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In the Spotlight

Six current students at various stages of the program demonstrate their broad range of interests and ambitions


Vicki Heath

My dissertation asserts that the development and progression of the two diseases, Pica and Cachexia Africana, are intertwined with the changing ideas of the gendered body and the development of our modern ideas of race within the medical community. My research focuses on how white European male physicians constructed the two diseases for two different bodies (Pica for white European women and Cachexia Africana for black enslaved males). My dissertation explores two lines of inquiry, first, the progression of the two conditions Pica and “dirt-eating” (later known as Cachexia Africana), and second, the debate that occurred in the early nineteenth-century in which physicians argued whether Pica and Cachexia Africana should be kept as separate conditions or were, in fact, the same condition with the same causes. Through this debate, which has broader implications on modern Western ideas of race and gender, there is a solidification of the construction of gender and race within the medical community through physicians diagnosis and treatment of this disease in two separate bodies (white European women and black enslaved people).


Christina Lake

I have been involved in education advocacy, museum studies, and cultural and architectural preservation in Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico for over ten years. I am a doctoral candidate studying under Dr. Angela Hudson with specializations in the American Southwest, indigenous history, and tourism. My research focuses on the cultural and architectural preservation of the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad. Specifically, I address the intersections of authentic representations of indigeneity and tourist culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and cultural memory and revitalization of railroad towns in New Mexico and Arizona.  I use a mix of interviews and archival materials, including postcards, travelogues, promotional materials, and news articles, primarily mined from university and state archives in New Mexico and Arizona. Beyond my scholarly research, I have remained dedicated to cultural outreach through community engagement. I have served on the board for the Louisiana State Museum Friends, Natchitoches Historic Foundation, and the Western Historical Association. In 2021, I was selected as a Capital Area Community Leader by the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations. Currently, I am the director of education and museum curator for Preserve Louisiana at the Old Governor’s Mansion. I also act as a preservation consultant and contributor for National Register for Historic Places district nominations, local historic district design guidelines, and state and federal historic tax credit applications.


John Lewis

My work focuses on African American men serving as noncombatant troops in the American Expeditionary Forces during the Great War. The study of Black soldiers in this era allows me to examine the United States Army as a Jim Crow institution and to look at the lives and service of these men from a gendered perspective. I often turn to my professors here at Texas A&M and to the works of historians like Chad Williams, Le’Trice Donaldson, and Jennifer Keene for inspiration and guidance. However, my work is also fundamentally a military history following in the footsteps of Great War scholars like former Aggie Mark Ethan Grotelueschen who argued that service in World War I helped to prepare the United States for its historical role as a global military power. I build on this idea by focusing on the crucial role of noncombatant troops in war.


Tanner Ogle

My research broadly centers on memory, religion, and revolution in the eighteenth-century British Empire. I have conducted archival research at Harvard’s Houghton Library, The Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. My article “Republicans Resurrected” was recently published in The Journal of Religious History, Literature and Culture (June 2020). Currently, my research examines the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 as a formative moment in the history of the British Empire and American Revolution. Not only had The ‘45 been a formative experience for those in the military, the reforms that followed the rebellion altered the empire, assimilated former Jacobites, and provided a precedent for suppressing the colonial rebellion in 1775.


Laura Oviedo

As a sister to three U.S. Army veterans and family/friend to many more, my research is rooted in exploring the relationship between war, military service, and rights in racialized communities. My dissertation, “Forsaken Bodies, For Sake of Nation,” uses sources from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the continental U.S. to show how militarization in Texas and Puerto Rico during World War II, two crucial geo-political sites of inter/national security and diplomatic relations, catapulted the roles of Latinas into the realm of hemispheric politics as Women’s Army Corps servicemembers, mothers, wives, and workers. In doing so, I argue it constructed a hemispheric borderland where Latinas embodied the crux of overlapping, contradictory, and negotiating racializations, empires, and nationalisms. My research has opened doors as a Visiting Scholar in the Institute of Caribbean Studies at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where I was a fellow for the Division of Armed Forces History and project historian for the War & Latinx Philanthropy Initiative.

I envision my research pushing the boundaries of community, academic scholarship, and public history by ways of examining and sharing the controversial realities of war and militarization in communities of color, including sexual violence in the military-such as Vanessa Guillen’s case in Fort Hood. May she, and others, rest in peace and be honored through my work.


Ian Seavey

My pursuit of a PhD in history began by seeking to answer the question: in what ways did disasters shape society? Disasters constitute pivotal events in history, moments in which power is contested by individuals, communities, and the state. My dissertation examines the power dynamics of America’s imperial relationship with Puerto Rico and how disasters continually complicated it throughout the Twentieth Century. When disasters struck both the mainland United States and Puerto Rico, American attitudes, actions, policies were laid bare. The ways in which the U.S. government responded to disasters domestically and in Puerto Rico showcased how policymakers viewed the island as part of the greater United States but not civilized enough to be a full-fledged member. Thus, the U.S. government used disaster relief in Puerto Rico to continually reify its imperial role and keep the island in a dependent relationship. My work has been nurtured by many of the wonderful professors in the department. I have also benefited mightily from the supportive intellectual community fostered by my fellow graduate students.