Graduate

Student Profiles

Check out our amazing graduate students!

2023 Graduate Student Cohort

Abdullah Alqahtani headshot

Abdullah Alqahtani

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello! I am Abdullah Alqahtani from Saudi Arabia. I am currently pursuing my doctoral studies in English (Rhetoric and Composition track.)  

I earned my BA in English from King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia. Following my undergraduate studies, I was appointed as a TA in the English and Translation department at the University of Hafr Albatin. The University of Hafr Albatin provided me with the opportunity to pursue my master's studies in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My academic journey continued with a return from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, where I took on teaching responsibilities within the English Language and Translation department, in UHB. 

As I progress through my PhD, I aspire to incorporate my background in Translation studies into the field of rhetoric and composition. My research interests encompass a wide spectrum, including translation studies, second language writing, writing pedagogy, and political rhetoric. In this exciting journey, I’m eager to use my background in teaching and translation studies to foster insightful dialogues and innovative approaches.

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Tyler Balkcom

MFA Creative Writing
Comics

Bio

Hello! My name is Tyler Balkcom (he/him) and I am an MFA student with a focus on storytelling through comics. I want to use comics as a safe vehicle to explore heavier themes like my experiences with poverty, trauma, or my mild allergy to pollen!

My wife Lindsey and I live in Zephyrhills with our two dogs Juno (mini golden doodle) and Pal (mini sheepadoodle). Creative writing and the arts are very important to my wife and me. She is a teacher as well as a graduate student at the University of Florida’s Arts in Medicine program studying how art impacts our health and well-being. We also write music together in a band called Julep. 

I attended USF for my BA in English and found it to be a wonderful space with incredible teachers. I am grateful to continue studying here and excited to be part of shaping that wonderful space as a teacher as well. 

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Clara Berger

MA English
Literature

Bio

Hi! My name is Clara Berger. I graduated in 2022 from the University of South Florida with a BA degree in English Literature. I'm born and raised in Tampa so I'm very fortunate to be able to continue my education right here in my hometown. I am a first-year MA student in the Literature program. I really love all things literature, but my main interest is contemporary literary fiction surrounding mental health, sexuality, and gender studies. My goal is to teach college-level literature. 

Outside of school, I'm still constantly reading-- probably some long fantasy series with a subplot of romance. It's my guilty pleasure. I'm also a huge Swiftie!

I'm beyond excited to start this new journey at USF! Go bulls!

Elizabeth Charles headshot

Elizabeth Charles

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

My name is Elizabeth Marian Charles, and I am a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition. I was born in Arizona, and have also lived in Michigan, Oregon, Washington, and Texas, and moved to Florida in 2022 with my family. I have an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in fiction from Arizona State University, where I was a recipient of the 2018 Virginia G. Piper Global Teaching Fellowship in Singapore, and a BA in English from Seattle University.

I am interested in rhetoric and composition as it applies to motherhood, trauma, grief, embodiment, transformation, end of life, spirituality, technology, online discourse communities, birth politics, and reproductive justice. I am also a full-time Visiting Assistant Professor of Instruction at USF, and a mother to a young son.

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Victoria Cuomo

MA English
Literature

Bio

Hello! My name is Victoria Cuomo. I was born and raised in New York and moved to Florida over a decade ago. I have lived here ever since. I earned my AA at PHSC in 2019 and then transferred to USF and earned my BA in English in 2022. Now, I am a first-year MA student with a concentration in literature.

It was during my high school years where I truly developed my academic interest in literature and became passionate for the English language as a whole. While my concentration is in literature, all aspects of English intrigue me, and my most notable hobbies include writing and reading. I have returned to USF to learn more, continue to refine my current skill set, and explore and analyze the world of literature on a deeper level.

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Daniel Dykiel

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hello! I'm Daniel, nicknamed Wes.

I enjoy creating in various forms, including poetry, short-form, and fiction. In the MFA program, I hope to develop across forms and pull threads into cross-genre works. I often write about monstrosities and the subconscious. I aim to create works that are fun, visceral, and delicious.

For my undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida, I created a portfolio of hybrid digital works. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science and Creative Writing. I've also worked as a Content Platform and Tools Specialist, where I supported Technical Writers. 

In my free time, I've run workshop groups in my community, created zines, and been published in various literary magazines. I’ve fallen in love with two cities: St. Petersburg FL, where I currently live, and Boston MA, near where I grew up. 

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Andrea Figueroa-Irizarry

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hello! My name is Andrea Figueroa-Irizarry, and I am pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing, specializing in Fiction. I was born in San German, Puerto Rico, and was raised for most of my life in the north Florida area, primarily Pensacola and Tallahassee. In 2022, I graduated from Florida State University, receiving my BA in Psychology and English with a concentration in Editing, Writing, and Media. I’ve worked in retail, the restaurant business, literary editing, and public relations, all the while continuing to flesh out my love for writing. 

My main interests lie in the realms of contemporary fiction, where I can bring the stories of ‘the mundane’ to life. I love to explore the unspoken inner workings of an individual, the individuals around us, and the ways our lives all gather to create even more beautiful dynamics. I’m looking forward to getting to further my writing at USF with my cohort and the university’s amazing faculty and staff!

If I’m not on campus, I’m back home with my wonderful dogs or taking a nice walk outside, trying very hard to avoid mosquitoes. I love to read, embroider little flowers in every possible fabric, obsess over my favorite music, and spend time with my friends and family.

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Emily Jiannetto

MA English
Literature

Bio

Hello! My name is Emily Jiannetto and I’m a first-year student in the MA program, with a concentration in English Literature. I was born and raised in Florida. I recently graduated from USF with my undergraduate degree, also in English Literature. Academically, I am interested in 19th-century literature. Outside of work and school, I am reading, watching films, and spending time with my cats.

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Stephen Johnson

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello there; my name is Stephen Eric Johnson, and I am one of the Ph.D. Graduate Assistants at the University of South Florida.  Before coming to USF, I received my MA (in Rhetoric & Composition) from Southern Illinois University, with a focus on portfolio-based learning in Beginning Composition.  Presently my academic interests are centering on how to assist students in more smoothly making the transition into Standard Edited American English within their future writing, especially academic writing.

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Anna Khoury

MA English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

My name is Anna Khoury, and I am pursuing a MA in English within the subdepartment of Rhetoric and Composition. I graduated from USF with a BA in English, Literary Studies last spring, and I became increasingly interested in composition studies, writing programs, and technical writing during my last semester of undergrad. Through the Rhet/Comp MA Program, I hope to become a valuable asset to the FYC program, study the field of technical writing, prepare a technical writing portfolio, research pedagogical techniques for teaching writing, and grow as a student. When I am not in school, I love to crochet, cook, go on long walks, and serve at my local church. 

Katherine Mavridou-Hernandez headshot

Katherine Mavridou-Hernandez

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello! My name is Katherine (Kat) Mavridou-Hernandez and I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition. Prior to my current studies at USF, I graduated from the University of Florida with my B.A. in English and minors in Florida Teaching and Dance before returning to my hometown of Fort Myers, Florida to pursue my M.A. at Florida Gulf Coast University.  

My research interests include digital rhetoric, circulation studies, and the intersection of literature, history, and culture. As a user of media and a researcher, I hope to examine the ways that ephemeral media and digital spaces impact and shape individual and collective formations of identity, and I look forward to examining these questions further during my time in the Ph.D. program.  

Outside of my studies, I enjoy taking ballet and Pilates classes, diving into fictional realms in the form of movies, DnD sessions, or books, and trying out new recipes to share with my family and friends. I am a huge Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fan, and I love creating fictional landscapes of my own for short stories and creative writing. I enjoy getting outside and being close to the water, and I am really looking forward to exploring all that the Tampa Bay area has to offer. 

I have worked as a ballet instructor, freelance copywriter and editor, library archives assistant, graduate teaching fellow, and adjunct instructor, and I am incredibly excited to continue my studies at the University of South Florida. 

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Donnie Ibn Malik Ali McClendon

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

My name is Donnie I. McClendon M.A and before anything else, I am still learning. 

I am a native of the Tampa Bay area, and a proud representative of South St. Petersburg's Childs Park Neighborhood. I am a double graduate of the University of South Florida, earning a B.A. degree in History and an Interdisciplinary M.A. degree in Florida Studies/Colonial Latin American History. I am an Historian, and my academic focus has primarily been African cultural continuity in New World Diaspora communities. My research journey has allowed me to study on three continents, and I have both lived and studied in Europe, in Africa, and I currently live between Tampa Bay, and my beloved second home, Loiza, Puerto Rico. 

I jumped in love with words as a child. I found that the depth of study that is necessary for one to become a competent Historian, is inseparable from an adoration and appreciation of Rhetoric. Be they found in the passion of the arguments of the Valladolid debate of 1550, when Fray Las Casas pled the case before the Catholic monarchs concerning the humanity of Indigenous American populations in the face of Colonialism, Slavery, and ethnic cleansing, or the call to righteous indignation scribbled upon toilet paper by a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the hollow barracoons of a Birmingham jail, words form the axis about which the world of human reality turns. It is Rhetoric which gives those words, and that world, both its gravity and its polarity. 

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Seth Morano

MA English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Greetings. My name is Seth Morano, and I am currently a first year English MA student in the Rhetoric and Composition Concentration. I was born, raised in, and live in Sarasota, Florida, so the commute to the Tampa campus for this program is a journey in itself for me.

As for my education, I received my Professional and Technical Communication [PTC] BA degree from the University of South Florida in the Spring of 2023. I was a PTC major while pursuing a minor in Creative Writing. Throughout my PTC major, I developed an interest in the social and cultural aspects of the major, expressed to me through the study of rhetoric. More specifically, I am interested in the connections between new media and rhetoric. It was in ENC 3371 Rhetorical Theory for Technical Communication that I first truly learned about and experimented with the idea of digital electronic games as a new media that could be viewed through procedural rhetoric. I am excited to possibly continue this line of research in graduate school, yet part of why I chose to study rhetoric is that a variety of disciplines and medias use rhetorical techniques to convey messages.

For my personal life, I enjoy writing creatively and playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. Otherwise, I am usually at home spending time with my family or playing video games.

Safiya Palmer headshot

Safiya Palmer

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

My name is Safiya Palmer and I'm a creative writing MFA student. I graduated with a BA in English with a creative writing concentration and a minor in studio art from Eastern Connecticut State University. After a year and a half in the workforce as a 6th grade art substitute teacher, recruiter, and administrative temp worker, I decided to join USF's MFA program and give myself the chance to just focus on my writing. 

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica but moved to New York when I was 4 years old with my mom and dad. We then moved to Connecticut when I was 8 and lived there ever since. Tampa is a big change for me, but new scenery equals inspiration, and my roots keep me grounded. 

I have a million hobbies such as crocheting, painting, fashion photography, and dancing, all of which inspire my writing. Most of my time as a writer has been spent on poetry, so my goal is to strengthen my skills as a fiction writer. I hope to focus on dialogue and highlighting different dialects in my writing such as AAVE and Jamaican patois and bring my characters to life. 

Elizabeth Pottinger headshot

Elizabeth Pottinger

MFA Creative Writing
Poetry

Bio

Hello! My name is Elizabeth Pottinger, and I’m an MFA poetry student from Johnson City, Tennessee, an Appalachian town which is essentially a model train set. I hold a B.A. in biology from Asbury University. My (slightly misguided) undergraduate career in the sciences manifests in my writing as a proclivity for the visceral and the weird. Taking human anatomy lab and poetry class back-to-back helped show me an entanglement of all things that continues to influence my work. I also enjoy writing about the transformative power of skateboarding to repurpose urban environments and rewire internal reward systems. I hope to use my time as a USF student to explore cross-genre and longer-form work, particularly fiction. When I’m not writing or teaching, I love to watch campy movies, hike the Appalachian mountains, and explore the many great skateparks here in the Tampa Bay area.

Isabella Rabadi headshot

Isabella Rabadi

MA English
Literature

Bio

Hi there! My name is Isabella Rabadi, I am from New York, and I am a first year MA Literature student. I earned my BA with a double major in English with a Literary Studies concentration and Political Science at USF in 2023. My literary interests include crime fiction and occult literature, specifically women's role in these genres. I am an avid beachgoer and I love going to the movie theater (a large popcorn with butter and sour gummy worms is the ultimate combo). I can't wait to begin this new adventure!

Alexander Rivera headshot

Alexander Rivera

MFA Creative Writing
Poetry

Bio

Hi! My name is Alex, and I am a first year MFA student specializing in poetry. I grew up here in the Tampa Bay Area and graduated with a BA in psychology, philosophy, and eventually English—I like school, okay? After several years of working in student affairs, I decided to pursue my MFA in creative writing.  

I find writing, especially poetry, to be instrumental when it comes to connecting with other people. It helps us better understand one another and grow as individuals as we share bits and pieces of ourselves. I tend to write poems about loss, social injustices, and sometimes about that chunky squirrel eating an acorn on campus. 

The art of writing has brought countless people into my life, and it continues to expand my horizons every day. I'm excited to be part of a thriving community of writers at USF where I can continue to grow and hone my craft by experimenting with different forms of writing. When I'm not writing sad poems, you can probably find me listening to music at a café to stave off the existential dread. 

Fatima Sajjad headshot

Fatima Sajjad

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hello! My name is Fatima Sajjad, and I am an MFA (Fiction) candidate from Karachi, Pakistan. My writing typically deals with the mundanities of middle-class existence in Pakistan, and how culture and history shape the daily lives of Pakistanis. 

I am quite partial to murder mysteries. I enjoy reading, writing, hiking and traveling. 

Katrina Sandefer headshot

Katrina Sandefer

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hi! My name is Kat, and I am an MFA candidate specializing in Fiction. I was born in Illinois, where I lived most of my life before moving to Indianapolis, IN. At Butler University, I studied Anthropology and Multilingual Studies. My start in Anthropology was in Folklore; it was in those classes that I discovered that I didn’t only want to read incredible stories, I wanted to write them.

Outside of writing and reading, I love to cook, travel, explore the outdoors and train MMA. I am currently in search of the best coffee Tampa has to offer.

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Arun Shrestha

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Greetings! I am Arun Shrestha from Nepal. I am a new admission in Rhetoric and Composition in the University of South Florida, Tampa. I completed my high school in Nepal and pursued my further education in Sports Science (Athletics) in Johannes Gutenberg university (Mainz), Germany. My innate interest in English language, literature, and writing motivated me to transfer into the English department and did my undergraduate from Shobhit University (Delhi) India. I earned my Masters and M. Phil in English degrees from Institute of Advanced Communication, Education, and Research affiliated  Pokhara University, Nepal.

I am working to understand the mechanics, rhetoric, designs, and methods that can have guiding influence in the college composition of non-English language departments.   I regularly ask myself and my students how the writing is true and how much of reasoning determines effectiveness in writing and how much of self is involved in revealing the words of the writer. I worked as a faculty of English for undergraduate students in Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management,  Apex College, and Ace Institute of Management in the mornings. During the day, I was the  principal of Kathmandu New Castle School (High School) located in Kathmandu, Nepal.

I am a passionate teacher who loves to work with critical thinking activities. During leisure, I love traveling and spend most of my time with my family.

Alec Tvenstrup headshot

Alec Tvenstrup

MFA Creative Writing
Poetry

Bio

I’m Alec. I grew up in Pennsylvania and have lived in Florida for the past ten years. In 2021 I graduated from USF with a B.S. in Animal Biology. USF doesn’t have an entomology program, but I would’ve done my studies in that if they did.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading. But I’ve always been writing, even when I wasn’t reading. Right now I write poetry. To me that means creating a phenomenon on the page.

I’m reading books by French writers Marguerite Duras, Maurice Blanchot, and Hélène Cixous, as well as Brazilian authors Clarice Lispector and Hilda Hilst. It’s work like theirs that interests me.

I’m looking forward to teaching at the university level. It’s something I’d like to do in the future. I’m open to what that looks like.

The only pet I have right now is a turtle, Tina.

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Zachary Vignali

MFA Creative Writing
Nonfiction

Bio

Hi, my name is Zachary Vignali. I received my BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I am an incoming MFA student focusing on Nonfiction.

I am originally from Boulder Colorado but moved to India with my family when I was twelve. I finished middle school there and moved again to Southern Spain where I studied until my eleventh-grade year. I graduated high school in Asheville, North Carolina and my family still lives there. Writing became an important part of my life during a backpacking trip through South America. Most of my writing centers around travel, culture, and spirituality.  

I love nature, exercising and Bhakti yoga. 

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Noah Volz

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Hello! My name is Noah Volz, and I am a Ph.D. in Literature student at USF. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, I earned a bachelor of arts degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University and a master of arts degree in English from the University of Central Florida. I have also served as a writing tutor at Florida State College at Jacksonville and as an adjunct instructor of English at Lake-Sumter State College.

My research centers on the contemporary American novel and religion. I am interested in spiritual wayfinding, particularly in how women novelists portray the struggle for faith. I am also interested in Native Hawaiian literature, especially the ways in which Indigenous authors enter literary discourses and transform our understanding of religion. These passions reflect the inquiries central to my intellectual and personal endeavors, such as how people’s lived experiences change depending on their religious identity and how they portray these experiences through the creative act.

In my personal life, you will find me relaxing with my family and friends, reading and writing, watching my favorite shows and sports, exercising, playing tennis, and enjoying the occasional video game like Persona. Earning a Ph.D. in Literature has been a long-term goal of mine, and I am beyond excited that this opportunity has finally come. Here’s to a wonderful four years and beyond together!

2022 Graduate Student Cohort

Mailyn Abreu Toribio headshot

Mailyn Abreu Toribio

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Hi my name is Mailyn! Up until recently, I was an Adjunct Instructor at Palm Beach State College in Boca Raton, Florida as well as a reading and writing tutor at their Student Learning Center after receiving my Master of Arts in Multicultural and World Literatures with a concentration in Science Fiction from Florida Atlantic University in 2019. I had also previously received my BA in English with a concentration in Writing and Rhetoric with a minor in Political Science in 2016 from FAU as well.

My research interests currently include Ecocriticism, Magical Realism, Afro-Caribbean Literatures, Postcolonial Theory, and Speculative Fiction. I am especially interested in how the Global South discusses climate change through women and non-Western perspectives. I also have researched how non-Western Speculative Fiction discusses environmental issues. I am the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts' (JFA) newly appointed Book Reviews Editor-in-Chief where I am working to create more publication opportunities for BIPOC emerging scholars.

I love coffee, music, and the outdoors, so you can find me at a local show or park when I am not busy.

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Abdulrahman Alshahrani

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Abdulrahman Alshahrani. I am a Ph.D student from Saudi Arabia, and my concentration is literature. I did my master's degree at Wright State University. I am very interested in the Psychoanalysis theory and its different applications in the twentieth-century English literature.

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Ben Brothers

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Ben Brothers, and I’m a first-year English PhD student with a concentration in Literature. I received my BA in English from Louisiana State University, and I received my MFA in Creative Writing from The New School of New York. I was born in a small town in Tennessee, and I’ve spent the majority of my life living between Florida and Louisiana. My primary research interest is the legacy and contemporary landscape of southern gothic literature. Authors like William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Barry Hannah, and Carson McCullers are of significant interest to me.

As a writer, my work often contains the hallmarks of southern gothic fiction: derelict settings, hauntings of the past, subverted religious symbolism, metaphysical terrors, and examinations of the dehumanizing effects of physical and psychological isolation and ostracization.

I spend nearly all of my free time reading, writing, cooking, and playing darts.

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Gentry Burkes

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hello! My name is Gentry and I am an MFA candidate specializing in Fiction. I was born in Mississippi and spent the majority of my adolescence there before my family moved to Los Angeles. I returned to my home state to attend the Honors College at Mississippi State University for my BA in English and History. I then went on to Loyola Marymount in LA for my MA in English before deciding it was time to return back South here at USF.

My writing centers around young women attempting to find themselves because too often in literature, girls are forced to behave as women which often ends tragically. Honoring my background in English and History, I also like to blend the historical into my work which often inspires extensive research.

Outside of writing and reading, my favorite hobbies include cooking, spending time with friends and family, and fashion.

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Ann Caputo

MFA Creative Writing
Nonfiction

Bio

Hello! I’m Ann Caputo! I grew up in New England, then spent over twenty years living on the edge of the Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey. I can now say that I am “marked safe” from winter having relocated to sunny Saint Petersburg, Florida. In that chilly, previous life I was a corporate copy writer and technical writer, always harboring a strong desire to write creatively. Several years ago, I realized one of the first steps in achieving my dream, that of earning my MA in Writing from Rowan University in South Jersey. During that time, I began the memoir which I am currently at work. The writing centers on the exploration of what it meant to come-of-age in my mother’s orbit—a staunch Catholic woman who struggled with schizophrenia and alcoholism. I’m excited to dive deeper into this work as an MFA student in Nonfiction here at USF, and look forward to additional experimentation with long-form essays that focus on surviving and transcending human pain, with the bigger goal of disrupting the stigma surrounding mental illness. Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy beauty of the Florida Gulf Coast, spend time with my husband and adult daughters, and take comfort knowing the day will come where I stand up on my paddle board for more than a mere eight seconds.

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Nicholas Colecio

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Nicholas Colecio, and I am starting my first year in the Literature Ph.D. program here at USF. I am originally from Orlando, where I attended UCF for my B.A. in English and my M.A. in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies. While at UCF, I also obtained my TEFL certificate.  

My primary theoretical interests lie within Queer Theory, more specifically Asexuality Studies. My M.A. Thesis focused on representations of asexuality in Japanese literature written by women and X-gender individuals. In this thesis I studied the works of Murata Sayaka, Kawakami Mieko, and Kamatani Yūki. In the future, I plan to investigate more representations of asexuality within different bodies of literature. Some of my other areas of interest include East Asian Literature, Latin American Literature, Cultural Studies, Disability Studies, Social Media Studies, and Comparative Literature.

While enrolled at UCF, I taught Composition II within UCF’s Department of Writing and Rhetoric, and I taught Reading and Writing at UCF Global. I look forward to teaching Composition and Literature classes at USF. I can’t wait to learn alongside you all!

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Evguenia Davenport

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Hello! I am Evguenia Davenport but my friends and family call me Zhenia. I am a first-year PhD in English Literature student. Russia is my country of origin, but I’ve lived in US since 1999. I graduated from USF in 2013 with a dual Master's degree in Spanish and in Applied Linguistics: English as a Second Language. It was an amazing experience teaching Spanish and Russian at USF starting in 2009, first as a teaching assistant and then as an adjunct faculty. I have taught several Spanish and Russian language courses over the years at USF, UT and Florida Southern College and taught a Russian literature course in 2013 and a Russian history course in 2019 at USF. My goal is to teach English and/or American literature at a university level and, maybe, one day write a book about my life experiences. I would also love to write and publish stories about life adventures of my awesome friends and of other terrific folks I meet.

In my free time, I like traveling, dancing Argentinian tango, playing golf and going boating. Having grown up in cold Siberia, I simply love Florida weather and could never get tired of lounging around the pool with my cats and watching spectacular Floridian sunsets! I assisted with and led USF Summer Study Abroad programs in Latin America, in Argentina 2014-2015 and in Costa Rica 2016-2018. As a graduate student in Argentina (summer 2012), I did the research for my MA in Spanish thesis focusing on how anti-establishment discourse helps an individual confront a totalitarian regime as compared in literature in Latin America and in Russia. I have served as a Secretary on Board of Directors for Russian Heritage since 2016. Russian Heritage is a non-profit organization founded in 1995 and based in Tampa Bay area. We organize a variety of cultural and educational events every year to bring together the community and to promote cultural awareness and diversity. Really look forward to being a part of this program and the community and to making new friends!

Shari Drumond headshot

Shari Drumond

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hey everyone! My name is Shari Drumond, and I’m a first year PhD student in the Rhetoric and Composition track. I was born and raised in South Florida, and interestingly, I rode a plane for the first time in my life a little over six years ago.

In terms of schooling, I received my bachelor’s from Florida Atlantic University. I was an English education major, so I took a host of general ed courses in addition to different literature courses. When I got into grad school at NSU, I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with the community that my program fostered for everyone. Through my experiences there, I learned to love research and the idea of looking at even the most mundane things rhetorically. I think out of everything I learned about the field and myself, I would say that my favorite rhetoric is visual rhetoric! My thesis focused on the visual rhetoric of natural hair, and writing it was honestly the most humbling and rewarding thing I’ve ever done thus far. My research interest focus on visual rhetoric, cultural and diasporic studies as well as multimodal writing.

Outside of school, I love making music. Fun fact: I actually play 6 different instruments. I was in orchestra in middle school up until my undergraduate years, and I absolutely love music theory which is ironic since I abhor math. Animal Crossing is my favorite video game at the moment. I’ve been a fan of the game since I was in middle school, and I’ve played every series since it was published for the GameCube. I’m also a fan of Zelda and Sonic Adventure. Other than video games, I’m obsessed with anime and manga, though I read a lot more than I watch these days.

I can’t wait to start this journey with you, USF! Let’s goooo!

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Mark-Elliot Finley

MA English
Literature

Bio

In 2022 I graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in secondary English education with a minor in French. I have always had a passion for teaching and literature, which is why I am so blessed that my undergraduate degree provided me with a fusion of these two vital components. As I continue forward in graduate studies, I’d like to further my appreciation of literature and the importance of sound pedagogy in our institutions of higher education.

I’m a Sarasota native with a strong interest in literature, so I naturally leaned towards USF to pursue an MA in English with a concentration in literature.

During my undergraduate years, I had broad literary exposure to medievalism, early Americanism, modernism, and postmodernism. Now, in grad school, I plan to explore the Early Modern English period and poets such as Shakespeare and Milton. The epic form and the re-emergence of the classical Greco-Roman world in English literature intrigues me, as does the political models during the Early Modern period. My secondary research interests also include fantasy and children’s literature.

Apart from academia, I enjoy taking my ginger cat, Louis, on walks and teaching him commands in both English and French. Movies, music production, and books are some hobbies of mine. I love my hometown of Sarasota and our beautiful Siesta Key.

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Jess Gallerie

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

My name is Jess Gallerie and I’m an MFA student studying fiction. I grew up in the mountains of upstate New York before moving to New York City, where I earned my BA in English Literature from Hunter College. I’ve worked in optics since 2015, making glasses and talking to people about vision. At USF I’m excited to explore speculative narratives centering queerness, technology, and (to evoke Gaston Bachelard) "the poetics of space". When I’m not writing, I’m cooking, using power tools, or staring at a body of water until something emerges.

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Hannah Galloway

MA English
Literature

Bio

Hannah Joy Galloway is a first-year master’s degree student in the Literature program at the University of South Florida. While a Melbourne, Florida resident, she recently graduated from Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Hannah loves Shakespeare, Milton, and anything Early Modern/Renaissance. She also enjoys Medieval authors such as Chaucer. Her goal is to attain a PhD in Renaissance Studies and teach Shakespeare at the collegiate level. Hannah also loves creative writing and listening to music.

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Abigail Graves

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello, I'm Abigail and I am a PhD Rhetoric & Composition student. I was born and raised in Tennessee and attended the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, where I received my BA in Rhetoric & Professional Writing. I then moved to Albuquerque and received by MA in Rhetoric and Writing from the university of New Mexico. This period coincided with my love for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Outside of the University, I have an interest in true crime and modern lit. My comfort authors are McCarthy, Hemingway, and Faulkner.

I am academically interested in the power of words (obviously), specifically within political rhetoric and public discourses. I am interested in how rhetoric constructs our realities, and in studying the rhetoric employed in different times, places, and communities and how these factors shape ideologies, beliefs, and ethics.

One of my main academic philosophies is the importance of rhetorical literacy within the public, and how the act of writing can serve as a process for knowledge creation and discovery. Having a foundational understanding of rhetorical concepts and how to employ them allows people to effectively argue and act as an advocate for ourselves and others. It also allows us to recognize rhetoric in the world, and helps us to form and articulate our opinions and responses in manners palatable to specific audiences. I hope to do work that discusses the social need for a rhetorically literate public, and the potential resources and interventions that could work toward that goal.

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Nicholas Guilfoile

MA English
Literature

Bio

My name is Nicholas Guilfoile. I was born in Dunedin and earned my BA in Literature at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. My goal is to one day teach college-level creative writing.

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Morgan Hunter

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Hello! My name is Morgan Hunter and I use she/her/hers pronouns. I’m a PhD literature student specializing in contemporary literature regarding women’s bodies and trauma expression via self-harm in an attempt to destigmatize self-harm by examining how it can allow women who have faced bodily trauma to re-claim their bodies and write their own stories.

I’m from Savannah, Georgia and slowly moved my way up the state to Augusta where I completed my bachelor’s degree with a major in literature and minor in women and gender studies at Augusta University. I continued north to Atlanta and obtained my MA in literary studies and a graduate certificate in women, gender, and sexuality studies at Georgia State University.

I’m excited to continue my research as well as teaching at USF! Teaching is truly my passion, and I am so excited to teach at this university. Outside of school, I enjoy reading primarily fantasy and historical fiction, watching too much tv, hanging out with my dog and my partner, and exploring local restaurants!

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Joryn Jones

MA English
Literature

Bio

I am a first year MA student with a concentration in literature. I earned my BA in philosophy from the University of South Florida. My interests include sexuality, aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and literary theory, especially post-structuralist thought. My research explores how philosophical imagination and speculation can be expressed in a literary context.

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Jeevitha Kannan

MFA Creative Writing
Poetry

Bio

Hello! I’m Jeevitha Kannan, a poet from India! I majored in literature at the University of Madras, Tamilnadu, India, and have Middle School teaching experience for five years. Poetry has sprinkled magic into my life just like cinnamon to a butter bun. I write poems about hues of life, human treachery, insects, and nature, of course! I believe in Sylvia Plath’s idea ‘Is there no way out of the mind?’ and her many more verses. A person who spends most time at beaches but not to be left alone in bookstores. Though I’m very much a family-oriented person, I am more excited about this excellent opportunity!

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Kyra Lance

MA English
Literature

Bio

Hi! My name is Kyra Lance and I am an MA student with a concentration in Literature. I received my BS from FSU with a double-major in psychology and English literature in 2019. Since graduating, I have been teaching developmental reading and writing as an adjunct at State College of Florida. I’m originally from Sarasota, Florida and grew up in a home full of animals of all shapes and sizes. My mom graduated USF in 2015 with her PhD in English, so I’ve spent my life surrounded by books, which is probably where my love of reading began. My academic interests include gender studies, Medieval literature, and the intersection of history and literature. I’m excited to be a student again and can’t wait to continue with my studies at USF!

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Camilo Loaiza Bonilla

MFA Creative Writing
Nonfiction

Bio

My name is Camilo Loaiza Bonilla (they/them) and I’m an MFA student concentrating in creative nonfiction. Originally from Medellin, Colombia, my family and I immigrated to the U.S. in 2001 and landed in Lakeland, FL, where we've lived ever since. I moved to Nashville, TN to pursue my undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University, where I earned a BA in English with a concentration in creative writing.

A lot of my creative work touches on the experiences I’ve had as a first-generation immigrant, continually navigating liminal spaces as we adapted to life in the U.S. I find that my best work comes from my exploration of those gray areas, the in-betweens, pushing against boundaries and binaries in my writing and beyond. I have a deep interest in blending prose and poetry in my nonfiction and I’m excited to see how my writing continues to grow as I pursue my MFA at USF.

Outside of school and writing, I enjoy spending time with my younger siblings and cuddling with my two cats. In my free time you’ll find me listening to reggaeton, identifying native plants and little critters, and spending a little too long on paint-by-numbers.

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Deborah Locicero

MFA Creative Writing
Nonfiction

Bio

Hello. My name is Deborah Locicero and I am a current student pursuing my MFA in creative writing. I’ve always been a storyteller and enjoy writing nonfiction, poetry and hybrid pieces which bring inspiration and dream into form. I am interested in walking a path that accentuates the fluidity and connection of multi-genre works of art and look forward to the avenues of study an MFA in creative writing will offer.

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from USF in 1987 and now find myself back here after a fulfilling career as a Lactation Consultant for over three decades. I’ve listened to thousands of mother’s birth stories, and I am drawn to bring the heart of those stories to life in my work. I remain as enchanted by a good tale today as when I was a kid binge-reading Lord of the Rings under my covers after lights out. My home is full of bookshelves and various stacks of books, bookmarks dangling from those requesting attention. I love the written word in all its constructs, exquisite to mundane, and feel so fortunate to join a group of writers in pursuit of our respective passions.

When not writing I might be found meditating in my backyard tropical jungle, at the beach building sandcastles, or traveling cross-country to hike and drink craft beer in the Pacific Northwest.

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Jennifer Melko

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Hi!  My name is Jennifer Melko and I am a first year PhD Literature student. I grew up in the Tampa Bay area and received BA degrees in both Chemistry and Fine Art from USF.  I worked as assistant curator for Graphicstudio/USF for two years, then focused on freelance real estate photography and photography instruction until I returned to USF for my MLA degree in Humanities.  Since receiving my MLA degree in 2008, I have been an adjunct instructor for the Humanities and Cultural Studies Department at USF and at several other colleges in the Tampa Bay area. 

My area of interest is 19th century American literature, particularly how literary works by American authors address themes of marriage within the contexts of other social issues (racism, the American Frontier, a newly formed democratic republic).  I am also interested in how visual and literary depictions of children reflect the presubscribed gender roles of 19th century America—girls practicing for their future domestic duties, presumably in marriage, and boys finding a place in the public sphere.

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Olajide Omojarabi

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Olajide is pursuing his MFA in creative writing, fiction. Prior to grad school, he worked for a nonprofit organization that provides quality education for children in underserved communities. As a communication officer, he developed internal and external communications strategies for the organization. Olajide has written both fiction and nonfiction. Some of his stories and essays have appeared in Guernica, Off Assignment, Barren magazine, where he had a stint as a contributing editor. His essay has also been published in an anthology of community-sourced stories.

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Alye Prentice

MFA Creative Writing
Hybrid

Bio

My name is Alye and I like to read stories so much I decided to write one. I am a multi-genre writer willingly lost somewhere at the intersection of poetry and fiction.

After graduating with my MA in Literature from Chicago’s DePaul University, I have spent the last six years teaching First Year Composition. I help my students outfit their Writer’s Toolbox with empathy, precision, curiosity, and confidence. I want to explore the way that writing makes us better and braver people. Poetry demands patience. Stories deepen our humanity. In obtaining this MFA, I hope to create—literature, curriculum, spaces—in the service of helping students believe in better and write themselves into discovering what that is.

In the meantime, I spend a little too much time reading romance novels… but for academic purposes only, of course.

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Anjelica Rechsteiner

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition 

Bio

Hello, my name is Anjelica Rechsteiner and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m a first year English PhD student with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition. I completed my undergraduate degrees in psychology and creative writing as well as my MA in rhetoric and composition at the University of Central Florida. I was born in Chicago, IL but raised in Orlando, FL. I previously worked as an administrative professional for 6 years at UCF and my career goal is to continue to keep my foot in the door on the administrative side in higher education whilst also pursuing a career as tenure-earning faculty. 

My current research interests revolve around diversity, equity and inclusion within higher education. I focused on the experiences of multiracial students in the composition classroom for my master’s thesis and hope to continue this for my dissertation. When I conducted my thesis research I found that there is a need to further understand multiracial student identity and the potential influence their experiences have on their composition practices as well as what this might entail for pedagogical practices.  

Outside of my academic pursuits I love reading for leisure, soaking in the sun on the beach, and loving on my two cats Leia and Nube!

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Jay Rughoonundan

MFA Creative Writing
Hybrid

Bio

Hi everyone! I'm Jay and I'm an incoming MFA student, with a hybrid focus in CNF and Comics.I was born in Tampa and pretty much grew up between here and New York.My family is from Guyana and my heritage is very central to my writing and so, of course, drew me to CNF! I was really interested in joining USF's MFA cohort for its hybridity program ever since I learned about nonfiction-focused comics and it is my hope to continue creating this type of work while in the program. Upon completion of my MFA I hope to continue working within the publishing industry.When I am not doing artsy-stuff, I am either cooking or down by Armature Works reading by the water.

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Jerry Rumph

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Jerry Rumph, and this is my first year in the English Literature PhD program at USF. I am returning to the Tampa Bay area after spending the last several years practicing law in Tallahassee, Florida. I have a BA in history with a minor in English from USF. I earned a joint JD/MBA from Florida State University. Most recently, I completed my MFA in creative writing (poetry) from Reinhardt University.

As an attorney, I frequently interacted with individuals from marginalized communities whose voices were discounted or silenced, and in my MFA program, I further experienced the literature of similarly situated persons. I intend to focus my research on how marginalized voices capture or recapture space in the postcolonial and the “transcolonial” (what I consider the transition from precolonial to postcolonial for certain cultures) contexts, such as seen in the emergence and re-emergence of the voices of women and ethnic and racial minorities in Irish literature as well as indigenous voices in the Americas. I am also interested in how these voices may be censored in relation to the voices from non-marginalized communities.

When not engaged in my courses as a student and instructor, I enjoy traveling, casually playing chess, writing creatively, and being active in a variety of ways.

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Alyssa Sotelo

MFA Creative Writing
Nonfiction 

Bio

Hi! My name is Alyssa Sotelo and I am an MFA student in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Nonfiction. I am originally from Tucson, Arizona where I received my BA in Creative Writing and my BS in Physiology from the University of Arizona. 

I am a second generation Mexican American and much of my writing focuses on the current state of border affairs between the U.S. and Mexico. A great deal of my inspiration comes from volunteer experiences that I have had in both the United States as well as Mexico with various migrant shelters including Casa Alitas and the Kino Border Initiative. Now I want to explore what the border situation and migrant communities look like here across the country. I am specifically interested in researching social justice issues and medical disparities within this scope. I am excited to be here in Florida at USF to continue growing as a writer and a teacher!

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Thalia Torres

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello! My name is Thalia Torres and I'm pursuing my PhD in English, Rhetoric and Composition. Not far from Tampa, I was raised in Orlando where I also earned my English BA and Educational Leadership MA from UCF. During my master's program, I had the privilege of teaching creative writing to a mental illness and addiction recovery center for adults which catapulted my love for not just the field of English and teaching, but also for the community. This intersection is where I plan to build my research interests in the coming years of my doctoral program.
When I'm not studying/teaching you can find me reading, painting, crafting, writing, spending time with my family in Orlando, or serving at my local church!

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Bob Varghese

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Call me Bob. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—I graduated from Polytechnic University (New York) with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and have worked in the Information Technology field ever since. Interested in exploring my literary side, I took a “Form & Technique of Fiction” class at USF, where I read for the first time Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain.” I was floored. I became fascinated with the short story form. Eventually, I earned a B.A. in English, and now, I’m pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing at USF. I hope to continue honing my craft and skills as a writer. I look forward to joining the literary community here at USF.

2021 Graduate Student Cohort

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Kelci Barton

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello! My name is Kelci Barton and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m a first-year English PhD candidate in the rhetoric and composition track. I am originally from Kennewick, Washington, but I’ve spent the last nine years living in Johnson City, Tennessee; during that time, I attended East Tennessee State University, where I received my BAs in English and psychology as well as my MA in English. Since graduating in 2019, I have taught first-year composition courses as an adjunct at my alma mater and both as an adjunct and as a visiting instructor at Emory & Henry College. I also have been working and am continuing to work as a technical editor for NV5, a health and safety company.

My primary research interests lie mainly at the intersection of writing studies, trauma studies, disability studies, accessibility, and affect. My master’s thesis focused on student disclosure of trauma in first-year writing courses and how instructors communicate feedback to this trauma while preserving themselves in that process to avoid burning out from the weight of the emotional labor. In my research, I found resource accessibility to be one of the most prominent issues for both students and instructors, and as I taught for the following years, I saw more issues with different types of accessibility rise. For my PhD, I would like to continue to focus on dissecting the intersection of trauma-informed pedagogy and instructor emotional labor while also exploring how accessibility affects said intersection.

When I’m not working or studying, I spend my time reading, cross stitching, working on a variety of arts and crafts projects, and being lovingly bullied for more food by my two cats. I’m very excited to be here at USF and look forward to working with everyone!

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Alan Blanchard

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Just call me Al. Consider me a wayfarer from the technical world. Seems a lifetime ago, I earned BS, MS, and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from Old Dominion University. I worked hard as an undergraduate to overcome my bewilderment and graduated #1. This led to a NASA Graduate Student Fellowship where I conducted experimental research in subsonic rotating flow (for my MS) and hypersonic conical flow (for my PhD) at the NASA-Langley Research Center. I completed a 24-year career in the U.S. military starting as an enlisted Army grunt, but I left to learn. After earning my PhD, I returned as an Army officer and environmental engineer. Intellectual wanderlust struck, and I soon transferred to the Air Force, graduated from the USAF Test Pilot School, and tested military aircraft as a flight test engineer. I earned a Master of Military Art and Science degree from Air University which ignited my interest in humanities and cultural studies. I started at the lowest possible rank (E-1) and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel (O-5). I’ve had lots of jobs with the usual whoop-de-do titles, but titles mean nothing to me now. My favorite job was my last: teaching and mentoring USAF cadets here at USF.

I just completed the USF Humanities and Cultural Studies MA program with a concentration in American Studies. For my thesis, I investigated racial utopianism in mashup music videos using Soviet Montage theory. I published a peer-reviewed video essay on the 1920 horror film classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with a novel reading of the protagonist’s sanity and the film’s structure. I created a short experimental film based on my neighbor’s childhood experience as a migrant field worker that was selected for the 2019 Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival. I also earned graduate certificates in Digital Humanities and Film and New Media Studies. For my PhD research, I plan to investigate digital rhetoric through the lens of terror management theory and agnotology to theorize how we function in the digital domain where I claim the perceived immortality of digital activity and media constrains our individual and cultural evolution.

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Tiffany Chenneville

MFA Creative Writing
Nonfiction

Bio

My name is Tiffany Chenneville and I am pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in nonfiction. As a professor in the Department of Psychology at USF, I have been researching psychosocial issues related to pediatric and adolescent HIV prevention and treatment for many years. Over the past decade, my work has expanded beyond the United States to include cross cultural research in India, Kenya, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Findings from my research have culminated in many scholarly products including academic journal articles and conference presentations. Beyond my research, I have direct experience working with youth and families living with or affected by HIV as a licensed psychologist and through my work as a behavioral health consultant to HIV healthcare providers in the USF Department of Pediatrics. Over the years, I have had the privilege of hearing and co-creating stories related to my HIV research, many of which cannot be told in traditional scholarly outlets. By learning more about the craft of creative writing, I hope to blend creative writing scholarship with my work in the area of pediatric and adolescent HIV in order to make my psychosocial research more accessible to a wider audience.

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Hayley Dietrich

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hi! My name is Hayley Dietrich, and I'm an MFA student specializing in fiction writing. I grew up in Hawaii, moved to Kentucky in the summer of 2018, and graduated from Kenyon College in May 2021 with a degree in English, concentrating in creative writing. I was drawn to USF because of its emphasis on experimentation. I write speculative fiction; I find myself most drawn to writing dark fantasy with monsters as the protagonists of my pieces. Inspiration, for me, has come from all over, from plays to Romantic poetry to modern-day fantasy/horror films and comic books. What fascinates me about monsters is how they challenge the status quo and social norms. Directors such as Guillermo del Toro find this rebellion heroic, and I am inclined to agree. I'm excited to continue this exploration at USF!

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Allison Duque

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Allison Duque and I am a PhD student here at USF with a concentration in Literature. I earned both my bachelor’s and master's degrees in literature here as well. While completing my MA, I focused on postcolonial literature and literature written by marginalized or underrepresented populations. While working through that, I found a love of hearing the other side of the story in some classic canonical works.

With that all in mind, as a scholar, my focus now is on fanfiction and its relation to the classic works of Shakespeare. Ultimately, fanfiction comes from a place of love and a desire to hear a different or differently told side of the story. I want to shine a brighter light on an underrepresented media and explore alternate sides to classic tales.

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Destiny Howell

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hey! I'm a first-year MFA student on the fiction track. I spent the last few years moving steadily north, getting my BA in English from University of Alabama, my JD from Georgetown University, and practicing law for 3 years in New York before heading back to my home state of Florida to get back to my main focus which is writing for children. My debut novel, High Score, is being published by Scholastic and will release in summer 2022. When I'm not writing novels, I'm writing scripts, watching cartoons, or planning yet another D&D campaign.

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Jade Jemison

MFA Creative Writing
Nonfiction

Bio

Hello! My name is Jade Jemison. I am originally from Missouri but have lived in Florida for 6.5 years. I got my BA from UCF in English (creative writing). I am the founder of Octa Toni Mor, a new non-collegiate black sorority for writers.

My nonfiction centers around my experiences as a foster kid in a religious Midwestern household, and how childhood traumas manifest in adulthood. I’m very intrigued by how fear, shame, loneliness, racism, and small but impactful moments shape who we are and who we raise our children to be. I also write about my experiences with shame and anger and the silence surrounding reproductive loss. I’d love to teach and help others use creative writing as a way to cope and heal from grief.

Alongside my writing, I’m an avid reader. Especially now, I am a great believer in escapism. In fiction, I explore speculative fiction, fantasy, romance, redemption, and the sacrifices required for unity and peace in the community. As the founder of my sorority, I’m determined to become a life-long scholar of black women in modern literature and to help create opportunities for women like me.

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Ian John

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello all! My name is Ian John and I am a PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric from South Carolina. I received a B.A in English from Coastal Carolina University as well as an M.A. in writing from the same institution. I’ve always had a deep and abiding passion for writing as well as the process that goes into developing a successful piece of writing. More importantly, as a writing instructor, I want to provide my students with the same quality of writing instruction that I was given during my formative years as a new writer.

Outside of writing and writing instruction, my favorite hobby is probably SCUBA diving.

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Rachel Knox

MFA Creative Writing

Bio

My name is Rachel Knox. I’m a born-and-raised Floridian, originally from St. Petersburg, just south of Tampa. I spent the last decade in New York City, where I earned my BA in Creative Writing from The New School in Manhattan. I write primarily long-form essays, both researched/critical and memoir. My work is heavily influenced by my childhood in Florida and the pop culture associated with the state. My current project explores the Gulf Coast's role in my own life and in the American cultural imagination, as well as the political and environmental futures of our rapidly changing coasts. I also write often about food and cooking, having spent much of my life working in hospitality and restaurants. 

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Nicole Musselman

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Nicole Musselman and I’m a first-year PhD student with a concentration in literature at the University of South Florida. I received my BA in English at the University of Tampa in 2009. I worked in the medical administrative field up until 2018 when decided to leave my job to pursue my dream of teaching English literature. I entered the USF MA English Literature program in 2019 and graduated in 2021. During my time as a MA student at USF I researched motherhood in American literature, particularly how women adopt characteristics that are predominantly considered masculine as a means for mothers to break through societal boundaries of marginalization and degradation. I plan on continuing to research motherhood in American literature and further analyze how land possession affected by settler colonialism could either empower or hinder mother characters.

Outside of academia, I love to spend time with my husband, our one-year-old son (that I gave birth to in the middle of my MA program), and our two mini dachshunds. We love to visit cooler climates whenever we get the chance to snowboard!

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Erin Olds

MFA Creative Writing
Poetry

Bio

Erin Olds is a singer-songwriter who majored in Linguistics and TESOL at California State University, Fresno.  She is interested in the ways that poetry has evolved throughout different languages and cultures over time and its many places of importance in today's world.  Erin believes that poetic meter still holds a prominent position in modern poetry.  When not at work, she can be found exploring national parks or hunting for public art in urban spaces.

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Thomas Page

MFA Creative Writing
Poetry

Bio

Hello! I'm Thomas Page, a first-year MFA student studying poetry. I received my BA in English, with a minor in Drama, and MA in Secondary English Education at the Catholic University of America. Originally from Monterey, California, I grew up around the country, including in nearby Carrollwood, eventually settling with my family in Maryland in 2008. Before studying at the University of South Florida, I was an entertainment team member at Six Flags America in Bowie, Maryland and a 12th grade English teacher at Leonardtown High School in Leonardtown, Maryland. I am also an editor at Academy of the Heart and Mind, which is focused on sharing the work of emerging writers from around the world. My work is influenced by my experiences growing up, my love for nature, and the moments which seem insignificant on the surface.  My aim is to express both the personal and the universal in my poetry.  At USF, I hope to work on improving my poetry, incorporating cross-genre techniques, and working with other writers.

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Elisabeth Parker

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

Hello! I’m a first-year MFA student returning to school after working out in the world. I have cleaned houses, tended bar, worked as a paralegal in a domestic violence clinic and as a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times. I love stories with conflicted characters. I believe the best stories leave space for multiple truths. I am drooling over the course offerings like a buffet and I plan to sample everything. I’ve written two historical fiction novels (neither yet published) and plan to write more because nothing has ever stirred me more than a good book – which is why I am here with you. I’m excited to meet you and grow with you all. 

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Andrea Rinard

MFA Creative Writing
Fiction

Bio

I’m a Tampa native with an English degree from the University of Florida and a Master’s in English Education from USF. After a (too) long career as a high school English teacher, I’m so excited to be back at USF to pursue my MFA in creative writing. I’m mostly a YA contemporary fiction writer, and my manuscript, Afterworld, won the Key West Literary Seminar’s 2020 Marianne Russo Award for a work-in-progress. I also have short pieces in places like Cease, Cows; X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine; Jellyfish Review; Spelk; Lost Balloon and others, and I’ve been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions. You can visit my website for an archive of my work if you're interested. I live in my recently empty nest with my 1988 Prom date and our two dogs.

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Alison Scarlett

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Alison Scarlett (formerly Denny), and I am an English literature PhD student. I earned my master’s degree at USF in spring 2021, and I am excited to be continuing my education with the English program here.  

My current areas of focus include American literature and Multi-Ethnic literatures of the United States, although I am generally interested in studying literature from many different regions. The theoretical frameworks I want to work with include ecocriticism, working class studies, and comparative race studies. My overall interest is to study how an individual’s experience of (and relationship with) nature is affected by several factors, including race, social class, political/governmental influences, etc. 

In my spare time, I enjoy baking, traveling, binge watching anime, and spending late nights gathered around the dining room table playing Dungeons and Dragons with my crew. I also love finding intersections between my hobbies and scholarly pursuits, such as exploring environmental messages in Studio Ghibli films.  

I am so happy and grateful to be part of this program, and I look forward to growing as a scholar here at USF!

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Valerie Smith

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello all, I’m Valerie. I hold a BA in English from Hunter College, an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Rutgers University-Newark, and an MA in Language and Literacy from CCNY City College. I have taught courses in composition and literature as an adjunct faculty member at several CUNY colleges and Essex County College in New Jersey. While working as an adjunct, I also worked with adult learners as a writing consultant at CCNY-Center for Worker Education.

Teaching English as a Second Language in Brazil and Japan, as well as in the CUNY system, solidified my interest in second language acquisition, cultural rhetorics, and creating equitable classrooms for all students.

2020 Graduate Student Cohort

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Peter Fields

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

My name is Peter Fields, pronouns he/him/his, and I'm a first-year English PhD candidate. I earned my BA in creative writing and my MA in composition & rhetoric at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where I was a football student-athlete. Previously, I taught English Composition courses at my alma mater as a graduate assistant and at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay as an adjunct. 

Although I'm fascinated by visual semiotics, my primary research interest is student-athlete literacy development. From my experience, I see a major disconnect between how student-athletes process, retain, and apply information in athletic versus academic environments. That being said, my goal in this program is to develop methods and concepts that effectively teach student-athletes (who are predominately visual and kinesthetic learners) the literacy skills they’ll need in all phases of life. 

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Haley Jones

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

I am pursuing a PhD in English, with a focus in digital rhetoric and public memory. I received my BA (2016) and MA (2019) in English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I attribute my academic shift to rhetoric & composition, in large part, due to my career path. While obtaining my MA, I worked as a lead journalist for an online, NC-based newspaper. I also served as the director of marketing for a non-profit / balloon festival. During both of these occupations, I utilized my evolving understanding of digital rhetoric in its application to communication and promotions, specifically on a digital sphere. I am interested in how the creation of digital artifacts can enhance and develop effective communication with the public. I am also intrigued by the influence that digital rhetoric can have on the active canon, and how it can serve as a tool in the evolving interests of the public’s working memory.

Furthermore, my scholarship has revolved around the creation of a digital archive for Fanny Fern, America’s first woman columnist. I am intrigued most by the suppression of Fern’s indelicate and unconventional columns, which once captivated a national audience but have been lost to today’s archival memory.

Other research interests include maker-culture, memetics, and aspects of rhetorical velocity and visual rhetoric. I am also infatuated by rhetorical satire and the carnivalesque. My paper proposal, The Inhospitable Rhetoric of Feminist Satire: Michelle Wolf’s 2018 White House Correspondents’ Speech, which analyzed Wolf’s use of the comic frame and carnivalesque rhetoric, was featured at the Rhetorical Society of America 2020 conference.

I am excited to be a USF bull and I look forward to the influence and guidance I will receive from mentors and peers as I continue to evolve my research. When I’m not glued to a computer or buried in research, you may find me in my garden with my Florida-native husband, lovable lab, and opinionated dachshund.

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Tiffanie Kelley

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Tiffanie Kelley and I am a first-year PhD student in the English program with a concentration in literature. I graduated from Valdosta State University in 2015 with a BA in English literature and then moved to Tallahassee, FL, where I worked in admissions at Keiser University. I enjoyed helping students navigate the admissions and re-entry process, but I wanted to return to a research-focused career in academia. The University of Central Florida in Orlando was the ideal place to pursue an MA in English with a literary, cultural, and textual (LCT) studies track. Courses such as Caribbean Literature and Life Narrative in North America honed my interest in genre studies. My research at USF will expand on the topics discussed in my master’s thesis: Life Narratives as Technologies of Self: Explorations of Agency in A Son of the Forest and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I am interested in examining the intersection of mainstream discourses and autobiographical narration within life narratives, specifically in early America, and I would like to discuss the effects of said discourses on an author’s self-knowledge, as it is presented in the narrative.

My career goals are to continue teaching at the college level and to be a published author. An essay I wrote at Valdosta State University, The Unity of Competing Protagonists in Manley’s Almyna, was published in volume six of Omnino Undergraduate Research Journal in 2016. I am proud of this accomplishment, but I want to continue publishing my research and I would also like to publish fiction. I am currently writing a middle grade novel that both celebrates and explores the dynamics of blended families. Authors I love, and who have also influenced my fictional writing, are Ashley Herring Blake and Jacqueline Woodson.

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Andrew Petrykowski

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

I'm Andrew Petrykowski, a first-year student in USF's English PhD program, concentration in rhetoric and composition. I completed my MA in rhetoric and composition at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the spring of 2020, and my BA in rhetoric and composition at Oakland University in 2016.

My main research interest is in writing centers, where all my scholarly activity thus far has focused. There's very little research on what tutors think about writing or tutoring, and given that they are the ones doing the tutoring, I think the dearth of research on the topic should be addressed. I'm interested in other facets of writing center work, too - how tutors are trained and how that training might be improved, how and why students use writing centers, and ultimately how tutors student writers might be better served by writing centers. I want to continue to explore these ideas, but I am also looking forward learning about new areas of inquiry during my coursework.

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Richard (Rick) Reisinger

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Richard (Rick) Reisinger. I’m originally from Rochester, New York, but have been living in the Tampa Bay Area for four years. This is my second program at USF; I recently earned my MA in literature in early 2020. While working on my education, I teach high school English classes at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs.

My particular academic focus is American Modernist fiction, and the majority of my work focuses on identity and performativity in those texts. Additionally, I have a particular interest in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and much of my effort goes into dealing with his lesser-known works (yes, they exist).

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Lidiana Rios Barreto

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Lidiana Rios is a first-year PhD student in English with a concentration in literature. She is particularly interested in examining the American expatriate writers of the Lost Generation by focusing on the connection between space and identity. She graduated in 2015 from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Precinct, with a Bachelor of Arts in foreign languages. In 2019 she earned a Master of Arts in French from the University of South Florida where she worked as both a French TA and adjunct. Her ultimate goal is to teach American and French literature at a university level. 

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Zabrina Shkurti

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Hi, all! My name is Zabrina Shkurti and I am a first-year PhD student with a concentration in literature. I am native to Florida though originally from the east coast! I graduated from the University of Central Florida with my bachelors in English and I attained my masters in English from the University of New Orleans. The focus of my master’s thesis was using literature in the classroom for social change, specifically on how to talk about race and racism. I find it absolutely fascinating how literature can tie in so well with current events. Through this meshing of ideas, we can open honest and meaningful conversations with one another. For my PhD, I’d like to continue to focus on using literature for social change with a focus on societal perspectives of motherhood and how these perspectives have shifted and changed over time.

For the past five years, I have worked for an educational software company which allowed me to hone both my technical writing and research skills. When I’m not working or studying, you can find me curled up with a good book, outside on a nature hike with my family, or (attempting!) to find some peace through yoga and meditation.

2019 Graduate Student Cohort

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J. Katharine (Kathy) Burton

PhD English
Literature

Bio

I am a first-year PhD student in English, concentration in literature, with primary interest areas in children’s literature, fairy tales/fantasy, with a special emphasis in adaptations of the classics in English literature in new literary forms for younger audiences.  In exploring literary aspects of these adaptations, I want to focus on how the interaction of text and visual materials impacts meaning.

My educational journey began with a bachelor’s in English literature from the University of Oklahoma and includes three masters degrees: a master of arts in administrative science focusing on management information systems at George Washington University; a master of science in national security strategies from the National Defense University with a certificate in information strategies; and just this past year, a master of arts in English literature from USF.

My spouse (a Florida native and USF graduate) and I moved to Tampa from Virginia just under four years ago.  I spent 28 years in the US Navy working in communications and computers and still work part-time as an information technology policy researcher for a Department of Defense contractor.

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Marshall Martin

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Greetings! I am a rhetoric and composition PhD student and a graduate teaching assistant in the First-Year Composition Program here at USF. I received both my BA in philosophy and MA in English from Slippery Rock University in my home state of Pennsylvania. The academic disciplines I was a part of during my undergraduate and early graduate studies led me directly to the sub-discipline of rhetoric and composition. During my MA program, I served as a graduate assistant to the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, where I obtained invaluable administrative knowledge and experience. My research interests include writing program and institutional administration, labor conditions within English studies, attention and screen time management, and composition theory. I enjoy trying new cuisines, being with my family and friends, and traveling whenever I get the chance.

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Danielle Mercier

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Danielle Mercier. I was born and raised in Florida and have lived all over the state. I taught third grade at a private school for the last two years but felt as though I wanted to get back into the college atmosphere. That is why I decided to pursue my PhD in English with a concentration in literature.

When I began my undergraduate studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, I decided to major in history and minor in English. Those undergraduate courses in literature opened up a new passion in me—one that revolves around literature and academia. I then pursued my master’s in literature at Florida State University. I primarily focused on the 19th/20th centuries’ slave and segregation narratives. I find this subject to be a rich field of research due to the historical, socio-economic, and political ties the subject still has today. I love reading for learning and engagement and then teaching with the same goals. 

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Yulia Nekrashevich

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

Hello there. I am a PhD student studying rhetoric and composition. I graduated from Barry University with a bachelor’s in professional writing and received my master’s in rhetoric here at USF.

I am mainly interested in Mikhail Bakhtin’s writings on dialogue and the Carnivalesque. Previously, I did research on the Carnival and how it changes cultural hegemony. I am now studying the rhetoric of queer theory and applying my knowledge and skills into this area of focus, with the goal of learning and using methods that challenge social norms.

2018 Graduate Student Cohort

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Briget Horne

PhD English
Literature

Bio

Literacy is what I do: how I speak, how I perform, how I think. Perhaps my undergraduate career at FAMU as an English & French double major best convinced me of this truth when my professors exposed me to the Black Francophone world of writers and artists. These pivotal moments taught me that I, too, could find myself within a book, appreciate the diverse experiences of others, and express myself via writing. My experiences also revealed a necessity for more exploration of and exposure to Africana & Black studies within scholastic institutions. Hence, my interest in English literature with a focus on Africana studies allows me to continue exploring the jewels of Black literacy in an effort to excavate these narratives from the shadows. I am a first year, PhD student from Tallahassee, FL, and I am looking forward to this new adventure at USF.

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Michelle Sonnenberg

PhD English
Rhetoric & Composition

Bio

I am a first-year PhD student in English with a concentration in rhet/comp studying the Anthropocene, a term first used by Paul Crutzen to describe a new geologic epoch - one in which humans have permanently altered the planet. There is great debate about when to date the Anthropocene. This stems from the reality that global climatic changes have widespread causes and far reaching impacts that extend beyond the scope of the physical sciences. I began my studies here in Tampa, and completed a BA in geography and GIS, and an MLA - both at USFSP. During the course of my MLA, I was part of a student and community-centered writing project that focused on finding N/nature in place. I have a mixed academic background that echoes a long held desire to be an English teacher. I seek to use my experiences to find ways to actively engage others in the problem of the Anthropocene, affecting positive change in our world.

I'm a mother of two, and the first in my family to earn a post-secondary degree. I'm a Florida native, though I call Maryland home because I grew up there. I want to write, teach, read, and learn, in no particular order, every day. I hope to one day find myself in a small cabin somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains surrounded by books, running water, and people I love.

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Chondell Villines

PhD English
Literature

Bio

My name is Chondell Villines. I'm a first-year PhD student in English with a concentration in literature. I'm from no place in particular, having traveled the Southern US extensively as a child, but if you ask me where I'm from, I'll usually say St. Louis. I've recently found a place in the area that has St. Louis style pizza (thin crust with provel cheese) and it's made me more nostalgic for the place I lived before moving to St. Pete 6 years ago. I received my BA in literature at the University of Missouri Rolla (Now Missouri University of Science and Technology), my MA in literature from Southern Illinois University, and I recently graduated (June 2018) from the University of Tampa with my MFA in creative writing.

While working on a research project for my MFA I became interested in how writers use food in their stories. Particularly how it's used as a way to exact revenge on or to punish someone. This has led me to want to study American literature, particularly early 20th century American lit. and how alcohol was or wasn't used in stories by American writers. I want to investigate how the depression, and most especially prohibition, caused writers to shift how they used food and alcohol in their writing.