Public Humanities


Public engagement is a foundational component of my research. As a 2017 Mellon Fellow in the Public Humanities, I received extensive training in the methods and practices of public scholarship from Humanities New York. Additionally, I have worked closely with the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) to examine how instructors at the University of Rochester facilitate community-engaged learning (CEL) on campus and in our community. As a researcher for RCCL, I interviewed UR faculty and conducted a literature review of CEL pedagogy to ascertain best practices and assess the availability of resources for instructors embarking on CEL courses at the University of Rochester.

Beginning in Spring 2018, I joined faculty and students for a CEL project about climate change in Ladakh, India. I collaborated with professors Nancy Chin (Public Health and Anthropology), Tatiana Bakhmetyeva (Women and Gender Studies), and Stewart Weaver (History) for a research seminar in which UR undergraduates and Ladakhi students collected oral histories about flooding, drought, glacial recession, and cultural resilience in the trans-Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir. Working in conjunction with our community partners in Ladakh, we trained both American and Ladakhi students in the methods of oral history and community-engaged research. During a four-week period over the summer, we visited numerous remote villages outside the city of Leh to conduct interviews.

In Fall 2018, I taught a follow-up course in Digital and Public History, which allowed our students to analyze and frame our research for digital mediums. I have since built a digital archive, Climate Witness: Voices of Ladakh, that integrates audio files, a project description, and other media within a StoryMap.

My essay on redwoods and marijuana in Humboldt County.

Interested in making my research accessible and relevant to our contemporary moment, I have also pursued public scholarship and teaching in other capacitates. I wrote an article for The Washington Post that draws attention to the environmental costs of legalized marijuana production in Humboldt County, CA.

Trotsky & the Wild Orchids: A Podcast about US Intellectual History

Additionally, I have partnered with historians Andrew Hartman and Ray Haberski in the creation and ongoing production of Trotsky & the Wild Orchids, a podcast that addresses current events through the lens of intellectual history. Hosted by an “unreformed Marxist” (Hartman) and a self-styled “Niebuhrian Liberal” (Haberski), T&TWO aims to explore points of common ground and divergence within and between liberal and socialist political philosophies. Typically driven by conversation and dialogue from Hartman and Haberski, episodes also feature a wide range of guests, including, for example, historians such as Kim Phillips-Fein, Elesha Coffman, Peter Kuryla, and Daniel Bessner, as well as the political writer and founder of Jacobin, Bhaskar Sunkara.

Kim Phillips-Fein (left), Andrew Hartman (center), and Ray Haberski (right) during a live recording to T&TWO in New York City.

With an eye toward public scholarship in my local community, I am also working as the Program Manager for Experiencing Civic Life, a summer seminar for Rochester teens. In this role, I have collaborated with the Director of the Humanities Center, Dr. Joan Rubin, as well as numerous humanities faculty and high school teachers, in the planning, implementation, and assessment of a pre-college humanities program for underserved high school students in our city.

Intent on bringing local history into our seminar, I also collaborated with UR Libraries to curate a collection of source materials that focused on the July 1964 race uprising in Rochester. Aided by a librarian, I tailored short answer/essay prompts to accompany the collection.  Each student’s response became the basis for short podcast episodes/audio papers, which we recorded during the last two days of the program. Students were thus exposed to recording technologies as well as a significant historical moment in our city.

Local history and public engagement also define my collaboration with the Museum Association of New York (MANY) on the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit. In December of 2018, I gave a talk about historical methodology to the museum professionals tasked with curating and managing the exhibit. The presentation encouraged curators to reflect on how and why the exhibit distinguishes between ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ waterways. I am also providing public lectures about New York’s environmental history in each of the cities hosting Water/Ways. Toward this end, I have composed an engaging, multi-media talk that invites audiences to think critically about the various modes in which water shapes, and is shaped by, human identity, ideas, and culture.