Elyse Blennerhassett (2016)

Elyse Blennerhassett: I am a documentary producer and sound artist for radio, film, and space. Through sound, I seek to reveal the world around us. As an oral historian, I record first person-narratives to explore the necessary incompleteness of the moments and the marrow that define us. I do this, with the intention to explore how recognizably shared sounds can cultivate a sense of belonging in spaces that are otherwise defined by alterity.

Prior to joining the Oral History MA program, I worked with several nonprofits throughout Africa and Asia, focusing on post-conflict agricultural development with grassroots women’s groups. Returning to the US, I worked as a freelance podcast and documentary producer in Chicago, covering: police misconduct, accountability, and transparency, racial-bias, gun violence, food-insecurity, housing, poverty, race, and incarceration. As an audio producer for Brown Planet Productions, I collaborate with experimental documentary filmmaker, Carlos Javier Ortiz, producing two award-winning short films: We All We Got and A Thousand Midnights. Independently, my audio recordings have been featured on various podcasts, including: 99% Invisible and The Theory of Everything.

At the heart of the work are communities who counter alterity by challenging the narratives imposed upon them. I am currently producing 'Concrete Is A Colour', an immersive documentary about belonging and collective destinies. It follows strangers disconnected by time, yet unknowingly connected by place or experience, focusing on the systematic displacement, institutionalization, and erasure of people through incarceration. The documentary is rooted in the voices of Efren Paredes Jr. (MI) and Adolfo Davis (IL), who incarcerated for more than half of their lives, were sentenced to die in prison as youth. Through this ongoing and collaborative project, I have recorded their daily lives for the past two years. Through our conversations, I seek to create a work that addresses displacement, identity, inequity, citizenship, and the impact of mass incarceration on the potential for self-expression, freedom, and trust, in an environment designed to segregate."

Yutong Wang (2016)

Yutong Wang is an international student from Shenzhen, China, who graduated from the Ohio State University in 2015.

Her project this year in OHMA is about recent Chinese students who study in America. By interviewing these students, she hopes to help them tell their stories of studying and living abroad. 

Meave Sheehan (2016)

Meave Sheehan is an NY/ NJ area native. She first learned about oral history when she decided to take a graduate class at Rutgers University-Newark as part of a master’s program.

Meave's previous jobs have been in local journalism, education, and government. Recently, she has been enjoying finding out more about her family history and learning about photography. Her research interests include local history, military history, podcasting, and the performance of storytelling.

Rachel Unkovic (2016)

Rachel Unkovic holds a Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation from SIT Graduate Institute, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Trinity College. She has worked for the International Rescue Committee in the field of humanitarian aid since 2009, based in DR Congo and Iraq, and with extended travel to ten other countries in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Rachel’s research interests include oral history in active conflict areas—oral history as a means to create space for refugees/conflict-affected people to gain more control over their own narrative and the story that is told—and interviewing to capture the effects of humanitarian aid.

Robin Miniter (2016)

An avid adventure seeker and vagabonding storyteller, Robin Miniter comes to OHMA with a B.A. from Marist College and a critical eye turned to the experience of female bodies in motion.

During undergrad, her senior capstone project was a photo documentation of feminism, gender performativity, and the experiences of women in “hyper-masculine” sports. She spent the following spring on the flat-track photographing and collecting oral histories of the Amsterdam Derby Dames, the Netherlands’ first roller derby team. As a Fulbright-Nehru Student Research Scholar to India, Robin took to the pitches with her cleats and camera, as she chased the rise of women’s rugby across the subcontinent.

Robin is currently pursuing her Certificate in Documentary Arts from Duke University. From OHMA, she hopes to refine her vision as a multidisciplinary documentary artist. It is here that she wants to further explore and capture the tales of these female pioneers, and the ways that they carve space for the next generations of women to do the same.

Robin Weinberg (2016)

Robin Weinberg started a nonprofit oral history project and wellness program in 2007 called Just So You Know, which gives people living with serious illness the chance to create, share, and preserve their own life stories through recorded video conversations and interviews with their family, friends, and favorite people. Just So You Know travels to hospitals and health care organizations nationwide, sets up “recording studios” and advises and helps people get their life stories told on video.  

Robin is looking forward to expanding the organization to include other populations of people with compelling stories to tell, and learning to use oral history for advocacy and education. She is particularly interested in personal narratives, but would love to interview on other topics, including civil rights, discrimination, women’s issues, and gun violence prevention.

Robin is a (recovering) attorney, specializing in employment law, with a J.D. from the New York University School of Law and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.  A New Yorker at heart, she lives in Connecticut with her three daughters, two dogs (also girls), two guinea pigs (girls, too!) and husband.

Shira Hudson (2016)

Shira Hudson is the Associate Director of planned giving at UJA-Federation, where she works with individuals to fulfill their financial and philanthropic goals. The most compelling part of her work involves meeting with donors and learning about their lives, values, and hopes for the next generation.

Shira is excited to begin the study of oral history and further develop her skills as a relationship builder and story collector. She graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures, and from the Jewish Theological Seminary with a B.A. in Jewish History. Shira lives on the Upper West Side and enjoys exploring the City’s playgrounds with her husband and toddler.  

Steve Fuchs (2016)

Steve Fuchs is currently C.E.O. of True North, Inc., a NYC-based digital advertising agency he co-founded twenty-two years ago. A New York native, he is looking forward to becoming a student (part-time) after thirty-seven years in the work force.

Steve’s parents and family emigrated from Cuba in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, just as the political landscape was changing. He grew up hearing many stories about life before and after Castro took power—oral histories from family members who experienced historic changes in real time. Perhaps this is where his interest in oral history began.

Steve graduated from Syracuse University in 1979 and currently serves on the Board of Advisors to the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications.  He is also a passionate New York Rangers hockey fan and tries to take in as many games as possible during the season. He is looking forward to becoming a part of the Columbia community.

Rozanne Gooding-Silverwood (2015)

While completing her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology at the Columbia University School of General Studies, Rozanne Gooding Silverwood joins OHMA with the goal of learning how to better represent indigenous communities in the recording and preservation of cultural heritage and oral histories.

Toward the benefit of her native Chickasaw Nation and other Native communities, Ms. Silverwood hopes to apply her skills to the production of literary ethnographies, as well as audio-visual and digital projects exploring the historical continuity of survivance and indigenous identity, as expressed through such cultural knowledge systems as language resurgence programs, ceremonial practices, traditional foodways, citizenship, and non-juridical forms of belonging.

Ursula Cedillo-Johnson (2016)

Ursula Cedillo-Johnson is a second-generation storyteller and a Third-Generation-Mexican-Black-American who revels in her intricately hyphenated identity. She hails from Prairie View, Texas, and will graduate from Barnard College in spring 2016. While working towards a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, she comes to OHMA seeking to expand and challenge her ethnographic background.

When not pondering the intricacies and ethics of the social media era, she spends much of her free time collaborating on film and music projects by alternative artists of color, seeking to problematize and decolonize the audio-visual landscapes of contemporary pop culture. Her research interests encompass this political project. Through OHMA, she hopes to gain the tools to not only empower alternative narratives, but to popularize and project them through digital media.

Emma Li (2016)

Xiaoyan (Emma) Li: Before I began learning about oral history, my interest had always been in literature. While working at the Cui Yongyuan Center for Oral History at Communication University of China—which owns 800,000 minutes video of interviews and relevant documents—for over two years, I gradually realized that I enjoy listening to people tell their life stories.
Last year, I took part in the "Oral History in China Project," which involved interviewing well-known oral historians, in addition to organizing academic lectures, workshops, and an international conference. Through this process, I had the chance to exchange perspectives with a great number of oral historians from all over the world, which made me excited to learn more about oral history in OHMA.  

Fanny Garcia (2016)

Fanny Julissa García is a writer and editor. Born in Honduras and raised in Mexico, she called Los Angeles home before moving to Las Vegas to work in digital and social media marketing. She graduated magna cum laude from UCLA with a degree in English.

For ten years, Fanny managed a theater company in Los Angeles, which produced plays in low-income areas of Los Angeles. In 2010, she launched an arts journal called pLAywriting in the city, where together with a volunteer staff of journalists, writers and editors, she covered art and theater produced by people of color in Los Angeles and Orange County. Most recently, her short story, “Brown Puerquitos: A Failed Love Affair” was published byWestwind Literary Arts Journal.

At Columbia, Fanny’s research will focus on the mass media coverage of the Central American unaccompanied minors refugee crisis, detention center documents, asylum testimonies, and oral history interviews. In her analysis of these different texts, she aims to convey an interdisciplinary look at the migration patterns and unique experiences of Central Americans, and shed light on the traumatizing impact of the asylum process, detention procedures, and violation of habeas corpus in the U.S immigration system.

Emma Courtland (2016)

Since graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in English, Emma Courtland has worked as a writer, editor, film programmer, and exhibitions curator for periodicals and nonprofits in her native city, Los Angeles. The bulk of her professional efforts, however, has been on behalf theAcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where she spent the last seven years collaborating to devise and execute a full slate of public programs focused on the vast and ever-changing intersections of storytelling and technology.

Her programs have been covered by the L.A. TimesL.A. WeeklyNew York Times, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, andWired Magazine, among others. She is especially interested in cultural form and narrative cognition, and how our modes of sharing stories—written or spoken words, still or moving images—shape our understanding of and interactions with the world.

Dina Asfaha (2016)

Dina M. Asfaha joins OHMA from Barnard College, where she was an Africana Studies major and recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. Her time in the Mellon program was incredibly formative, inspiring her to pursue her passion of using academia as a platform to celebrate and commemorate Eritrean revolutionary history.

In her senior year, Dina conducted an honors thesis entitled, “From Repression to Revolution: Making Space for Eritrea,” wherein she analyzed three documents written by Eritrean pro-liberation groups as creative responses to Ethiopian colonial domination. This year in OHMA, she hopes to expand on her work by examining music and sounds of the Eritrean revolution.

Dina’s research interests include: memory studies, decolonization, post-/colonial studies, music-culture, cultural preservation, nationalism, and identity. In her free time, Dina enjoys attending concerts and practicing her digital and film photography skills.

Wu Chen (2015)

Wu Chen is a Chinese student. She earned her B.A degree in International Politics and History from Nottingham University in China and is a recent graduate of Melbourne University, with a degree in psychology. After graduation, she interned in a historical documentary project, where she interviewed and recorded the stories of survivors from the Great Famine, Cultural Revolution, and Sino-Japanese War. From this experience, she became interested in exploring historical trauma, from the perspective of victims of war, survivors of genocide, refugees, asylum-seekers, and ethnic minorities. She hopes to study trauma from cultural, sociopolitical, and clinical perspectives, alongside the systematic study of oral history, in order to produce written records of historical witnesses and explore the impact of narration and remembrance in measures of resilience and strength.


Nyssa Chow (2015)

Nyssa Chow is a graduate of Columbia University’s MFA program, and a recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the Women in Film and Television Fellowship, the Toms Fellowship, and the Academy of Motion Pictures Foundation Award. She has worked as a photojournalist and in broadcast journalism. Nyssa has served as the Chief Editor of Generation Lion Magazine with circulation throughout the Caribbean, New York, and Miami. She is the 2012 recipient of the prestigious Sloan Foundation Grant, and in fulfillment of the grant, produced a feature length web-series. In 2014, she won the Zaki Gordon Award for Excellence in Screenwriting. Most recently, Nyssa has been one of five writers nominated for the Blue List, and invited to appear in the Hollywood Black List database. Born in Trinidad, she has a particular interest in social justice, trust, and political participation. 

Margaret Gooding-Silverwood (2015)

Margaret Gooding-Silverwood earned her B.A. from Tufts University with a double major in History and Political Science. She concentrated much of her work on self-definition, and civil rights, and the intersection of policy, and implementation with a focus on the American South. After graduating, she worked in campaign finance for Tim Kaine (D-VA), bar management, and media & marketing. Though seemingly unrelated, these fields had one thing in common—listening to, telling, and recording stories. In 2015 Margaret entered the Columbia University Oral History MA program. Her thesis Turning Bullshit into Fertilizer: Empowerment Narratives, Re-definition of Self, and Sense-of-Place in Agriculture in the American South is an exploration of the intersections of Southern identity, land stewardship, and memory. The thesis looks at the importance of agency over, and authorship of, one’s narrative—especially in contrast to, and in conversation with, “imposed intuitional memories”, and their effect on intergenerational memory, ritual, and the body. Margaret also worked as a videographer for Columbia University during her program, and specializes in audio and video recording, and editing—including optimizing content for digital/web publication. Margaret hopes to continue exploring the unique and interdependent worlds of audio documentary and alternative visual media.

Mark Campbell II (2015)

Mark Campbell II is originally from Merrillville, Indiana where he spent the first eighteen years of his life. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While at Calvin College, he studied abroad in México and Guatemala. Additionally, he nationally and internationally toured with the Calvin College Gospel Choir, through which he served two years as Chairman. He has an M.A. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His research interests include: life histories, religion, social movements, fashion, news, craft beer, history, and building community. He aspires to create a connection between student affairs and oral history. Mark is an avid reader and knows a vast amount of random facts about the world.

Andrew Viñales (2015)

Andrew Viñales, a Bronx born Puerto Rican and Dominican, earned his B.A. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Union College in Schenectady, NY. Much of his academic focus was on Queer Latinidad culminating in his thesis entitled, “Visibly Queer: Reclaiming Dominican and Puerto Rican Identities.” After graduating from Union, Andrew was awarded the Minerva Fellowship in which he had the opportunity to live and work in a small, impoverished community on the coast of Ecuador to promote sustainable development. Upon returning, he became involved in community organizing, participating in the #BlackLivesMatter movement in NYC and visibility of Afro-Latinxs. Andrew grew up around storytellers in his family and religious community. These stories highlighted oppression and survival of being Queer, Afro-Latinx, and the maintenance of the Lukumi/Santeria tradition. Andrew would like to focus his work with the OHMA program on these stories. 

Pablo Baeza (2015)

Pablo Baeza Breinbauer, raised between Santiago, Chile, and suburban Maryland, joins OHMA after five years in sunny California, where he majored in Urban Studies at Pitzer College and later worked as a creative writing and literacy educator at 826 Valencia in San Francisco. He has also gotten to know a variety of communities as a community organizer and ethnographer, having participated in an environmental justice bike tour of southern Louisiana and eastern Texas in 2012, and having done ethnographic research on the praxis and politics of arts districts in San Diego and Tijuana. In 2014, Pablo attended the UN Climate Summit in Lima, Peru, where he helped the Sierra Student Coalition begin Climate Stories, a project focusing on individual narratives of environmental justice. He is interested in migration, assimilation, and intergenerational memory, deindustrialization and community resiliency, and restorative justice.