Public Humanities Fellowships

The Graduate Student Public Humanities Fellowship was developed in partnership with the seven humanities centers and the Council to bring humanities scholarship into the public realm, encourage emerging humanities scholars to conceive of their work in relation to the public sphere, develop scholars’ skills for doing public work, and strengthen the public humanities community in New York State.

The year-long fellowship includes training in the methods and approaches of public scholarship and work by the Fellows to explore the public dimensions of their own scholarship in partnership with community organizations serving public audiences.

Interested candidates from the seven partnership schools can contact either their university’s humanities center director or Program Officer Adam Capitanio (email) for more information.

Meet the 2015-2016 Fellows

Paul Arras is a Ph.D. candidate in American cultural history at Syracuse University. He researches community fragmentation in late 20th century America – the decline of civic participation, the culture wars, and other problems and barriers impeding social interaction. His dissertation, The Lonely Nineties: Visions of Community on Television from the End of the Cold War to 9/11, examines how television grappled with fragmentation, reimagining traditional community structures and values to produce new visions of social interaction. During the Fellowship, Paul will be working with the Near Westside Initiative in Syracuse to develop a public history project for the neighborhood.

Liane Carlson is completing her Ph.D. in the philosophy of religion at Columbia University, where she received her M.A. (2010) and M.Phil (2012) after graduating summa cum laude from Washington and Lee University (2007). Her research interests include Continental philosophy, with emphases on German Romanticism, the history of the passions, and the intersection of religion and literature. Her dissertation explores how 19th and 20th-century literary, scientific, and theological debates shaped a philosophical tradition that understood touch as the most primal way of experiencing finitude and contingency. Liane’s studies have been supported by a Fulbright Grant, a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, an AAUW American Fellowship, and a Mellon Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship. As her public humanities Fellowship project, Liane will create a philosophy curriculum for GED students.
Valeria G. Castelli is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Italian Studies at New York University. She received her Laurea in Lettere Moderne from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano and her M.A. in Italian Studies from the University College of London. Her research interests include documentary film theory and history, modern and contemporary Italian literature, Italian cultural studies, and the relationship between cinema and social movements. Valeria is an Assistant Editor for the peer-reviewed on-line Journal gender/sexuality/italy. Her dissertation, Ethics, Performativity and Action in Contemporary Italian Documentary Film (2001-2014), examines how, since the beginning of the new millennium, contemporary Italian filmmakers have reaffirmed through their artistic work the predominance of the ethical role of documentary film. Valeria’s Fellowship project involves bringing together activists, filmmakers, and academics for a series of events exploring the power of documentary films.
Abram Coetsee is a South-African born and U.S. raised, student in the English Ph.D. program at Cornell University. His research and teaching focuses on aesthetics and political confrontation in public space in early 20th century art and contemporary graffiti. He uses questions of cultural legibility, assimilation and its resistances, and the materialist force of aesthetics to analyze artistic and revolutionary acts under a broader horizon of expressive events. Abram holds bachelors degrees in English and Religious studies from U.C. Berkeley, and is a junior fellow at the Berkeley Institute. With the Fellowship, he will work with graffiti artists from New York City to question techniques of artistic memorialization, developing alternative techniques for those heritages which have not been accepted as part of the public archive.

Honey Crawford is a doctoral student in Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. She earned her M.F.A. in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and her B.F.A. in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University/The Goodman School of Drama. Her scholarly interests include feminist performance practices, public spectacle, protest, cultural theory, and critical race theory. Her current research traces contemporary acts of public spectacle and street performance in Brazil’s urban centers to legacies of resistance and identity making. She pulls from a repertoire that includes public protests, riots, carnival, Candomblé, samba, hip hop, and capoeira. Honey’s work has been published inBlack Camera Journaland the forthcomingLa Verdad: The Reader of Hip Hop Latinidades. Her Fellowship project involves planning a “road show” of protest performances at specific sites in Ithaca. 

Cristina Pérez Díaz is currently a Ph.D. student in the Classics program at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. She specializes in ancient drama, performance theory, and reception studies. She completed a Masters in Philosophy at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, in Mexico City. She has taken many theatre workshops with performers and companies from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Perú. Her play Western was developed from in the playwright workshop hosted by the theatre company Caborca, based in Brooklyn, as well as in a summer workshop given in 2014 by the Peruvian theatre company Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani, in Lima. Cristina’s Fellowship project involves staging performances of an updated version of Antigone to introduce audiences to ancient theater and demonstrating its relevance to contemporary debates around migration.

Nicole Gervasio is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her work explores the politics of representing traumatic absence and mass violence in literatures of the Global South, particularly questions concerning ethics, aesthetics, gender, resistance, sexuality, race, and terrorism. In addition, she is a poet and volunteer mentor with Girls Write Now, the only arts nonprofit dedicated to girls’ writing in New York City. She also has a B.A. in English and Growth & Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College and has been the recipient of Mellon Mays, Beinecke, and Javits Fellowships. During the Fellowship, Nicole will bring together high school students from diverse backgrounds for reading and writing workshops aimed at bridging divides between them.


Sarah Handley-Cousins is a doctoral candidate in American History at the University at Buffalo. Sarah’s work focuses on the Civil War era, veterans, disability, medicine, and gender. Her dissertation work explores the experiences of disabled Union veterans after the American Civil War. Sarah has written about Civil War veterans for The New York Times Disunion series, and serves as an editor and writer for the history blog Nursing Clio. Sarah, a native of Northern New York, holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Wells College and a master’s degree in Social Studies Education from Niagara University. Her plan for the Fellowship is to create a symposium and exhibit on the experiences of disabled veterans throughout U.S. history.  

Abigail Lapin is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at CUNY Graduate Center and a Graduate Teaching Fellow at City College, CUNY.  Her research focuses on ethno-religious and racial identity formations in twentieth century art of the Americas, with a concentration on the Dominican Republic and Brazil.  Recently, she received a fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum to study the work of contemporary Dominican American artists who re-evaluate Dominican blackness from a U.S. post-civil rights perspective.  As a Public Humanities Fellow, she will organize an exhibition and public programming exploring the cultural and historical links between the Dominican Republic and Haiti in New York-based contemporary art.

Allison Tyndall Locke is a doctoral candidate in English literature at Stony Brook University.  Her dissertation examines the political role of the common people in 16th- and 17th-century history plays.  She holds a B.A. from the University of Toledo and an M.A. from DePaul University.  Allison returned to school to pursue her Ph.D. after working for six years in service-learning programs in Chicago and Ohio, including a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA.  As a Public Humanities Fellow, she will engage university students in developing ESL resources to supplement Shakespearean plays for a high school in the Bronx.


Jesse Miller is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, where he studies literary modernism and the history of science and medicine. His dissertation examines the aesthetic, ethical, and biopolitical implications of the practice of bibliotherapy, in which reading is used to produce or maintain states of mental health, and locates its origins in middlebrow and modernist culture of the U.S. inter-war period. He is also reviews editor for the online literature and cultural magazine Full Stop ( Jesse’s Fellowship project will be to partner with medical institutions around Buffalo to hold bibliotherapy workshops for patients.


Lana Dee Povitz is a doctoral candidate in U.S. history at NYU. Her dissertation, A Taste of What It Takes: Food Activism in New York City, 1960s-1990s, explores the central role food has played in building and sustaining community across the city, whether through mothers monitoring school lunch programs in the South Bronx, volunteers in church kitchens turning out meals for people with AIDS, or young New Leftists establishing the Park Slope Food Coop. She is engaged in an array of contemporary social struggles, including those for peace, food justice, prison abolition, and queer and feminist movement. During her Fellowship, Lana aims to revive the practice of communities monitoring free summer meals for children in New York City.

Scarlett Rebman is a Ph.D. student in the history department at Syracuse University where she is specializing in modern American social and political history. She received her bachelor’s degree in history and education from Ohio Wesleyan University. Her research interests include the history of social movements; federal anti-poverty and civil rights policies; and the construction of race, gender, and citizenship. Her dissertation explores the intersection of grassroots activism and federal policies in Syracuse, New York between 1935 and 1970. With the Public Humanities Fellowship, she plans to design a curriculum on Syracuse civil rights history for high school students.

Alena Sauzade is a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University specializing in public art and commemoration. Her research focuses on government and community sponsored monuments as well as intentional and unintentional memorials in order to interrogate the various ways that memory functions in the public sphere. Her dissertation Witnesses to Terror: Nationhood and Trauma in Memorials to Victims of Terrorism focuses on memorials to victims of the September 11th, 2001 attacks in the United States and worldwide. It considers September 11th as a cultural trauma, and explores how the artifacts of the attacks, including World Trade Center steel and Pentagon limestone, have become important symbolic components in the composition of official and vernacular memorials. Alena’s public humanities project will generate an archived community dialogue on 9/11 memorials.

Download Fellows' bios here.