AMERICAN STUDIES (PhD)

Joseph Decosimo (2018) explores folklore, material culture, ethnography, the sounds people make, and the things they say. He has worked as a public folklorist, played music professionally, and taught 9th graders English. He taught Appalachian Studies and fiddle and banjo in East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Program. He holds an M.A. in Folklore from UNC and studied the ways that contemporary traditional musicians in East Tennessee make and record music that connects to family and place while appealing to a global audience of Old Time music enthusiasts. As a performing musician, he has toured and taught Old Time fiddle and banjo music at festivals and camps throughout the US, the UK, and Canada.
Charlotte Fryar (2019), a North Carolina native, finds her research interests in public higher education, oral history practice, digital methodologies, and twentieth century North Carolina history. Her dissertation uses oral histories and digital methods to document and interpret the long history of student activism against institutional racism on UNC’s campus as a digital exhibit. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in American Studies, both from UNC-Chapel Hill. After two years as a project manager at UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab, Charlotte now works for the Southern Oral History Program, where she is the first University History Field Scholar, a position supported by the Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History.
Elijah Gaddis (2017) is an historian of the spatial, material, and cultural history of the South. Currently an assistant professor of history at Auburn University, Elijah teaches courses in public history, digital humanities, and African American history. You can reach him at elijah.gaddis@auburn.edu.
Rachel Gelfand (2018) has a Ph.D in American Studies from UNC Chapel Hill where she was a Royster Fellow. Her dissertation: Nobody's Baby: Queer Intergenerational Thinking Across Oral History, Archives, and Visual Culture applies a queer analysis to modes of memory transmission. The interdisciplinary project draws on LGBT archives, oral history praxis, Jewish studies, queer theory, and visual culture. Gelfand’s work has appeared in The Oral History Review, OutHistory, and Qualitative Inquiry. Her audio documentary work has been featured on KPFK, WPEB, and national programing for Making Contact. During her time at UNC, she was involved on campus as the graduate chair of the Program in Sexuality Studies Advisory Board and as graduate assistant to the Racial Literacies Seminar.
Elijah Heyward III‘s (2018), research interests are the Gullah culture and the Penn School in Beaufort, S.C. A native of Beaufort, Heyward formerly lived in Washington, D.C., where he directed the Youth Scholar Academy, a nationwide college access program that he created as a Yale President’s Public Service Fellow. Heyward received his bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in leadership studies from Hampton University and his master’s degree in religion from Yale Divinity School.
Meredith McCoy (2019) is a Chapel Hill native whose research examines public education, global indigeneity, and how communities form and perform their identities. She received her bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Music with a minor in Native American Studies from UNC and her master’s in education from Lipscomb University. Meredith has four years of K-12 classroom experience, having taught Spanish, literacy, and Social Studies in inner-city charter schools in Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia before returning to UNC.
Josh Parshall (2017) is interested in American Jewish identity, with an emphasis on the American South. His current research focuses on the activities of the Southern District of the Workmen’s Circle during the first half of the twentieth century. Previously, Josh worked as an oral historian in Jewish communities throughout the region. He holds a B.A. in American studies from the University of Kansas and a M.A. in folklore from UNC.
Trista Reis Porter (2018) is interested in a variety of topics falling under the scope of American Art and Material Culture. She received her M.A. in the History of Art from Indiana University in 2014, where her thesis focused on the exhibition history of American folk art over the last century. This interest and approach continues to inform the way she thinks about canons in American visual and material culture, how and by whom those canons have been established, and the ways they are constructed around genres such as pottery and sculpture, and descriptors such as folk, fine, outsider, visionary, and immigrant. An Iowa native, Trista received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Iowa in 2012.
Mathew Swiatlowski(2018) conducts research at the intersection of media, technology, and cultural studies. With a deep interest in historiography, he is animated by questions of process and power in the production of historical knowledge. His research interrogates gaps and silences in the historical record, with an emphasis on the command of race, class, gender, and ability to structure experience and bracket possibility across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

His book project, The Sound of Ethnic America: Prewar “Foreign-Language” Recordings and the Sonics of U.S. Citizenship, explores the juncture of sound and citizenship to consider how the boundaries of the nation are maintained at both geospatial and cultural borders. The project maps the trajectory of domestically produced, music recordings of immigrant musicians from Eastern and Southern Europe, Mexico, and East Asia as they transform from “foreign” or “foreign-language” 78rpm shellac discs to historical “ethnic” and “world music” recordings of the LP and CD eras, respectively. On one hand, the project is a media history of US ethnic music recordings from the 1920s and 1930s. On the other, it is a critical examination of the interplay between immigration policy and the racial logics of citizenship.

FOLKLORE (MA)

Victor Bouvéron (2017) is a blues enthusiast arriving from Lille, France. He received a B.A in History (2007) and a Master’s in Communications (2009) at the University of Lille 3, France. After graduating, he worked for over five years at the city hall of Villeneuve d’Ascq (France) as the internal communication manager. Victor hosted the weekly blues program “Bluesland” from 2005 to 2015 on Radio Campus Lille and taught classical guitar. He published many articles for various publications, such as L’Express du Pacifique (a newspaper formerly published in British-Columbia, Canada), La Tribune (Villeneuve d'Ascq municipal paper), and Blues Magazine. He's interested in the history of the blues in France and its current scene.
Rachel Garringer (2017) was raised on a sheep farm in southeastern West Virginia. She received a B.A. from Hampshire College in 2007. Since then she has worked as a youth advocate and educator in transitional living shelters, GED classrooms, and rural public schools. In 2013 she founded Country Queers, an ongoing multimedia oral history project documenting the diverse experiences of rural and small town LGBTQI folks in the United States. Her interests are in public folklore, oral history, digital humanities, and rural queer experiences. She is excited to use her time at UNC to transition Country Queers into a more collaborative, accountable, community based project.
Jackson Hall (2018) was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in American Studies. Photographing poetry slams and open-mics, and interviewing North Carolina rappers on the South’s relationship to Hip Hop culture, he explores the intersections of verbal arts, space, community, and identity politics. As an undergrad, he completed a Senior Honors Thesis in the poetry track of the Creative Writing program, earning Highest Honors. Titled Burning the Negatives, his manuscript mined familial conflict and love, myth and memory, and mediations on loved ones long deceased. For him, his passion for folklore mirrors his perspective on poetry as a public good, a meeting place between the personal and the communal, and tool by which narratives are affirmed, shared, and celebrated.
Hannah Herzog (2018) is originally from Dallas, Texas. She holds a BA in Honors English and Political Science from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Her research interests include Jewish history in the South, Holocaust Historiography, and memory studies. Her current research project explores the intersection of the southern Jewish experience and the Holocaust and its aftermath. Specifically, she is interested in how Holocaust survivors negotiated the racial landscape of the American South in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and how survivors experienced white nationalism and confronted their own ethnic identity in this racially divisive time. She has been fortunate in receiving research support via fellowships and grants, which have enabled her to travel to southern states such as Charleston, SC, Atlanta, GA, and Birmingham, AL. In these southern states she conducted archival research and oral history interviews with Holocaust survivors and liberators who relocated to the South.
Nigel Heywood (2019) originally came from Manilla, Australia, where his family have farmed for four generations. He studied Visual Arts at The Australian National University in Canberra. From 2001 – 2012 he worked in leadership training and community development programs with Initiatives of Change (IofC) throughout the Asia Pacific, spending three years in India. This led into peace building work in the Solomon Islands and later training 200 Peace Mobilisers in partnership with the South Sudanese Government in 2013. From 2013 - 2017 Nigel has worked with Red Cross Emergency Services Victoria designing and delivering training programs to 1000+ volunteers as well as volunteering with IofC to do reconciliation work with the South Sudanese community in Melbourne.
Abigail Nover (2018) holds her B.F.A. in Sound Design from the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University. There she studied audio recording and engineering, music composition, and design for live performances. In 2014, Abigail began her fieldwork project, Natural Rhythm, through a research fellowship while pursuing her undergraduate degree. She traveled along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Chicago, recording music and creating an online multi-media archive of current American folk music. Abigail's research interests revolve around the ways in which people of marginalized groups create, produce, and promote their own musical traditions. She is interested in different methods people have of taking agency over their own cultures, traditions, and stories in the face of adversity, oppression, and appropriation and what that means for individuals and communities.
Reagan Petty(2019) is a Nashville, Tennessee native who is interested in studying issues of race, identity, political tensions and their representation in contemporary art. She has also become interested in the tradition of vernacular culture in the American South. During a curatorial internship at The Johnson Collection, she has co-curated an exhibition titled Southern Roots, which features Southern self-taught artists such as William Edmondson, Bill Traylor, and Thornton Dial focusing on their relationship to modernism, their religious inspirations, and their use of materials. Reagan has also worked as a gallery assistant at the Spartanburg Art Museum and has served as the student member on Wofford’s Fine Arts Collection Committee. In the future, Reagan plans to continue studying these topics and to apply her academic interests to a museum-field career.
Emily Ridder-Beardsley (2017) grew up splitting time between Washington, DC and rural Rappahannock, Virginia. In 2008, she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a Liberal Arts degree focused on Art History, concentrating on the Tribal Arts of Africa, Oceania, and The Americas. She worked for several years following graduation in New York City for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and PBS New York. Emily has most recently been working as a curator at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia and as a curatorial assistant for Jane Livingston, a freelance curator based in Flint Hill, Virginia. Her work with Ms. Livingston will produce an exhibition focusing on the works of four early African American photographers, including Addison Scurlock, James Van Der Zee, P.H. Polk and L.O. Taylor. She is continuing work on this project as she pursues an M.A. in Folklore and hopes to apply what she learns from the program to similar projects in the future.
Caitlin Rimmer (2019) gained her BA hons in English Literature from Lancaster University in 2014, exploring religious martyrdom in American railway narratives. Following this, she spent a year assisting writer Max Haymes in his research on the Queen of the Moaners, Clara Smith, which culminated in a research trip travelling around Georgia and the Carolinas. She enjoys exploring gender presentations in early blues, with a particular love for queer and drag performers such as the inimitable Frankie ‘half-pint’ Jaxon. She is excited (though often baffled) by Southern cooking, so do make recommendations.
Zoe van Buren (2017) grew up in New York City and received her B.A. with honors in Anthropology from Vassar College in 2013. She is interested in public folklore, race and religious experience, material culture, and occupational folklife in the face of gentrification. As an undergraduate, she was active in the Vassar Prison Initiative, did research on African American old-time string bands and local step teams, and worked with Arts Mid Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY. Since graduating, she has worked with the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival and Fishing Heritage Center in New Bedford, MA, and the North Carolina Arts Council, where she was the Folklife Intern before beginning at UNC. Folklore helps her to see resilience and beauty in communities big and small. Her other love is wool, and she is a hard-core knitter and hand-spinner.
Iryna Voloshyna (2019) was a Fulbright visiting scholar from Ukraine at UNC- Chapel Hill in 2016-2017 and liked it so much that wanted to stay here longer. She received her B. A. with honors in Philology (2010) and a specialist diploma in Translation (2011) at Khmelnytskyi National University (Ukraine) and currently is a Ph.D. candidate in Education there. Iryna is investigating the methodology of vocational training and principles of curriculum making for folklore students. Also, her interests include immigration narrative, tengible and intengible cultural heritage and promotion of the national identity of folk artists.

She is highly involved in performing and advocating for Ukrainian folklore: a singer in a folk ensemble “Ladovytsi”; formerly the head and co-founder of the NGO “Podillya traditions revival” (Podillya is her native ethnographic region in Ukraine); member of an international folklore festival organization committee in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine; participant of a number of regional, national and international festivals and other cultural events at home and abroad (Spain, France, Lithuania, Georgia).
Jaycie Vos (2018) is the Special Collections Coordinator and University Archivist at the University of Northern Iowa. There, she aims to document, preserve, and share university and regional history with students and the broader community. Prior to that, she worked at the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Vos earned her master's in library science from UNC in 2013 and her MA in folklore from UNC in 2018.
Mary D. Williams (2019) is a gospel performer and an historian and scholar of African American Southern culture who roots her work in her experience growing up in Smithfield, North Carolina, and learning at her grandmother’s knee. She recently earned a B.A. in American Studies from UNC, but has been researching, performing, and teaching about spirituals, blues, and gospel music for more than twenty years, using music to illustrate the Black experience from the time of enslavement through the Civil Rights era. She collaborates with Professor Timothy B. Tyson to teach “The South in Black and White,” a class about public and civic life in the past, conducted as an expression of public and civic life in the present, and ultimately exploring the future. She holds an appointment as Adjunct Professor of undergraduate studies at the Center of Documentary Studies, Duke University.