Miriam is the founder of a startup organization, Right to Parent. Right to Parent is committed to supporting and advocating on behalf of parents who have left, or are leaving, strict religious marriages and communities. Miriam’s work at this early stage focuses on data collection through consultation with a parents’ advisory committee, surveys and oral history testimonies to determine the most pressing needs of this community. The data collected will also be used as a basis for advocacy for this population.
Chinonye Alma Otuonye is a doctoral student in the cultural anthropology program. Her research interests are focused on identity, racial formations, and political movements in relation to the making of the nation within Southeastern Nigeria. She holds an MA from Columbia University and a BA from the University of Connecticut. As an avid reader and someone who values the ways popular culture is entangled with knowledge acquisition, she is deeply invested in thinking through literature ethnographically, as well as the various ways that knowledge is produced and acquired.
Alma is working as an Associate Editor at The Republic. The Republic is a magazine and publication platform dedicated to providing political commentary and critical discourse from a Nigerian and African perspective. In her role as Associate Editor, she supervises the submission and editorial process, provides assistance in special commissioned projects, and assists with digital content creation.
Queenie Sukhadia is a student in the English PhD program. Her research is focused on questions of secondary witness—how we receive the narratives of those testifying to atrocities—in global human rights literature. She is interested in thinking through the ways in which we can read testimonial narratives outside of the frames made common-sense by liberal structures such as the courtroom. A firm believer in the idea that the university is only one of many valuable spaces of knowledge production, Queenie is committed to working at the intersection of academia and external publics to facilitate public good. Apart from being a scholar, she is also a creative writer and published a collection of short stories, A City of Sungazers, in 2017. Queenie holds a BA in English (with high honors) and Psychology from Dartmouth College and an MA in English (with distinction) from Georgetown University.
As part of the fellowship, Queenie is currently working with Constructive, a leading social-impact brand and design agency, as their Communications Associate. She will be helping Constructive amplify their brand presence through content and social media marketing. In addition, she will also be assisting with client-facing brand strategy projects to enable social impact organizations to deepen audience engagement with their missions and values.
Daniel Valtueña is a PhD candidate in the Department of Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures. He earned his BA in Art History at Universidad Complutense de Madrid and his research focuses on contemporary Iberian cultures and queer theories. His dissertation will address contemporary Iberian artistic practices in the intersection of queer and national identities after the 2008 financial crisis. In 2016 he was awarded the Premio Talento Joven in the category of Culture by the Madrid Region for his arts management trajectory and in 2020 he received the National Undergraduate Studies Award in Art History by the Spanish Government. He curates the Artist-in-residence program at New York University’s KJCC. Follow him on Instagram at @danielvaltuena.
As part of his PublicsLab fellowship, Daniel works as a Programs Assistant at the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA). He is mainly involved in the Artist Commissioning Program (ACP) which democratizes the traditional commissioning process by enabling local community members to fill gaps in American culture by awarding commissions to artists whose projects highlight untold stories and underrepresented protagonists. As part of this role at QCA he edited the book How You Can Commission Art: A Step-by-Step Guide to Developing New Culture.
Andrew Viñales was born and raised in the Bronx, New York by proud Puerto Rican and Dominican families. He is a recent initiate in the Lukumí Afro-Cuban Orisha tradition, as well as an oral historian and cultural worker passionate about highlighting the experiences of queer Afro-Latinx politics, culture, and spirituality. Currently, he is a PhD student in cultural anthropology. He hopes to develop his skills in digital storytelling and facilitation as tools to take his work outside of traditional academic settings and put it in service to Afro-Latinxs in the US and in Latin America.
This fall, Andrew Viñales will serve as an intern with Futuro Media Group. As an intern, he will be working primarily with the production team where he will be gaining production skills and experience including editing audio tape, pitching and writing stories. Andrew is most excited to be able to work on stories set to air on their podcasts and broadcasted on the radio. His goal is to learn how to be an associate producer, and successfully complete his own audio story from pitch to broadcast.
Britton Williams holds a master’s degree in Drama Therapy from New York University and is a registered drama therapist and licensed creative arts therapist. She is an adjunct professor in the Program in Drama Therapy at NYU, an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College (CUNY), and works in private practice. Britton is a PhD student in Social Welfare at The Graduate Center and thrilled to be a member of the inaugural Mellon Humanities Public Fellows cohort.
Britton will be interning at The Animation Project (TAP), a nonprofit organization that works with youth impacted by the carceral system. Their programming utilizes animation as a tool for therapeutic engagement, creative storytelling, and social justice. Britton will be distilling themes from TAP’s canon of films through poetic reflections. In collaboration with staff and participants (current and former), she will also co-craft a creative history of TAP through interviews, discussions, story, and other creative processes.
Robert Yates is a PhD student in the Department of English. Robert’s research focuses on early modern literature and culture, with particular interests in drama, embodiment, and political thought. He is also interested in critical university studies and teaching. Before arriving at The Graduate Center, Robert worked as a Graduate Associate at Georgetown University’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS), as well as a curriculum designer of English courses at D.C. Public Schools. Robert holds an M.Phil. in Education from the University of Cambridge and a M.A. in English from Georgetown University.
Past Senior Fellows
Ashley “Ash” Marinaccio is a theatre artist and scholar who creates work to challenge the status quo. She is dedicated to documenting the socio-political issues that define our times. Currently, Ash is working on her Ph.D. in the Department of Theatre and Performance at the CUNY Graduate Center, where her research is focusing on the intersections of theatre and war. Ash is a member of the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy certificate program, a New Media Lab fellow, contributor to Visible Pedagogy and a NY Public Humanities Fellow. She is the founding Artistic Director of the theatre company and United Nations NGO Girl Be Heard, where she received numerous accolades, including LPTW’s Lucille Lortel Visionary Award. She is a co-founder of Co-Op Theatre East and creator/host of the new web series Stage Left. Learn more: ashley-marinaccio.com.
Friederike Windel is a scholar and educator. As a doctoral student in Critical Social/Personality Psychology at the Graduate Center, her research explores constructions of whiteness, national belonging and exclusion, and affect in Germany. She is also a member of the New Media Lab and the caretLab. In these two labs she uses computational social science methods to explore twitter discourses on race, belonging, immigration, and affect. Before pursuing her PhD, Friederike worked as an international student advisor in her alma mater, Bennington College. As an educator, Friederike is dedicated to facilitating difficult conversations and mentor and learn with her students.