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Current Student Bios

Vanessa Cutz is a third 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 third 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.

Jenn Grunigen is a second 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 ( for more on her writing and music.

Sabra Harris is a third 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 second 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 third 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 a second year Master’s student 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 fourth 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 third year Master’s student with a B.A. in Anthropology and English from Truman State University, Missouri. Her interest focuses on the FisherPoets, a group of commercial fishers from the Pacific Northwest who create and perform poetry, prose, music, and oral storytelling. Her interests incorporate theories about occupational folklore, folk arts, performance (including the performance of gender), gender dynamics, and identity.

Talia Nudell is a second 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 second 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

Deb Parker is in the English PhD program with a structured emphasis in Folklore. She is interested in expressions of illness and suffering, healing practices, healing communities, and structural factors that influence health and healing.

Bruno Seraphin is a third 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 second 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.

Tracy Thornton is a second 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.

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.”

Meagan Winkelman is a fourth 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

Sarah Wyer is a second year Master’s student in Folklore, which she is pursuing concurrently with Arts Administration. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Folklore from the University of Oregon and hails from San Diego, California. Sarah has traveled extensively, including backpacking solo in Southern Mexico to explore ruins of the ancient Maya and participating in an archaeological excavation of the medieval site, Thornton Abbey, in England. Her folkloric interests are myriad, including the relationship between gender and popular culture, dissecting the idea and implications of “authenticity,” and how identity formation is impacted by unofficial folk culture and pop culture.

Holly Yates is a fourth 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.