Graduate Center Students Win Prestigious Dissertation Fellowships

May 19, 2023

Ph.D. candidates secure highly competitive grants for their dissertation projects.

The DIssertation Room at the CUNY Graduate Center
Dissertation collection at the CUNY Graduate Center Library

This spring, Graduate Center doctoral candidates won several prestigious fellowships, ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, to support their dissertation research and writing.

The fellowships include two from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), two from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, and three from the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The fellowships are highly competitive and to merit them, candidates must demonstrate the excellence and importance of their research projects.

The Graduate Center congratulates all the fellowship winners.

Learn about their awards and research below.

Varnica Arora headshot
Varnica Arora

Varnica Arora (Psychology) won a $25,000 AAUW American Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation, “Youth Experiences in the Aftermath of Suicidal Behaviors in Rural India.”  

Her project is a psycho-social examination of youth experiences in the aftermath of suicidal behaviors in the state of Chhattisgarh, India. She explores how young people in India narrate experiences of living and re-engaging with life in the aftermath of suicidal acts and how these experiences are shaped by social, cultural, and health care ecologies. The project contributes to emerging scholarship on suicide in South Asia. 


Sonja Elena Gandert portrait
Sonja Elena Gandert

Sonja E. Gandert (Art History) received a $42,000 Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship in American Art for her dissertation, “La resolana: Chicano Artistic Imaginaries of Place, Race, and Activism in New Mexico and Texas, 1969–1985.”

Her dissertation argues that Chicana/o artists in New Mexico and Texas mobilize a strategy that melds the reclamation of generational and community-based knowledge and vernacular traditions with subversive historical revisionism to counter the racist and whitewashed mythologies and imaginaries of the Southwest and the West promoted by the tourist industry and in alignment with dominant settler colonial narratives.


Kate Kelley headshot
Kate Kelley

Kate Kelley (History) won a $25,000 AAUW American Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation, “How Cinderella became a Communist: The Politics of Classical Ballet in East Germany.” 

Her dissertation focuses on the role of classical ballet in the nation-building project of the German Democratic Republic from 1945 to 1990 and its legacy in the present. A work of cultural and political history, her project analyzes the ways in which arts and politics intersected under communist rule and how dance shaped the lives of people both on the inside and outside of the East German dance community, including their understanding of what it meant to be socialist and German in the post-World War II world.

Ash Marinaccio headshot
Ash Marinaccio

Ash Marinaccio (Theatre and Performance) won a $25,000 AAUW American Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation, “Rehearsing the Revolution: Process, Politics, and Identity Formation in Nonfiction Theatre-Marking in Areas of War and Conflict.”

Her dissertation is an autoethnographic critical (re)consideration of the rehearsal practices and processes undertaken while creating documentary theater with artists working in areas affected by active war and conflict. She pays close attention to the radical potential of the rehearsal room in addressing various social, political, and economic issues and in constructing personal and collective narratives.

Pedro Monque headshot
Pedro Monque

Pedro Monque (Philosophy) received a $30,000 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for his dissertation, “Extractivism and the Defense of Life and Territory: An Account of Latin American Environmental Thought.”

Monque’s dissertation project provides an account of Latin American political ecology as an innovative contribution to environmental philosophy precisely in that it explains environmental degradation in relation to histories of colonialism, sexism, and racism.


Destry Maria Sibley headshot
Destry Maria Sibley 

Destry Maria Sibley (English) received a $50,000 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship for her dissertation, “After Mother: Genres of the Maternal in Twenty-First Century American Memoir.”

Through her written dissertation and an accompanying podcast, Sibley reads the cultural construction of the mother as a method to understand the affective and material conditions of contemporary life. Rather than conceive of "the mother" as a characteristic of personhood alone, she shows how the American maternal figure, in an age of political and economic anxiety, is rendered a site of cruelly optimistic cultural attachments, knowledge production, and sense and sensation. And she looks to the possibilities envisioned by memoirists – particularly from queer, disabled, and transracial communities –who reimagine what family and identity can be as they transgress the limits of gender and genre.

Daniela Traldi headshot
Daniela Moraes Traldi

Daniela Moraes Traldi (History) received a $30,000 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation, “God, Fatherland, Family: Integralismo and the Making of the Far-Right in Twentieth-Century Brazil.”

Through her dissertation, Traldi seeks to advance a deepened understanding of the ongoing strength of the far right across the globe. The implications of the study extend beyond Brazil or Latin America, as the current diffusion of far-right, anti-democratic messaging is articulated under the flag of Christian, ethical, and moral values. As the dissertation asserts, this is how far-right ideologies and movements that were assumed to be defeated remained active and influential in the 20th century, how they exerted power and acquired popular appeal beyond formal party politics, and how women appeared as key players in this process. Beginning from an analysis of Integralismo, the Brazilian variant of the transnationally linked fascist movements of the 1920s–1940s, Traldi traces how its members consistently embedded themselves in and merged with crucial elite political circles over the succeeding decades through subtle and sophisticated use of gendered and racialized narratives. She recently wrote an article related to her dissertation in Gender & History.

Joseph van der Naald headshot
Joseph van der Naald

Joseph van der Naald (Sociology) won a $30,000 Center for Engaged Scholarship Dissertation Fellowship for his dissertation, “Organizing With and Despite the Law: Public-Sector Labor Unions in Michigan and Ohio, 1960-1985.”

His dissertation examines the rise of the public-sector labor movement in the United States. By comparing the historical development of teachers and municipal employees’ unions in Michigan and Ohio, neighboring states that once maintained divergent collective bargaining laws for government workers, he explores how labor unions successfully adapt to different institutional circumstances by adjusting their organizing tactics, methods of collective action, and forms of political mobilization.


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