Meet our Outstanding Spring 2020 MA and PhD Graduates

Exterior of CHASS' Withers Hall.

We would like to congratulate our History MA and Public History MA graduates as well as our first ever Public History PhD 2020 graduate. We wish them the best of luck as they go out into this strange, new world.

Public History PhD graduates

Cheryl Dong

Cheryl Dong, our first ever Public History PhD graduate’s, dissertation “Why Don’t You Die for the People? Memory and Martyrdom in the Black Panther Party,” radically reconsiders the role of violence within the Black Panther Party.  Her dissertation shows that the Panthers used the violence launched against them by state forces to reshape the narrative around black criminality, policing, and social justice.  In publicly performing suffering and death, the Panthers launched a blistering critique of the invisible forces of state violence that contributed to black inequality in America. The Black Panthers’ activism has continued to shape how modern movements like Black Lives Matter have continued to deal with issues of social justice, particularly in the way they commemorate victims of police brutality. Cheryl Dong has also collaborated with various public history organizations in the Triangle on physical and online exhibits. Her collaborations include work with the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, the Durham History Hub, and the Digital Innovation Lab at UNC Chapel Hill.  She has accepted a job as Assistant Professor of Public History at the University of Northern Iowa for the Fall of 2020 and is excited to start work as director of their Public History program.

History MA graduates

Farris Smith’s thesis, “Nothing Short of Revolution’: Black Power on North Carolina’s College Campuses” offers the first comparative analysis of Black Power era student activism on Historically Black College and University campuses in the state and examines Black campus activists’ efforts at predominantly white institutions. It also considers how these campaigns coincided with a decade-long battle over desegregating higher education between the federal government and University of North Carolina system leaders during the consolidation of the UNC system. Members of her thesis committee awarded Farris’s work distinction due to its ambitious scope and revelatory insights. Farris now plans to pursue a Ph.D. in History.

Tim Beelen’s thesis is on the 44 volume British Universal History published during the eighteenth century. Tim examines the conceptual framework of this massive work, distinguishing it from previous Providential histories, and carefully elucidating the implicit standards — especially science and commerce — that were assumed by the authors to characterize “progress” and “civilization.”

Crystal Louramore-Kirsanova’s thesis “Ta[r]tar[us]: The Russian Construction of the Medieval Mongol Image” re-evaluates Russia’s medieval Mongol rulers, known as the Golden Horde. Her thesis contributes to a new historical approach which critiques the ethno-national framework of traditionalist Russian historians. Crystal has been offered a position next year as an adjunct professor of history at her alma mater, Chowan University. She plans in the future to apply to PhD programs in medieval Russian history.

Sharon Zhang

Zhan (Sharon) Zhang’s thesis looks into the European missionaries’ visits to the Mongol-Yuan China during the thirteenth and the fourteenth century. After graduation, Sharon will continue her research about the Mongol-Yuan history in the History Ph.D. program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Jay Butler

Jay Butler’s thesis, “Monastic Revival in France 1815-1848: The Trappistines of Notre-Dame des Gardes and the Trappists of Melleray” examines the restoration of a Catholic monastic religious order in 19th-century France. The thesis is a serious contribution to our understanding of a religious revival in France in the years after the French Revolution and of 19th-century French cultural history. It has already resulted in 2 publications in professional journals with a 3rd forthcoming. Jay plans to continue his work on this topic as an independent scholar over the next two years as he finishes up his law career.

Public History MA graduates

Andre Taylor

Andre Taylor was the first history student awarded the Global Change Fellowship which facilitated his oral history research on climate change in South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee community. He also held a City of Raleigh research assistantship during his time at NC State. He aspires to become an oral historian at an educational institution or historic site.

Taylor Wolford completed her internship at the NC State Archives where she worked with the oral historian transcribing, editing and researching oral histories of influential North Carolina women for the “She Changed the World: NC Women Breaking Barriers” campaign in honor of the upcoming anniversary of the 19th amendment. Taylor will continue her studies in the Masters of Information and Library Science degree program at UNC Chapel Hill.

Ashley Parker completed her internship at the City of Raleigh Historic Resources and Museum where she catalogued and accessioned artifacts within the Dorothea Dix Collection and worked with artist Tift Merritt on an exhibit and about the emotional history of mental healthcare in North Carolina through the lens of Cherry Hospital.

Jordan Scott completed her internship at the Pope House Museum where she developed recommendations on the interpretation of the house’s history using oral histories and archival research.

Victoria Haas completed her internship at City of Raleigh Museum where her duties included accessioning, photographing, and cataloguing 19th and 20th-century artifacts and books. She is currently applying to jobs, as she continues to work at the Government & Heritage Library of the State Library of North Carolina.

Grace Parker completed her internship at the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire where she helped create an oral history project for the Village,co-designed family friendly programming and completed a promotional video for their website. She will enter the doctoral program in American History at Temple University this fall.

Kelsey Horn completed her internship at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center in Cary North Carolina where she processed collections loaned and donated to the center. Her interests in family history, dark tourism, and collections management and her engaging enthusiasm make her a well-rounded public historian who will make important contributions to history and diverse publics in her future careers. Her future plans include working at the family logging business and obtaining a position in collections.

Nathan Sperry

Nathan Sperry completed his internship at the North Carolina State AFL-CIO where he was responsible for the coordination and exhibition of their Labor History Exhibit. He hopes to pursue a career in public history or public policy either here in the Triangle or elsewhere, preferably Boston, MA or Washington, DC.

Faith Reed completed her internship at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences where her duties included transcribing field journals and mining genomes and creating phylogenetic trees. She is currently employed as an educator at Oak View County Park in Raleigh.


Laura Lethers completed her internship at the National Park Service in DC where she was tasked with developing, testing and implementing protocol for online document accessibility for people with disabilities. She is  currently in the dual degree program, and will continue her studies in the  School of Library Science at UNC Chapel Hill with a concentration in Archives and Records Management.

Kelly Scott

Kelly Scott completed her internship at Plimoth Plantation as a museum educator where she helped implement and oversee multiple summer camps. In her role, she created family guides and scavenger hunts as well as a lesson plan for interpreting 17th century women. Post-graduation, Kelly will continue her work as a Museum Educator at Mordecai Historic Park.

Jessica Nycz completed her internship in the summer of 2019 at the Museum of Durham History where she developed interpretative materials for young people including information about the Duke Lemur Center, engaged with visitors and institutional partners, and learned about intersections between public history and the natural sciences.


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