Graduate Research Awards for 2011-2012

Lisa Bolding

Ph.D. candidate, English
Major Professor: Fran Teague

I am profoundly grateful not only to have received one of your Graduate Student Research and Performance Grants, but also for the Willson Center’s flexibility when my circumstances did not permit me to travel before I had to complete my dissertation.

I was afraid that I would be unable to take advantage of the grant, but the Willson Center understood that my research would not end once I’d fulfilled the requirements for my degree. Essentially, this grant will enable me to begin revising the dissertation into a book manuscript. My work focuses on film and television adaptations of non-Shakespearean Renaissance plays; since few scholars have written about this topic, I have high hopes for the project’s afterlife.

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Ashley DavidAshley David

PhD candidate, English-Creative Dissertation
Co-Major Professors: Edward Pavlic and Reginald McKnight

Receiving a Graduate Student Research and Performance Grant this year has enabled me to push the parameters of my dissertation in crucial and often surprising ways and to make the most of my year as a a pre-doctoral resident-artist fellow at the Vermont Studio Center.

My at-times unwieldy and thoroughly experimental project, American (post), is a creative dissertation for a PhD in English, and I designed the project to illuminate the whole system that creates and perpetuates the binary oppositions like us/them, north/south, black/white, good/bad, and right/wrong, which tend to define understandings and experiences of “America” and “American-ness.”

I began with a hypothesis that led me first to a formal experiment in poetry and subsequently off the page and into the realm of objects. Moving into the territory of visual art has required tools and materials beyond my usual pen, paper, and computer. They include an angle grinder and related safety equipment, which I am using to transform cymbals into translation-objects of the poems in the collection, and a set of solfeggio frequency tuning forks, which enable me to consider transformative principles of sound as I explore translation options. I’ve also created a website ( to document the process and progress of the project and to invite participation in it.

These are just some examples of the unconventional requirements that have characterized my dissertation project and that collaborate to facilitate its innovations. Funding from the Willson Center has made these innovations possible, and I cannot emphasize enough how important this funding has been to my creative and intellectual process this year. Nor can I emphasize enough how grateful I am for this funding and the support it represents for my vision. In short, the grant has made it possible for me to turn some unwieldy ideas into actual things, and I’m very excited about the preliminary results and the possibilities they create for my dissertation and the work to follow.

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Adam ForresterEat White Dirt documentary still

MFA Candidate, Lamar Dodd School of Art
Major Professor: Michael Marshall

The Willson Center Graduate Student Research and Performance grant has been an essential component in the development and production of the documentary film EAT WHITE DIRT, an exploration and illumination of the phenomenon of geophagy, (the practice of earth eating) with regards to the mineral kaolin. Kaolin is a white clay that is abundant in and around the prehistoric coastline of Georgia, the area most commonly referred to as the Fall Line. With the support from the Willson Center Graduate Student Research and Performance grant, I have been able to travel to a specific region of the Fall Line in Georgia known as the Kaolin Belt.

Additionally, I have been able to acquire the proper equipment and data storage to conduct interviews, and collect motion picture imagery while in these areas. The footage collected from these excursions into the kaolin belt will be edited together to form a cohesive feature-length documentary that is an anthropological study of a cultural happening and an examination of a mystically beautiful mineral. The progress that has been made on the project thus far has been made possible by the support of the Willson Center. The film is projected to have a release date of late fall 2012. A short trailer of the film can be found below.

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Christine Hellyer

PhD candidate, Art Education
Major Professor: Tracie Costantino

I am studying the transmission of knowledge within a Hopi Indian family of jewelers. In order to study them fully, I need to travel to Arizona. The grant has allowed me to defray some of the costs associated with this trip. Without the grant money, I would not have been able to delve into the Hopi family as deeply. The award has allowed me to focus more time in Arizona. The Hopi Indians have been underrepresented in many aspects and little is known about their culture. This study will help me document their techniques and understand how and if these techniques are different from a traditional school setting.

Sandy McCain

PhD Candidate in Art, Art History, Lamar Dodd School of Art
Major Professor:  Janice Simon

I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity provided me by the Willson Center Graduate Student Research and Performance Grant. The much-needed funding gave me an opportunity to spend two weeks in Charleston, South Carolina, conducting research toward my dissertation at the historical society, museum archives, and local private gallery libraries. The primary source materials I encountered (letters, sketchbooks, account books, etc.) are significant enough that they will not only play a pivotal role in the development and completion of my dissertation, but they will also be presented at a regional conference (SeCAC) to take place in Durham, North Carolina in October of this year. Furthermore, some of the more important archival material and images have never been published. I received permission from the museums/historical society/individual owners to be the first to present and (if the opportunity arises in the future) publish these materials, thereby elevating the potential significance of my dissertation within my discipline. The contacts made during the trip as well as the information gained are invaluable to the completion of my dissertation and would not have been possible had I not been awarded this grant to help finance the research trip.

La Shonda Mims

PhD Candidate, Department of History
Major Professor: James C. Cobb

Through the generous support of the Willson Center Graduate Student Research and Performance Grant, I travelled to Brooklyn, New York in November, 2011, for research at the Lesbian Herstory Archives. This institution is a unique home to the world’s largest archival collection focused solely on lesbians. The collection materials offer vital and rare insights that have highlighted my understanding of lesbian identity in the New South.

The stories I aim to tell in my dissertation are those of twentieth century southern identity created at the highest and lowest levels of power. My dissertation examines lesbians in the cities of Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. It reshapes the story of southern women’s history, but also the story of the twentieth century Sun Belt South.  My travel to the Lesbian Herstory Archives was more than a typical archival research trip; it was a trip that allowed me to view firsthand the roots of lesbian identity and activism.  I worked in a space that was constructed as part of the lesbian feminist movement that I examine in my dissertation. I was taking part in the founding vision of the Archives – a space created to address the lack of women and their history in traditional academic archives.

My trip was both a pilgrimage and an exercise of research. My dissertation is rich with the details of southern lesbian lives and my understanding of these lives is deepened by the materials uncovered during my trip to Brooklyn.

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Elizabeth Whittenburg OzmentDrummer cutout

PhD candidate, Musicology/Ethnomusicology, Hugh Hodgson School of Music with graduate certificates in Women’s Studies & Interdisciplinary University Teaching
Major Professor: Jean Kidula

I am so grateful to receive the Willson Center Graduate Student Research and Performance Grant. This award allowed me to study music at U.S. Civil War re-enactments during sesquicentennial celebrations. While conducting ethnographic participant-observer fieldwork, I traveled to Frankfurt, Kentucky to witness a Civil War Music Celebration called Cornets & Cannons, and learned about current trends in Civil War brass band music. I attended the Chickamauga Civil War Show to hear a performance by Bobby Horton, (who is famous for recording a series of Ken Burns documentary soundtracks), which resulted in an extensive interview that I consider an important contribution to my research.

I traveled to the Andersonville Civil War re-enactment & drummer boy museum, made contact with event organizers at the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Aiken in South Carolina, and surveyed a large number of re-enactors, vendors, and spectators at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. I will complete this stage of data collection for my dissertation when I travel to Hampton, Virginia in May to attend a monument dedication that will commemorate the freeing of thousands of Civil War-era slaves. Each of these fieldwork events supplies valuable data for my dissertation. The Willson Center greatly assisted my travel expenses during a time when gasoline prices are on the rise, and grants are scarce. I have no doubt the Willson Center increased my productivity by funding my travel to these fieldwork sites. Thank you for providing this opportunity and for enhancing my dissertation research.

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Hannah Waits

PhD candidate, Department of History (Janelle Padgett Knight Graduate Award winner)
Major Professor: Bethany E. Moreton

My dissertation, “Conservatism and the Great Commission,” is a transnational study that examines the interconnections between the expansion of global mission work and the rise of the New Christian Right in the late twentieth century. The project traces the international work of the largest and most powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of the late twentieth century – American evangelical missions agencies – and examines specifically their work in Latin America, the largest outpost for U.S. evangelical world missions. The Willson Center Graduate Student Research and Performance grant helped fund portions of my research and the presentation of my research results.

In January 2012, I traveled to Chicago, Illinois, where I conducted research at the Billy Graham Center Archives, which houses the records for many independent (non-denominational) U.S. evangelical organizations. During that same trip to Chicago, I presented some of my work at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting. The AHA is the premier association for historians in the United States and serves more than 14,000 history professionals; over 5,000 scholars and visitors attend each year’s AHA national conference. It was an honor to represent UGA at the AHA, and it was tremendously beneficial to access key sources at the BGCA. The Willson Center’s grant provided vital funding that made that research and presentation possible.

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