Monica Liuting (2016)

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Monica Liuting comes to OHMA with an MA of English Literature from China University of Geosciences, Beijing. She worked as a volunteer worker in Changzhu Historical and Cultural Ancient Town Program (Shannan, Tibet) as an interviewer and writer after graduation.

Monica came to OHMA with an interest in exploring the construct of the narrative in sociological, literary, and oral historical domains. She was an intern with the Queer Newark Oral History Project in 2016 and is working on her thesis project on Chinese Young Artists in 2017.

Carlin Zia (2017)

Carlin comes to OHMA from a literature background, having graduated with distinction in English from Yale College. She brings with her a love of language and narrative and writing, and is excited to get up to speed on social science theory and audio/visual mediums. For the last year she has been working on a project with her Chinese-born grandfather to record his life story, and in so doing to engage more deliberately with her own Asian\American identity. After a couple months she learned that what she was doing was a real thing and it was called Oral History. The rest is ongoing.








Lynn Lewis (2017)


Lynn Lewis: I am a life-long social justice worker who believes in the power of collective analysis and direct action to win justice. Having witnessed the strength and resourcefulness of folks who have chosen to join with others in social justice work I am committed to document those stories and to amplify those lessons.  From housing struggles on the Lower East Side, to revolutionary Nicaragua and Venezuela, what has always inspired me is that each of us has the potential to make change. I met the co-founders of Picture the Homeless in 2000 just after its founding, and am honored to have worked with and learned from the incredible homeless leaders who together have built the only homeless led organization in NYC, and one of the few nationally for seventeen years. I wanted to learn the art and science of oral history to document the work of Picture the Homeless as well as other social movements, and to share those brilliant and nuanced organizing lessons. 

The OHMA program expanded my understanding of how to do that in so many ways.  It became an intellectual home and a place to initiate an oral history practice rooted in social justice.  As I began interviewing for the Picture the Homeless Oral History Project I started out thinking like an organizer with a tape recorder but engaging with an initial cohort of long time homeless leaders while I was in the program informed my praxis.  I’ve been calling this approach participatory oral history research (POHR).  Since graduating, I continue to deepen my understanding of oral history with the Picture the Homeless Oral History project.  My focus now is to continue interviewing but also to support the participation of the narrators who have committed to serve on the projects advisory board and to understand what that means, and what that will take.   I’ve begun integrating lessons embedded in the interviews in my work as a trainer in community organizing and have created short audio pieces that illustrate themes contained within the narrators stories. Facilitating a weekend retreat with a homeless organizing group in Baltimore revealed how powerfully organizing lessons can be transmitted via audio.

I have also been working with oral history as a tool to write memoirs with two NYC social justice elders, and continue to consult as a community organizing trainer, a grant-writer and occasionally adjuncting.  I also sit on the boards of two Community Land Trusts in NYC in my effort to help create alternative models to capitalist development.

Dian Zi (2017)

Originally from Shanghai, China, Dian Zi joins the 2017 OHMA cohort as a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in History and Public Policy. Her interest in oral history stems from her curiosity of her family's experience of the Cultural Revolution. With the desire to learn a different and genuine perspective on history, she attended Sarah Lawrence College with the intention to study East Asian History. As a first-year student, Dian took a seminar, "Multimedia Use of Oral History" with Professor Gerry Albarelli. She was intrigued by the value of oral history- encouraging the narrators to recollect the personal details of public history, clarifying the memories which are muddled, and most importantly, broaching answers that people were afraid to recall. Oral history presents her an opportunity to ask the questions she always wanted to know of her family her country.

Since her first foregather with oral history, Dian has decided to record more stories of the unheard people during her undergraduate study. In her sophomore year, she completed a documentary called "Borders" about a North Korean refugee named Jinhye Jo. In her junior year, she recorded an oral history project "Individualizing Africa" on women in Tanzania, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. In her senior year, she conducted a senior oral history project called "The Many Faces of Us: An Oral History of Modern Feminism in China" to reveal and preserve the unheard stories of the the seemingly futile battle against misogynist patriarchy in China. Oral history has become her approach to make peace with the chaotic world and to remake connections with people she adores.

Her post-graduate intentions are not only to pursue her dream as an oral historian, but also to introduce the concept of oral history to her people in China. In addition, she calls herself a "hardcore feminist", Dian writes on the cause of gender equality, and looks forward to apply the oral history skills to gather and present collective stories of feminists of her generation. She currently resides in Bronxville, NY with her husband, also an advocate of oral history.

Desmond Austin-Miller (2017)

Desmond Austin-Miller joins the 2017 OHMA cohort as a recent graduate of Lafayette College where he majored in Anthropology & Sociology with a minor in Africana Studies. A native of Washington D.C., Desmond spent his summers in the District working in various spheres of the non-profit scene in education administration and homeless advocacy. Desmond hopes to further explore his research interests at Columbia in human rights activism, homelessness, power, race, and a multitude of other topics through the methodological lens of oral history.

Yiyi Zhang (2017)

Yiyi Zhang graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Philosophy and from Columbia University with a M.A. in Philosophy. Her interests shift from Philosophy to Oral History in 2016 as she was involved in a Oral History project. She is specifically interested in giving the oppressed group voice, the ignored people attention and building understanding and nurturing compassion through oral history. Yiyi is a world traveler. Besides countries in North America and Europe, she has also been to countries in South Asia, Central Asia and Africa for volunteer works and independent studies. Yiyi is always ready to encounter and be inspired by new people and new stories.

Yameng Xia (2017)

When I was an undergraduate student at Fudan University, I participated in an oral history project aimed to explore the living conditions of 50 Shanghai intellectual disabled people and their families. I conducted a survey of two of the families and performed the interview, the observation, and wrote a 20000-word report.


After that, I have realized that oral history is not only a method to provide new historical data, but also a method to record the life experiences of vulnerable groups and to raise the public awareness to help such group, such as disabled people, women, and educated youths who are in bad living conditions, which would add more excitement to me in OHMA.

Samantha Lombard (2017)

Samantha Lombard is from Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College with Bachelor’s degrees in History and Art History in 2016. The research for her senior thesis, Social Media, the Western World, and UNESCO: ISIS and the Destruction of Ancient Art, centered on the relationship between ISIS and Western media, as well the affect of ISIS on ancient Syrian and Iraqi art and architecture. The thesis also discusses the role of oral history in the Yazidi genocide. Samantha plans to focus her Oral History Master of Arts program of study on the potential for oral history in documenting and preventing genocide.

Tomoko Kubota-Hiramoto (2017)

Tomoko Kubota-Hiramoto is a newscaster and a reporter of Tokyo Broadcasting Systems Television in Japan. She also contributes to Japanese newspapers and Magazines on a variety of topics. Her passion as a journalist has its roots deep in her hometown, Hiroshima. Tomoko was surrounded by the stories of the Hibakusha, the atomic bomb survivors as she grew up. Through them, she learned to value and respect peace, and became determined that she would like to dedicate her career to the alleviation of conflicts in the world.

Her interest in OHMA results from her uneasiness as atomic bomb survivors age. She would like to devote herself to ensure that the A-bomb survivors' experiences and desires for peace are faithfully inherited and shared with as many people as possible. Therefore, she would like to conduct continuous interviews of the atomic bomb survivors. There are still many who are unable to talk about their experiences, those who have gone through the worst of the tragedy. Furthermore, she would like to cultivate the oral history archives of the atomic bomb survivors, as well as of the Americans involved with the atomic bombings, and start research on how the memory of a witness and trauma could be transmitted to future generations effectively.

Tomoko holds a BA in Foreign Studies from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Kyna Patel (2017)

Kyna Patel is originally from Lakeland, Florida. She graduated from New College of Florida in 2015 with a B.A. in Anthropology. Her first experience with oral history was in 2013 when she interviewed a third gender community in Bahucharaji, India about religion and gender identity.

Kyna's research interests include race, identity, local history, foreign language, gender, immigration, borders, movement, visual culture, and civil rights. Recently she was an English Teaching Assistant in Germany through the Fulbright Program and was one of several members of the Diversity Group. She is an avid photographer and enjoys reading fiction

Filip Mazurczak (2017)

Filip Mazurczak holds a BA in Spanish and Hispanic Studies and History from Creighton University as well as an MA in International Affairs from the George Washington University. Since graduating, he has worked as a journalist, Polish-to-English translator (of academic publications and of fiction), and English teacher. Many of his nearly 150 published articles have dealt with historical topics. 

Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in history at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. His academic articles have been published or accepted for publication in the Oral History ReviewPolin: Studies in Polish Jewry, and Konteksty Kultury.

Elly Kalfus (2017)

I am a penal abolitionist, an improviser, and a fan of jellyfish. I grew up in the Bronx, went to the Bronx High School of Science and then Brandeis University, graduating with a bachelor of arts in English in 2013. Since then I have considered Massachusetts my home, where I have found amazing community and radical organizing.

I have worked to challenge the prison industrial complex for many years, investigating cases of wrongful conviction with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and the Committee for Public Counsel Services' Innocence Program, and evaluating states' indigent defense systems with the Sixth Amendment Center.

I seek to end reliance on the carceral state by calling attention to the widespread harm it causes all of us and the specific harm it causes imprisoned people and the communities they are stolen from. I want to create storytelling projects in collaboration with people directly affected by the carceral state, and wish to situate my work within the context of oral history and narrative storytelling for social change.  Most recently I have been exploring Massachusetts' history of taking voting rights away from incarcerated people, and the creative resistance incarcerated people have mounted in opposition. I am inspired by the risk-taking, intelligence and organizing of incarcerated people across the world.

Jeffrey Brodsky (2008)

For his thesis, Jeffrey Brodsky conducted more than 60 hours of oral history interviews, in which politicians recount their first political races. Read transcripts and watch video clips in the Washington Post. You can also listen to NPR interview Mr. Brodsky about the project.

Continuing his thesis research on the international front, Mr. Brodsky has interviewed a dozen world leaders about their formative political experiences and campaign memories. Among those Brodsky has interviewed include Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar, President Alejandro Toledo of Peru, Prime Minister Wim Kok of the Netherlands, President Mary Robinson of Ireland, President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal, Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Bondevik, Prime Minister of New Zealand Jenny Shipley, President of Panama Martin Torrijos, President of Colombia Andres Pastrana, and Gerry Adams of Northern Ireland.

In 2012, Chief Executive magazine commissioned Brodsky to interview chief executive officers on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). These CEOs included James Turley of Ernst & Young, Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Company, David Novak of Yum Brands, and former Chrysler and Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli.

As an oral historian, Brodsky has conducted a series of extensive interviews with Pulitzer Prize winner Peter Kann, the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones. He has also recorded oral histories with television news veterans Sam Donaldson of ABC and Bob Schieffer of CBS.

Prior to studying at Columbia, Mr. Brodsky received a BA in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis.

Elyse Blennerhassett (2016)

Elyse Blennerhassett is a freelance audio and multimedia producer based in Brooklyn. She is a documentary fellow at UnionDocs (2018-2019) and producer at Brown Planet Productions, a documentary production company she co-founded with filmmaker Carlos Javier Ortiz in 2015. She collaborates with investigative journalists, filmmakers, photographers, oral historians, artists, musicians, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions to produce podcasts, documentary films, and immersive exhibitions. Her original and collaborative works have been seen in publications including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, NPR, and The Invisible Institute. In addition, her production, sound design, and research can be heard on the following podcasts: School Colours, The Theory of Everything, 99% Invisible, and The Valparaiso University Law School Podcast, and also on the forthcoming podcasts: The Waiting and Keeper One. She has worked on productions and installations that have screened at film and photography festivals, including Tribeca, and been featured in gallery exhibitions throughout North America and Europe. Her long-term projects investigate incarceration (juvenile life in prison without parole), alterity, race, immigration, policy, and the environment.

Jonathon Fairhead (2015)

Jonathon Fairhead is a South African oral historian, living and working in Brooklyn. His research focuses on the fields of education, human rights, activism, and the arts. 

A recent graduate of the Oral History MA Program at Columbia, Jonathon's thesis maps the individual narratives of the Equal Education social movement in South Africa. Equal Education is a movement of learners, activists and policy makers that seek to undo the inequalities in state provided education created by apartheid.

Jonathon has served as an interviewer for the Atlantic Philanthropy Oral History Project, prior to which he served as Secretary to the General Education Advisory Board at the Open Society Foundations.

He holds an Ed.M in Peace Education from Teachers College Columbia University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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. 

Meghan Valdes (2015)

Meghan Valdes is a New Jersey native, recently graduating summa cum laude from Rutgers University where she obtained her B.A. in history - and discovered her passion for oral history. Working at the Rutgers Oral History Archives, she has conducted interviews with World War II veterans and transcribed interviews for the ACLU Oral History Project, which seeks to document the changes in the American Civil Liberties Union in the post-9/11 landscape. She comes to OHMA straight off of an internship at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, where she served as the memorial exhibition intern for the museum’s In Memoriam exhibition, which honors victims through photographs, biographies, and audio remembrances. Her interests include jazz, travel, diners, and listening to jazz at diners she’s traveled to.


Leonard Cox (2014)

Leonard Cox is a corporate communications professional with 36 years of experience in the field. He is currently the Assistant Vice President of Communications for the Facilities and Campus Operations division of Columbia University in New York City. Prior to joining Columbia, Cox worked as a partner at the Michael Cohen Group, LLC, where he managed the firm’s corporate communications and media entertainment practice areas.

During his 14 years working with Michael Cohen, Cox developed and managed large-scale communication campaigns as well as managed audience development initiatives for the firm’s television clients.  Prior to the Michael Cohen Group, Cox was Director of Corporate Communications at the National Broadcast Company (NBC). In this capacity, Cox managed the network’s internal communication initiatives and directed several public and governmental affairs campaigns. In addition, he served as a producer at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Before moving to New York City in 1987, Cox served as the Assistant Press Secretary to Indiana’s Lieutenant Governor. Cox is passionate about documentary filmmaking. His film, THE KILLER WITHIN, was nominated for an EMMY for best documentary. His documentary, QUESTIONING FAITH, was broadcast on HBO/CINEMAX and was ranked among the top 10 influential films of 2002. His short film, FRIENDS IN DEED, won a TELLY Award. Cox has been nominated for two additional EMMY Awards.

Cox received Purdue's 2004 College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumni Award and the Gold Medal for creativity from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Cox is celebrating his 28th year as a volunteer at the Dwelling Place, a shelter for homeless women located in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. Cox is a past member of the Advisory Board for the Brian Lamb School of Communications at Purdue University. He has served on the Board for Columbia University’s Community Service initiative, is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Dwelling Place, and is a past member of the Auburn Media Project’s Board of Advisors.


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.