American Studies: Alumni “Spotlights”

In his 2008 Presidential Address, at the American Studies Association Meeting titled "Broadway and Main:Crossroads, Ghost Roads, and Paths to an American Studies Future," Phil Deloria began by singing a few bars from Robert Johnson's "Crossroad Blues" song. He then reflected on being a parent of a high schooler before unpacking the significance of his invocation of Johnson's ballad. His musical and personal reflections embraced the theme for that year's Annual Meeting, and the "crossroads" emerged as a metonym for American studies scholarship. These ideas highlighted the multiple pathways, both topical and methodological, which characterize entry-points and research areas within American studies. Deloria offered this pithy phrase in an attempt to further define the field "it's not what we choose to include, but what we refuse to exclude." Deloria's remarks provided glimpses into music, art, culture, history, and more as he fully embraced the strongly interdisciplinary nature of the field. What follows is an overview of the department of American studies and the diverse kinds of work students have pursued through this major and the pathways that have embarked on since graduating from Amherst. 

American studies offers students opportunities to engage in courses and research topics that matter to them the most. As an interdisciplinary major that emphasizes the multiple ethnic, racial, gender, and other identities of the citizens of Turtle Island (the United States) students are equipped with deep and nuanced understandings of how this nation has come into being, and the many communities and individuals who have actively participated in shaping debates about the role of that culture, politics, and education might play in the lives of its inhabitants across time. Given the varied research areas of the faculty in American Studies students who choose this major encounter classes and advisors who are well-equipped to help them explore a range of tools drawn from: history, english, sociology, anthropology, and more. Students are further prompted to take classes that showcase methods and theories rooted in Gender and Sexuality studies, as well as, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Native American, African American, and LatinX studies.

Many of our alumni celebrate the Department as the "choose your own adventure" major. As such, American Studies enables our graduates to pursue pathways that are intellectually stimulating, often engaged with issues of social justice, and which ground them in practices that enable lives of consequence. The following biographies "spotlight" some of the work American stuides' majors have explored and found meaningful after leaving Amherst.   

tara Guo

Tara Guo ’20

Majors: American Studies; English

Hello, Amherst American Studies community! I graduated in 2020, with a double major in American Studies and English. In the year following, I embarked on my Fulbright Taiwan grant as an English Teaching Assistant in New Taipei City, where I taught at Yunhai Elementary (up in the beautiful, hazy mountains of Shiding) and Zhongjiao Elementary (cradled on the island’s most northern coast). Having fallen in love with teaching and the country, I accepted an English Teaching Fellowship under Taiwan’s Ministry of Education to continue teaching in Taiwan - I have been living in Changhua (central Taiwan) for the past year and a half! Last year, I taught English Grades 1-6 at Daxi Elementary, located in a rural township famed for cultivating Kyoto grapes. This year, I teach English at Changhua Arts Junior High, a specialized art school in Changhua City, alongside many dedicated teachers and gifted students.

As an American who has lived abroad for the past couple of years, I’ve drawn so much from what I’ve learned in the American Studies classrooms at Amherst. To my bewilderment (and strangely, comfort?), my perception of American identity has become ever-more complicated as I continuously interact with this positionality in a geo-political context, especially as a person of the Chinese diaspora in Taiwan. As a foreign English teacher at the front of a Taiwanese classroom, I am always contemplating the issues that my own classmates and I discussed at Amherst, particularly in regard to neo-colonialist tendencies rooted in English education.

Cassandra Hradil

Cassandra Hradil ’17

Majors: American Studies; Classics

Cassandra Hradil is an artist, designer, and scholar who balances the critical with the creative. Her research interests include affective & embodied data, decolonial mapping & data visualization, and electronic literatures. She enjoys teaching, and especially loves finding practical and creative ways to make data and computation more approachable, while also digging into the histories, materialities, and subjectivities that shape our computational experiences.

During her time as an American Studies major at Amherst, Cassandra focused her energies on Indigenous studies, earning the Five College Certificate in Native American and Indigenous Studies and writing her senior thesis on Indigenous speculative fiction and digital media. She also worked as a research assistant and site developer for Dr. Lisa Brooks' Our Beloved Kin project, helping with research, writing, and the development of maps and digital content about the history of King Philip's War. She spent a year as a Digital Humanities Post-baccalaureate Fellow assisting with collection development for the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature collection and doing prototyping work for the Digital Atlas of Native American Intellectual Traditions (DANAIT).

While researching and writing her senior thesis, Cassandra began working with the Immersive Reality Lab for the Humanities (IRLH), where she was introduced to the digital humanities. She became deeply interested in interrogating the relationship between settler colonialism and digital technologies, highlighting the work of Indigenous artists and writers who complicate or resist ongoing colonization within the digital context. Her desire to understand the technological half of this equation better led her to pursue an MFA in Design and Technology at Parsons School of Design.

While at Parsons, Cassandra sought ways to bring the critical together with the creative, pursuing projects in speculative design, data visualization, and physical computation. Her master's thesis focused on normative knowledge information structures in library catalogs, harkening back to her time at Amherst. She applied the critical lessons about data, libraries, and nontraditional collections that she learned while working on the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg collection to the Barnard Zine Library at Columbia, arguing that radical collections required radically different approaches to collection visualization, search and discovery, and categorization.

Cassandra's time at Parsons also infused her with a love for teaching, as she sought pedagogical ways to make the humanities legible to designers, and to make coding concepts legible to artists and humanists. She continues this pedagogical work in her current role as a digital humanities specialist at Penn Libraries and the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. At Penn, she teaches workshops in design and accessible approaches to data and teaches the occasional undergrad course. She also provides design and development support for student and faculty digital humanities projects.

Cassandra can be reached at She is always happy to chat with tech-curious artists and humanists, humanities-curious technologists, or anyone else looking to better understand the role of computation in our world.

Kirstin Henry

Kirstin Henry ’20

Major: American Studies

Hello, I’m Kirstin. I graduated from Amherst in May 2020 with my bachelor’s in American Studies. While at Amherst, I involved myself in various clubs (from Green Room to the AC Dems), studied education in all its forms, studied abroad in South Korea, interned with the library and Breakthrough NY, and wrote a thesis about curriculum in public schools.

Post-Amherst, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, California, and worked at a public school and then at a law firm. My first year was busy! I took courses focusing on English Language Learners, neurodiverse students, and the fundamentals of reading, among other topics. I also worked as an SDC teacher, creating and delivering math, science, socio-emotional, and literacy lessons for my 6th-8th grade students. I worked, too, as an RSP, supporting all 9th-12th grade students within the Special Education program in their math and English courses and developing IEPs for all students under my care, including collaborating with them and their families on goals.  After this year, I joined a law firm as a Knowledge Management Assistant. I currently manage legal technologies to make lawyers’ jobs more efficient - this role includes training lawyers on these technologies, creating guides and other informative materials, processing invoices, transferring information to online databases, and organizing demos of other products. My Excel skills, and my knowledge of the law, have increased exponentially!

If you would like to discuss first-year teaching experiences in public schools or how to get involved with legal technologies from the business side, please email me at I’d love to chat!

Chimaway Lopez

Chimaway Lopez, Class of ’20

Majors: American Studies; Environmental Studies

While the last few years of my life since graduating often feel like they have gone by very quickly, the timing of the Covid-19 pandemic alongside my graduation in 2020 also makes my time at Amherst feel a bit distant, almost like experiences in another epoch. Only three years ago, the end of my time as a student at Amherst college was not on the east coast but back with my family back in Chumash territory (Santa Barbara, California) where I was raised. After graduating I was very fortunate to have an internship position for the Yurok Tribal Environmental Department, helping their water quality division calibrate and repair their testing stations along the Klamath river. This was definitely a dream job for me: camping out in beautiful Northern California, working outside, learning new skills, all with what I felt was very rewarding and valuable work. That following fall I entered into my graduate program in Native American Studies at UC Davis, a Native studies department with a long and  significant history, currently celebrating its 30th year as an independent academic department. I really appreciate the program at Davis, specifically its strong foundation in Hemispheric Indigenous research and teaching methods, while also allowing for the kind of interdisciplinary and creative research that I grew to love during my time at Amherst College. I have spent the last three years going between my studies in Davis, my family home in Chumash country, and returning to Yurok territory to work alongside the Yurok Environmental Department. More than halfway through the third year of my program, I am finished with my coursework and currently preparing to complete my qualifying exam and move on to the next stage of graduate studies.

Carley Malloy

Carley Malloy ’22

Majors: American Studies; Education Studies; Geology

After graduating from Amherst College with a degree in American studies, education studies, and geology, Carley moved back home to Vermont to be with her family.  She began teaching at Hartford Memorial Middle School in Hartford, Vermont during the 2022-2023 academic year.  She teaches math to seventh and eighth graders, as well as an elective focused on land-based knowledge.  Although math was not a part of her degree from Amherst, she challenges herself to make math fun and equitable for students so they continue their learning in STEM.  The land-based elective she teaches was largely inspired by her thesis cohort with Professor Lisa Brooks and allows her to draw from each of her majors at Amherst.  During the elective, she brings her students onto Wabanaki land in the Upper Valley and incorporates Native studies into their outdoor experiences.  This elective teaches that learning can be done on the land, and that land can be a valuable teacher. 

Alexis Scalese

Alexis Scalese ’22

Major: American Studies

Alexis Scalese (Pueblo of Isleta) graduated in May of 2022 as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow with a B.A. in American Studies with honors and a Five College Certificate in Native and Indigenous Studies. Alexis lives on ancestral homelands in Albuquerque, NM, and is pursuing an M.A. in Museum Studies at the University of New Mexico as an American Indian Student Services Ambassador and an inaugural Hibben Museum Partner Fellow

 As a Hibben Museum Partner Fellow, Alexis works at her Pueblo’s cultural center, Yonan An. At Yonan An, she works with community members, elders, and the Tribal Archivist, Cassandra Smith, to support the futurity of Isleta’s lifeways. Currently, Alexis is working with the Tribal Archivist to develop a Mukurtu CMS site for Isleta tribal members. The Mukurtu site will feature photos depicting Isleta’s lifeways that are on loan from museums and archives across the United States and materials from the Yonan An database.  

This past summer, Alexis was awarded the Native American Scholars Initiative Internship at the American Philosophical Society (APS) where she built meaningful relationships with APS staff and conducted original research about Elise Clews Parsons, an anthropologist who conducted extractive research at Isleta, and her connections to commissioning culturally sensitive paintings. With this research, Alexis wants to trace the locations of these paintings as they are scattered across the United States, and hopefully repatriate them back home to Isleta.  

Alexis is passionate about culturally-relevant approaches to museums and archival practices and truly believes that relationship building will heal past, and ongoing colonial violence Native people face in the museum world. She is professionally associated with the Association for Tribal Libraries Archives and Museums as a fully-funded scholarship recipient and upon completing her M.A. in Museum Studies plans to pursue a joint J.D. and Ph.D. in Native American Studies. In being guided by her Pueblo’s values and education, Alexis plans to work in the realm of repatriation, mentor Isleta youth, and continue her work at Yonan An.  


Franscheska Santos

Francheska Santos ’15

Major: American Studies

My name is Francheska Santos from the Amherst College Class Of 2015! Since graduating from Brown University’s Urban Education Policy (UEP) program in 2019, I’ve been working at an organization called Prepared To Teach. Housed within Bank Street College of Education, Prepared To Teach focuses on making sure everyone who wants to be a teacher can afford to attend a quality program. We firmly believe that teacher residency programs, established through deep local partnerships, are a strong pathway toward achieving this goal. We are committed to supporting local and systems change across our national network through movement building and surfacing learning on factors that help preparation programs and districts embrace shifts toward sustainable residencies. This includes candidate financial support which is where I began my tenure at Prepared To Teach, managing a national survey on the financial burdens of aspiring teachers. I supported the data collection and analysis of these surveys which resulted in #MoreLearningLessDebt: Voices of Aspiring Teachers on Why Money Matters. Currently, I am the Assistant Director of Partnership Learning co-leading our Learning Agenda. This project is a deep dive into how partnerships engage, the depth of the relationship between stakeholders, and the degree of collaboration between actors across local contexts when establishing a teacher residency program.

Aside from my work at Prepared To Teach, I also serve as a board member for the Young Education Professionals New York City chapter (YEP-NYC). I’m still new within this role and I’m looking forward to connecting further with the NYC education community!

Sho Young Shin

Sho Young Shin ’19

Majors: American Studies

Hi everyone, I'm Sho, class of 2019. I'm currently the Global Program Manager at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA). I run our global startup accelerator and US market entry programs in collaboration with all 30+ ERA Global partners, including government trade organizations, foreign embassies, international universities, and foreign private funds. I'm also Co-Founder and Director of Communications of a 501(c)(3) organization, the Amherst Asian Alumni Network, comprised of 1000+ members.

I was previously a legal representative as an Immigrant Justice Corps Community Fellow at MinKwon Center for Community Action, a community-based organization in NYC. While at MinKwon, I filed 300+ immigration applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a partially Accredited Representative within the Office of Legal Access Program.

I'm always happy to chat, feel free to reach out at