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American Studies

College of Arts and Sciences

Current Graduate Students

Class of 2017

Josh Sainz hails from the sparsely populated town of Smoot, Wyoming. He obtained his BA in History with a Minor in Chicana Studies from the University of Wyoming. Previous to finishing his degree at UW, Josh attended Dickinson State University, Utah State University, and studied in Cardiff University, in Cardiff, Wales. His research interests have dealt with the Latin American Diaspora established in the British Isles, Puerto Rican Diaspora and Transnational communities within the United States, and the Latino experience in the rural Western U.S. As of now, he will focus on the rural Latino experience as the subject matter for his thesis. In his free time, Josh enjoys expanding his knowledge outside of the realm of Latin America and Southwestern U.S., traveling locally and globally, experimenting with cooking, and maintaining ample attention levels with his Welsh Corgi, Ralph.

Emily McMahan is originally from Front Royal, Virginia. She graduated from James Madison University in 2013 with a BA in International Affairs and minors in Humanitarian Affairs and Africana Studies. She is interested in researching the formation of cultural identities, specifically focusing on the influence of the media and political institutions. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling, reading non-academic books, and listening to her eclectic music collection. She loves to study other languages, including French and Swahili, and hopes to one day see more of the world and practice speaking them.

Rhett Epler is a 5th generation Wyomingite, coming from a family of farmers, ranchers, cowboys, entrepreneurs and risktakers. He earned his BA from the University of Wyoming, in Distributed Social Sciences. As an undergraduate, Rhett had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Susan Dewey on a large-scale project surrounding the decriminalization of sex work. Through this work he was able to co-author an article entitled, “‘Ain’t No Real Pimps Out There No More’: Street-Involved Women’s Characterizations of Men Who Facilitate Street-Based Sex Work.” Rhett is also currently working closely with Dr. Dewey, Dr. Catherine Connelly and Dr. Bonnie Zare on a large, multi-year project entitled “Pathways from Prison.” Rhett’s research interests are the decriminalization of sex work and prison/criminal justice reform. Outside of school, Rhett enjoys spending time with family and friends, yoga, fitness, reading and travel.

Constantin Jas was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. He also graduated there with a BA in American Studies and Political Science. His curriculum’s main fields were Culture, Politics and Sociology. During his year abroad at Montana State University he chose to focus his studies on the reproduction of American cultural values in popular culture. His bachelor’s thesis dealt with the romanticized display of capitalism in American popular culture, based on the example of Scrooge McDuck. After getting a little taste of the field of European Studies in Frankfurt (Oder), right next to Poland, he has chosen to seek the MA in American Studies in the American West, a region he has fallen in love with at first sight. His free time is split into watching and doing European and American sports, movies, TV shows and video games.

Robert Galbreath was born and raised in Wyoming. He started college many years ago, but dropped out of school, and spent the next decade working at the Walmart in Laramie (after brief stints cleaning apartments on campus and working at a shoe store). About a year ago he decided to return to the University of Wyoming and finish his degree. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science in spring 2015, and decided to come to graduate school to improve his future job prospects. He chose American Studies because it felt like the perfect department to continue further education due to the amazing variety of topics, themes and ideas to study with a diverse faculty. In his spare time he enjoys riding his bike (and spinning when the weather is bad) and watches lots of TV—his favorite shows include The Good Wife, Prime Suspect, Friday Night Lights, Sex and the City, and Ugly Betty.

Class of 2018

Rebekah Westrup is a California native who wakes up every morning constantly surprised that she now lives in the wilds of Wyoming. She graduated from BYU with a degree in Humanities with an emphasis in Art History and a Women Studies minor. After living in South Korea for 18 months teaching English, she returned to the United States hoping to give a good old college try to, well, college again; but this time as a graduate student. And that was how she found herself at the University of Wyoming figuratively exploring the West through her Graduate Assistantship at the American Heritage. Rebekah is interested in researching almost everything it seems. But she has narrowed her topics of keen interest down to women, religion, and art. Whenever those three topics intersect, she becomes especially giddy. 

Barnt C. Neijboer was born and raised in the oldest city of the Netherlands, Nijmegen. He received an English degree at the Hogeschool of Arnhem Nijmegen (HAN) and a BA in American Studies at the Radboud University of Nijmegen. Barnt's main academic focus is on Geopolitics, International Diplomacy, and how U.S. foreign policy operates in these domains. Barnt is also the secretary of the executive board of the Transatlantic Think Tank European Horizons, who have just opened a chapter at UW, and is interested in improving and expanding Transatlantic relations. Outside of academia, Barnt enjoys (mountain) biking, cooking, traveling, stand-up comedy, and spending time with his Honduran girlfriend.

Jordan Norviel is from Cheyenne, Wyoming and completed her undergrad at UW in history. Her research interests include intersections of race, class, gender, and the environment. These interests are rooted in family histories as Chicano farm workers as well as her love for the outdoors. In her free time, Jordan enjoys being outside with her dog.

Rebecca Goodson is a first year American Studies graduate student. After growing up in North Carolina, she moved to Wyoming and shortly after attended the University of Wyoming. She earned a BA in American Studies from the University of Wyoming in the spring of 2016. While engaging with a wide span of research interests, she is most fascinated by unpacking and examining rhetoric from any and all texts, peoples, and environments she encounters. In particular, Rebecca enjoys constructing reflexive writing about social class, education, privilege, and the “ace”s (race, place, and space) of academia and everyday life. When not in class, Rebecca enjoys creative writing, daydreaming, crafting visual arts, watching movies, going on walks, and sharing foods with her husband.

August Lah was born and raised in orthern Minnesota She earned her BA in writing, literature, and publishing with an undeclared minor in global and post-Colonial studies from Emerson College in 2015. Her bachelor's thesis focused on the ways in which the American short story is shaped (and therefore restricted) by its use as a tool in the production of American identity. She is interested in continuing research on the limitations that identity politics impose on the production and distribution of art and how those limits can be creatively challenged- particularly in the fields of publishing and creative writing. In her free time August likes to sleep, watch poorly written television, and do messy art projects.

Gary Rutkowski earned his bachelor's degree from Ithaca College in Cinema & Photography. He has worked in the archival field at the Paley Center for Media and the Television Academy's Arhive of American Television. He is a member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) and the Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists (SRMA). As an independent archivist, he assembled a collection of rare kinescope and network film prints, scripts and photographs from the early years of American television that reside at the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center.

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