Student Profiles

Check out our amazing graduate students!

2019 Graduate Student Cohort


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Brittani Allen,

Ph.D. Literature

Hi! My name is Brittani Allen, and I am pursuing a PhD in English Literature. I am new to Florida but not new to the south. As a military child, I am used to moving around. I was born in England before moving to North Carolina a few years later. I enjoy the architecture, history, and literary elements that I encounter every time I return to England when visiting family. I originally fell in love with literature while in the palace library at Blenheim as I stared at the floor to ceiling shelves as a curious child. I expanded my love for literature as I wandered around the Bodleian and visited literary landmarks around the villages and cities of England. These rich experiences coupled with the support and encouragement I continuously receive from my family resulted in me pursuing English literature as a career. I earned my undergraduate degree in English Education from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP). I loved sharing my passion for literature with my high school students, but I wanted more. I love to learn, so I returned to UNCP to gain more knowledge. I earned my first master’s degree in 2018 from UNCP, where I combined my two fields, Victorian and Children’s literature, and wrote my thesis on Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I also served as the Assistant Director for UNCP’s Writing Center. Interacting with diverse students from all majors and content areas was exciting, as every day I was afforded the opportunity to assist someone with something new. After graduating with my first master’s, I moved to North Dakota to pursue a second graduate degree. I admired the picturesque snow daily while working towards another degree and teaching freshman writing courses. I earned a second master’s in 2019 in English literature from the University of North Dakota. From there, I made the 1,900 mile journey to South Florida, where I will work towards a PhD in English Literature, focusing on Victorian and Children’s literature. I look forward to everything USF has to offer while I pursue this new adventure!

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Audrey Blanco,

MFA in Poetry

Hello, my name is Audrey Blanco, and I am pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics at USF, and prior to that I earned an Associate in Arts degree at Hillsborough Community College. The shift from studying mathematics to poetry came quite suddenly; however, I have been writing in my personal time for several years.

Learning to write poetry in an academic setting is very new to me, and I am excited to develop my identity as a writer in USF’s MFA program. I have a particular fondness for nature themes, and I adore imagery about light. Thus far, my favorite book of poetry is Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris, and one of my favorite individual poems is Margaret Atwood’s “Variations on the Word Sleep.”

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Justiss Burry,

PhD Rhet/Comp

Hi! My name is Justiss and I’m a first year Graduate Assistant in the Rhetoric and Composition Ph.D. program here at USF. I completed my M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and my B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on English Literature, Philosophy, and Cultural Humanities at UCF. After completing my graduate degree in 2017, I taught first year writing courses at UCF up until this point. Sidenote: I think I’ll wear my UCF polos a little less, lol. 

Inasmuch as my research interests are concerned, I’m interested in myriad ideas that revolve around the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM) such as exploring rhetorical ideas of fitness, conceptions of navigating patient agency in the ecology of electronic medical records (EMRs), and undergraduate medical schools’ pedagogical approaches to rhetorical principles. I’m also interested in the interdisciplinarity inherently associated with writing across other disciplines (WAC), first year composition and administration, and Professional and Technical Communication (PTC). My goal throughout this program is to learn more about these research interests in order to identify and engage in scholarly conversations that help articulate my identity as a scholar and educator.

Here’s a declarative statement to end this introduction: My dog, Pepper, is the coolest dog in the world.

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J. Katharine (Kathy) Burton,

PhD Literature

I am a first year PhD student in English 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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Julianna Cherinka,

MA Literature

My name is Julianna Cherinka, and I am a first-year M.A. Literature student at the University of South Florida. In May of 2019, I received my B.A. in English Literature from the University of Central Florida. I am interested in American Modernist literature, with a specific focus on twentieth-century women's fiction and poetry.

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Alison Denny,

MA Literature

My name is Alison Denny and I am in the English Literature MA program. I was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but have lived the past four years of my life in Tampa. I received my bachelor’s in English from Florida College in Temple Terrace, and I am very excited to be working on my master’s at USF. My subjects of interest are British Romantic and Victorian literature, American Romanticism and Modernism, and, of course, Shakespeare. I am a major coffee snob and enjoy the local coffee shop scene immensely. My dream is to become a college professor specializing in teaching British literature, and maybe one day travel to England to visit the home of many of my favorite authors and poets.

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Allison Duque,

MA Literature

I am a first year MA Literature student. I graduated with my BA in Literary Studies from USF in the spring of 2019 and am excited to begin my graduate studies here as well. I spent over ten years in the corporate world before I decided that I really wanted to pursue a college degree. After my first semester back at school after so long, I realized that I wanted to be in this environment forever. My main area of interest lies in postcolonial literature and other more contemporary marginalized literatures. When I am not reading, I can usually be found working on my house which is a perpetual work in progress.    

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Madison Frazier,

MFA in Poetry

I am a first year M.F.A student with a focus on poetry. I received my B.A. from the University of South Florida. I am excited to continue my education as a Bull. While here at USF, I am primarily interested in writing poetry that not only explores the body, but the relationship the between the body and illness. While poetry will be my main area of study, I also plan to explore the world of creative nonfiction. In addition to reading and writing, I enjoy cooking, boating, and spending time with my dog, Dolores.

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Jessica Griffith,

PhD Rhet/Comp

I earned my BA in English and Intercultural Studies from Southeastern University in 2016 and my MA in English with a focus on Rhetoric and Composition from USF in the summer of 2019. I am currently a PhD student in the Rhetoric and Composition program, and I also teach First Year composition and Professional Writing. My research interests include technical writing, pedagogy, and how writing programs can better support their students and instructors.

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Gabrielle Grilli,

MFA in Poetry

Gabrielle Grilli is a first-year graduate student in the MFA program at USF. She received her undergraduate degree at UF with a major in English and minors in French and FL Teaching. She is most interested in researching poetry techniques and how poetry has evolved over time and composing her own poetry and creative writing pieces. She hopes to become a professor in the future.

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Sarah Harder,

MFA in Poetry

Hello! I am a first-year MFA candidate specializing in poetry, having graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in English, Creative Writing in May 2018. I have spent the past year working at a local startup app in Winnipeg, Canada. At USF, I am interested in exploring landscapes, the body, and the relationships we form between them, through my writing. When my head isn't stuck in a book, I enjoy hiking, playing piano, and spoiling other people's pets.

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Jerico Lenk,

MFA in Creative Writing

On loan from Seattle, I started undergrad at Western Washington University but came to USF for a transfer student tryst, graduating Spring 2019 with a double major in History/Creative Writing and minors in Classics and Russian Studies. So -- although I miss crafting theses about Achilles playing the role of wife during Patroklos’s funeral or how everything in ancient Rome was about the d---, I’m excited to focus fully on creative writing again. (And relieved.)

As a full time first-year MFA student, occasional fire spinner, and all the time writer, I’m still out for great sex hair and challenging concepts of normativity via poem, prose, and screen. I write poetry, literary/lyric/genre fiction, sometimes creative nonfiction, sometimes hybrid/experimental. Really, I’m just stubborn: I write about what obsesses me and what eludes me; I write for young blood representation and normalization of marginalized identities; I write to tell stories, not just storytell.

Some of my work has featured in issues of Brink Lit’s F(r)iction, USF’s Thread Literary Review, iOLit online, Obsidian, and CatheXis Northwest Press; others have received a Pushcart Prize nomination and awards such as the Bettye Newman Poetry Award, Estelle J. Zbar Poetry Award, and Anspaugh Fiction Award. The Missing, my "Ghost Hunters" meets "Sherlock Holmes" debut with Month 9 Books, was nominated for the Walter Dean Myers Award in recognition of its gender-queer/nonbinary lead.

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Lauren Leonard,

MA Literature

My name is Lauren Leonard, and I am a first-year MA student in the Literature program at USF! I earned my BA in English and History this past spring from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and I am so excited to start the next part of my learning experience here at USF. As a student, my major research interests are American and European twentieth-century literature, especially the works of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Agatha Christie, and while I am earning the MA, I am so excited to learn more about other genres and fields within the program.

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Katherine (Kat) Lewis,

MFA in Fiction

I am a fiction writer and an MFA student at the University of South Florida. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a BA in Writing Seminars. During my time at Hopkins, I spent a semester abroad at Oxford University where I studied Monster Literature. As a 2018-2019 Fulbright Creative Arts grantee in South Korea, I conducted research for my novel about ghosts in Korean folklore. In general, I write about monsters. In my research, I’ve found that there are two types of monsters: psychological monsters like addiction and ambition and physical monsters like zombies and werewolves. My writing explores the ways in which psychological monsters overlap with the physical monsters from Western and Korean folklore.

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Karla Maddox,

PhD Rhet/Comp

I am a PhD student focusing in Rhetoric and Composition. I currently teach Analytical and Persuasive Writing at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, and I have been teaching since 2007. Courses I’ve previously taught include Writing Processes, A Survey of British Literature, Cambridge A Level Language and Cambridge A.S. Level Literature, Communication for Health Sciences, Communication for Engineers, and Composition I & II.

I am a USF Bull through and through! I completed a certificate in Technical and Professional Writing in 2014 while also working on my Master’s in English Literature. For my undergraduate degree, I majored in Literature and minored in Philosophy. I feel fortunate to have been in The Honors College and the English Honors Program, as well as worked for The Writing Studio, and studied abroad at Cambridge University. My Honors College thesis was about the social implications of health and science related to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

My academic interests include American Literature, Pedagogy, Linguistics, Philosophy, Marxism, Feminism, Digital Media, Disability Studies, and Naturalism. In my personal time, I maintain the oldest house in the historic fishing village of Cortez, and I’m interested in preserving some semblance of its originality.

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Mariel Marconi,

MA Literature

I am an English Literature M.A. student, undergrad at USF Sarasota-Manatee. My favorite area of study is mid to late eighteenth century English fiction, and the way authors portrayed the rapidly changing social landscape of the country during the Industrial Revolution. In 2017 I went to London with USF Abroad, and I highly recommend that any student interested in adding some color and excitement to their academic career consider one of the trips the university makes each year. I'm excited to meet and work with you all during the next few years.

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Marshall Martin,

PhD Rhet/Comp

Greetings! I am a first-year 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 valuable administrative knowledge and experience. My research interests include the intersection of classical rhetorical theory and digital rhetoric, writing program and institutional administration, attention and screen time management, and composition theory. I enjoy trying new cuisines and traveling whenever I get the chance.

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Danielle Mercier,

Ph.D. Literature

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 Ph. D in English 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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Nicole Musselman,

MA Literature

My name is Nicole Musselman and I’m a first year M.A. Literature student at the University of South Florida. I received my B.A. in English at the University of Tampa in 2009. In the ten years since graduating from University of Tampa, I have worked for many large medical practices in Tampa as an office manager. In 2018 I decided to leave the medical field to pursue my dream of teaching English literature. During my first two semesters as a non-degree seeking student at USF, I became interested in American literature. I am currently expanding my research on masculine motherhood in American literature, particularly in late 19th century women writers.

Outside of academia, I love to spend time with my husband and our two mini dachshunds. We love to visit cooler climates whenever we get the chance to snowboard and enjoy winter activities.

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Yulia Nekrashevich,

Ph.D. Rhet/Comp

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 currently focusing on how dialogue can be used in improving patient-doctor communication within a healthcare setting. 

 I was born in Russia and moved to the States at a very young age. My interests include reading, horror movies, true crime, and all things macabre.

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Richard Parker,

PhD Literature

My name is Richard Rhett Parker, and I am a first-year PhD student in English Literature. I was born and raised in Valdosta, Georgia, and I ended up staying in the area to complete both my B.A. and M.A. in English at Valdosta State University.

As a scholar, my primary area of interest resides in Postmodern and Contemporary American literature. Specifically, my Master’s thesis discussed the ways in which American authors since the ‘60s have recorded and/or highlighted how distinct, regional cultures within America have been “flattened out” in favor of a mainstream culture built on mass consumption (e.g. replacing farmlands with shopping malls). That being said, I am also highly interested in science fiction, war fiction, and liminal spaces. As an instructor, my primary research interests reside in understanding the pedagogical value of multimodal texts (especially comic books and graphic novels) and digital texts as well as how to apply said texts to Rhet/Comp and literature courses.

Outside of academia, I enjoy reading comic books (big surprise, right?), playing video games, watching films, and listening to and playing music.

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Kaelah Scheff,

MA Rhet/Comp

My name is Kaelah Scheff and I’m gratified to join the USF’s English Department as a Graduate Assistant in the Rhetoric and Composition Program. I am originally from Jacksonville, FL but moved to Boca Raton to major in Linguistics at FAU. A year and a half later, I transferred to UF where I received a BA in both Linguistics and English by 2017.

At USF, I plan to gain more insight on identity theory and epistemology in rhetorical studies. Specifically, I am fascinated by how humans define themselves in individual and global perspectives to further understand how these definitions have changed via time and/or region. I plan to use my experiences here to prepare for doctoral study and a future career in academia. Amidst all the learning, you can find me noshing at local food joints, perusing antique shops, and watching horror and mind-bending thrillers.

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Shauna Slezak,

MA Literature

Hello! My name is Shauna Slezak and I am a first year M.A. Literature student at the University of South Florida. I grew up in Cleveland, OH, graduating with a B.A in English Language and Literature from Ohio University in 2019. I am very excited to begin this new adventure here at USF as a Masters student! I am on the literature track within the English Master's program with an area of study focused on nineteenth-century British literature.

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Austin Smith,

MA Literature

I am pursuing my MA in Literature and hoping to eventually get my PhD to teach at the university level. I completed my BA in Philosophy with a minor in Creative Writing from USF, and was involved with the Philosophy Organization here and published essays through our zine. I am most interested in the late-19th and early-20th century Modernist novel, as well as comics as literature. I also enjoy existentialism, post-modernism and some contemporary fiction as well. When I'm not in school, I enjoy going to art museums, watching spaghetti westerns and spending time with my girlfriend Lauren, who is going for her master's degree as well at USF in Education.

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Rodger Tornai,

MA Literature

I am a first year Graduate English student. I received from University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration on American and English literature. My intended focus for graduate study is the social effects and cultural implications of presenting violations of various taboos in Medieval and English Renaissance drama and fiction; these include those still applicable to modern Western culture such as cannibalism, incest, and necrophilia, as well as those more contextually applicable to English culture between 1066 and the Restoration. Time not spent studiously is generally divided between painting and spending time with my wife. My favorite books are Stephen King’s The Stand and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables; my favorite author is Clive Barker. Good horror, heavy metal and bitter coffee does a most content Rodger make.

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Callie Treadway,

MFA in Fiction

My name’s Callie Treadway and I’m a Graduate Assistant pursing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of South Florida. My degree focus is in fiction, though I also write poetry, creative nonfiction, and experimental genre-hybrid works. Most of my fiction work is Southern Gothic and is inspired by my experience growing up on a farm in rural Arkansas. My writing explores topics of gender, the body and its connection to nature, trauma, social psychology, and mental illness. I received a BA from USF in 2019, before which I worked as a hairstylist and independent salon owner, where I conducted extensive field research on the ancient and venerable craft of gossip. During this time, I developed a fascination with the fluid and shifting nature of human experience and am interested in how literature can be used to capture subjective definitions of truth. When I am supposed to be writing, I can probably be found drawing, thrift store shopping, playing piano, reading horoscopes, or staring off into the void.

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Calyn Waddington,

Ph.D. Literature

I am a Ph.D. English Literature student with a BA in English Literature from UCF and a MA in English Literature from USF. I am interested in Gothic/Victorian literatures and the application of gender binary deconstruction in Gothic theory and application across various literatures that include Gothic moments and themes. I believe this allows various insight into the Gothic anxieties surrounding gender, sexuality, and relationships. As far as research and writing, the process of analyzing literature is far more interesting to me than academic writing; however, I also have a few creative writing pieces published in poetry and nonfiction. I’m happiest when talking about the Brontë sisters, Mary Shelley, or any of our Gothic treasures.

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Tyra White,

MFA in Fiction

My name is Tyra White, and I’ll be working to get my Masters in Fine Arts with a fiction focus. I recently graduated in May from Hope College with a B.A. in English, emphasis in creative writing. I’m most looking forward to writing and exploring identities within black women and culture. I’m from Chicago, and new to Tampa, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the next three years of my life will be paved out in the sunshine state!

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John Williams,

Ph.D. Rhet/Comp

John is new to the PhD Rhetoric and Composition program, but is no stranger to USF. He completed his undergraduate degree in English here at USF, then stayed to earn an MFA in creative writing. His thesis work was a hybrid early reader children’s book with text, handwritten letters and comics. While working on his MFA, John took several Rhet/Comp courses, and caught the Ph.D. bug. In addition to school, John and his partner own a real estate appraisal company, and the focus of his Ph.D. studies revolve around gentrification and urban renewal.

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McKenzie Zalopany,

MFA in Fiction

I am a first-year Creative Writing student, with a focus in Fiction. I was an undergraduate at the University of South Florida and loved it so much I came back. My work often aims to discuss sexuality, mental health, and gender. During upcoming years at USF, I look forward to crossing over mediums, genres, and continuing to improve my work, not only in technique, but in inclusivity and accessibility. Other than reading (because we all like to read here), I enjoy watching my three-year-old pretending to be a robot in the most inconvenient of places, cross-wording, and leaving get togethers early.


2018 Graduate Student Cohort


 Image shows Nicholas Brown smiling at the camera

Nicholas Brown,

MFA in Fiction

My name is Nicholas Brown and I'm a first year MFA candidate specializing in fiction with interest in cross-genre work. I graduated in 2012 with a B.A. in English from Auburn University. Since then, I've worked as a door-to-door salesman in my hometown of Morton, Illinois before moving down to Georgia where I've worked at a Title I school as a 6th grade special education teacher, a soccer coach, and a 7th grade English teacher where I was a part of my middle school's first 7th grade STEM team. I enjoy coffee, cheese, and assorted deli meats. While at USF, I'm most excited about writing and studying the craft of story-telling and analyzing how various masters throughout history and around the world have wrestled with the varies tensions of storytelling so that, through the supportive community here at USF, I can work towards contributing my most genuine voice. I also enjoy building furniture with the help of drills and large saws, which I've found makes the process infinitely easier.

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Lauren Cross,

MFA in Creative Nonfiction

I am a first-year Creative Writing M.F.A. student, focusing on Nonfiction, and I received my B.A. from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. In my writing, I like to explore topics central to the body, womanhood, and mental health. My work has been featured in thread: an intersectional feminist arts collective and The Broken Plate. When I am not writing or teaching, I am probably applying sunscreen, painting, creating collages, reading, or listening to podcasts.

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Cory Engle,

MA Literature

My name is Cory Engle and I'm a first year M.A. Literature student at the University of South Florida. I've spent my life in the Tampa Bay area, graduating from USF in 2013 with my B.A. in Literary Studies. Since graduating, I've spent several years teaching high school English and Media Studies in Pasco County, and have also spent time teaching English and traveling in China. As a graduate student at USF I would like to focus on modernist literature, with particular attention towards studying the modern novel from psychological perspectives.

  Image shows Anca Garcia in front of a wall of green leaves

Anca Garcia,

PhD Literature

I grew up in a small Transylvanian city in Romania, and I still love long snowy winters and tall mountains. In early 2000s, I graduated from Transilvania University in Brasov, Romania, with a dual degree in Romanian and English. Three years later, I received a master's degree in Romanian from the same university. I published a series of articles in various Romanian literary journals and short story book in Romanian. For a few years, I worked as a Romanian literature lecturer at Sapientia University in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania.

After I moved to the United States, I became an English as a Second Language instructor at Valdosta State University, in Georgia. I loved working with international students, but as my interests still revolved around literature, I decided to go back to school and eventually I received a master's degree in English. Valdosta was good to me and it helped me transition towards an English Composition instructor, so now I am looking forward to working on my teaching skills at USF while I will also be working on a PhD in English Literature.

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Kristen Grafton,

MA Rhet/Comp

I am born and raised in Florida and have lived most of my life in the Tampa area. I graduated from the University of South Florida in 2016 with three Bachelor's degrees in political science, history, and English (with a concentration in creative writing). I will be pursuing a Master's in English in the Rhetoric and Composition track. I am very interested in exploring the rhetoric pertaining to history and politics and potentially merging my three areas of study into one.

I am a high school teacher in the Tampa Bay area. I primarily teach English, though I have also taught United States history and American Sign Language. I will be continuing with my teaching career while pursuing this degree part-time. My personal hobbies include creative writing (mostly novels), reading, playing the guitar, and watching NHL hockey.

  Image shows Connor (CJ) Harris with his family standing in front of a restaurant's glass door

Connor (CJ) Harris,

MA Literature

My name is CJ Harris. I am from Largo FL (just across the bay) and I got my BA in English Literature at USF. I am a GA and I'm working on my MA in English Literature. My scholarly interests are post-WW2 American literature, post-structuralism, and Marxism. I have had scholarly work published in the Thread Undergraduate Literary Journal, and I presented a paper at USF's Graduate Student Colloquium. Ultimately, I would like to incorporate both post-structural criticism and Marxist criticism into my work--I know that making those ends meet is going to be hard, if not impossible, but I love the philosophical underpinnings of post-structuralism and see Marxism as the best means by which we can accomplish radical political and social change. Outside of the academy, I love my family to pieces (my wife, Leejah, is working on becoming a PA at USF, and my son, Silas, is ten months old and super rad), and am wild about music. My tastes vary widely, ranging from Built to Spill to Chance the Rapper, from The Mountain Goats to The Coup.

  Image shows Briget Horne standing in front of a tree with large glass windows in the background

Briget Horne,

PhD Literature

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, Ph.D student from Tallahassee, FL., and I am looking forward to this new adventure at USF.

  Image shows Meghan Hutton smiling at the camera with tall buildings in the background

Meghan Hutton,

MA Literature

Hello! My name is Meghan Hutton and I am very excited to be starting the English Master's program at USF. I graduated in May of 2018 with a bachelor's degree in English from Christian Brothers University located in my hometown of Memphis, TN. I will be on the literature degree track and the area of study that I am particularly interested in is nineteenth-century American literature.

  Image shows Benjamin Kinney smiling at the camera, standing outside in front of green trees

Benjamin Kinney,

MFA in Creative Nonfiction

I will be studying creative nonfiction at USF, and my work tends to consist mostly of personal essays, though I am looking forward to exploring new genres and formats here. I grew up in Michigan, where I attended Central Michigan University for a B.S. in Secondary Education and Northern Michigan University for an M.A. in English. I have also taught a total of 4.5 years in middle schools in Florida between degrees. I have published nonfiction in the Walloon Writer's Review and f(r)iction, fiction in the Blue Earth Review, and reviews in Heavy Feather Review and Ploughshares. My other interests are distance running, films (especially the work of David Lynch), and reality television (especially Survivor).

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Kara Larson,

PhD Rhet/Comp

I am a second year Ph.D student in Rhetoric & Composition and a Florida native. I completed my BA degree in Literature/Gender Studies from New College in Sarasota. In 2008, I graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching in English Education from USF and went on to work for Hillsborough County Public Schools. I spent five years as a classroom English Language Arts teacher to English Language Learners (ELLs) and three years as an ELL Specialist, all at the middle-school level. During that time, I also taught Developmental Writing at Hillsborough Community College. Inspired by my love of teaching at the community college, I returned to USF in the fall of 2017.

I hope to combine my interests in composition and rhetoric with my passion for helping English Language Learners and other underserved or minority groups. As a graduate assistant, I teach First-Year Composition and Professional Writing. My research interests include pedagogy, professional and technical communication, second language writing, feminist/gender/queer, and critical race theories. I am also the Event Coordinator for EGSA, the English Graduate Student Association.

  Image shows profile of Migien Mocke on a wooden pier at dawn or dusk with the horizon of blue water and a gray sky in the background

Migien Mocke,

MFA in Poetry

Hi everyone! I'm Migien. Pleased to meet ya! I was born in Vereeniging, Gauteng (the smallest South African province) and spent the first few years of my life there before immigrating to Jacksonville, Florida with my family. The first thing I learned in Jacksonville was how to speak English.(Kindergarten was definitely rough, but that was the beginning of everything!!) Thankfully, I learned many other cool things in Jacksonville also! My hobbies include alternating between blindly excavating the valleys of the mind (that's the codename for keeping an appropriately low profile) and positively glistening with aspirations and hopes and dreams (which may or may not be the occasional essential oil blend... Probably the only millennial stereotype I can 110% get behind!).

Though this may come as a surprise to y'all, given the department (*wink*), I was an English major! I completed my Bachelor's in English Literature at Sewanee, (though stiff upper lips/ the FAFSA would call it the "University of the South") up in rural Tennessee. A liberal speck of an arts school, my alma mater lodged it neo-Gothic architecture soundly between trees and mountain-song, scrabbling pens and the squelch of muddy Bean boots... (A surprising staple of the often-business-casual "class dress"!) Ah, memories.

All places have a way of growing on a person, and showing that person how to grow up, in turn. There in that one-horse town on the Cumberland Plateau, I learned much about the magnificence of those who precede us, and how they have shaped/should and will continue to shape literature as we know it.  I hope, at USF, to use Poetry to also focus on what comes between our past and our future. The here and now. I received a largely traditional undergraduate education (All English majors were required to take Shakespeare I and Shakespeare II, which didn't count towards the "literature prior to 1850" courses requirement), and I want to fill in some of my contemporary gaps.

Poetry, to me, is how I might piece together those impressions and inclinations I've gathered that I don't know, otherwise, how to communicate. I want to apply poetry in the contemporary sense, and learn from how others have also done so. Creative writing generally, the whats and whys and hows of our choices, indicate what type of culture we currently reflect, where our investments lie.  Specifically, how we write – how we think – is who we are. *This*, here, is my world, and with poetry as a lens, I aspire towards continued growth, with eyes wide open.

  Image shows Andrew Miller smiling at the camera in front of a painting

Andrew Miller,

MA Rhet/Comp

Hi Everyone! My name is Andrew Miller, I am a Graduate Assistant in the Rhetoric and Composition Program as well as a First Year Composition Instructor here at the University of South Florida. I am also a USF alumnus having graduated last year with a BA in Professional Writing, Rhetoric and Technology.

I was born in Miami but grew up overseas in South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where I studied Digital Filmmaking and later worked as a documentary filmmaker and camera operator on dramatic productions for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. At this point in time, my interests are primarily centered around the study of academic pedagogy as well as the changing nature of contemporary rhetoric in our current social climate. I look forward to interacting with you all as the academic year proceeds!

  Image shows portrait Haley Morton outiside, smiling at the camera with the sun casting a halo around her

Haley Morton,

MFA in Poetry

I am a current student in the MFA Creative Writing program with a focus on Poetry. I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Behavioral Healthcare, and a minor in Creative Writing. Although the two seem unrelated, both are intricately involved with listening and storytelling. I am interested in writing as a form of emotional regrowth and counseling, and behavioral healthcare as a way to learn and connect with the people around you. My concentration in undergrad was adult community services and I believe that writing is a form of community. It engages us with ourselves and others. I look forward to exploring this more in my time here at USF and exploring some other obsessions I have like birds, women, religion, and human coping mechanisms and how they change us. I am originally from Wisconsin, but grew up in Herzogenaurach, Baveria, Germany, and Oviedo, Florida.

  Portrait of Richard (Rick) Reisinger smiling at the camera with a grey studio background

Richard (Rick) Reisinger,

MA Literature

My name is Richard (Rick) Reisinger, and I'm originally from Rochester, New York. I attended Monroe Community College for 2 years, then transferred into SUNY Brockport to complete my degree in English literature and education. Immediately upon graduating, my wife and I decided to move to the Tampa Bay area, where I took up a high school teaching position at Chamberlain High School that I still hold.

I am currently on track to earn a Masters degree in English literature, and it is my intention to carry my studies forward into a Doctorate in the same major. With that degree, I intend to take up a position teaching college and contribute to ongoing literary research. I have a deep-seated love and respect for all forms of literature, but I am particularly interested in the writing of the 1920s; to be more specific, I find that my studies often revolve around the American expatriate authors who lived and worked in Paris during that time period. Amongst my favorite authors are Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

  Image shows Emory Russo smiling at the camera in front of a winged statue

Emory Russo,

MFA in Fiction

My name is Emory Russo. I'm a Marylander and a graduate of UMBC with BAs in History and English. I'll be pursuing the fiction track in USF's MFA program, though I'd also like to take at least one course in creative nonfiction. I'm a bi trans man, a cat person, and a big fan of the mystery, crime, and horror genres.

  Image shows Scott Simeral with a wooden pipe in his mouth, standing outside in front of a grey castle

Scott Simeral,

MA Literature

I am a candidate for the MA in English Literature. I earned my MA in Defense and Strategic Studies (Emphasis in the Greater Middle East) from the U.S. Naval War College, and my BS from the U.S. Naval Academy where I majored in International Relations and minored in Arabic Language. I played Division I water polo at the Naval Academy, and made three NCAA Final Four appearances with my team.

I grew up in San Diego, CA and served in the Navy for 12 years prior to coming to USF. Most of my time in the Navy was spent with the SEALs and NCIS. I am married to the lovely Mikayla Simeral of Saint Petersburg, FL, who is a USF alumni!

  Image shows Michelle Sonnenberg smiling at the camera with her family in front of mountains

Michelle Sonnenberg,

PhD Rhet/Comp

I am a first year PhD student 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 B.A. 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.

  Image shows Michael (Mike) Stowe, arms outstretched, in front of a store as snow falls

Michael (Mike) Stowe,

Ph.D. Literature

In 2013, I moved from Indiana to Florida to pursue an MA in English at USF. I've been with the English Department in some fashion ever since – as a graduate student, an adjunct, and most recently, an academic advisor. While I worked as an advisor over the last two years, I earned a second master's degree, this time in English Education. In that program, I had the opportunity to build on my theoretical knowledge from the English degree and explore how the literature I studied could be used to affect change in the world. Now that I'm entering the PhD program in Literature, I'm hoping to build on both degrees.

I focus on the intersections of twentieth century and contemporary literature, ecocriticism, and critical pedagogy. I intend to work with Indigenous literatures of the Americas as the foundation for a dissertation that will connect traditional literary analysis to classroom teaching and environmentally based service learning with the hope of promoting critical consciousness in undergraduates. My previous research has looked at ways Florida place-based literature can both model a solution to the social stratification resulting from urban development and preserve the rich contributions of immigrants to both this state and the city of Tampa. My current research agenda is both the product and extension of this work.

  Image shows Kelcee Sykes sitting with a green lawn behind her

Kelcee Sykes,

MFA in Fiction

My name is Kelcee Sykes. I am joining the MFA program on the fiction track. I enjoy writing stories about complicated family situations against a Midwestern backdrop, but I look forward to exploring other genres, particularly creative non-fiction, during my time at the University of South Florida. I have a BA in English and Psychology from Hope College in Holland, Michigan and my most recent hometown is Lansing, Michigan. When I'm not writing, I can usually be found wandering in the woods, listening to true-crime podcasts, or doing my best to learn how to cook like a grown up.

  Image shows close-up of Robert (Rob) Vanlandingham smiling at the camera

Robert (Rob) Vanlandingham,

MFA in Poetry

I am a Florida born and Florida raised child. I grew up in the state's panhandle, sometimes referred to as Lower Alabama and other times as the Redneck Riviera. My hometown of Panama City is a short drive from the (in)famous Panama City Beach, Spring Break Capital of the World, where MTV and Girls Gone Wild hung out for most of the late 90s. I was born in 1984, so I am right at the cutoff line of the Millennial generation. However, I can remember owning a rotary phone. I graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University with a BM in Piano Performance, December of 2007. I placed in several piano competitions, winning one. From there I went to the Cleveland Institute of Music as a Master's student to continue my study of the piano. I bounced from place to place over the next ten years before ending up here at USF, much to my satisfaction. Although my background is music, I spent a great deal of time in writing workshops while an undergraduate. I am pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. My goal is to publish.

  Image shows close-up of Chondell Villines smiling at the camera

Chondell Villines,

PhD Literature

My Name is Chondell Villines. I'm a first year PhD student in the English Literature Department. 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.

  Image shows Jessica Watson smiling at the camera, sitting in a restaurant booth

Jessica Watson,

MFA in Creative Nonfiction

My name is Jessica Watson.  I am a first year MFA on the non-fiction track, and my primary interest is the natural world.  I was born and raised in Norwich, Connecticut and was inspired to get a B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut after reading Annie Dillard's book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  I have worked in research labs that study everything from insects to plankton to fish, and completed a few years of graduate study in marine science, before I realized that I love fieldwork and writing, but not the research part.  I look forward to exploring other genres during my time at USF, especially poetry.  My hobbies include spoiling my dogs, fingerstyle guitar, being outside, and butterfly watching.