The PublicsLab is pleased to introduce the inaugural cohort of Mellon Humanities Public Fellows. The cohort 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.”
Mica Baum-Tuccillo is an educator, scholar-activist, and social worker. She is a student in the Critical Social/Personality Psychology program where she focuses on using social science and critical humanistic inquiry to reimagine and humanize social policy. Mica is committed to using creative and participatory methods to support depathologizing scholarship that can help us collectively redistribute power. Her interests include queer identities, critical race scholarship, transformative justice, group dynamics, and knowledge production. In another life, Mica worked as a chef and she still loves to cook big meals for her community.
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 work seeks to dismantle the stranglehold of advertising and PR on the public imagination, and theorizes the role of live performance in social transformation. As a theatre director and scenic designer, Nic engineers systems and environments for genuine human encounters in theaters, galleries, concert halls, and streets. He is a founding co-artistic director of The Assembly, a collective dedicated to building slow-cooked works about pressing social issues. He holds a BA from Wesleyan and an MFA from CalArts, and his work is available at www.nicbenacerraf.com.
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.
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.
Miriam Moster is a first year 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 relationship between educational outcomes and various facets of ethnic and religious identity. She is also interested in the way gender stereotypes and discourses adversely impact mothers both in the postpartum period and in custody battles.
Chinonye 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.
Queenie Sukhadia is a second-year student in the English PhD program. Her research is focused on representations of bodily and mental injury in prison writing and global human rights literature. 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.
Daniel Valtueña is a PhD student 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 work explores the notion of celebration from both theoretical and curatorial perspectives, and his dissertation will address contemporary Iberian artistic practices in the intersection of queer and national identities. In 2012 he was awarded the Certamen Nacional Jóvenes Investigadores by the Spanish Government for his early research initiatives and received the Premio Talento Joven in the category of Culture by the Madrid Region in 2015 for his arts management trajectory. Daniel is also a curator based in New York and Madrid. Follow him on Instagram at @danielvaltuena.
Andrew Viñales was born and raised in the Bronx, New York by proud Puerto Rican and Dominican families. He is a twin and practitioner 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.
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 and works in private practice. Britton is a PhD student in Social Welfare at The Graduate Center. Her research interests include racial bias in clinical practices and exploring the extent to which creative processes can help mitigate racial oppression within communities. She is thrilled to be a member of the inaugural Mellon Humanities Public Fellows cohort.
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 popular festivities. 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.