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About the Peer Mentors

The CUNY Graduate Center History Department’s Peer Mentor Program was founded during the 2014-2015 academic year. A handful of students saw the opportunity for increased constructive communication between students and sought to create an environment where information could be shared and guidance could be provided in a supportive, open, candid manner. Over the course of that year, students took initiative to build a series of workshops dedicated to the First Year Experience, prepping for exams, and teaching undergraduates.

In the years since, the program has grown to include workshops focusing on writing, publishing, conferences, and grants. We have also partnered with a student-led initiative known as Teaching Conversations, which became an official part of our offerings for 2016–2017.

The program as a whole can be contacted at gchistorymentors@gmail.com. Do not hesitate to send us your questions or say hello when you see us in the history lounge!

We’re looking forward to working with you this year!

Meet the mentors

Carli Snyder, Co-Coordinator
I’m a fourth year student in the History program researching Holocaust consciousness in the United States during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. I also teach World History courses at Brooklyn College. I am happy to discuss teaching, exam preparation, work-life balance, and anything else that comes up! Also, please reach out if you have any questions about the Peer Mentor Program in general. You can reach me at csnyder1@gradcenter.cuny.edu


Madeline Lafuse, Co-Coordinator
I’m a fourth-year Americanist who researches enslaved women and poison in 19th century New Orleans and who teaches Foundations of US History at Lehman College. I can speak from experience about coming to the history program with little undergraduate preparation in the discipline, embracing the joys and sorrows of cultural history, and I am also always up for a Zoom. Feel free to contact me at mlafuse@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Madeline DeDe-Panken
I’m a fifth year Americanist with a focus on women and gender and interests in public history. My work explores the gendered dimensions of mycological science as part of an American food fad at the turn of the twentieth century, which is why you may hear me referred to as “Mushroom Mady.” I teach at Lehman College and have twice served as co-coordinator of the Peer Mentor Program. I am happy to chat about teaching, public history, organization strategies for life and research, managing grad student anxieties, contending with the two body problem, or anything else on your mind. Reach out anytime – mdedepanken@gradcenter.cuny.edu


Adam Kocurek
I am a fourth-year American History PhD student who focuses on 20th century social movements, LGBT history, and history of labor, sexuality and gender. In addition to the American History PhD, I am pursuing the certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies offered at The Graduate Center. I currently am a Teaching Assistant at Hunter College for Modern American History. I can be reached at akocurek@gradcenter.cuny.edu and am happy to answer any and all questions regarding my experience at The Graduate Center, living in NYC, etc.


Cathy Cabrera-Figueroa 
I’m a third-year Latin American History Ph.D. student whose research focuses on Puerto Rican migration and communities. My current research interest is on the implementation of the United States’ New Deal policies on the island of Puerto Rico. I am also a Research Fellow at the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies. Before graduate school, I worked in Higher Education Administration so History was a big career shift. Finally, I am a lifetime New Yorker raising two teenagers in the city. I am happy to chat about anything, just email me at ccabrerafi@gradcenter.cuny.edu 


Oscar Aponte I’m a third-year student in Latin American and Carribean history focusing on Colombia and the Amazon rainforest. My research revolves around agrarian history, rural colonization, indigenous peoples and the state, infrastructure projects, and extractive economies. I’m also interested in environmental history, history of the press, labor history, Latinx studies, and critical theory. I’m a Graduate Teaching Fellow at City College and was a Fellow at the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have about the program or living in New York as an international student, I’ll be more than happy to help. Email: oaponte@gradcenter.cuny.edu


Maayan Brodsky I’m a fourth-year modern Americanist interested in secrecy in government, with a focus on the 60s and 70s. My current project is on Richard Nixon’s interest in secrecy, intelligence operations, and control of information. I’ve been teaching modern American history at Baruch College for the past two years. I’ll be happy to discuss any GC and non-GC issues you might be facing. Also, I have lots of advice on the somewhat less-official aspects of the GC (that sentence will make sense when you get to know me). You can often find me at the history-lounge and you can always contact me at mbrodsky@gradcenter.cuny.edu


Amanda Westbrook
I’m a fifth-year PhD candidate with a focus on US History.  My dissertation links cultural ideals about working mothers in American media from 1890-today and explores the radicalized nature of their creation.  I have taught at Hunter College, as a teaching assistant for both halves of US History and then as instructor of my own section for the second half of US History.  I took a leave of absence between my second year and third year after the birth of my second child.  I am happy to talk about research, exams, teaching, taking a leave of absence, my change in career path from finance, and everything in between. You can reach me at abrennan@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Davide Colasanto
I’m a sixth year History PhD student specializing in post-war European History. I have a strong interest in the history of sexuality in relation to war and violence. My research investigates how Fascism, and World War II influenced Italian masculinity from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. I have taught for the past four years at Queens College and at LaGuardia Community College. I was a Summer Peer Mentor for the GC Teaching and Learning Institute for the past two years. I’m happy to help with any question on student oriented pedagogy, first/second year requirements, orals’ preparation, and international students’ adjustment to US academic system and life. dcolasanto@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Erin Cully
I’m a sixth year PhD student researching US banking and finance in the late 20th century. I moved here from Canada, so if you are coming from abroad I can answer your questions about dealing with the International Students Office. As a peer mentor I look forward to speaking to new students about teaching, first year exams, attending conferences, academic anxieties, student activism, living in New York, and anything else that comes up. You can reach me at ecully@gradcenter.cuny.edu


Phelim Dolan
I’m a sixth year PhD candidate who works on early modern Ireland and Europe. I have returned to grad school after a career in the film and television business. My undergraduate degree was in English Literature, and I continue to take an interdisciplinary approach to my research. As a mentor I think I have (hopefully) valuable experience with pursuing graduate studies after / while pursuing another career. pdolan@gradcenter.cuny.edu


Jiwon Han I’m a fourth year Europeanist at the Graduate Center who studies 18C Anglo-Dutch financial relations. As a Graduate Teaching Fellow, I’m teaching a microhistory course at John Jay. I’m happy to talk with my fellow students about first/second year experiences, archival research, living in New York, life as an international student, or any other issue. Reach me at any time at jhan1@gradcenter.cuny.edu!


Kate Kelley
I am a fourth-year (wow, that was fast!) Modern European history PhD student, Graduate Teaching Fellow at Hunter College, and Research Assistant at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. My research centers around arts and politics in the German Democratic Republic with a focus on ballet and modern dance – and I was a dancer myself before turning to academia. I am happy to discuss any and all concerns about the program from administrative woes to exam prep as well as adjusting to the joys and stresses of graduate school in general. I’ve been living in NYC for over ten years so I can also speak to any concerns about life in the big apple! Feel free to reach out anytime to kkelley@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Idan Liav I’m a third-year modern Europeanist with background in International Relations and Conflict Research. I’m interested in the history of memory and its manifestations in relation to the Holocaust and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War; I also teach early modern/modern European history at Queens College. I’m always happy to meet (via zoom this year I guess?) and discuss challenges, teaching, and how to navigate mental health issues with program requirements (hint: get a dog). Email me at iliav@gradcenter.cuny.edu or enjoy my twitter rants @idanliav!  


Jessica Georges
I am a third year PhD student in American history. I’m broadly interested in the history of New York City and questions around race, gender, and nationalism. My research focuses on African American colonization in the early republic. I’m happy to answer questions on the first year exams and papers, language proficiency requirements and exams, provost enhancement fellowships, and living in New York City. I’m also happy to answer general questions about my experience in the program.


Miriam Liebman
I am a History PhD candidate with a focus on early US History. My dissertation looks at the ways American women acted in diplomatic capacities abroad, specifically in London and Paris, during the Age of Revolutions. I teach US History at Queens College and was a Writing Across the Curriculum Fellow at the CUNY Law School. I am one of the co-founders, along with Davide, of the GC mentor initiative, “Teaching  Conversations.” I served as co-chair of EARS for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years. I am happy to answer questions about teaching, grant applications, and exams. Feel free to email me at mliebman@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Tamara Maatouk I am a third-year history Ph.D. student with a focus on the modern Middle East and two courses shy of earning a certificate in Film Studies. I am interested in both the interpenetration between Egyptian cinema and twentieth-century politics as well as the use of films as serious vehicles for understanding, conceptualizing, and reconstructing the past. I am happy to chat about first-year concerns, requirements, and experience. I can be reached at tmaatouk@gradcenter.cuny.edu


Stephanie Makowski
I’m a fifth year modern Europeanist. I research gender, race, sex, and war in 20th century Britain, and my dissertation is on interracial relationships in Britain from the interwar to the postwar period. I’ve taught for three years at Brooklyn College, and will be a Writing Across the Curriculum Fellow at Brooklyn this year. I have also taught at The Cooper Union as an adjunct, and have filled various student worker positions at the GC. Come talk to me about any part of the first year experience – from getting through your first year exams to adjusting to a grad student schedule – or about teaching, working, or overseas research. If you have any health-insurance related questions, I have some experience navigating those waters as well. Reach me any time at smakowski@gradcenter.cuny.edu, or pop into one of the meetings for the reading group on gender, race, and sexuality!


Yanara Schmacks I’m a third-year modern Europeanist focusing on the history of twentieth-century Germany, specifically on the politics of reproduction and concepts of motherhood in the aftermath of National Socialism. This year, I am teaching early modern European history at Lehman. I am happy to talk about the first-and second-year experience in general, about international student issues (visa, taxes, fellowships, etc), grad school anxieties and much more. Feel free to reach out to yschmacks@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Miranda Brethour
I’m a second-year PhD student in the History Department who works on modern Europe, specifically Jewish-Gentile relations during the Holocaust in rural Poland. I’m an international student from Canada and an incoming teaching fellow at Brooklyn College. Please feel free to reach out to me about the program (especially the first-year exam and coursework), the shift to online courses, international student life, or with any other questions you may have. Email: mbrethour@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Sophie Tunney I am a 5th year history PhD student that focuses on early modern France and its colonies. I research international botanical networks, and I focus on the  intersections between slavery, colonization, science, and the state. I am interested in eighteenth century luxury debates and the emergence of Physiocracy. I am happy to discuss teaching (both online and in-person),  balancing academic and personal life, researching abroad, and how to live in this crazy-wonderful city. I can also recommend a few tips and tricks to staying relatively sane during the covid-19 quarantine.


Helena Yoo
I am a second-year History PhD student and focus on early America. I am particularly interested in questions about imperial connections, communication networks, and provincial identity. I am happy to talk about anything and everything about my experiences thus far at the GC and can answer questions about the first year experience (settling in, preparing for exams, etc) and about living in NYC! You can reach me at hyoo@gradcenter.cuny.edu.


Deena Ecker
I am a second year PhD student in American history. I focus on social and urban history, and the history of gender and sexuality. My research looks at the life and world of prostitutes in cities in the early 20th century. I am interested in turning my research into documentaries as well as traditional academic writing. I am a program assistant at The Gotham Center, and managing editor of the blog, Gotham.


Daniela Traldi I am a fourth-year doctoral candidate working on Latin America and Women’s and Gender History. I have a broad range of interests: gender theory, women’s movements, sexuality studies, debates on race and race relations, among other topics. My research looks into gender, race and nationalism in modern Brazil. Some of my previous work explored the extent to which ideals and cultural conceptions about womanhood were politically manipulated and/ or fully embraced by the far-right. I’m also a mentor with the CUNY Pipeline Program, which provides educational and financial support to undergraduates from groups underrepresented in universities. Many of them end up choosing the academic path via doctoral programs! I’m happy to support fellow students and/ or anyone who may be interested in becoming one!


Chandni Tariq I am a fourth-year Americanist interested in the construction of alterity and racial categories across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean world. I teach United States History since 1865 at Queens College. My peers are often sending me articles that concern the slipperiness of race or when U.S. government officials are caught in blackface. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to chat about teaching or any research questions at ctariq@gradcenter.cuny.edu.  


Mentors Emeriti

Chris Rominger
I am a 2018 GC graduate and Assistant Professor at the University of North Florida. I study migration and political consciousness in the early 20th century Middle East and North Africa, with a focus on Tunisians during and following the First World War. I’m eager to help my fellow students with teaching, honing in on a dissertation topic, applying for grants, presenting at conferences, and overcoming the stresses and challenges of life as a graduate student. Feel free to email me at crominger@gradcenter.cuny.edu.

Katrina Wheeler
I am a sixth-year PhD Candidate in early modern European history. My dissertation is on French Protestant (Huguenot) religious experience during the French Revolution, particularly their use of the Psalms in liturgical and devotional practices. I am happy to offer advice using library resources, preparing for the oral exams, writing at different stages of the program, and the WAC experience. kwheeler@gradcenter.cuny.edu.

Katie Uva
I’m an ABD student whose dissertation focuses on urbanism at the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. I’ve taught for several semesters at Brooklyn College, Lehman College, and Baruch, and worked previously as a WAC Fellow at Lehman and a Mellon Predoctoral Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York. I’m also Associate Editor of the Gotham Blog and active in the Public History Collective. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have questions about teaching, public history, or working during grad school: katie.uva@gmail.com.

David Campmier
I am a sixth-year doctoral student in the History Department. I study military history, specifically I conduct research about the American Civil War. As a teaching fellow and adjunct at Lehman, Brooklyn, and Queens Colleges, I have instructed courses including the first half of the American history seminar, a seminar on the history of the State of New York, and a writing course. I can speak to a variety of concerns such as teaching issues and preparation, research questions, and exam preparation (first year and oral exam). You can reach me at any time at dcampmier@gradcenter.cuny.edu.

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