Celebrating 2024 Graduates

From Left to Right: Dr. Jason Morgan Ward, Dr. William (Robert) Billups, Dr. Georgia Brunner, Dr. Marissa L. Nichols, Dr. Yanna Yannakakis, Dr. Kyungtaek Kwon, Dr. Matthew J. Payne, Dr. Melissa Faris Gayan.

The Emory History Department celebrates the graduate and undergraduate students who are completing their studies and degrees this spring. Five Emory History doctoral students will be recognized at the Laney Graduate School Diploma Ceremony on Friday, May 10. They are:

  • William (Robert) Billups, “‘Reign of Terror’: Anti–Civil Rights Terrorism in the United States, 1954–1976,” advised by Drs. Joseph Crespino and Allen Tullos
  • Georgia Brunner, “Building a Nation: Gender, Labor and the Politics of Nationalism in Colonial Rwanda, 1916-1962,” advised by Drs. Clifton Crais and Mariana P. Candido
  • Melissa Faris Gayan,* “The First Crack in the Ice: How the 1956 Protests Altered Soviet Cold War Hegemony,” advised by Dr. Matthew Payne
  • Kyungtaek Kwon,* “Identifying the City: Komsomol’sk-na-Amure Transformation from Military Outpost to the City of Youth in the Soviet Far East, 1932-1982,” advised by Dr. Matthew Payne
  • Marissa L. Nichols,* “Nurses, Indigenous Authorities, and Rural Health in Oaxaca, Mexico, 1934-1970,” advised by Dr. Yanna Yannakakis

*completed in summer 2023

Find out more information about all Emory commencement events here.

Congratulations, graduates!

Marissa L. Nichols (PhD ’23) Awarded Prestigious 2024 ACLS Fellowship


The Emory University History Department is proud to celebrate Dr. Marissa L. Nichols, a 2023 alum, on being awarded a 2024 ACLS Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). The ACLS Fellowship Program supports scholars who are poised to make original and significant contributions to knowledge in any field of the humanities or interpretive social sciences.

Nichols has been recognized as one of 60 exceptional early-career scholars selected through a multi-stage peer review from a pool of 1,100 applicants. ACLS Fellowships provide up to $60,000 to support scholars during six to 12 months of sustained research and writing. Awardees who do not hold tenure-track faculty appointments receive a supplement of $7,500 for research or other personal costs incurred during their award term.

Nichols currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Healthcare History and Policy in Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. The ACLS fellowship will support the writing of her book project, “The Backbone of Rural Health: Nursing and Indigenous Healing in Oaxaca.” Based on her dissertation, which was advised by Dr. Yanna Yannakakis, the manuscript traces how rural nurses and Indigenous communities shaped the expansion of rural healthcare in mid-twentieth-century Oaxaca, Mexico. It relies on research from archives and libraries in Mexico as well as oral histories conducted primarily as part of her dissertation research.

“The applications we received this year were nothing short of inspiring – a powerful reminder of the capacity of humanistic research to illuminate and deepen understanding of the workings of our world” said John Paul Christy, Senior Director of US Programs at ACLS. “As scholars face increasing challenges to pursuing and disseminating their research, we remain committed to advancing their vital work.”

PhD Candidate Anjuli Webster Publishes Articles in Journals of African and World History


African history graduate student Anjuli Webster has published two new articles drawing on her doctoral research. The first, a short piece titled “Water and History in Southern Africa,” was published as an Open Access “History Matters” contribution in the Journal of African History. The second article, titled “Inter-Imperial Entanglement: The British Claim to Portuguese Delagoa Bay in the Nineteenth Century,” appeared in the Journal of World History. Webster wrote the original version of this article in the graduate student seminar (HIST 584) and under the supervision of Drs. Clifton Crais and Jason Morgan Ward. Webster thanks the Research Workshop in History at Emory for support in the process of revisions and the History PhD program for funding image reproduction fees.

Webster’s dissertation, “Fluid Empires: Histories of Environment and Sovereignty in southern Africa, 1750-1900,” explores transformations in sovereignty and ecology in southern Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. She has won many grants for her research, including from the American Society for Environmental History, Harvard Center for History and Economics, the Luso-American Development Foundation, and Emory’s “Visions of Slavery” Mellon Sawyer Seminar.

Julia Lopez Fuentes (PhD, ’20) Awarded Article Prize

Dr. Julia Lopez Fuentes, a 2020 graduate of the History doctoral program and upper school teacher at the National Cathedral School, was recently awarded the 2023 European Studies First Article Prize in the Social Sciences by the Council for European Studies at Columbia University. The article, “’A Forgetting for Everyone, by Everyone’? Spain’s Memory Laws and the Rise of the European Community of Memory, 1977–2007,” was published in The Journal of Modern History in 2022. Drs. Walter L. Adamson and Astrid M. Eckert advised Fuentes’s doctoral work, including a 2015 graduate paper in which she first conducted the research and analysis that would culminate in the 2022 article. Read the abstract of this impressive scholarly contribution below. Congratulations, Dr. Fuentes!

“Historians and other scholars of memory have worked extensively on European memory politics, especially around transnational issues such as the Holocaust, as well as on Spanish memory politics, most recently in light of the exhumation of former dictator Francisco Franco. Yet there has been little scholarship to date on how nationally specific incidents, such as the Spanish Civil War and Franco regime, fit into wider trans-European narratives. This article reveals the entanglements between these local and supranational developments by examining the evolution of Spain’s memory laws and discourse, from the 1977 Amnesty Law that followed the end of the Franco regime to the 2007 Law of Historical Memory, in relation to contemporaneous European memorialization patterns. It argues that the shift from a discourse of forgetting in the Amnesty Law to one of commemoration in the Law of Historical Memory is a response to the rise of a European culture of memorialization rather than reflecting an evolution in Spain’s memory regime. By analyzing the development, text, and application of these laws, along with the political and cultural debates surrounding them in Spain and throughout Europe, this article reveals how the 2007 Spanish Law of Historical Memory, despite appearing to espouse European discourses of memorialization and amends-making, perpetuates a system of disremembering that predates most contemporary European memory politics. Ultimately, the article argues that the Law of Historical Memory suppresses the voices of victims of the Franco regime in order to bolster a narrative of Spanish national unity and European belonging.”

Billups Investigates Global Dimensions of Anti-semitism with Support from TIJS, Lesser

Sixth-year doctoral candidate Robert Billups, who is currently the 2023–2024 Ambrose Monell Foundation Funded National Fellow in Technology and Democracy for the Jefferson Scholars Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently authored a reflection about his research on the global dimensions of anti-semitism for Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies (TIJS). Billups recounts how a story heard in his childhood home of Meridian, Mississippi, about the attempted bombing of a local temple led him to research in Emory’s archives and, ultimately, to discern links between anti-Black racial violence and anti-semitism among right-wing extremists. Billups realized those links had global dimensions, as well, and secured financial support from the TIJS to conduct research abroad. With the counsel and support of Dr. Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History, Billups chose to pursue his inquiry in the British Foreign Office in London, which contained mid-20th century records from officials in British consulates and embassies around the world worried about the resurgence of fascism and antisemitism. Read Billups’ full reflection here: “Graduate Student Researches Antisemitism at the British Archives.”

Brunner Receives Honorable Mention for Article from African Studies Association

Georgia Brunner

Congratulations to doctoral candidate Georgia Brunner on receiving honorable mention for her paper “Chaos, Possibility, and Foreclosure for Women’s Futures in Revolutionary Rwanda” in the category of Graduate Student Paper Prize from the African Studies Association. Brunner’s scholarship examines gender and colonialism in Africa, particularly late colonialism and early postcolonialism in Rwanda. Her dissertation, “Building a Nation: Gender, Labor and the Politics of Nationalism in Colonial Rwanda, 1916-1962,” is advised by Drs. Clifton Crais and Mariana P. Candido.

Reflections on Inaugural Study Abroad to Poland led by Schainker

In the summer of 2023, Dr. Ellie R. Schainker, Arthur Blank Family Foundation Associate Professor of Modern European Jewish History, led an inaugural study abroad trip to Poland. Schainker taught the course “Jews of Poland: History and Memory” in collaboration with doctoral student Olivia Cocking to sixteen Emory undergraduates. The ten-day, one-credit program was supported by the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies, which provided significant subsidies for undergraduate participants through the Berger Family Fund. One of the undergraduate participants, Emory College 2023 graduate Sasha Rivers, reflected on the experience for the TIJS. Read her post here: “Journey to Poland: A Student’s Perspective.”

Anjuli Webster Awarded 2023 NISS Dissertation Grant

Anjuli Webster

Doctoral student Anjuli Webster has been awarded a 2023 Dissertation Grant from the National Institute of Social Sciences (NISS) to support fieldwork for her dissertation, titled “Fluid Empires: Histories of Environment and Sovereignty in Southern Africa, 1750-1900.” Webster is currently conducting research in South Africa, Eswatini, and Mozambique. The NISS funding will support additional research in Mozambique central to two chapters of her dissertation. Read a quote from Webster about her work below, along with an illuminating feature story about Webster written by Karina Antenucci for the Laney Graduate School.

“Understanding the afterlives of empire is a central concern of my work as a historian. Histories of imperialism and colonialism have not only shaped our present climate crisis, but they have also undermined indigenous modes of responding to and managing ecological emergency across the world.”

Webster Awarded a 2023 NISS Dissertation Grant

Fourth-year doctoral candidate Anjuli Webster has been awarded a 2023 dissertation grant from the National Institute of Social Sciences. The NISS grant will support research for Webster’s dissertation, titled “Fluid Empires: Histories of Environment and Sovereignty in southern Africa, 1750-1900.” History department faculty members Clifton CraisMariana P. CandidoYanna Yannakakis, and Thomas D. Rogers serve as advisors for Webster’s dissertation. The NISS typically awards no more than four grants each year, spanning the fields of Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology.

Olivia Cocking Receives Prestigious Chateaubriand Fellowship

Fourth-year doctoral candidate Olivia Cocking has received a prestigious Chateaubriand Fellowship in Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), a grant administered by the Cultural Services of the Embassy of France in the United States. The fellowship will support research in France for Cocking’s dissertation, which examines how migrants from the French empire navigated municipal courts and social welfare programs in the metropole between 1919 and the 1960s. Cocking’s dissertation is advised by Drs. Judith A. Miller and Tehila Sasson.