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American Studies Ph.D. Students

 Name & Description
Frankie Bauer is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and was born in Vallejo, California, although he was raised primarily in Sacramento. Frankie has earned his B.A. degree in History from Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia. As an undergraduate at MGSU, Frankie won the J. Calvitt Clarke III award for the best undergraduate paper presented at The University of Central Florida’s interdisciplinary conference. Frankie earned an M.A. in History with a Cherokee Studies emphasis from Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Frankie’s thesis entitled “Civilized settlement & nomadic dominion: Inter-tribal treaties and grand councils between the Cherokee and Osage Indians, 1817-1828” highlights indigenous diplomacy in United States territorial regions. Frankie is interested in Native diplomacy, identity, and linguistics, mainly centering on the Southeastern nations. Frankie is currently learning Cherokee and Choctaw, hoping to draw upon his heritage to create a discourse that allows new definitions of Native identity. Reclaiming and decolonizing indigenous languages are another of Frankie’s passions, and he plans to research how the intersections of linguistics, place, and identity helped define Native American diplomacy. You may contact Frankie at
John Bechtold is a retired combat veteran and recent graduate of Duke University. He has begun to cultivate a growing passion in documentary storytelling and has just completed a multi-media documentary project that tells the stories of how our wounded veterans are reclaiming their lives after their experience in war. John is particularly interested in the lived experience of people affected by political violence. When he isn’t taking pictures on a street somewhere in the world, John can be found at home cooking tasty food or trying to stand on his head in yoga class (it’s not working). You may contact John at
Michael J. Bramwell (2018) is a doctoral candidate, professional visual artist and Educator born in the South Bronx and raised in Harlem. He holds an M.F.A. from UNC Chapel Hill, an M.A. in Special Education from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology-Sociology from Oakwood University. Michael’s dissertation: “Pottery by Any Means Necessary: Resistance in the Art of David Drake,” explores African diasporic material culture in the antebellum South, with emphasis on theology and anti-slavery resistance. Michael was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Humanities for the Public Good fellowship for his work at the Ackland Art Museum and research grants from UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South and the Center for African American Research, to examine the spiritual implications of cultural practice in black vernacular art. His work is published by Oxford University Press and included in a collection of catalogue essays accompanying the Souls Grown Deep/William Arnett exhibition, Spring, 2021. He is currently visiting guest curator at The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Art. You may contact Michael at:
Claire Bunschoten works primarily with culinary history, popular culture, national identity, and consumption patterns. She holds a B.A. in History & American Studies from Bard College, where her senior project, “As American as Apple Pie: The History of American Apple Pie and Its Development into a National Symbol” won the Edmund S. Morgan Prize for best senior project in American Studies. Claire is an alumnae of the LongHouse Food Scholars Program and worked in the non-profit sector before coming to UNC. She is originally from Chicago, Illinois. You may contact Claire at
Katelyn Campbell (2018) is a ninth generation West Virginian, Truman Scholar, and alumna of the American Studies program at Wellesley College. She has worked across West Virginia as a community organizer, reproductive justice advocate, writer, and, most recently, an AmeriCorps member researching legal barriers to mitigating the state's myriad abandoned properties. Her academic research centers around the experiences and ideologies of rural lesbian separatists and the ethics of separatist economies in the United States. You may contact Katelyn at
Sarah’s work and research is based in North Carolina. She explores intersections across and among people and the Earth/non-human worlds. In particular her work looks at resistance to climate disruption and both the history and current manifestations of environmental justice in the state of North Carolina. Sarah also incorporates carceral studies and tensions between the imprisoned/prisons and the environment. She also works as the North Carolina Research and Instruction Librarian at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she supports research related to the history, people, and culture of NC, engaging with a wide variety of communities to meet their information needs. She especially enjoys providing instruction to undergraduates and K-12 groups with a focus on primary source literacy. Her professional philosophy centers innovative, inclusive, critical pedagogical approaches to special collections instruction and community engagement. Her work emphasizes the centrality of archives and special collections to inform the present while building historical consciousness You may contact Sarah at
Danielle Dulken (2016)is an anti-racist organizer from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Her research considers how practices of reproductive wellness resist settler colonial and white supremacist systems in southern Appalachia. In her study, she foregrounds the reproductive justice work of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities in the Mountain South. In addition to collaborative community projects, Danielle is excited by activist and academic work in sound art and experimental film. She holds a B.A in Political Science from Western Carolina University and an M.A. in History from American University where she practiced public history at national museums. Locally, Danielle has taught oral history at the Southern Oral History Program and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center. Her writing has appeared in Scalawag Magazine, The Activist History Review, and more. Danielle served on the board of the Carolina Abortion Fund and currently lives in Chapel Hill with her partner and three cats. You reach her here at
Anna Hamilton is from northeast Florida. Her research in environmental and digital humanities engages oral history to better understand place-making and loss associated with migrations, storm events, and the climate crisis in the American South. Anna received her B.A. in Humanities from New College of Florida, an M.A. in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi, and was a Fulbright scholar to the Republic of Mauritius. Prior to joining UNC, she worked as a journalist, audio producer, and oral historian for a variety of organizations. She is a cofounder and editor at The Marjorie, an award-winning reporting nonprofit covering environmental and social justice issues in Florida. You may contact Anna at
KC Hysmith (2016) is originally from Texas. She holds a BA in Plan II Honors and French from the University of Texas and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. Her PhD research focuses on historical foodways and its relation to our modern consumption patterns and attitudes towards food, gender, society, and the media. Katherine has an academic and professional background in food writing, food photography, recipe testing, and research, focusing on topics such as urban farm-to-table, sustainability, and transnational foodways. She has worked with several national and international publications as well as digital, print, and social media organizations. She won “Best Student Writing” in 2015 from the Association of Food Journalists and continues to share her work on her blog, The Young Austinian ( While these experiences focused on a different side of the food industry, Katherine hopes to apply her experiences to create an accessible digital resource relating to community-wide food education. You may contact KC at
Margaret Norman’s (2019) work focuses on Jewish history in the American South, foodways and material culture and rural/urban dynamics. She holds a B.A from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she designed and defended her own concentration in Food Systems, Public Policy, and Nutrition. Margaret grew up between Upstate New York and Vermont where, before she knew what Food Studies was, she experienced the power of local food systems and the connection between food, agriculture, and identity. After graduating from NYU Margaret moved to Birmingham, Alabama where she lived for three years before beginning at UNC, working as a farmer, teacher, and baker and collaborating on public history, oral history and documentary projects with the Southern Foodways Alliance, the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Jefferson County Memorial Project, and Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park. You can contact Margaret at
Tony Royle was raised in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, but also considers McKenzie, Tennessee home. He holds a B.A. in History (United States History) and a B.A. in Romance Languages (Italian) from UNC Chapel Hill. He also holds a M.A. in American Studies from Ruprecht Karls Universität Heidelberg. Tony is interested in looking at the global perspective within American Studies. He is most interested in studying film, popular culture, race, and migration. He hopes to work with his interests to examine the African American experience in the foreign film industry. In his down time, he loves playing volleyball, painting, and videography. You can reach him at .
Susie Penman (2018), who mostly grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, earned a B.A. in Journalism and a M.A. in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. Originally from Scotland but a Mississippi native since the age of seven, she has always been fascinated by notions of regional identity, and wrote her master's thesis on Cracker Barrel's use of regionalism in its marketing. After graduate school, she moved to New Orleans, where she spent a few years working as a bookseller and a pastry cook. While living in New Orleans, she became interested in juvenile crime and incarceration in the city, and is currently working on a documentary film that focuses on those issues. She plans to continue studying topics related to incarceration upon her arrival at UNC. You may contact Susie at
Sarah A. Torgeson (2018) is originally from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a place repeatedly threatened and altered by hurricanes and other coastal hazards. Her deep connection to the Gulf Coast has inspired her research interests, which include coastal resilience, place and displacement, cultural and historical landscapes, collective memory, and the concept of home. She holds a B.A. in History from Yale University, where her senior essay, "Reconstructing Beauvoir: Place and Civil War Memory on the Post-Katrina Mississippi Gulf Coast," won the George Washington Egleston Prize for the best undergraduate essay in American history. Prior to coming to UNC, Sarah worked as a Historic Resources Specialist at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, MS. You may contact Sarah at
Maxine Vande Vaarst (2016) comes to Chapel Hill from the suburbs of northern New Jersey. Her research merges a historical focus with interdisciplinary methodologies to explore the intersections of landscape, racial inequity, nationalism, and radical politics. Maxine believes in an urgent need to bring social justice activism to the center of university life, and she has applied those principles to a pair of courses she developed at UNC on American identity and the ethics of public monuments and memorials. She received an MA in American Studies from the University of Wyoming in 2016. You may contact Maxine at


Folklore Master’s Students

 Name and Description
Danielle Burke was raised in Denver, CO, developing an adoration for mountains and their regional cultures at a young age. She holds a BFA degree in Fiber Arts and Humanistic Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Upon graduating she was awarded a 2015 Windgate Fellowship through the Center for Craft. This independent research and studio project brought her to Western North Carolina where she studied traditional coverlet weaving- including the objects themselves, their storytelling qualities, the fabrication process from seed onward, various tools used in production, and the present-day makers. Her work has been shown internationally, though most recently at the Asheville Art Museum and the Mint Museum (Uptown) in Charlotte, NC. Her research is rooted in craft, material culture, cultural sustainability, and the storytelling potential of objects. Feel free to reach her at
Alexa Sutton Lawrence studies the traditions and lifeways of Indigenous and Aframerindian/Afro-Indigenous Yesàh (Saponi, Occaneechi, Tutelo, and Monacan) people who migrated from the Amanishuq (Piedmont Plateau) and Ahkanshuq (Blue Ridge Mountains) to the Okahok Amaī (Ohio River Valley) between 1810 and 1860. Specifically, she is interested in exploring the ways in which these migrants seized the experience and direction of migration as a means to reaffirm their indigeneity and accelerate the cultural transmission of histories, geographies, and tribal identities to their descendants. She’s especially interested in documenting the ways in which contemporary Midwestern Yesàh (particularly in the Saponi Nation of Ohio) now engage with contemporary dialogues of indigeneity among Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous/Aframerindian tribal communities across these three historical landscapes. You can reach her at .
Daniel Reyes is a filmmaker and writer with interests in documentary film, Latinx diaspora of the South, and the diverse traditional music genres of Texas and Mexico, including Conjunto, Cumbia and Corridos. He recently co-produced Cantina, a short documentary about La Perla, one of the last Tejano bars in East Austin, Texas and the effect of gentrification on long-time residents.

Daniel grew up as a Mexican American minority in Oyster Creek, a small Texas town surrounded by chemical refineries. He spent time shooting pool at the local bar with his brothers, listening to his parents sing along to Freddy Fender and Little Joe in their living room, and playing football with the neighborhood kids in the park behind their backyard.

Serving in the Air Force, practicing yoga and meditation, working in a homeless shelter, and traveling to Mexico and China are a few life experiences that have inspired his creative, professional, and academic interests. He received his BA in Asian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
Julia Shizuyo Popham is a Japanese-American musician, writer, and advocate for the arts. After growing up in Denver, she studied violin performance and U.S. History at Northwestern University. Since then, she has worked as a Suzuki violin teacher, an outreach coordinator for the Denver Young Artists Orchestra, a page for the Jefferson County Public Library, and a classroom music teacher for the non-profit, City Strings. Julia is interested in place-making and world-building through the histories of artistic expression. Last year she started an online project, Working Thesis (), to showcase artists’ works alongside her own historical narratives. In her free time, Julia likes to walk and bake in equal measure. Feel free to contact her at