The DC Humanities Truck Fellows include a multi-disciplinary array of scholars, both faculty and graduate students, who are committed to the practice of community-based research.   The Truck Fellows are committed to an ethically grounded, collaborative research process as they engage communities in the DC metropolitan region.  The truck project creates an exciting tool that draws these Fellows together to engage in deeper dialogue with one another in order to help enhance each other’s practice.

2021-2022 Truck Fellows
Martinique C. G. Free

Martinique C. G. Free

Director of the Public Health Scholars Program

Martinique Free began community engagement work in her early years and her passion grew from those experiences into community based participatory research while working with the HIV community in Pittsburgh, PA. In addition to the Humanities Truck project centered on Black Women’s health, her recent work involves the development of community-based interventions to decrease HIV perinatal transmission and empowering communities using a “bottom-up” stabilization strategy to alleviate poverty in the Manafwa District of Uganda. Dr. Free’s other areas of interest include health disparities, reproductive justice and women’s health in minority populations, health equity, and understanding cultural relevance as it relates to health promotion and disease prevention. An important component of her teaching responsibilities at American University involves developing courses or incorporating a component centered around community-based learning and in some cases, community engaged research for the Department of Health Studies

Morgan Carroll

Morgan Carroll

MA Student, Public Anthropology

Morgan Carroll is a second-year graduate student in Public Anthropology. They received their bachelors in psychology from Sewanee: The University of the South and a masters in social work from the University of South Carolina. Her academic interests include the anthropology of food, especially in Queer and Appalachian Communities. They currently study food literacy and food waste in Washington, DC, focusing on the ways in which current food waste and food literacy interventions uphold white supremacist and capitalist narratives and erase the humanity in daily food practices.

Sherrell Daley

Sherrell Daley

MA Student, Public History

Sherrell Daley is from Brooklyn, New York, and received her BA in History with a minor in Theatre from Allegheny College. During her time in Allegheny, Sherrell was a member of the Global Citizens Scholars Program and a student intern at the Lawrence Lee Pelletier Library Archives. After graduating, she volunteered at the Museum of the City of New York. Sherrell is currently a graduate fellow for the Humanities Truck. Her academic interests include urban history, women’s history, museum education and curatorial studies. Outside the classroom, Sherrell enjoys traveling, and hanging out with friends.

Melissa Hawkins

Melissa Hawkins

Sr. Professorial Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Programs for Department of Health Studies

Melissa Hawkins is a 15 year resident of DC and an epidemiologist with an interest in translating data to improve community health. Her current research focuses on community-based interventions to reduce chronic conditions, with particular interest in the integration of community health workers (CHWs) to bridge the gap between communities and access to health care services. Recent work has examined the role of CHWs in community-based teams and the effectiveness of CHWs as change agents in improving health equity. She serves as the research director for Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 intervention study, a 5-year USDA-funded project, to improve nutrition literacy and prevent obesity among elementary school children in Wards 7 and 8 in DC.

Ludy Grandas

Ludy Grandas

Senior Professorial Lecturer at the Department of World Languages and Cultures

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 the Latin American day laborer community in Washington, DC. She has led Community Based Learning Courses which connect AU students to these specific populations.

Jeffrey Madison

Jeffrey Madison

Director of Technology Services School of Communication | Co-Founder of The Climate

Jeffrey Madison, Director of Technology Services for AUSOC, and an adjunct in SOE. Jeffrey is also co-founder of The Climate, Inc. (http://www.theclimate.org) and producer/anchor of its signature program, “The Climate Daily” podcast. Its mission is to highlight positive action climate change news, amplifying diverse and inclusive climate reporting by BIPOC and ADA subject matter experts on crucial Climate Crisis issues. He graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in both Afro-American Studies and Visual & Environmental Studies.

Aram Sinnreich

Aram Sinnreich

Chair of Communication Studies

Dr. Aram Sinnreich is a media professor, author, and musician. He currently serves as chair of Communication Studies at American University’s School of Communication. Sinnreich’s work focuses on the intersection of culture, law and technology, with an emphasis on subjects such as emerging media and music. He is the author of several books, including Mashed Up (2010), The Piracy Crusade (2013), The Essential Guide to Intellectual Property (2019), and The Secret Life of Data (forthcoming, MIT Press). He has also written for publications including The New York Times, Billboard, Wired, Salon, and The Daily Beast. As a bassist and composer, Sinnreich has played with groups and artists including reggae soul band Dubistry, jazz and R&B band Brave New Girl, acoustic duo Dunia & Aram, post-punk icon Vivien Goldman, hard bop trio The Rooftoppers, UK ska collective The Specialized Project, and Ari-Up, lead singer of legendary punk band The Slits. Sinnreich was a finalist in the 2014 John Lennon Songwriting Contest (with co-authors Dunia Best and Todd Nocera), and a semifinalist in the 2020 Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Awards.

LJ Sislen

LJ Sislen

MA Graduate, Public Anthropology

LJ (they/she) graduated in the Fall of 2021 with their MA in Public Anthropology and Health Inequity and Care Certification (HIC). Their research examines how power dynamics, social determinants of health, policy, and ideology impact drug use, treatment, and recovery narratives, thus impacting forms of and access to care, health, and well-being. Emphasis on community responses and individuals’ lived experiences is core to their projects. During undergraduate at American University, LJ examined the experiences and history of people who use drugs in America, including an ethnographic approach to understanding the roles of social narratives and embodiment of recovery from harmful drug use in sober living homes. In 2019, Laura was also involved in the organization and programming of a large annual community health conference; their responsibilities included speaker selection and the development of novel workshop formats and topics. They are currently a harm reduction volunteer, chaotic supporter of #DecrimPovertyDC, and admirer of tea, herbs, and plants.

Rachel Watkins

Rachel Watkins

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Rachel Watkins is an associate professor of anthropology at American University. Her work focuses on African American biohistory and social history, histories of US biological anthropology and Black feminist critiques of science. Based on her involvement in the New York African Burial Ground project, she consults with agencies and works with communities to support descendant-community driven historic preservation and interpretation. Her partnership with the Sandy Spring Slave Museum is connected to this work.

2019-2021 Truck Fellows
Mary Ellen Curtin

Mary Ellen Curtin

Director of American Studies

Mary Ellen Curtin has a Ph.d from Duke University and is a historian of modern African American and women’s social and political history. Her first book Black Prisoners and Their World documented the experiences of black convict laborers in the South after emancipation. Her next book on the life of Barbara Jordan, the first first black woman from the South elected to Congress, will be published with the University of Pennsylvania Press. Her review article on recent books in prison history will appear in the upcoming edition of the journal Labor and she also has an article in a new anthology entitled The Problem of Punishment. She worked as a consultant, and was interviewed for, the upcoming (Spring 2012) PBS documentary Slavery by Another Name, a history of African Americans and forced labor in the South.

Ludy Grandas

Ludy Grandas

Senior Professorial Lecturer at the Department of World Languages and Cultures

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 the Latin American day laborer community in Washington, DC. She has led Community Based Learning Courses which connect AU students to these specific populations.

David Ramos

David Ramos

Professorial Lecturer in Graphic Design at the Department of Art

David Ramos is a designer, developer, and design educator based in Washington, D.C. He teaches in the graphic design program at American University and co-organizes Knowledge Commons DC. His research and creative practice looks at using products of design—maps, interactive systems, images, and in-person events—to help us imagine landscapes past, present, and future. David holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Benjamin Stokes

Benjamin Stokes

Assistant Professor, School of Communication

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.

Learn more about Benjamin from his website and follow @bgstokes.

Laura Waters Hinson

Laura Waters Hinson

Assistant Professor of Film | Director, Community Voice Project

Laura Waters Hinson is an award-winning filmmaker and Assistant Professor in the Film and Media Arts Division of the School of Communication. Laura serves as the division’s social impact coordinator and director of the Community Voice Project. Her first feature documentary, As We Forgive, about Rwanda’s reconciliation movement, won the 2008 student Academy Award for best documentary, the Cinema for Peace Award in Berlin, and was broadcast nationally on public television. Since 2009, Laura’s films have been screened at the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art and at dozens of international film festivals such as the Santa Barbara International Film Fest, Austin Film Fest, Seattle Human Rights Film Fest, Manchester International Film Fest, among many others. Her latest documentary, Mama Rwanda, is about the new generation of women entrepreneurs in Rwanda transforming their nation after genocide and was supported by the National Geographic All Roads Film Project. She partnered with the Akilah Institute for Women, using the film to promote women’s education in East Africa and beyond. Laura is passionate about stories of hope coming out of seemingly hopeless places, and her work is dedicated to giving voice to those not often heard. Most recently, Laura directed her first narrative short called Moving Violation, which starred Milana Vayntrub and won Best Narrative Short at the DC Independent Film Festival. During the Spring of 2019, Laura served as the director’s shadow on the set of Showtime’s Homeland. Prior to this, she spent SY 2019/2019 as a Filmmaker-in-Residence within SOC where she re-launched the Community Voice Project (CVP), which partners American University student filmmakers with DC-based non-profits to produce a short film series capturing voices of marginalized community residents.

Naoko Wowsugi

Naoko Wowsugi

Professorial Lecturer in Studio Art at the Department of Art

Naoko Wowsugi is a community-engaged artist of Korean-Japanese descent. Using combined practices of visual art, local research, and community participation, Wowsugi’s projects highlight and fortify everyday communal and interpersonal identities.

2018-2019 Truck Fellows
Ludy Grandas

Ludy Grandas

Senior Professorial Lecturer at the Department of World Languages and Cultures

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 the Latin American day laborer community in Washington, DC. She has led Community Based Learning Courses which connect AU students to these specific populations.

Adrienne Pine

Adrienne Pine

Associate Professor of Anthropology | Director, Health Inequity & Care Program

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.

MJ Rymsza-Pawlowska

MJ Rymsza-Pawlowska

Assistant Professor of History

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.

Follow @malgorzatar   Social-Truck_twitter 

Benjamin Stokes

Benjamin Stokes

Assistant Professor School of Communication

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.

Learn more about Benjamin from his website and follow @bgstokes.

Past Graduate Fellows
Carmen Bolt

Carmen Bolt

PhD student, 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 Dieckmann

Meghan Dieckmann

MA student, Public Anthropology

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.

Caroline Morales

Caroline Morales

MA Student, Public History

Caroline Morales is a first-year MA student in the Public History program. She received her BA in History and Education from Principia College in 2017. Her background is in elementary and museum education. She is dedicated to community building and engagement in history for all ages.

Katy Shenk

Katy Shenk

MA Student, Public History

Katy Shenk is a graduate student in the MA Public History program. She received her BA in History from Washington College, where she discovered a passion for working with oral and community history. Her other research interests include commemoration, memory, identity, and digital humanities. Katy is looking forward to supporting the work of the Truck and building relationships with new and current community partners.

Jenna Goff

Jenna Goff

MA student, Public History

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.

LJ Sislen

LJ Sislen

MA Graduate, Public Anthropology

LJ (they/she) graduated in the Fall of 2021 with their MA in Public Anthropology and Health Inequity and Care Certification (HIC). Their research examines how power dynamics, social determinants of health, policy, and ideology impact drug use, treatment, and recovery narratives, thus impacting forms of and access to care, health, and well-being. Emphasis on community responses and individuals’ lived experiences is core to their projects. During undergraduate at American University, LJ examined the experiences and history of people who use drugs in America, including an ethnographic approach to understanding the roles of social narratives and embodiment of recovery from harmful drug use in sober living homes. In 2019, Laura was also involved in the organization and programming of a large annual community health conference; their responsibilities included speaker selection and the development of novel workshop formats and topics. They are currently a harm reduction volunteer, chaotic supporter of #DecrimPovertyDC, and admirer of tea, herbs, and plants.

Kimberly Oliver

Kimberly Oliver

MA student, Public History

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.

Kai Walther

Kai Walther

MA Student, Public History

Kai Walther is an MA student in Public History. Their research interests include memory and identity in the former Eastern bloc states, history as a tool of social activism, and formations of race and gender through time and space. As an undergraduate they contributed research for and helped plan the Humanities Truck’s 2019 Pride event and conducted oral histories with former DC AIDS activists for a faculty fellow. They look forward to continuing to build relationships with and learning from community partners in the DMV.  

Maren Orchard

Maren Orchard

MA student, Public History

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.

Alexis Zilen

Alexis Zilen

MA Graduate, Public History

Alexis is a graduate student in the MA Public History program at American University. She received her BA in History and Anthropology with a concentration in Public History from Gettysburg College. Her academic interests include museum studies, cultural history, and gender history.  Alexis is passionate about pursuing social justice initiatives through the humanities. Her research will document and interpret the stories of people experiencing homelessness throughout Washington.

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