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Alumni

 

Graduates of the Cultural Studies program at Columbia have applied themselves in numerous and important ways. Our alumni have been accepted into prestigious graduate programs, seen their work published in academic journals, gotten jobs at community-changing organizations and nonprofits, and even landed jobs at Chicago’s Second City. Here is what some of our recent graduates are up to:

Joseph Hirsch '13
Joe has recently been accepted to the MA program in Sociology at The New School in New York City.

Danielle Coirier '12
Danielle is pursuing her MA in English Language and Literature at Central Michigan University.   

Rachel Kryzak '12
Rachel has been accepted to DePaul University's Master of Science program in Computer Game Design.

Connie Calice '11
Connie was selected for the 2011-12 Corps of Teach for America and served as an elementary school teacher in Kansas City's low-income communities. Connie has recently been accepted into the University of Minnesota, Wayne State University, as well as the University of Chicago for graduate studies in Social Work Administration.

Lisa Buer '10
Lisa has been accepted for Graduate Study at NYU's innovative Gallatin School, where she will be combining cultural critique with documentary film making.

Bailey Kelley '10
Bailey has been accepted to UIC's Department of Communications Masters Program, beginning her studies in the Fall of 2012. Her concentration will be in  Gender and Women's Studies.

Matthew McMunn '10
Matthew’s Capstone Thesis was “The Great Game of Scouting: ‘Orienting’ Imperial Masculine Subjectivities in the ‘School of the Woods.’” He is dancing for The Humans, a modern dance company in Chicago. They are engaged in creating an evening length work to be performed in December 2011. He has also begun an apprenticeship with a mime actor, accompanying him through Chicago, St. Louis, Arkansas, Houston, and Austin, and they will work on the technique by creating mime work. See the dance here.

Iveliz Orellano '10
Iveliz is currently attending John Marshall Law School, where she has been a teaching assistant and is currently a student ambassador. Now serving as the Chief Justice of the Moot Court Honors Program, Iveliz has also been involved with the Latino Law Students Association, Trial Advocacy Honors Council, and The John Marshall Law Review. She was recently awarded the Women's Bar Foundation Scholarship.

Laura Strait '10
Laura has recently accepted an offer to the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication to complete a Master's degree in the school's Communication and Society Program, beginning in the Fall of 2012. Laura was awarded a Graduate Teaching Fellowship for the entirety of the program


Katie Cooper '09
Katie divides her time between working as K-5 bilingual ESL teacher and organic farmer. She currently works in Chicago Public Schools as an ESL tutor. She travels to different elementary schools assisting English language learners with their class work and teaching them to read and write in English. She spends her summers working on an organic produce farm in Indiana and selling products at various Chicago farmers' market locations. She is currently also enjoying coaching high school students for the fine arts portion of Indiana Academic Super Bowl.

As an undergraduate, Katie worked with nonprofit groups in Latin America and served as an executive member of Columbia College's Latino Alliance. Her intersecting interests in Chicago's Latino community and the politics of food production led her to an internship with Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, in Humboldt Park, where she helped to facilitate a community gardening project.

She is currently thinking about pursuing graduate work related to nutrition and community development.

Devin Costello '09
Devin has been accepted to the graduate program in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City.


Samantha Gayle Hamlin '09
Following the completion of her senior capstone project entitled “'Everything I See, I Own': The Erotics of Empire, Imperial Photography, and Gendered Sexual Violence against Women at Abu Ghraib Prison," Samantha presented her work at the 2010 Cultural Studies Association Conference in Berkeley, California and won the first annual LAS Dean's award for Outstanding Capstone Thesis. In addition to her scholarly work, Sam has long been a dedicated to social movement organizing and is currently working a political activist in the Southwest.

Brittany Hayford '09
Brittany is an active member of the Chicago arts community, having previously served as the cofounder and co-curator of the Mustache Gallery in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. She is also currently contributing to the publication Jettison Quarterly. Her interests in small-scale community projects led her to co-direct a short documentary on backyard Chicken coops in Chicago and have propelled her interests in both independent brewing and localized beer production.

Nicole Huser '09
Nicole recently finished up a yearlong stint with Public Allies, a Chicago-based, nonprofit group that partners with Americorps to strengthen communities and train community leaders. As one of the “allies,” she spent the 2009-2010 academic year working with the After School Matters program in Chicago. In addition to being one of the first Cultural Studies majors to represent Columbia College in the UEL exchange program, Nicole founded the Cultural Collective and helped facilitate a re-use/recycled art project called the HomeAide Stand.

Terrell Isselhard '09
After graduating from the Cultural Studies program, Terrell began traveling though New Zealand and Vietnam writing a vivid travel blog. During his travels he has worked as a blueberry farmer and a night manager at a hostel. He spent several months hitchhiking around New Zealand, volunteering at an artist hostel where he did Web design in exchange for a bed, and then became scuba certified.

While in Vietnam, he saw Hue, Ho Chi Min, Hanoi, and Hoi Ann, where he scuba dived. He went up north to Sapa (where the hill tribes are) and hiked through the rice fields up in the mountains, drank rice wine, and stayed in a local home. After his lively travel blog, his writing continues with an upcoming piece, "The Pet Ship Tales: A Halfhearted Rejection of Existentialism," to be published in Columbia's fiction journal Hairtrigger. He recently completed a playwriting course at the Playwriter's Theater, and he has started a band in which he is singer and guitarist.

He is now planning applications for an MFA in creative writing. When asked about being a Columbia Cultural Studies alum, Terrell says, "I really value my degree and the education you all helped me get. It's made life sweeter."

Jennifer Spitler '09

Jennifer is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Jennifer wrote and successfully presented her Capstone Thesis, entitled, "Big Pharma and American Psychiatry: Constructing Insanity, Commodifying Wellness, and Psychiatric Slingers." Jennifer's thesis was also (one of the very few) selected to be presented at the 8th Annual Cultural Studies Association Conference, held at the University of California at Berkeley in March 2010.

John Thompson '09
John has been accepted for Graduate Study at the USC School of Social Work. John has also been a researcher at The Howard Brown Clinic. His Capstone Thesis, "Homo/genous Territories: Queer Youth and the Struggle for Public Space in Chicago's Boystown," received the LAS Dean's Award for Outstanding Cultural Studies Capstone Thesis in 2009. It was published in Cultural LandscapesVol. 1(3) 2009. In 2009, he presented his thesis at the Popular Cultural Association/American Cultural Association Conference in New Orleans.

Phil Bratta '08
Phil is currently a Rhetoric and Writing PhD student at Michigan State University in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. After graduating from Columbia, he taught EFL in Arequipa, Peru and ESL in San Diego. In May 2013, he completed a Master of Arts in English (focus in Rhetoric and Composition) at University of Florida. While at UF, he taught Technical and Professional Communication and First-Year Composition courses.

Phil's scholarly work deals with an interdisciplinary approach to rhetorics of activism, American discourses and narratives, visual rhetorics, community engagement, and digital writing. His most recent project explored the connections between rhetorical situations and ecologies, non-discursive rhetoric, affect, and social activism. His Capstone has been published in the Journal of American Culture (Sept. 2009) and Cultural Landscapes (Vol. 2, 2009). He has also presented at a number of conferences: Popular Culture Association & American Culture Association National Conference (April 2009, April 2011), Wealth + New Wealth Virtual Symposium (April 2009), Cultural Studies Association International Conference (May 2013), Conference on College Composition and Communication (March 2014), and Rhetoric Society of America (May 2014). For more information on Phil, please visit his website at www.philbratta.com.

Andrew Breen '08
Andrew is currently an English Teacher at Schurz High School in Logan Square of Chicago. He is also pursuing a Masters degree in Education and is excited about the prospects of pursuing work on pedagogy and public education.

Lindsey McClean '08

Lindsey’s Capstone Thesis was "Eat Me: Food Advertising and the Construction of Feminine Subjectivities in Contemporary American Culture.” While a Cultural Studies major, Lindsey served as the Managing Editor of the academic journal Cultural Landscapes, presented her thesis at the Popular Culture Association conference, and published her thesis in Cultural Landscapes.

She is currently living in LA and working toward a Master's degree in Library and Information Studies at UCLA. She is focusing her studies on information access to diverse communities as well as knowledge production and the intellectual history of the Information Studies/Sciences field. She also works at UCLA's Center for the Study of Women as an Editorial Assistant.

Erin Polley
'08
Erin is the Program Director of Indiana Peacebuilding American Friends Service Committee, where she coordinates education and advocacy work on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the state of Indiana. She also coordinates nationally, "Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of War,” a traveling memorial that honors the U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi and Afghan casualties killed in the wars. The exhibit features a pair of combat boots for each soldier and a collection of shoes representing civilian casualties. Erin also earned a minor in Black World Studies at Columbia.

Anita Simmons '08
Anita received a full scholarship to the Master's program in African-American Studies at Syracuse University in New York. Her Bachelor's Thesis, "Black Womanhood, Misogyny, and Hip-Hop Culture: A Feminist Intervention," was published in Cultural Landscapes in 2008. In 2009, Anita presented a paper entitled "The Nip/Tuck of Female Genital Mutilation" at the 33rd Annual New York African Studies Association (NYASA) Conference.

Gwen Butkus '07
Gwen's Capstone Thesis, "Food for Thought: Constructing a More Meaningful Meal in Schools" was published in Cultural Landscapes.

Charles Castle '07
Charles is the Assistant Dean in the School of Media Arts at Columbia College. His Capstone Thesis, "Whiteness in America" was published in Cultural Landscapes. He also teaches a course in Culture, Race, and Media at Columbia.

Alex DiGiacinto '07
Alex’s Capstone Thesis was “Creating the Digital Sandbox: Visions of the Human in Cyber Culture, Cyberspace and Science Fiction.” He presented his capstone thesis at the 3rd Global Conference at Mansfield College, Oxford, England. He is now a cast member of the Second City Chicago US Touring Company.

Kristin DeFrancisco '07
Kristin is currently an Elementary School Educator/Teacher in Wheeling, Illinois. She completed her Masters of Science in Education, with a concentration in Bilingual Education at Quincy University in 2011.

Rubina Diggs '07
Rubina attended graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Sarah Holderbaum '07
Sarah is currently enrolled at Roosevelt University as a graduate student studying Special Education. In conjunction with her studies, she is also a VOCAL member at Anixter Center, a community center committed to helping people with special needs, where she teaches small reading and computer skills classes, leads a book club, and writes regularly for the bi-monthly Literacy Ledger.

While at Columbia, Sarah was a member of the Cultural Studies Club. Before she joined AmeriCorps, Sarah worked at the American Friends Service Committee, a non-profit dedicated to world peace.

Spacialle Novak '07
Spacialle founded an artist's residency and lodging program in Costa Rica.

Danielle Ormond '07
Danielle accepted a teaching assistant position at the British School of Chicago.

Lora Koycheva '06
Lora received full five-year scholarship and a stipend to attend Northwestern’s Anthropology PhD program, which she began in Fall 2007. In addition, her Capstone Thesis was published in Cultural Landscapes.

Leigh Novak '06
Leigh's Capstone Thesis was entitled, "Starbucks in America." Interestingly, she now lives in Seattle and works at Starbuck's corporate headquarters as a representative overseeing 350 stores in 9 states. Leigh also wrote a weekly column for the Beachwood Reporter that was nominated for a Lisagor Award.

Michelle Okla '06
Michelle is currently the SES Program Manager at Midwest Educational Resources. She completed her Masters of Education at the College of Santa Fe in 2009. Michelle also holds Illinois and New Mexico teaching certifications, with endorsements in English/Language Arts and Health Education.

Brandon Vezmar '06
Brandon has been a Campaign Manager for Indiana Mayoral Candidate (D) Dennis Terry; a radio host at WJOB, and the Indiana Director of the Midwest Arts Advocacy Organization. More recently, he has worked in Washington, DC as a Clean Energy Fellow with Environment America, the environmental advocacy arm of the US Public Interest Research Groups.    

Meghan Finn '05
Meghan was accepted to the University of Chicago's Social Work Program in the Fall of 2007, receiving a 30% scholarship for her studies.

Brian Roberts '05
Brian is a Case Manager and Mentor for young homeless men at The Night Ministry, LLC, an open door shelter located in Chicago.                                                                                                                      
Evelyn Kida '04
Evelyn joined Daley, DeBofsky & Bryant, a Chicago law firm devoted to Disability Law and Employment Rights as Head Office Manager in 2009. She is currently working on her Master's thesis at Roosevelt University. Prior to joining Daley, DeBofsky & Bryant, Evelyn worked with a professional performing arts company.                           

Jennifer VanderPloeg '04
Jennifer is currently the Medical and Legal Advocate at YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. Prior to this position, Jennifer served as a Reproductive Health Assistant III at Planned Parenthood Chicago (2004-2007). She completed her MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture at the University of Manchester in 2008. In her dissertation, entitled "Grrrls, Grrrls, Grrrls: New Burlesque Tangos with Feminism," Jennifer argues that New Burlesque as a subculture has the potential to actualize specific feminist objectives such as: subverting the 'beauty myth,' progressing the politic of size acceptance or fat acceptance, creating a female/feminist gaze, and creating or etching out a female space.

Jennifer is a member of the Chicago Foundation for Women and the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Young Women and Girls.