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Graduate Students

Jackson Buttery

M.F.A. Candidate (Fiction)
B.A. Washington and Lee University

Jackson Buttery is an incoming candidate in the MFA program. Previously, he served as the speechwriter for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in communications for Beyond Celiac, in historic preservation with the National Park Service on St. Simons Island, GA, and helped to manage a family-owned organic orchard outside of Philadelphia. In Tallahassee, he was fortunate enough to take multiple workshops at Florida State University with Robert Olen Butler. His fiction is often concerned with place, the environmental tradition and who or what is not present, but still there.

Alexis Constantine
Ph.D. Student
M.A. English Literature, Middle Tennessee State University
B.A. English Literature, Middle Tennessee State University

Alexis Constantine is a first year Ph.D. student in the English Department. She is primarily interested in researching how contemporary popular culture texts are rewriting and subverting plotlines and tropes from classic literature, particularly the 18th/19th Century British novel. She wrote her M.A. thesis on how the Netflix series Orange is the New Black possesses the characteristics of a modern-day novel of manners that features two main characters who subvert the Austenian marriage plot. She is also interested in exploring the ways in which fan fiction often serves as a medium to complicate and fully realize the queer subtext of original works.


 “A ‘Darling Mamma’ and Her Devoted Son: The Displacement of Sexual Desire in May Sinclair’s Mary Olivier: A Life.” British Women Writers Association, Chapel Hill, NC | June 2017

 Edith Wharton Society Roundtable Presentation: “Lilies, Dandelions, and the Price of Privilege: Wharton’s The House of Mirth and Kohan’s Orange is the New Black.” South Atlantic Modern Language Association, Atlanta, GA | November 2017

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. 

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.

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 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.

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.

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 (virtual)

“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

Emily (Emma) Merrick
MFA student, Fiction

M.A. Linguistics, George Mason University
T.E.S.L. Certificate, George Mason University
B.A. English, George Mason University

Emma enjoys reinterpretations of classical mythology and folklore, like Madeline Miller’s Circe, and The Witcher 3, as well as modern myth-making adventures like D&D. Recently, she’s finished reading A Clash of Kings for the second time, and has also taken an interest in Japanese historical fiction. Her writing frequently touches on themes of mental illness, disability, and anger - with a bit of magic sprinkled on top.

Currently, Emma resides in Morgantown with her pothos, Polis, and her collection of bullet journals. 

Uninvited Talks:

“I own three copies of Circe: An unabashed confession.” Twitter, July 2021.
“I’m sick of these headphones breaking on me: A rant.” Messenger, May 2021.
“Percy Jackson is superior to Harry Potter: A correct opinion.” Messenger, January 2021.

Taylor Miller
M.A. Professional Writing and Editing Student

B.A. English, West Virginia University
B.S.J. Public Relations, West Virginia University

Taylor grew up in the hills of West Virginia, where her love for reading and the outdoors was cultivated. This love was nourished and strengthened through her undergraduate years at West Virginia University as she followed the Professional Writing and Editing track of the English B.A., and she intends to extend this care and growth through continued education. While Taylor was largely involved on campus and outside of class throughout undergrad, she is taking a step back from overachieving and overexerting to more thoroughly enjoy her downtime and more deeply appreciate her studies. If she succeeds in this endeavor, she intends to spend said downtime spending time with her family and friends, growing her plant collection, and enjoying copious amounts of coffee and tea. 

Jennifer Peedin 
Ph.D. candidate (Literature and Cultural Studies)

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

Jennifer studies the intersection of race 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 interests are narratives about or surrounding water, swamps, and hurricanes. She blames her swampy, Southern upbringing entirely. 

Jennifer is the current President of the English Graduate Student Union. 


“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. *Canceled due to Covid.

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

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.

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.

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

David Riser
M.A. Student

A.A. Portland Community College
B.A. University of Wisconsin, Madison

David's academic interests include Romantic and Victorian era fiction, specifically nautical fiction, as well as sexuality, queer, and crip studies. He is particularly interested in the intersections and interplay of marginalized identities within 18th and 19th century writing.

Melissa Reynolds

PWE Candidate
Graduate Teaching Assistant
BA West Virginia University, 2021

Melissa Reynolds is a native West Virginian who is interested in helping writers craft strong works to reach their highest goals. She is currently an editor with The Metaworker Literary Magazine and is an active member of the Morgantown Writers Group. She has work published with Every Day Fiction, BlazeVox, Trembling With Fear, and others. Her heart lies with creative writing, and she pursues her projects on her own time.

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.

Nicole M. Stahl

Ph.D. Candidate (Literature & Cultural Studies)
M.A. English, ENR (Environment & Natural Resources) – The University of Wyoming
B.A. English – The University of Alaska Fairbanks 

Nicole is a Ph.D. candidate from North Pole, Alaska. The three states she has called home between then and now—Alaska, Wyoming, West Virginia—all share a dual sense of place, with picturesque landscapes and powerful natural resources, shaping her research interests in energy humanities and environmental(ist) policy and aesthetics. She studies ecocriticism as it intersects with the history of industrial and ecological science, focusing on long poems from the long eighteenth century. She has also taken to moonlighting in mythology and film studies.


“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.

Terra Teets
M.A. Literature Student

B.A. English – Chatham University

Terra is a first-year MA student and English 101 GTA. She grew up in Hardy County, West Virginia, and now splits her time between Pittsburgh and Morgantown. At Chatham University she was a presidential scholar and studied English, creative writing, and German. She is interested in Medieval European literature and women’s writing—she plans to expand her undergraduate capstone focused on The Book of Margery Kempe and how women’s mysticism interacts with the spectacle of the woman’s body politic while at WVU. Her poetry and creative nonfiction has appeared in Pennsylvania’s Best Emerging Writers, Edges, and The Minor Bird. She is a founding member of the Goat Farm Poetry Society Writing + Mutual Aid Group and Chatham’s Learning Edge, a group focused on expanding the reach of the Michigan Model of Intergroup Dialogues in Pittsburgh. 

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.

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.

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.

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.


“The Popular Culture Class as a Tool for Decolonization: A Case Study from Appalachia.” Embracing Differences: Communication, Culture, and Social Justice, Midland College, Midland TX, April 2021 (online). 

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.


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.