The PublicsLab admitted two cohorts of public fellows, in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years. These cohorts consisted of students from twelve (12) different departments at The Graduate Center, where they came together to think about how to transform doctoral education in the humanities to be more publicly engaged.
Senior Public Fellows
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.
While with the PublicsLab, Jess worked with Professor Katherine Carl, Curator of the James Gallery at the Graduate Center. With Dr. Carl, Jess simultaneously learned about curatorial processes and used 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. For the 2022-23 season, Jess will continue working with Dr. Carl, the James Gallery/Center for the Humanities, and the Racial Imaginary on public programming.
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.
Jeremiah participated in the United Nations Global Diplomacy Initiative developed by the UN Institute for Training and Research where he learned and developed skills in diplomacy from diplomats themselves. Jay developed 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.
Active Public Fellows
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.”
Jamie worked 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 was a collaboration with Edge Effect, and PublicsLab Fellows Jess Applebaum and Nic Benaceraf. Together, they built “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” brought 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.
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 served as the Oral History and Documentation Fellow at New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS)-Anthropology Section for 2020-2021. She developed 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 was named a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University for 2020-2021. Together with Institute staff, she worked to develop proposals for a multi-year project on religion and climate change.
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.
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 interned 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 distilled themes from TAP’s canon of films through poetic reflections. In collaboration with staff and participants (current and former), she also co-crafted a creative history of TAP through interviews, discussions, story, and other creative processes.
Robert Yates is a PhD candidate in the Department of English. Robert’s research focuses on early modern literature and culture. He is writing a dissertation on care in early modern Anglophone world. 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.
For the 2022-2023 academic year, Robert is the Lillian Goldman Law Library Rare Book Fellow at Yale Law School. He will research British and American legal materials from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as part of his ongoing research on care, while also curating exhibits and educational experiences based on the library’s holdings, which are relevant to the multiple publics that visit or dwell in New Haven each day.
Past Public Fellows
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 worked 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, artist, and English Ph.D. candidate. Her research focuses on survivors’ responses to gender-based violence in present-day America using art forms coded and denigrated as “feminine,” particularly embroidery. She serves as Poetry Editor at Cordella Press, a press that showcases the work of women and nonbinary creators. As a PublicsLab Fellow, she interned at The Morgan Library & Museum, where she researched and cataloged nineteenth-century women’s letters. She served on the PublicsLab Programming Committee (P3), helping to organize and moderate events, including a panel on social justice work in libraries, and an event about generating interest in your academic work featuring a book publicist. She was an active contributor to the PublicsLab blog space, and she helped mentor students at Hunter College Public Humanities Program. She is the author of the full-length poetry collection, You Do Not Have To Be Good (Trio House Press, 2020), as well as four chapbooks, most recently The Memory Dictionary, forthcoming from Ethel Press in 2022. madeleinebarnes.com | cordella.org
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 worked 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.
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.
Kyong Mazzaro has a PhD in political science. She uses mixed methods to study violence, electoral politics, and media freedom. In her dissertation, Kyong shows how electoral competition affects the work of journalists and communicators in Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela. She was an intern at the Design Monitoring and Evaluation Unit at the International Center for Transitional Justice. Before pursuing her PhD, Kyong managed and led research and stakeholder engagement initiatives at the Earth Institute and the MD-ICCCR at Columbia University. She holds an MA in Political Science from Columbia University, an MA in Migration Studies from the University of Rome, and a BA in International Studies from the Central University of Venezuela.
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 worked 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.
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.
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 worked 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 supervised the submission and editorial process, provided assistance in special commissioned projects, and assisted with digital content creation.
Cameron Rasmussen is a social worker, educator and facilitator, and an Associate Director at the Center for Justice at Columbia University. 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 a senior lecturer at Columbia School of Social Work. Cameron is also a Collaborator with the Network to Advance Abolitionist Social Work (NAASW). The NAASW engages in political education, research and advocacy efforts to dismantle carceral social work while transforming the field to see abolition as a central framework for just social work practice.
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 worked with Constructive, a leading social-impact brand and design agency, as their Communications Associate. She helped Constructive amplify their brand presence through content and social media marketing. In addition, she also assisted with client-facing brand strategy projects to enable social impact organizations to deepen audience engagement with their missions and values.
Queenie has defended her dissertation, Bearing Il/liberal Secondary Witness: Un/Disciplined Pedagogies of Response to Testimonial Narratives, and has graduated from The Graduate Center! Sukhadia departs CUNY with a full-time position as an Associate Content Designer for LinkedIn.
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 worked as a Graduate Research Intern at ACLU, helping the institution’s affiliates develop and improve their research strategies.
Daniel Valtueña received his PhD in Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures in 2022. 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 España rarita: performances festivas en tiempos queer (2008-2020) addressed contemporary Iberian artistic practices in the intersection of queer and national identities after the 2008 financial crisis. In 2016 he was awarded the Young Talent Award 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.
As part of his PublicsLab fellowship, Daniel worked at the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA). He was mainly involved in the Artist Commissioning Program (ACP) which democratizes the traditional commissioning process by enabling local community members to fill gaps in US 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.
Daniel departed The Graduate Center with a full-time position as the European Projects Coordinator at the Youth Department of the Madrid City Hall.
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.
Andrew Viñales served as an intern with Futuro Media Group. As an intern, he worked primarily with the production team where he will be gaining production skills and experience including editing audio tape, pitching and writing stories. Andrew was most excited to be able to work on stories set to air on their podcasts and broadcasted on the radio. His goal was to learn how to be an associate producer, and successfully complete his own audio story from pitch to broadcast.
Past Senior Fellows
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.
Ash Marinaccio is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Theatre and Performance at the CUNY Graduate Center, writing a dissertation on nonfiction/documentary theatre-making in war zones. She is a multidisciplinary documentarian working in theatre, photography, and film. Through support from the Publics Lab, she’s been able to create Docbloc, an organization that brings together documentary artists working across genres to create collaborative work. Learn more about Ash’s work at ashmarinaccio.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.