2018-2019 Truck Fellows
Dan KerrHumanities Truck Director | Associate Professor of History
MJ Rymsza-PawlowskaAssistant Professor of History
Benjamin StokesAssistant Professor School of Communication
Ludy GrandasSenior Professorial Lecturer at the Department of World Languages and Cultures
Adrienne PineAssociate Professor of Anthropology | Director, Health Inequity & Care Program
When he dreamed of being a truck driver as a child, Kerr never envisioned himself driving the Humanities Truck. But who knew how much fun that could be? Working alongside other visionaries at American University, Kerr, an associate professor of history at AU, spearheaded and now directs the Humanities Truck Project. He is an active community and oral historian committed to the democratization of knowledge production. Since his earliest work with the Cleveland Homeless History Project, he has sought out ways to bring the oral histories he has collected back to the communities they originated from. Through community workshops, participants in his projects have collectively reflected upon and interpreted the gathered stories. He is currently working on a project to document the past, present, and future of the Federal City Shelter in Washington, DC.
MJ Rymsza-Pawlowska grew up in D.C. and is thrilled to be living and working here! An assistant professor in AU’s Department of History, MJ is interested in popular history, form, and representation, MJ ‘s research asks how our understanding and portrayal of the past changes alongside larger cultural shifts. Her first book, History Comes Alive: Public History and Popular Culture in the 1970s was published in 2017, and she is currently in the beginning stages of a new project, tentatively called Burying Our Feelings about time capsules in the twentieth century. As Associate Director of the Grad Program in Public History, MJ’s interdisciplinary teaching and practice revolves around exhibition and interpretation—she is currently developing a Humanities Truck project called Community History Snapshots: students in her Public History Practicum will work with community partners to highlight the way that Washington’s built environment has been changing. MJ is also involved with DC’s local history community; she has written for Washington History magazine, and is on the Planning Committee of the 45th Annual DC History Conference.
Benjamin Stokes is a civic media scholar and designer at American University with the Game Lab and in the School of Communication (SOC). His designs for cities have introduced neighbors through play, and retold local history with rebuilt payphones. Previously, Benjamin co-founded Games for Change, the movement hub for advancing social change with games. Benjamin’s publications include research on participatory design, neighborhood storytelling, and urban mapping by bicycle.
Ludy Grandas is a senior professorial lecturer at the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Her teaching focuses primarily on nation and state formation in Latin America, Studies of Culture in Latin America, the Studies of Culture in Hispanic populations in the US, as well as Spanish Language. Her research interests include labor, immigrant labor, cultural studies as practiced in Latin America. For the last few years she has been collaborating with Trabajadores Unidos de Washington, DC, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower day laborers, low income workers as well as immigrant workers in DC. She has led two Community Based Learning Courses which connect AU students to these specific populations.
Adrienne Pine is a critical medical anthropologist who—despite a general aversion to cars—once drove a truck from Berkeley to Tegucigalpa. While most of her work has examined the embodied impacts of violent and racist U.S. policy abroad, she has recently shifted her focus dramatically to examine the embodied impacts of violent, racist U.S policy in the DMV. She is delighted to be on the Humanities Truck team.
Carmen BoltPhD student, History
Meghan DieckmannMA student, Public Anthropology
Jenna GoffMA student, Public History
Julie HawksDigital Strategist
Maren OrchardMA student, Public History
Kimberly OliverMA student, Public History
Carmen is a graduate student at American University pursuing her Ph.D. in History with a focus on public history and environmental history. She earned her BA and MA in History with a concentration in Public History from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. She comes to AU from William & Mary where she worked as Oral Historian for the past three years. Her research interests include oral history, public memory, and disaster studies, and she is particularly interested in how communities are impacted by and respond to disaster events. Carmen is passionate about finding ethical methods of holding space for individuals to share their stories and highlighting story as a tool for pursuing social justice. She believes that story is the ultimate means of telling a more complete history and is arguably the most valuable resource we have in understanding who and what and why we are. Working with the Humanities Truck provides the ideal opportunity to come alongside partners in the D.C. community, listen to their stories, and collaborate on how to amplify their collective voices in a meaningful and honoring way. She is most excited about learning from community members and most nervous about driving the truck whenever that day comes.
Meghan is a graduate student in the Public Anthropology MA program at American University. She graduated in June 2018 with a BS in Anthropology and Geography from California Polytechnic State University, SLO. Her undergraduate research capstone paper analyzed welfare policies in the United States and how these changing policies affect different demographics of women. Her research interests include the intersections of gender, race, and class – and she is excited to apply these interests to local issues in the DMV.
Jenna is pursuing her MA in Public History at American University. Her research interests include women’s history and local history, especially when used as a tool for community engagement. With a BA in English and French from Davidson College, Jenna believes in an interdisciplinary approach to engaging the past. She is thrilled to be working on the Humanities Truck, where she can get hands-on experience in involving a variety of communities with history and the humanities in the DMV.
Julie is a PhD candidate in twentieth-century history at American University where her research focuses on the politics of memory and identity, public commemoration, material culture, racism, gender studies. Her dissertation, among other topics, includes the instrumental work that educational traveling exhibitions performed during the early Cold War, a topic that segues nicely with the Humanities Truck.
Currently, Julie is developing the website and community archive for the Humanities Truck.
Maren is a graduate student at American University pursuing her MA in Public History. She earned her BA in Public History and Women & Gender Studies from Ball State University in her hometown of Muncie, IN. Her research interests include reproductive justice. Maren is passionate about finding creative ways to encourage dialogue within and between communities and underserved populations to reflect on issues of social justice. She believes that cultural institutions should initiate and provide space for these conversations while also encouraging them beyond the walls of the institution. Working with the Humanities Truck is an ideal experience because it provides her a hands-on opportunity to take the humanities into communities through community-based projects. She also has the chance to flex her organizational skills using a label-maker and creating color-coded guides.
Kimberly is a graduate student in the Public History program at American University. She received her BA in History and Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include public memory and community histories, particularly in the context of women’s and Southern history.