Graduate Student Fellows

The Engaging Humanities Initiative brings together UC Santa Barbara Graduate Student Fellows invested in learning and humanities education. The Fellows for 2020-2021 are:

Portrait of Donna Anderson
Portrait of Rafael Andugar

Rafael Andugar

Spanish and Portuguese

Portrait of William Chavez

William Chavez

Religious Studies

Portrait of Jamiee Cook

Jamiee Cook

English

Portrait of Solaire Denaud

Solaire Denaud

Comparative Literature

Portrait of Jovana P. Gomez

Jovana P. Gomez

Spanish and Portuguese

Portrait of Naz Keynejad

Naz Keynejad

Comparative Literature

Portrait of Yan Liu

Yan Liu

East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies

Portrait of Milena Messner
Portrait of Somak Mukherjee
Portrait of Winni Ni

Winni Ni

East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies

Portrait of John Schranck

John Schranck

Comparative Literature

Portrait of Andreina Soto
Portrait of Azucena Trincado Murugarren

Azucena Trincado Murugarren

Spanish and Portuguese

Portrait of Jessica Valadez

Jessica Valadez

Theater and Dance

Portrait of Donna Anderson

Donna Anderson

Hi everyone! My name is Donna Anderson (she/her/hers) and I am a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Department of History. My dissertation project engages with the intersections of Midwestern and Asian American histories, though I am more broadly interested in Asian American methods and theories, immigration, and diasporic studies. This is largely inspired by growing up as a mixed-race Asian American in Nebraska, which is where I received my undergraduate and master’s degrees in Education and held a career as a high school history teacher. In addition to being a graduate student, I also am lucky to serve as the Assistant Editor for the Journal of Asian American Studies, treasurer for the Asian Pacific-Islander Graduate Student Alliance (APIGSA), and as co-convener of the Asian/American Studies Collective research focus group. When I am not TAing, researching, or reading, I like to enjoy aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, watching Korean dramas, and drinking Diet Coke (sometimes all three at the same time).

Portrait of Rafael Andugar

Rafael Andugar

I am a PhD student in the Spanish and Portuguese department at UCSB where I study contemporary Latin American novels with a focus on the environment, landscapes, and political ecology. I come from Barcelona, Spain, where I completed a Masters in Comparative Literature. I love teaching and I hope to learn more how to enhance the interest of my students in the humanities, specifically in relation to language learning. As a TA I teach Spanish language and try to experiment with new ways of teaching the material to not only accelerate language acquisition but do so in a meaningful and fun way, combining language learning with discussion of culture and the students' experiences and interests. I look forward to participating in the Engaging Humanities Initiative not only to learn more about pedagogy, but also how to mentor and foster community.

Portrait of William Chavez

William Chavez

In 2013, I received my B.A. in Religion and B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester. A year prior, I began researching the practice of exorcism throughout time and space. Now at UCSB, as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religious Studies, my dissertation analyzes the various strategies of modernization employed by contemporary American exorcists, including the appropriation of scientific and/or therapeutic rhetoric, development of new theologies, use of new technologies, promotion across various social media platforms, and consultations with the production of exorcism films and television series. My intellectual horizon has subsequently expanded beyond the realms of horror and dark fantasy and into science fiction, comic books, video games, and pop culture fandom. My research methods oscillate between ethnography and discourse analysis, just as I move between familiar and exotic case studies. As an educator, I celebrate experimentation and experience. The more that I facilitate student immersion within class material, the more, I think, students grow to appreciate what the Humanities offer. Thus, I employ creative assignments, spatial practices, embodied techniques, and robust allegories in all of my classes. I am thrilled to serve my campus as an Engaging Humanities Graduate Fellow, to share with other young scholars the outlet for expression that has been entrusted to me.

Portrait of Jamiee Cook

Jamiee Cook

I am a PhD candidate in the English Department at UCSB where I study LGBTQ+ literature and politics, with special attention to intersectional identity formation and political gatekeeping. My dissertation project focuses on lesbian coming-of-age narratives, with particular attention to the ways that complex and intersecting identities shaped by gender, race, class, and sexual desire offer us new models for coalition-building among diverse marginalized groups. In addition to my research and work as a TA in English and the Writing Program, I am the Graduate Assistant for the UCSB Women’s Center. In this capacity, I create feminist programming for graduate students and work alongside undergraduate programmers to facilitate intersectional feminist spaces for UCSB students and the wider community. Outside of my University life, I live in Family Student Housing with my partner, Amy, and our cat-child, Oliver. We are currently planning our wedding, which has been both fun and stressful during a global pandemic! I am looking forward to working with Engaging Humanities to further develop my teaching skills and gain new insight into the diverse needs of humanities students in the twenty-first century.

Portrait of Solaire Denaud

Solaire Denaud

(Pronouns: she/her/hers) I am a second year doctoral student in the Comparative Literature Program at UC Santa Barbara. My research interests include Environmental Humanities, Animal Studies and Race Studies in Francophone and Anglophone media. As a teacher, I am collaborating with the French and Italian Department in order to implement the teaching of Inclusive Writing in romance languages. To make it possible, I have been working on creating resources, flyers and exercises. I look forward to participating in the Engaging Humanities Initiative to improve my pedagogical skills and to start a conversation among professors who have the same interests. Prior to entering Graduate School in Santa Barbara, I was studying Environmental Philosophy in the French National Museum of Natural History/La Sorbonne (Paris) and practicing scientific drawing as a hobby. Raised in a French and Haitian family, I enjoy discovering new Black writers and illustrators. Most of my free time is dedicated to reading, drawing while listening to music and experimenting with Vegan cuisine.

Portrait of Alex Ehrenzeller

Alex Ehrenzeller

Before beginning my MFA in Art, I held a variety of jobs—school translator, energy consumption consultant, science teacher, boarding school dorm parent, at-risk youth program facilitator, tutor, volunteer dental clinic coordinator, research assistant and lab technician (this list is not comprehensive). With a B.S. in marine biology and a master’s degree in the art of teaching, I escaped the pre-medical whirlwind after a few months in dental school, though I’ve always possessed a creative spirit. Throughout my professional journey, I’ve moonlighted, writing fiction and creating visual art (under the alias Johnny Onionseed), and am blessed to finally be able to spend the bulk of my time pursuing these passions at UCSB. Needless to say, my path hasn’t been straightforward and it’s okay if yours isn’t either. As an Engaging Humanities Graduate Fellow, I wish to inspire students seeking to find their way in the world, speak some sense to my younger self, and unite a community of creative, driven and committed individuals.

Portrait of Jovana P. Gomez

Jovana P. Gomez

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Spanish and Portuguese department. I study contemporary Mexican literature. My focus is on crime-fiction, written by Mexican female authors, and their relationship with Mexico's current social landscape. Moreover, I work on the development of the digital humanities through the U.S. Latinx literary representation. I have worked as a Teaching Assistant or Teacher Associate for different courses in the Spanish and Portuguese department including Spanish for Heritage Speakers/Students, Intermediate and Introductory Spanish as a second language, and Introduction to the Digital Humanities. I obtained my Bachelor's as well as my Master's degree at San Diego State University. Growing up on both sides of the northern Mexican border, I have experienced and seen the needs and challenges of areas such as the Imperial Valley County, a border underserved rural community. Thus, I am actively engaged with the Latinx community. I aim to help Latinx youth who dream about going to college achieve their goal of going and graduating. I also serve as an interpreter of Spanish/English for the community. I look forward to working in the Engaging Humanities Initiative not only to develop my pedagogical skills but also to learn and practice more how to support students who are in pursuit of a career within the humanities.

Portrait of Naz Keynejad

Naz Keynejad

I’m a PhD student in Comparative Literature, working on the prospectus for my dissertation. My interests are varied because I’m a naturally curious person and when I find something I like, I dive into rabbit holes of information and will not rest until I research everything I possibly can on a subject. Because of this tendency to over-research (!) my dissertation project will focus on narratives of female agency from as far back as the Biblical texts to my beloved Jane Austen and everything in between. I have been both a teaching assistant and teaching associate in Comparative Literature and have taught courses on European literature and culture, as well as children’s literature. I’m also an adjunct instructor at California State University, Northridge, where I teach specialized classes in long eighteenth-century British texts. I know this sounds cliché, but I love reading (I mean, of course I do!) and when I’m not working on my academic endeavors, I read fantasy stories and historical romances for fun. I also like to cook to relax and love sharing new recipes and/or offering twists on old favorites.

Portrait of Yan Liu

Yan Liu

I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies. Fascinated with perennial pursuits of utopia all over the world, I embarked on my academic career as an English major in China. My first project studied the American Renaissance against the backdrop of flourishing utopian experiments in the mid-nineteenth-century New England. Interestingly, around the same time but on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, a Hakka Chinese, Hong Xiuquan, was inspired by Christianity and initiated his utopian endeavor to build the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom on earth. That was the focus of my second academic project at Dartmouth College. Following this utopian pursuit onward, I completed a thesis at Columbia University, attending to the Chinese Revolution throughout the twentieth century with the Cultural Revolution as its crescendo. Now in the heat of the sun at UC Santa Barbara, I continue reflecting on the “utopian ruins” in East Asia as the tumultuous global 1960s fades away. As a Mellon Engaging Humanities Fellow and an amateur singer-songwriter, I look forward to exploring the utopian dimension of humanities both as a discipline and a lifelong pursuit beyond the classroom.

Portrait of Milena Messner

Milena Messner

I am a PhD student in the English department at UCSB where I study 20th and 21st century anglophone literature about the city, asking how mass migration can reshape our conceptions of urban citizenship in an increasingly globalized world. My work is also invested in interdisciplinary questions spanning the psychological and medical fields, which I have been able to develop outside of my own project as a lecturer for the medical humanities program at UCSB and a volunteer counsellor at Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (formerly the Santa Barbara rape crisis center), where I worked for two years. I also work as a teaching assistant and associate in the English Department, and as a researcher for the English Broadside Ballad Archive. I look forward to participating in the Engaging Humanities Initiative to inform my own pedagogical practice and learn more about the many ways we can engage students in the humanities field.

Portrait of Somak Mukherjee

Somak Mukherjee

I am currently a Doctoral candidate in the Department of English at UCSB, and 2020-2021 academic year would be my fourth year here. I am also currently the Graduate Research Assistant of the Center for Modern Culture, Materialism and Aesthetics (COMMA). I got my undergraduate and graduate degree in English literature from Jadavpur University, in Kolkata, India. After working in the same institution as a research fellow for three years I left for Italy in 2016 to hold a Erasmus Research Fellowship at University of Bologna in Italy. In Fall of 2017 I joined UCSB, and since then my research focus here has been on postcolonial literary studies, environmental media studies, visual culture, and urban studies. Previously, I have also been the Research Assistant at the Hemispheric South(s) Research Initiative Center in the Department of English (2018-2019), and at the Center for Literature and Environment (2019-2020). I am currently an UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) Public Humanities Fellow, joining the program in 2020. I look forward to work with you all.

Portrait of Winni Ni

Winni Ni

I am a graduate student in East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies (EALC) at UCSB, where I study modern and contemporary Japanese literature by foreign and i(e)mmigrant writers, asking how literature writes intersubjective understanding across rigid categories of nationality, ethnicity, culture, and language, and how intersubjective theories help us understand the relationship between the reader and the text. My research also involves a transnational approach, aiming to bring together Western studies on the mind with Japanese social psychology and group dynamics. I have worked as a Teaching Assistant or a Teaching Associate for various courses in the EALC department, including first-year Japanese, topics in modern Japanese literature, minority literature, and modern Japanese cinema. I look forward to participating in the Engaging Humanities Initiative to hone my pedagogical skills and learn more about engaging students in pursuing humanistic inquiries beyond disciplinary boundaries.

Portrait of John Schranck

John Schranck

I’m a PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature currently working on my dissertation. Entitled “Sonic Alterities,” the project brings together sound and alterity in and beyond literature in order to rethink sound’s role in the intersubjective encounter, drawing primarily from texts in English, Spanish and French, with a particular attunement to Modernist configurations of the senses and memory. I’ve held teaching associateships in Writing Studies (a doctoral emphasis) as well as Comparative Literature, including an interdisciplinary course co-taught with Alzheimer’s specialist Dr. Juliana Acosta-Uribe on the brain, memory and music in literature (a favorite with students who suddenly realize they can change their major or have more than one). After advancing to candidacy, I taught in English for a year at Paris-8 Université. In 2016–17, I had the pleasure of coordinating UCSB’s graduate Center for Literary Research, culminating in its annual graduate student conference, “Resonance.” When not doing these things, I head into the Santa Barbara backcountry for invigorating hikes, having crossed paths with a rattlesnake, tarantulas and either a bobcat or baby mountain lion (no one can be sure). I play the piano for anyone who will tolerate it and follow the weather the way most people follow sports.

Portrait of Andreina Soto

Andreína Soto

I am a PhD candidate in the History department. My dissertation examines how men of African descent used different legal strategies to contest and reshape institutions, norms, and imperial geographies in the Province of Venezuela during the early modern period. My work intersects legal history, African diaspora studies, religious history, and digital humanities methods. Prior to Santa Barbara, I studied Anthropology in my country, Venezuela, and I worked with ethnographic fieldwork and cultural heritage programs. I also hold a MA in Atlantic World from Villanova University. Throughout my graduate education, my driving concern has been to acquire training and experience in public and digital history to make historical scholarship and the discipline’s skills useful for different stakeholders. This interest led to work for Neogranadina, a non-profit that develops digital archives and pedagogical tools to make historical documentation accessible to a wider public. At UCSB, I have taught courses on global, Latin America, and public policy history, in which I try to apply dynamic methods to help students foster their writing skills and make critical connections between the past and contemporary issues. I look forward to learning new skills and best practices through the Engaging Humanities Initiative that shape me into a better teacher and mentor.

Portrait of Azucena Trincado Murugarren

Azucena Trincado Murugarren

I am a third-year PhD student in the Spanish and Portuguese Department at UC Santa Barbara. I am originally from Bilbao, the Basque Country, in Spain. I study 21st century Spanish literature from a gender perspective and from a sociocultural approach. My project seeks to understand literature as a cultural product of an era, and how it can portray all the changes that have shaken the last two decades of the 21st century. I analyze works by young writers and wonder how literature can intervene in the social and political life in Spain. I consider myself a person committed to social movements and I try to work both inside and outside academia. I am currently working as a TA for the Spanish and Portuguese Department. Before attending UC Santa Barbara, I lived in Madrid, where I obtained my Master’s Degree in Gender Studies from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. While living in Madrid, I was a volunteer for one year in an LGBTQ + organization (Fundación Triángulo), dedicated to defending the rights of queer and trans people. I have also worked as a fellow researcher at the Spanish National Research Council. I look forward to participating in the Engaging Humanities Initiative to learn more about new pedagogical skills that contribute to the strengthening of our community through the humanities.

Portrait of Jessica Valadez

Jessica Valadez

I am an Angelena, UCLA undergraduate alumni, and Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow since 2012. I am an artist-scholar of Chicana Studies, Black Studies, and Performance Studies with an emphasis in dance historiography and mixed heritage material feminisms. Currently, I am a fourth year in the department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies with a masters in the same, I continue on as a promising Ph.D. student. In 2019 I was awarded The Carol Press and Nicholas B. Tingle Award of Excellence in Graduate Studies for my project examining the Latinidad of twentieth century innovator, Katherine “La Katarina” Dunham. My research questions and performance as intervention are anchored by the following: a) decolonizing society: How do conversations about coloniality, decoloniality, and settler colonialism continue to shape the academic field? b) Latina/o/x  intersectionalities: How might a rigorous conversation about intersectionality help us further elaborate Latina/o/x Studies, its exclusions, and its contributions to academic discourse? What does the biorhythmic presence or geopolitical absence of said material subjects contribute to, or expose about other disciplines? Perhaps, about our broader relationship to Peruvian scholar, Anibal Quijano’s work and his exposure of the “coloniality of power”? How have internalized ideologies of power become externally expressive? Through the lens of Performance as Intervention I use Katherine Dunham’s legacy, my “bodily archive” as dance scholar, Hannah Kostrin, may put it, and myself examine: How has the tenacious armament of feminist exilic experience, or the diaspora body in embodied terms as it were, performed by Katherine Dunham in performance events like Cuban Evening (1946), Veracruzana (1948), and Southland (1951), and enacted Latinidades as a genealogy of corporeal resistance against the tyranny of the House of (Un)American Activities during the Cold War against the fear of Communism with the idealized export of democracy, internationally?