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Graduate Students

Jennifer Peedin 
Ph.D. candidate (Literature)

M.A. Northwestern Louisiana University
B.A. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jennifer studies the intersection of race, gender, and environmental humanities, particularly in the South. Using Indigenous and Black Southern narratives, she studies and writes on the failed ideology of Southerness and how BIPOC communities grapple with continued racially charged and divided society in the South as they reclaim heritage and form identities distinct from their colonially imposed ones. Her writing aims to deconstruct the “magnolia memory” by examining the Indigenous and Black South that faces a waterlogged and flooded climate crisis. Jennifer’s interest primarily lies in narratives about or surrounding water, swamps, and hurricanes. She blames her swampy, Southern upbringing entirely. 


“Among the Porches and Peacocks: Preserving Andalusia’s Literary History” American Literature Association, Boston, May 2019.

“Hearts on the Ground: Indigenous Women’s Poetry and Resilience” MELUS, New Orleans, April 2020.

“What Exist in Shadow: Cultural Identity in Southern Swamps” NEMLA, Philadelphia, March 2021.

Qazi Arka Rahman
Ph.D. student (Literature)

M.B.A. in Marketing, Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Bangladesh
M.A. in Literature and Cultural Studies, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
B.A. in English,  Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh

Qazi Arka Rahman is interested in the nexus of postcolonial literature, south Asian studies, and digital humanities. He is curious about the role of fiction in shaping the concepts of nation and nationality in modern South Asia and seeks to understand the multidimensional identity politics operating there. For his dissertation, he aims to bring in Bangladeshi literature in English and Bangla to expand conceptions of South Asian literary and postcolonial studies and broaden existing notions of South Asian identity while incorporating DH tools and methods. He is a firm believer in the power of narratives and actively tries to weave that philosophy into his pedagogical approach. He also enjoys critical studies of science-fiction, films, popular culture, and loves anything cyberpunk. A recipient of 2019 Summer Humanities Internship and 2020 Open Educational Resources (OER) Grant, Arka is also involved with the Eberly Writing Studio as a graduate studio consultant and serves as the VP of English Graduate Student Union (EGSU). Learn more at

Storey Clayton
MFA candidate (Creative Nonfiction)

B.A. Brandeis University

Storey Clayton is a third-year MFA candidate slated to graduate in May 2021. He’s worked as a youth counselor, debate coach, strategic analyst, development director, rideshare driver, and poker player. Since coming to WVU in 2018, his nonfiction has appeared in more than twenty literary journals, including Pleiades, Lunch Ticket, Mud Season Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and North Dakota Quarterly. His memoir narratives delve into the nature of family, education, suicide, and loss. He also writes political essays which examine and critique contemporary American society. He is currently shopping two book projects: a memoir of Uber driving in New Orleans and his current thesis project, a memoir chronicling his wife’s recent pregnancy, tentatively titled Forty Weeks in 2020: A Future Father Faces his Fears. Learn more at

Sarah Trautwein
Ph.D. student

M.A. Marshall University
B.A. Marshall University

Sarah is a first-year PhD student and writer born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. She graduated from Marshall University where she majored in Creative Writing and Literature and where she returned to attend graduate school. She was named the 2019-2020 Rosanne Blake Scholar and was awarded both the Edmund Taft and Wallace E. Knight award at Marshall University. Her nonfiction work has been featured in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, GNU Journal, The Blue Mountain Review, and in The Storyteller Anthology. Sarah also has academic publications with The James Dickey Review and specializes as a late twentieth, and twenty-first century Americanist.  


“Barn Red” or “Oil Paint,” Et. Cetera, March 2020. 

“Untangling the Story Within,” The Writing Lab Newsletter, accepted September 2019. 

“James Dickey: The Unknown Magical Realist,” The James Dickey Review, January 2019.

“Taxi Cards,” The Blue Mountain Review,  August 2018. 

“The Books I Never Read,” The Storyteller Anthology, July 2019.

“Building the Homeplace: Misremembering’s Role in Creative Nonfiction,” Fiction Southeast,     June 2019.

“Road to Remembering: The Research and Reason Behind Remembering Sophia Jane,” Fiction  Southeast, January 2019.

 “ M O V I N G  L E T T E R S,” GNU Literary Journal, 2018.


“Special Collections, Creative Writing, and Sermon Studies: Faculty and Student Projects at Marshall University,”Appalachian Studies Association Conference, 2020. 

“Appalachian Daughters: Writing the Next Generation,” Appalachian Studies Association, 2019.

Gabriella Pishotti
Ph.D. Candidate (Literature)

M.A. Miami University
B.A. University of Mount Union

Gabriella’s research interests include global anglophone and migration literature and human rights narratives. Specifically, her work focuses on the cross-border experiences of refugees, immigrants, and displaced individuals and how different narrative forms can impact the dissemination and reception of these stories as well as influence human rights conversations. She is currently working on her dissertation, a project examining the affects of survival migration that is invested in narratively reimagining the survival migrant in a way that goes beyond the common refugee literary tropes of flight, journey, and relocation. In addition to her research, Gabriella is also involved with the Appalachian Prison Book Project and the Council for Gender Equity. 


“Materializing Grief: The Re-realization of Loss in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire.” ACLA. Online, April 2021. 

“Traversing the ‘Far, Far Away’: Reconceptualizing Fairy Tales as Refugee Narratives.” The Ohio State University/Indiana University Folklore & Ethnomusicology Conference. Columbus, February 2020. 

 “Expanding the Narrative: Border Violence in Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World.” MELUS. Cincinnati, March 2019.

Michael Vozniak
PhD - Literature and Cultural Studies

M.A. West Virginia University
B.A. Fairmont State University

Michael Vozniak is from Fairmont, West Virginia. His research interests focus on Appalachian students in the college composition classroom, and how they often have to perform a different identity in order to acclimate to the alien world of academia. He has recently taught “Popular American Culture,” which focused on popular texts’ depictions of Appalachian stereotypes, and how those depictions have historically aided in marginalizing the Appalachian region and culture. He is currently teaching “Short Story and Novel,” in which he continues to focus on Appalachian stereotypes in local color writing as well as in popular Appalachian-set fiction. He is also currently teaching “Introduction to Composition and Rhetoric,” in which he is exploring the pedagogical possibilities of utilizing Wikipedia in the classroom in order to teach students to analyze and compose Wikipedia articles relating to Appalachia.

AJ DeLauder
Ph.D. Student

M.F.A. New Hampshire Institute of Art
M.A. West Virginia University (Summer 2021 Grad)
B.A. University of Maryland Global Campus

After finishing their M.A. coursework, AJ will be transferring into the Ph.D. program in the fall of 2021. AJ’s research interests include the etymology, rhetoric, and representation of weather terminology, with a particular emphasis on moving weather to the forefront of language about climate change in order to bridge the gap between lived experiences of meteorological phenomena and the representations encountered in media and literature. As a playwright, AJ’s work has been produced or read in over a dozen states, including NYC, and won or been selected for the AACT NewPlayFest, Barter’s Festival of Appalachian Plays and Playwrights, Baltimore Playwrights Festival, and the Bluestone Project, among others. AJ also recently opened a seasonal bicycle shop, called The Tiny Corner Bike Shop, and plans to (hopefully!) race the Tour Divide Mountain Bike Race from Canada to Mexico in June of 2022.

Gracefully Ending, Dramatic Publishing, Chicago, 2016

Meghan Hutton
Ph.D. student

M.A. University of South Florida
B.A. Christian Brothers University

Meghan Hutton is a first-year PhD student from Memphis, Tennessee. After finishing her MA in Tampa, Florida and in need of a cooler climate that actually has seasons, Meghan accepted an offer from WVU with the hopes of broadening her interests in working-class literature by having the opportunity to read Appalachian literature in the heart of Appalachia. Meghan’s research primarily surrounds intersections of gender, sexuality, and class in American working-class literature from mid-nineteenth century periodicals to contemporary memoirs.

Miranda Smith 
M.A. Student

B.A. Marshall University 

Miranda Smith is a first year M.A. student from Matewan, WV. After finishing her B.A. in Literary Studies, Creative Writing, and Classics from Marshall University, Miranda decided to continue her literary studies and accepted an offer at West Virginia University. Her research interests include ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, with a more specific focus on the EcoGothic body and the ways that race and gender overlap with environmental concerns. 

Ashley Preece
MFA Candidate (Poetry)

B.A. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Ashley is a first-year creative writing student with a focus in poetry. She currently resides in Morgantown with her dog, where she writes about religion, sexuality, mental illness, and the idea of being sentient. 

Katie Vogelpohl 
PhD Candidate (Literature)

M.Ed., College of Mt. St. Joseph     
B.A., University of Mary Washington

Katie Vogelpohl has been teaching literature and writing at the university and high school levels for the past 11 years. While at West Virginia University, she has taught classes in American Literature, Business Writing, and Composition. Her Short Story and Novel course from the spring 2018 semester was titled Narrating Madness and examines the techniques used by classic and contemporary authors experimenting with “abnormal” voices.

Katie’s current project focuses on postpartum narratives from the 1960s and 70s, investigating the physical changes and societal and emotional influences that affect new and soon-to-be mothers in American literature. This project is supported by her work with the Appalachian Prison Book Project, a non-profit organization that sends books to incarcerated peoples. Through APBP, she was honored to be able to assist with the Women of Wisdom book club at the local women’s correctional facility. Within their first manuscript of collected writings from the Women of Wisdom group, there is an overwhelmingly number of narratives composed to or about either absent parents or children, as these women await their return to both society and family.

When not at school, Katie is probably reading terrible mystery stories or watching British cooking competitions with her husband, Jacob; son, Colin; pup, Branwell; and tortoise, Ichabod. 


“‘She Didn’t Kiss Me When She Said Goodbye.’” Midwestern Modern Language Association Conference, Cincinnati, OH, November 2017.

“Improving Student Motivation and Combating Learned Aversion.” Midwestern Modern Language Association Conference, Cincinnati, OH, November 2017.

Katie Clendenin (She/Her) 
MFA Candidate, CNF


Katie is a second-year MFA candidate in creative nonfiction. She is from Charleston, West Virginia and received her undergraduate degree in English from West Virginia University in 2018. Katie’s work has appeared in Little Death Lit.

Kelli Wilhelm 
Ph.D Candidate, Literature

M.A. Salisbury University
B.S. Frostburg State University

Kelli’s dissertation work incorporates rhetorical and psychological approaches and focuses on the presence and meanings of silence beyond repression and resistance in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century British novels authored by women (Wollstonecraft to Shelley). It specifically interrogates how reinterpretations of literary silences can help us to read intimacy and responses to trauma and loss. She mentors writing instructors as an undergraduate writing program assistant and was a WVU 3 Minute Thesis winner (2020).     

Publications and Conferences:

“Where’s the Pie?”: Nostalgic and Apocalyptic Foodways in Supernatural,” Breaking Out of the Box, Edited Collection, Random House, 2020

“Confessing Nothing: Female Confession and Eighteenth-Century Criminal Conversation 

Narratives,” ICR Annual Meeting, Colorado Springs, CO, October 2016.

Panel Chair, Once Upon a Mother, ASECS Annual Meeting, Pittsburg, PA, March 31-April 3, 


Matthew Dougherty
MFA candidate (Fiction)

B.A. Ohio University

Matthew Dougherty grew up in Ohio, graduated from Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College,  and taught elementary school in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas via Teach For America. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Salamander, Sonora Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Bull, and have been selected as contest winners by Molly Antopol and Lucy Corin. He also enjoys writing and performing original songs under the artist name Matt Skerk 

Madison Helman 
PhD Candidate

BA Campbell University 
MA NC State University

Madison grew up in Fayetteville, NC, and her dissertation work focuses on 19th century Appalachian Murder Ballads. Through these songs, her work explores community responses to trauma and tragedy. Her other research interests include Southern writers such as Eudora Welty and Charles Chesnutt, who she’s really psyched to tell you lived in Fayetteville. 

Rachael Bradley 
MFA Candidate (Creative Nonfiction)

B.A. Michigan State University

Rachael Bradley was born and raised in Michigan, where she studied English and Arts/Humanities at Michigan State University before coming to WVU as a graduate student to pursue her MFA in creative nonfiction. In 2020 she was chosen as the recipient for the WVU Rebecca Mason Perry Award for Outstanding English Graduate Student. Rachael’s writing often explores ideas surrounding mental illness, family, and her Jewish heritage. 

Olivia Wertz
Ph.D. Student

M.A. West Virginia University
B.A. The Pennsylvania State University

Olivia Wertz is a first-year Ph.D. student whose studies focus on gender, race, and media consumption/production. Olivia often researches race and gender within the context of popular cultural and contemporary American ideologies. Olivia has presented at a number of conferences, two of which most recently include The University of Arizona’s New Directions Conference in 2020 (accepted, but canceled due to COVID-19) and California State University Fullerton’s Lenses: Ways of  Seeing, Reading, and Knowing 2019 Conference.

April McGinnis
PhD Candidate

B.A., Appalachian State University 
M.A., Appalachian State University

April’s research interests center on ecocriticism and the writing of mobility in British and American Romantic literature. Her dissertation addresses the ways in which traveling on foot through “wild” landscapes amplifies one’s capacity for ecological thinking. April has been teaching writing and literature at the college level since 2011. She is passionate about interdisciplinarity and public-facing academics and designs her courses with an eye toward helping students draw connections between humanities topics, their own academic interests, and the world outside the university.


“Material Agency and the ‘Cluttered’ Environment in Dorothy Wordsworth’s Travel Narratives.” European Romantic Review (forthcoming)

Recent Conferences

“Starlings Over Central Park: The Frankensteinian Legacy of an Introduced Species”

Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE)

SAMLA Annual Conference 


“Well-Behaved Nature Seldom Makes Ecology: Traveling Through Untame Landscapes with Dorothy Wordsworth and Henry David Thoreau”

College English Association Annual Conference

Hilton Head, SC

“‘Bedabbled with the dew and torn with briars”: Entanglement and Botanical Agency in A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

PAMLA Annual Conference

Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA

Nicole M. Stahl
Ph.D. Student

M.A. English, Environment and Natural Resources – The University of Wyoming
B.A. English – The University of Alaska Fairbanks 

Nicole is a third-year PhD student from North Pole, Alaska. The three states she has called home between then and now—Alaska, Wyoming, West Virginia—share a dual sense of place with picturesque landscapes and powerful natural resources, shaping her research interests in energy humanities and environmental policy. She studies ecocriticism as it intersects with the history of science, focusing on the eighteenth-century long poems written during the Industrial Revolution; and with environmental(ist) aesthetics, especially as the visual narratives of pastoral, georgic, and epic poetry have evolved through modern film storytelling.


  • “Transatlantic Shores Illumine Wide’: A Global Re-reading of Anna Seward’s Local Writing.” NeMLA, Baltimore MD, March 2017.

  • “Not on the Same Page: Divergent Verses and Voices in James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane.” ASECS, Orlando FL, March 2018.

  • “Enlightenment After Dark:  Scientific Exploration Under the Night Sky and Underground.” EGSU, Morgantown WV, March 2019.

  • “The Moves of the Plants: Weird Creatures Growing in Erasmus Darwin’s Botanic Garden.” NeMLA, Boston MA, March 2020.

  • “Environmentalism Un-Earthed: Estranging the Energy Narrative from the Human Experience.” ASLE, Virtual Symposium, July 2020.

  • “Suburban Decay: Unsustainable Narratives of Environ/Mental Contagion.” NeMLA, Philadelphia PA, March 2021.

Muhammad Manzur Alam
PhD Candidate

B.A., University of Dhaka, Bangladesh 
M.A., University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Muhammad Manzur Alam is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English. His research interests lie in the areas of ecocriticism and Anglophone South Asian literature. He has made conference presentations and publications on South Asian literature, political discourses, ecocriticism and the Indo-Caribbean writer V.S. Naipaul. His current dissertation project focuses on the representation of climate change in Anglophone South Asian fiction and examines how the unrelenting colonial and capitalist interventions disintegrate postcolonial environments.

Recent Conferences:

“Reading South Asian Ecofiction as Counternarratives to Climate Denialism.” “Humanities on the Brink: Energy, Environment, Emergency:” A Nearly Carbon Neutral Virtual Symposium sponsored by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) and the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, 10-31 July 2020.

“Clash of Perspectives: Global Form, Local Ecology, and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.” “Transnational Spaces: Intersections of Cultures, Languages, and Peoples:” The 50th NeMLA (Northeast Modern Language Association) Anniversary Convention, Gaylord National Resort Center, MD, USA, 21-24 March 2019.

Aaron Rovan
Ph.D Candidate (Literature and Cultural Studies)

M.A. Duquesne University
B.A. St. Francis University

Aaron’s research focuses on the intersection of women’s religious traditions and the development of American ethnicity. Using techniques of literary folkloristics, his dissertation incorporates literary analysis of texts by Kate Chopin and Anzia Yezierska with oral history fieldwork performed with two groups of women in Western Pennsylvania. 


 “The Mother as Social Activist in Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead and Maxo Vanka’s Murals.” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal. (Forthcoming)

“Rebecca Harding Davis’s Transgressive Religion: Women’s Good Works.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 49, no. 7, 2020, pp. 782-797.

“There’s no place for such as you”: Domesticity, Working-Class Street Children, and Davis’s “The Promise of the Dawn.” Topic: The Washington and Jefferson College Review, vol. 59, 2013, pp. 47-58. 

Recent Conferences

“Kate Chopin’s Links to Folklore,” American Folklore Society, Baltimore, MD, 2019

“Using Minorcans to Define American Ethnicity in Woolson’s ‘Sister St. Luke,’” Constance Fenimore Woolson Society, Winter Park, FL, 2019

“Ethnic Performances of Street Children in 19th-Century American Culture,” Eastern American Studies Association, Harrisburg, PA, 2019

Andrew Lewis 
M.A. Student

B.A. Rowan University

Andrew hails from the much flatter earth of Pennsville, New Jersey and earned a B.A. in English from nearby Rowan University in 2019. After an unsatisfying year of studying higher education administration at the graduate level, he realized that chasing a life in literature was the right path after all. Andrew is particularly interested in exploring inclusive models of queer theory, LGBTQIA+ literature, loneliness, trauma/mental illness, the coming-out imperative, and how to apply Judith Butler’s “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” to literally everything. When procrastinating, he likes to spend time with his pug, Tank, and battle transphobia on the world wide web. Andrew is genderfluid and is comfortable with all pronouns, commonly choosing to use he/him/his. 

Anna Schles
MFA Candidate (Fiction)
Graduate Teaching Assistant

B.A., West Virginia University, 2018
M.A., West Virginia University, 2020

Anna Schles is an MFA candidate in fiction.  She has always been interested in writing about outcasts, about people working to find their niche in the world and undergoing personal growth in the process.


“2001: A Space Odyssey, the Unknown, and the Uncanny.” 2019 WVU English Graduate Student Union Conference, Morgantown, WV, March 2019.

“‘It’s Mueller Time!’: The Positive Folkloric Response to the Mueller Investigation.”  13th Annual OSU/IU Folklore & Ethnomusicology Conference, Columbus, OH, February 2020.

Emily Sparrow
M.A. Student

B.A. Winthrop University

Emily Sparrow is from Clover, South Carolina, and she received her B.A. in English Literature and Language from Winthrop University. Her undergraduate honors thesis was an ecofeminist analysis of character and setting in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Following graduation from Winthrop, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia from 2018-2020. As a graduate student, her research interests remain in ecocriticism.


“Using Podcasts to Engage Students in the Classroom.” 13th National TEFL/9th Mongolia TESOL International Conference, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, September 2019.

“The Long Tail and Language: Critically Thinking about our Teaching Approaches.” 12th National TEFL/8th Mongolia TESOL International Conference, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, October 2018.

“Birds and Beasts: An Ecocritical Reading of Character in Jane Eyre.” Winthrop SOURCE Conference, Rock Hill, SC, April 2017.

“‘Bird and Beast and Flower Were One with Man’: An Ecocritical Analysis of John Boorman’s Excalibur.” Longwood University’s 11th Annual Meeting in the Middle Conference, Farmville, VA, April 2017.

Luke Jordan Lyman Barner
Ph.D. Student

M.A. West Virginia University
B.A. Armstrong State University

Luke studies Appalachian regional identities, political subjectivities, and literature. He is particularly interested in the study of Appalachia as an ‘internal colony’ and the benefits and limitations of that research model, as well as the figure of the ‘hillbilly’ in literature and popular discourse. In addition, he has also written on video games as literary texts with attention to a growing number of feminist, antiracist, and decolonial texts in the medium.

Liam Wholihan
MFA Candidate (Poetry)

B.A. Knox College

A handyman, musician, and martial arts instructor from Maryland, Liam Wholihan meanders often and with whimsy.  In his poems as in his delights, he attends to making and things made with his hands. His putterings so far have been picked up by Quail Bell Magazine, Bridge Bluffton: University Press, Catch, Quiver, and Cellar Door.

Yu Uchida
Ph.D. Student

M.A. English Chuo University (Tokyo, Japan)
B.A. English Chuo University (Tokyo, Japan)

Yu is a second year PhD student in the Department of English. His research interests lie in the nineteenth-century American historical narratives. His dissertation project aims to establish a theoretical framework to see alternative temporalities in nineteenth-century American literary traditions and their destabilizing effect upon historical narratives.


"Recollecting the Past, Re-Creating the Self Anew: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Insight into the Act of Recollection in The Blithedale Romance"

International Poe and Hawthorne Conference, Tokyo, Japan, June 2018.

Wenyu Kong 
Ph.D. Student

M.A. English Language and Literature, Shandong University (Jinan, China)
B.A.  English, Shandong University (Jinan, China)

Wenyu is from Dalian, China. She currently is in the second year of her Ph.D. program. Her study field includes British and Anglo-Irish Modernism, contemporary literary theories, psychoanalysis, and temporality. She is keenly interested in how narrative could (re)create personal and historical memory and also curious about haunting phenomena as well as the presence of “ghosts” (hauntology) works in literary texts. Besides literary study, she is also spending time practicing interpreting and translation between Chinese and English.