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Current Student Bios

Vanessa Cutz is a second year student in the Folklore Program with a Bachelor’s from Western Oregon University where she studied English. She is interested in the nature of stories and the interplay between cultural stories and the individual’s stories in the creation of identity. She is also interested in how narratives may be used for recovery by individuals and communities after traumatic events, and how stories may be used in conflict resolution.

Bruce Dahlstrom has an MA from Sonoma State University in Cultural Resource Management and a BA in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. He has worked in consulting archaeology primarily in California, Oregon, and British Columbia. He is interested in the construction, meaning and use of monsters in contemporary society particularly as they are used in expressing concerns about human/environment and human/technology issues.

Sean Dixon is a second year Master’s student. He graduated with a B.A. in European History from American University in Washington, DC. Currently his research interests include Scandinavian and Germanic mythology, and the ways in which folktales and mythology have been utilized to convey and reevaluate changing cultural beliefs and folkways over the centuries.

Nathan Georgitis is a Librarian at the University of Oregon and also Archivist of the Folklore Program’s Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore. He earned a B.A. in Literature at Brown University and a M.L.S. from Simmons College. Nathan’s interests include archives management and audio preservation; folklore and public media; and canoeing and boat building traditions.

Jenn Grunigen is a first year Master’s student in the Folklore program. She graduated from Fairhaven College with a BA in Percussive Wordcraft and Narrative Drumming. Her research interests veer toward the intersections between folktales, and science fiction and fantasy–especially when those nodes are fox-shaped. In her writing, she tends to focus on gender, the earth, and the feral; visit her website (www.jenngrunigen.com/) for more on her writing and music.

Chip Hanna is a Master’s student in the Folklore Program and graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Miami. His research interests include folk and fairytales, particularly a comparison of similar tales from different parts of the world, and how differences and similarities in the tale assist in a comparative study of those cultures.

Sabra Harris is a second year Master’s student and has a B.A. in Asian Studies with an emphasis on Japanese cultural studies from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. She is interested in folklore and popular culture, the ways in which old stories and archetypes are expressed in modern society, sexuality in myth, and issues of immigration and the expression of rituals and traditions in new contexts. She has participated in two summer internships collecting data for “American Hinduism” and “Burial Practices of Minority Religions in the American South” for lectures at the University of the South and the Sewanee School of Theology.

Jules Helweg-Larsen is a first year Master’s student in folklore. Recently graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland, she is a Canadian citizen who happened to grow up in North Carolina. Inspired by her BA in Folklore and a minor in Classics, Jules’ research interests include the reciprocal relationship between folk and popular culture and its representation in material culture, differential identity, and the interplay between vernacular belief and social media. Other passions include tattoos, the outdoors, circus arts, the supernatural, and collecting books.

Emily Knott is a second year Master’s student. She received a B.S. in History from Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. Her research interests are wide and varied but she is particularly interested in subcultures, the occult, and gender issues, both past and present.

Makaela Kroin is an incoming Folklore scholar and an eager transplant to the Northwest. She earned her B.A. at Smith College where she studied languages and cultures from Old Norse to Chinese. She graduated with a degree in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies with a minor in Ethnomusicology. She has lived and studied abroad in Spain, Portugal, and Brazil. More recently, she earned an M.S. in Information and Communication Science and taught Public Speaking to undergraduates of Ball State University. While she is passionate about all things folklore, she plans to focus on herbal-lore, environmental movements, traditional medicine and healing, and nostalgia.

Mical Lewis is a third year Master’s student in the Folklore Program. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 2010 with a B.A. in English. She is primarily interested in ceremonies and agricultural holidays, both ancient and modern, particularly those stemming from Celtic cultures, and how and why they operate to orient a community or individual in time and space. Her other interests include the folklore surrounding the tarot, chickens, kitchen and cottage gardens, bee-keeping, tea, and why human beings need to create rituals.

Julianne Meyer is a second year Master’s student with a B.A. in Anthropology and English from Truman State University, Missouri. Her interests range from ethnobotany to supernatural lore. She has initiated, constructed, and taught an undergraduate course in ethnobiology, and hopes to make folkloric knowledge applicable to standard concepts of agriculture. She is especially interested in ethnobotanical knowledge as expressed through Native American environmental knowledge. Another area of interest includes the documentation of the ghost lore of Kansas City, and she continues to research local traditions in this area and others.

Martina Miles is a Ph.D. student in the English Department with dual emphases in folklore and disability studies. Her research examines the intersection of lived religion and literature, specifically focusing on how knowledge gets created in post-apocalyptic spaces, stories, and beliefs. Her focus on eschatology began while studying for her B.A. in English and Gender Studies at Whittier College and led to her current research interest in how bodies, identities, and places are crafted in the particularly contentious narrative space of the end of the world as we know it. Martina teaches in the UO’s composition program and often jokes that she’ll someday publish a magnum opus on the folk culture of composition classrooms.

Jillian Norris is a second year Master’s student and has a B.A. in Writing Communications with a minor in International Studies from Maryville College, Tennessee. She is a first year Master’s student in the Folklore Program. She is interested in the preservation of folkloric traditions and local culture that are currently threatened by rapid globalization. She has a particular interest in Slavic and Celtic communities, and Native American cultures, as well as issues of cultural heritage in general.

Talia Nudell is a first year Master’s student in the Folklore program. She graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in English and American Literature. Her main research interests are in Jewish folklore, as well as superstitions and naming traditions (both Jewish and otherwise). She is also interested in ethnomusicology, mythology, and fortune telling traditions and practices.

Kelly Nulty is a first year Master’s student in the Folklore program. She has a BFA in Photography and a BA in Philosophy & Religious Studies from State University of New York at New Paltz. A driving passion to understand the inexplicable, she focuses her interests on belief and the effects of true faith. As an artist, the subjects of many of her pieces explore her ties to philosophy and conceptualization of the unconscious mind. From history to possible futures, her artwork can be seen on her portfolio website at www.Yllek.com.

Emily Oravecz is a second year Master’s student in the Folklore Program with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies from Bowling Green State University. Her primary research interest is the art and history of traditional tattooing, from ancient Egypt to the present day. Her other interests include celebration, festival, women’s rituals, and the dynamics of tradition.

Benjamin Panther is a third year Master’s student and received a B.A. in Religious Studies at DePaul University before coming to U of O to study folklore. Combining his love for storytelling, Victorian novels, champagne brunches, and criminals, his current research focuses on narratives (both historical and literary) of gentleman thieves and art crime in upper class societies. When not keeping a watchful eye out for scheming socialites, he also looks at other areas of upper class culture such as table etiquette, fancy dress, and the social calendar and the construction of class.

Emily Ridout is a second year Master’s student in the Folklore Program. She graduated from Indiana University in 2009 with a B.A. in Folklore and Ethnomusicology and a minor in Creative Writing. Since that time, she has been teaching and guiding trips in India, Fiji, and California. Her primary research interests include esoteric religion, yoga practices, astrology, and foodways.

Bruno Seraphin is a second year Master’s student and a narrative and documentary film-maker whose interests include primitivism, folk revivals, comparative mythology, ecstatic mysticism, plant and animal epistemologies, folk schools, co-ops, radical social movements, and community based media and storytelling projects. He plays old-time music, calls a few square dances, and performed for years with the Green Grass Cloggers. He received a B.F.A. from New York University in 2009.

Nikki Silvestrini is a first year Master’s student. Originally from Minnesota, she graduated with distinction from Indiana University with a B.A. in Folklore and Ethnomusicology, minoring in Rock and Roll history. She presented her undergraduate thesis “Ganglines: The Ties that Bind the Sled-Dog Community” at the OSU/IU Student Folklore Conference in 2010. The past four years she’s worked at indie bookstores and volunteered as both a wildlife rehabilitator and canine behavior rehabilitator. Her research interests include verbal folklore with emphasis on storytelling and narratology as well as youth culture, performance, and contemporary music history. She is specifically interested in studying the role of animals in human communities and how that defines cultural identity.

Danny Stewart – first year Master’s student. I’m the guy you call when you have a monster under your bed. My research, nay life revolves around the obscure/spooky aspects of folklore, i.e. cryptozoological oddities like water monsters, North American ape men, and surviving dinosaurs. I am also immersed in the supernatural: hauntings, the occult and magick. Two topics I hold close to my heart are faerie folk and the imaginary friend. I have a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Studies with emphasis in History and Social Sciences with a minor in Peace and Justice Studies from Utah Valley University and taught Humanities at UVU for three and a half years. I have given multiple public performances/presentations on folklore and mythology and lead several “ghost tours” throughout Utah County.

Tracy Thornton is a first year Master’s student in the Folklore program. She has a BA in English with a minor in Religious Studies from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree in library science from Emporia State University. Her research interests are varied but include spirituality and mysticism, Oregon folklore, mythology and modern science, the history of astrology and traditional astrological practices, and sky myths.

Yvonne Toepfer is a doctoral student in the Comparative Literature Department. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Oregon. Her current interests include folktales, especially the transformation of (literary) narratives from the eighteen-century to present and their socio-political implications. She also investigates the parallels between literary variants and cinematographic texts and how these texts maintain a specific narrative structure and address aesthetic/philosophical concepts, such as the sublime, the fantastic, the uncanny, and Romantic Irony. Her dissertation project deals with the conflicting representations of the sandman figure and argues that these “identity-fragments” situate the sandman into the context of the modern sublime.

Christy Vrtis is pursuing a PhD in English with a structured emphasis in Folklore. Her research interests include contemporary African diasporan women’s literature and folklore, Pacific Island literature and culture, ritual theory, new media and storytelling. Christy received her MA in Folklore from the University of Oregon in June 2010 upon completion of a master’s thesis entitled “‘Death is the Only Reality’: Notions of Death and Funerary Ritual in Contemporary Caribbean Women’s Literature.”

Jenée Wilde is in the English Ph.D. program with a structured emphasis in Folklore. Her research interests include contemporary American literature and popular culture, sexual identity and representation, sexual subcultures, fairy tales, and queer theory. Her essay titled “Queer Matters in The Dark Knight Returns, Or Why We Insist on a Sexual Identity for Batman” will be published in the forthcoming book, Batman Meets the Academy. She also has presented the essay at the 2009 Popular Culture Association national conference and at the University of Oregon’s Understanding Superheroes conference. In Spring 2010, she received the Bruce Abrams LGBT Award for her essay “Torchwood and Bisexual Representation.” She is currently doing fieldwork with polyamory and bisexual groups. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goddard College and a BA in English and Journalism from Boise State University.

Meagan Winkelman is a third year Master’s student in the Folklore Program. She graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Folklore.  Her research interests include adolescent and delinquent folk practices, folklore and identity creation in digital culture, new media and the Internet, as well as the vernacular expression of conspiracy theories, apocalyptic beliefs, esoteric ideas, and occultic or “stigmatized knowledge.” Her essay, “McMeaning in the Maw of the Masses: Analyzing Fast Food Mash-Ups,” presented at the Indiana University/Ohio State University Folklore and Ethnomusicology Student Conference in March 2011, received the overall prize for the best undergraduate paper, and is now published online in the journal Folklore Forum (Mediating Cultures: Proceedings from the 2010 IU/OSU Student Folklore Conference 42:1 [August 2012]), and available at http://folkloreforum.net/.

Holly Yates is a third year Master’s student in the Folklore Program, and also holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.  Her main interests are feminist writings and Vietnamese culture, but she also has a strong passion for fantasy and science fiction literature. Her current focus is examining Vietnamese folk narratives and traditions, as well as examining how these traditions are still relevant to the Vietnamese Americans who have created communities in the United States.