At the senior reception, each member of the graduating class of 2021 was toasted by a member of the American Studies faculty. Below are some photos from that event, as well as the toasts for each graduate.
by Prof. Mark Villegas
I have had the privilege of teaching Brianna in my classes since her first year. She has taken three of my classes and in each one she has been an integral and necessary part of the intellectual community of our classroom. No doubt, even in her early years at F&M, Brianna’s acute reading and writing was at maximum level.
Now a graduating senior, she exemplifies someone who has achieved all the best outcomes we would want from an American Studies major and a soon-to-be F&M alum. Just the other week she quite eloquently and concisely narrated her understanding of the complexities of racial construction as they threaded throughout all of my courses. I was not shocked by her perceptiveness, but I was impressed and quite proud. Brianna is an expert!
I, along with my colleagues, will miss her perceptive mind and her important voice. Cheers!
by Prof. Dennis Deslippe
Congratulations to Mackenzie Blackwell for her stellar work in AMS. She was a stand-out in Professor Kibler’s CNX class—“Rights and Representations.” It’s been a treat to have her in AMS 320 (my U.S. women’s history course in 2019) and then--just this semester--in AMS 350.
The most remarkable thing about her many contributions to these courses is her infectious enthusiasm. In AMS 320, for example, Mackenzie’s stories about her grandmother’s experiences as a flight attendant made our class discussion about Kathleen Barry’s Femininity in Flight an especially lively one. Her senior seminar podcast, on the intersection of free speech and conspiracy theories, using the Sandy Hook conspiracy defamation cases as a case study, demonstrates her keen abilities to connect scholarly matters with pressing social issues.
Mackenzie has been an active campus member beyond AMS. She is a committed mentor and group leader in “Squash Aces”; in addition, she has contributed to F&M’s Barometer for Gay Rights and served as co-president for S.I.S.T.E.R.S. (among other organizations and causes).
Mackenzie, I’ll miss chatting with you about our Detroit-area roots. I know that, whatever your future endeavors, you will remain an engaged citizen. Best of luck with your future plans.
by Prof. Alison Kibler
Originally from Connecticut, Allie is a Math and AMS major, who has also served as chapter president of Alpha Delta Pi. I first met her in AMS 100, where she did a great job in the role-playing games of Reacting to the Past. She was a farmer and newspaper editor during the American revolution (this was an indeterminate role) and, as a football player in the Title IX game, she tried to stop any cuts to football to meet gender equity goals. Her final podcast assignment in the senior seminar was a beautifully-written analysis of the catch-22 in national parks policy—the tension between preservation and human experience/access.
She is headed to a prestigious graduate program in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. Congratulations, Allie, and good luck!
by Prof. Alison Kibler
I first met Chris on a Zoom advising call. He was in Milwaukee at his job at the Legal Aid Society. One of the first things he told me was how he used his research skills and knowledge from AMS 350 at this internship; and then how impressed his bosses were with “American Studies.”
Chris worked with Noah in a two-part podcast about F&M’s relationship with slavery. He scoured the college’s archives and read everything he could get his hands on about this topic. He and Noah narrated each podcast but Chris focused more on F&M in the period around the civil war. He wrote about the college’s “abolition riot” and uncovered the fraught relationship between students, administrators and the board member (and US President), James Buchanan, who sympathized with the South. He wrote, “Many students opposed Buchanan’s policies and fought for his termination as President of the board. While they did finally achieve this in 1865, the Administration was not unanimously supportive of the idea…This continues with the theme of F&M’s administration being on a different page than that of their students, and deciding to put their own interests, perhaps, before the student.”
He’s also contributed to the college through various roles in the athletic department, including as assistant to the Athletic director and, continuing an AMS tradition, in Athletic Communications. Chris is headed to law school and will have a great career in the law!
by Prof. Alison Kibler
I’ve been the advisor for Anna Goorevich and Elena Robustelli for their honors theses all year. Anna first came to my office to talk about her ideas for her honors thesis several years ago. I listened patiently and then said something like, “Wait, are you even a rising senior?” No, she was a sophomore, planning ahead! Really far ahead. The topic she had in mind then changed a fair bit by the time she started her honors project, but she retained her focus on gender and sports, which she knows first hand as a member of the women’s soccer team on campus. Her thesis, which she defended successfully, is about Anson Dorrance (UNC women’s soccer head coach), gender and coaching.
One thing, among many things, that amazed me about her work is that she will call up any expert—scholar, coach, administrator—and ask to meet with them about her project. They usually say yes, give her useful information, then offer her an internship or a job.
In the senior seminar she undertook a different project, a history of Frank Mt. Pleasant, a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation, who was the athletic director and football coach at F&M for a year, from 1910-1911. This project grew into an innovative travelling campus display the last week of classes.
She’s the first F&M student to receive a Fulbright at Fulbright University of Stirling (Scotland) Award in Health, Well-Being and Sport, for a Master's degree. We know you will have great adventures next year in Scotland!
by Prof. Mark Villegas
I was fortunate enough to have Morelia in two of my classes. She represents the best qualities of this generation of students: passionate, razor-sharp, curious, and strong-willed. Any professor who has had the privilege of teaching Morelia quickly understood she brings a cogent intersectional analysis. For her, the world is not comprised of only one vector of power but of important multitudes, including disability status, access, and representations. She makes an urgent appeal to better understand our world and to change it for the better. Morelia is a prophet of some sorts. In Spring 2019, she interviewed several students on campus about feelings of belonging at F&M campus and the significance of a relevant curriculum for marginalized communities. It was as if she anticipated the large-scale calls for campus change. Her project preceded and even predicted the campus climate survey conducted later that same year. Let’s all be wiser because of Morelia’s wisdom. She is already an agent of change here and will also be in her communities and in the world. Cheers!
by Prof. Greg Kaliss
When J Knight is in your class, you know that things are going to go well. That’s because Justin is always prepared and always engaged—he brings energy and thoughtfulness to every class meeting. That was true in all three classes he took with me this past year: American Landscapes, The Longer History of Civil Rights in J Term, and Race and Gender in American Sports. J Knight always took class seriously—he unpacked complicated arguments from readings and used them to ask hard questions.
From our Civil Rights course, I’ll always remember how thoughtful he was in identifying the particular burdens faced by black women—and in articulating how that inspired them to become the leading figures in the quest for African American equality. In my sports class, Justin brought his interest and experience from playing football, but he didn’t let that enthusiasm cloud his ability to be critical. No matter the class, Justin was a great classmate, too: he responded to other people’s ideas with enthusiasm and support. If someone disagreed, he listened and continued the conversation. And he always brought in connections—from previous class sessions, from Professor Deslippe’s American Masculinities class, from other courses he was taking—that deepened our understanding of the big issues. And all of this while being a remote student. Imagine what it would have been like if we call could have been in the same room! Given his work ethic, his passion, his intelligence, and his camaraderie, I know that he will do great things in the future.
by Prof. Cristina Perez
Justin is an excellent critical thinker, always asking thoughtful questions and making smart comments, ensuring everyone walked away from class meetings with a better understanding of tough material. Still, what impresses me most about Justin is the way he engaged each class discussion, each small group activity.
He consistently demonstrated his willingness to learn while teaching, respectfully supporting younger scholars as they worked through new and complex concepts from intersectionality to racialization. In these interactions it became clear that Justin is not interested in learning just for himself but in the service of building more equitable and just communities. To that end, I am most excited to watch as Justin continues to put his impressive academic skills to use building better communities wherever he ends up.
by Prof. Alison Kibler
Audrey is a joint major in AMS and creative writing. She is a knowledgeable music fan, according to professor Deslippe, who recalls informative and entertaining conversations with her about punk music in the 1990s. He thinks he also taught her about underground music from the 1970s!
She won the Jerome Bank prize in 2020, with her essay, “Indiana, Hotter.” Her podcast script for the senior seminar was beautifully written. It was a study of social media influencers. She wrote that her overarching goal of this investigation was to reveal to consumers and social media users how they are being “influenced”—how influencer marketing is affecting their spending habits, mental health, what they are actually buying into.
“Consumers have a right to have the answers to questions: who am I being influenced by? What companies are targeting me? What are the ethical implications of influencer marketing?” We appreciate your creativity and analytical skills, Audrey!
by Prof. Alison Kibler
Ryan is an AMS major from New York, who has focused on film and media, inside and outside of the major. He’s taken classes in film studies, production, and acting.
In the Senior Seminar, he studied how two newspapers covered York’s violent racial uprising of 1969. He wrote, “I will reveal how the media helped to construct a sympathetic narrative towards the experiences of its white citizens, while downplaying the severe mistreatment of its black citizens. By examining York’s newspapers, it will become apparent that there was a divided media response to the local uprisings.”
Ryan was particular skillful in creating engaging audio for his podcast. For example, the York uprising was partly a response to police use of dogs on Black citizens. To underscore this abuse, his podcast included the perfect interlude of barking dogs. I remember everyone in the seminar being amazed at the professional quality of his podcast.
He’s also contributed a lot to F&M as a tour guide. Congratulations, Ryan!
by Prof. Daniel Frick
James, if there is only one word to describe you as a student, it’s enthusiastic. I don’t often get emails from students before they have attended their first class at F&M. But I remember that I got one from you. I went to look for it the other day—and found it: #1 of 1,499.
…And you brought that enthusiasm to bear in each one of the four classes that you took with me—CNX 104 (with Chris, Noah, and Elisabeth), AMS 234 (with Mackenzie and Bette), AMS 381, and AMS 303 (with Mackenzie). One during each academic year of your F&M career.
From the start, your love of historical detail stood out. Your CNX 104 Time Capsule presentation on February 21, 1972, the day Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing put Act 1 of John Adams’ Nixon in China into context for your classmates. You dug into the archives to find the primetime schedule for that night so that we could see that, as the geopolitical world was being turned upside down, those watching television in the U.S. that night were being fed a fairly bland diet of Gunsmoke, Here’s Lucy, Sonny & Cher, and a no longer cool Laugh-In. (Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” was mid-way through its 4-week reign as the #1 Billboard song. Dirty Harry was #1 at the box office.)
What I admire about your approach to writing was that you embraced the idea that to do your best work, you would have to write, and re-write, and revise some more. Over four years here, you brought your work to the Writing Center 56 times and to my office hours more times than I count. If you want to see the difference four years makes, go back and look at your writing from the beginning of CNX 104. Compare it to your Senior Seminar project on the changing constructions of presidential masculinity from Reagan to Trump, which opened with the immortal words of those late-1970s troubadours, The Village People: “Macho, macho man. I want to be a macho man.” In opening with a reference to this disco anthem and its use by Alec Baldwin as Trump in a post-election SNL sketch, there’s a playfulness and chance-taking that makes all the difference. As Professor Kibler said to me, “That’s gold, right there!”
And maybe the most important lesson: this past four years has also brought the discovery that sometimes our enthusiasms change. I think in the fall of 2017 both of us would have made what we thought were rock-solid predictions about what you would be doing post-F&M. It takes courage to change course and try something new, and I wish you nothing but the best as you embark on your Pre-Health core studies post-bacc program next year exploring a different model of how to be of service to others.Thank you, James, for sharing your enthusiasms with me. It truly has been a great four years!
by Prof. Dennis Deslippe
It was wonderful to have Matt as a student in my AMS 350 course last spring because he had many of the qualities we hope for in our students, chief among them a curiosity and openness to new ideas. His podcast project in the senior seminar was a study of how different media outlets covered political protests about police violence in LA and Minneapolis. He was interested in the political perspective of alternative media outlets and emphasized the “moral obligation” of the media to produce non-biased coverage.
Matt has accrued quite a record at F&M. In addition to starring on the men’s basketball team he has coaches a fourth grade basketball team and serves as a volunteer at Benchmark, a Lancaster gym for at-risk youth. Congratulations, Matt!
by Prof. Mark Villegas
I at first struggled to think about an opening line for Elena’s toast. I decided to describe Elena as “down for the cause.” She is not only a high-performing and gifted student, she is also driven by meaningful purpose and social change, all to the tune of a good soundtrack. Elena took my course on hip hop and then completed a directed reading/summer internship at Warner Music Group in New York. She is plugged into this generation’s newest music, so her graduating will be my loss because she had been my link to what’s cool nowadays. Elena’s critical interpretations of music and American culture serve as a model of the spirit of the American Studies discipline. Me nor my colleagues have no worries about Elena’s flourishing and thriving after college. Her talents, strident voice, and sharp mind was evident to all of us these past few years. What a gem Elena will be to the world beyond this campus. Cheers!
by Prof. Alison Kibler
Elisabeth was a joint major in AMS and Public Policy. This dual focus, as well as her coursework in America Eats and The Urban Experience, were the basis of her senior seminar project--a study of how Lancaster’s Central Market created a somewhat exclusive community. She asked: “What type of person feels comfortable at Central Market? who has a stand at Central Market and how so many great businesses in Lancaster City do not have representation in this vendor space. I also examined my positionality; since I am a white, upper class, college-educated woman, do I feel more comfortable in this space than someone of a different race or socioeconomic class?”
With Anna, Elisabeth was a summer scholar for David Schuyler, his last group of summer researchers before he died. They scoured microfilm for essays about the history of Lancaster city for David’s new project and she and Anna gave a moving tribute to David at his memorial service, where they recalled David singing Pete Seeger songs in class one day. She graduated early and is currently working at the Urban Land Institute, in Massachusetts.
We are very proud of you!
by Prof. Daniel Frick
I’m so happy that Elisabeth and Davis (the potential AMS recruit who got away) convinced you to sign up for CNX 251: 9/11 in Cultural Memory. I’m even happier that your experiences with that remarkable group of students encouraged you to become an AMS/ENG (CW) double major.
That point of view was apparent from the first in “9/11 in Cultural Memory.” You displayed an exceptional talent for critical reading, creating sophisticated, detailed interpretations of texts. Many students don’t understand the value of close attention to the small moments: how, for instance, a single word choice helps build a broader, significant theme. (Some writers never learn that!) You seemed to know this fact instinctually.
You live for the second, the third, and even the fourth drafts. With that CNX essay, I remember that, after having submitted two drafts, you took the option to revise one more time, when most in the class just wanted to move on, because you weren’t satisfied that you were expressing all that you trying to say as clearly as you could. Not surprisingly, your senior seminar podcast script followed the same pattern. Prof. Kibler told me that “Bette's progress from her rough draft was one of the most profound transformations of a draft that I have seen; she basically transformed her knowledge of [F&M’s 2019] Halloween costume incident and the First Amendment. Truly impressive.”
Remarkably, from the start, you wrote with a strongly personal voice. You take pride in crafting prose that proved rigorous academic writing really can be fun to read. Your semester essay for “American Enemies”—a detailed reading of cultural constructions of the enemy in The Manchurian Candidate and Zero Dark Thirty—knew to grab its readers from the first sentences: “The enemy is coming. We may not be sure who it is, where it lurks, or even the scope of its ominous reach, but we know, deep in our bones, that it is here–and it will destroy everything.” And, for the record, Bette, you had me at “the enemy is coming.”
Most important of all, you have shown a commitment to share your knowledge and skills with the F&M community. I could go off on an entirely different toast here, so let me just note that your work as my preceptor (during which you offered double the number of expected office hours) and then as a tutor at the Writing Center—both exemplify an admirable belief that individuals should seek out ways to contribute to the greater good.
With your array of talents, Bette, it’s no surprise that you plan to make a life as a writer. I can’t wait to read that first screenplay.
by Prof. Alison Kibler
Originally from New Jersey, Noah is a joint major in BOS and AMS. Last summer he had a successful internship in finance, at Oppenheimer and Co. In AMS he’s done excellent work on the history of slavery, particularly the college’s relationship to slavery. With Chris Eckhardt, he created a two-part podcast about F&M’s ties to slavery. This podcast showed how F&M founders, Benjamin Franklin, John Marshall, and Benjamin Rush, all had personal dealings with slavery, though they also took abolitionist positions at different points in their lives. On this point, Noah and Chris explained that being an abolitionist in the 18th century could have a much different meaning that it did in the 19th century. You could be a slave-owner and an abolitionist; you could believe in the gradual abolition of slavery.
As Noah noted in the podcast, abolition became part of these founders’ legacies without this important contextualization. He concluded, “By bringing this information forwards, F&M can reckon with its past, and ensure its current and past professors, students, and faculty are aware of this history. By doing this, we can grow, and we can continue this conversation on systematic inequality moving forwards.”
Noah was often part of some spirited disagreements on Canvas discussion threads and in class. I remember one discussion in particular, where I asked people to pick one of the methods for rationing health care, discussed in a podcast about “Playing God.” Noah wrote: “There is no question that option 2 – picking those who would be most helpful during the pandemic – is the proper choice.”
Elena posted, “Noah, I respectfully disagree with your form of utilitarianism based on profession.” Anna and Bette agreed with Elena in their posts. Then the plot thickened. Noah replied to Elena’s post: “While I think your points are valid and well-constructed, I respectfully disagree with you.” At this point, Chris backed Noah: “I also defend the second option—to save those “who will be the most helpful during the pandemic”—which Sheri Fink describes as “first responders, healthcare providers, vaccine workers,” and so forth (Playing God).” This was a great debate, that carried over into class time. Thank you for your engagement and your willingness to respectfully disagree!
American Studies Award Winners
The J. Fred and Nancy B. Sener Prize for American Studies:
Honors in American Studies
Anna Goorevich, "'Just Different': Anson Dorrance, Gender and Athletic Coaching"
Elena Robustelli (AMS/Judaic Studies), "The Schlemiel as Viral Hip-Hop Star: Lil Dicky's Jewish Flow"
Epsilon Alpha Kappa American Studies Honor Society
When F&M celebrated 50 years of co-education in 2019, Brianna Adams ’21 found herself wondering, “What was the experience like for Black women?” With little to no information documented, Adams dove...Read More
Mackenzie Blackwell ’21 wants to “give a voice to people who slip through the cracks.” Discover how financial aid opened doors and supported her dream of pursuing judicial activism, rights-oriented...Read More