Futures Initiative Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellows

Current Fellows

Kitana Ananda, Post-Doctoral FellowPhoto of Kitana Ananda


Kitana Ananda is the Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow for the Humanities Alliance. Her scholarship and teaching examines the culture and politics of war, migration, and diaspora in North America and South Asia, with a focus on Tamil refugees and immigrants from Sri Lanka. She believes strongly in the mission of the public university, and has a deep interest in digital communications for scholarship, collaborative learning, and public engagement. Kitana has served as a Contributing Editor for the open-access website of the journal, Cultural Anthropology, and as a Communications Associate intern with the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative. She earned a Ph.D. in socio-cultural anthropology from Columbia University, and an honors B.A. in history and anthropology with a minor in cinema studies from the University of Toronto.

Allison Guess, Graduate FellowAllisonTall

Fall 2015 – present

Allison Guess is a Futures Initiative Graduate Fellow and PhD student in the program of Earth and Environmental Sciences (Geography) at the Graduate Center at CUNY. Previously, Allison earned a double major in Political Science and Hispanic Languages and Literatures. She has studied Latin American Cultures, Languages and Political Economies in Brazil, Cuba and Mexico. Allison is multilingual and thinks of language as a geopolitical tool for liberation. Additionally, she currently serves as a GC doctoral student representatives on the board of IRADAC. Allison’s research is a contextual historiography of the deliberate Black land communities/constructions and Black people’s relationships to those lands (and places), specifically as they relate to (voluntary reverse) migrations of Black millennials moving southward and eastward, in the midst of the ongoingness of settler colonialism, capitalist development and anti-Black racism. Concerned with collective liberation, Allison is developing a theory of (Black geographic) abundance. Some of her scholarly work has been published in American Quarterly, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society and Departures in Critical Qualitative Research. In addition to her work within the academy, Allison remains in service to the various communities that she is apart of. She is a member of the Black/Land Project, a non-academic community research and interview project that seeks to amplify Black people’s relationships to land and place, she is the New York City network leader for Outdoor Afro, a national Black-led organization dedicated to reconnecting and celebrating Black people within nature and the great outdoors. Allison is also involved with many other national and locally based initiatives. Allison calls herself a truth-telling messenger and geotheorist, a term she coined in 2014. Follow Allison on Twitter at @AllisonGuess1.

Kashema Hutchinson, Graduate Fellow

Fall 2017 – present

Kashema Hutchinson is a doctoral student in the Urban Education program at the Graduate Center (CUNY). She has a B.A. in Communications: Advertising/Public Relations and an M.A. in Sociology. She is currently a Communications and Leadership Fellow Specialist, Undergraduate Leadership Program and Doctoral Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center at The Futures Initiative. She has facilitated discussion groups with incarcerated male and female groups at the Rikers Island Facility in New York. Her research interests include restorative justice, the school-to-prison pipeline, the socialization of Black girls and women, zero-tolerance policies, mattering and marginalization, mindfulness and hip-hop pedagogy. She creates and uses infographics to facilitate discussions around the role of women and history; philosophy; behavioral economics and; class and crime.

Christina Katopodis, Graduate Fellow

Fall 2017 – present

Christina Katopodis is a doctoral candidate in English and a New Media Lab fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center, and an adjunct at Hunter College. She currently studies the influences of sound and sonic vibration on American Transcendentalism and Pragmatism, attending to deep listening in the nonhuman environment of 19th Century America. She was a recipient of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society research grant in 2016, and received a Provost’s Digital Innovation Start-Up Grant (2016-2017) to record sounds at Walden Pond and build a website that maps Walden’s soundscape. She is also a web developer and editor for the Margaret Fuller Society, and a research assistant for Professor Cathy N. Davidson. Read about her pedagogy here.

Michelle Morales, Graduate Fellow

Fall 2016 – present

Michelle Morales is a doctoral candidate in computational linguistics and a former Magnet Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is also a speech processing researcher at the Queens College Speech lab, where she focuses on computing and mental health. Michelle’s research investigates how to use language as an objective marker in the diagnosis and monitoring of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. As part of her dissertation, she is currently building a computational system that uses speech to automatically identify the presence of mental health disorders. Given the severe shortage of clinicians and the ever increasing number of individuals in need, Michelle’s research aims to improve the current state of mental healthcare by providing a scalable technological solution.

Jessica Murray, Graduate FellowPhoto of Jessica Murray

Fall 2016 – present

Jessica Murray is a doctoral student in developmental psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY and a Futures Initiative Fellow. Her interests include mobilities, transportation, technology, disability studies, accessibility, and disability rights. She earned a BFA in Design from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 and worked as a graphic designer in a variety of media before coming to The Graduate Center in 2012 for an MA on the Psychology of Work and Family Track. As a Digital Fellow with the Center for the Humanities from 2014-2016 and Futures Initiative Fellow from 2016-present, she has designed and developed multiple WordPress projects on OpenCUNY and other hosting platforms, and facilitated group resources such as the Graduate Center’s developmental psychology program website, and the CUNY Disability Scholars website (opencuny.org/cunyds). She currently maintains the Futures Initiative website and provides technical support, designs materials for event promotion, and leads WordPress workshops for faculty and graduate fellows.

Mike Rifino, Graduate FellowMikeTall

Fall 2015 – present

Mike Rifino is a doctoral student in Human Development at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Drawing on cultural-historical activity theory and recent advances in Vygotskian scholarship, specifically, Stetsenko’s notion of Transformative Activist Stance, his research interests focus on the transformative potential of critical theoretical teaching-learning in public secondary and post-secondary education in regard to student agency. Throughout his undergraduate journey, he has gained deep experience with peer mentoring, having worked as a research assistant for the Peer Activist Learning Community (PALC), as well as a mentor for a college readiness program for underrepresented students. He is currently researching ways that students and faculty in PALC collaboratively investigate and redefine student agency to create an activist learning community.

Kalle Westerling, Graduate FellowLisaTall

Fall 2014 – present

Kalle Westerling is a Ph.D. Candidate in Theatre and Performance and a Futures Initiative Graduate Fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and Director of HASTAC Scholars, a vibrant student network within The Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC). Currently, he is completing his dissertation on the history and aesthetics of male-identified bodies in 20th-century burlesque and 21st-century boylesque, “The Roots and Routes of Boylesque: Queering Male Striptease and Burlesque in New York City from 1930s Golden Age Burlesque to the New York Boylesque Festival in the 2010s.” Read his full CV at http://www.westerling.nu.


Thomas DeAngelis, Graduate FellowPhoto of Thomas DeAngelis

Fall 2016

Thomas DeAngelis is a first-year doctoral student in the Earth and Environmental Sciences program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Thomas recently earned a B.A. in Sociology from CUNY Brooklyn College where he was both a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and a CUNY Pipeline Fellow. He is interested in the displacement of black people by urban renewal in New York City and Salvador, Brazil and how people organized against urban renewal. Drawing on Stuart Hall’s method of conjunctural analysis, Thomas hopes to develop a broader understanding of the political, economic, geographic, and ideological forces that allowed for urban renewal to displace black people from housing in both Salvador and New York City. More broadly, Thomas holds interests in black geographies, black radical thought, and Afro-Pessimism.

Michael Dorsch, Graduate FellowMichaelTall

Fall 2014 – Spring 2016

Michael Dorsch is a doctoral student specializing in geography in the Earth and Environmental Sciences program at The Graduate Center, CUNY. He has conducted research for the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay in addition to his work as a Futures Initiative Fellow. His research interests include using tools from geographic information systems and techniques from analytic cartography to visualize social and environmental inequities related to negative environmental exposures from energy production and industrial/post-industrial sites. His dissertation project titled “Toward Climate Change Mitigation, Energy Justice, and Resilience: Electricity Infrastructure Transitions and Transformations” explores pollution and environmental justice issues associated with electricity production in the United States and explores how cities and regions are transitioning electricity production infrastructures to low-carbon alternatives. Michael’s full CV is available at http://michaeldorsch.com.

Danica Savonick, Graduate FellowDanicaTall

Fall 2014 – Spring 2017

Danica Savonick is a doctoral candidate in English and a Futures Initiative Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center and a teaching fellow at Queens College. Her dissertation, “The Dangers of Aesthetic Education: On Pedagogy, Praxis, and Social Justice,” analyzes the feminist pedagogies of Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and Toni Cade Bambara, all of whom taught at the City University of New York during the period of open admissions and in the SEEK program, in order to explore what teaching art, language, and literature can do to produce a more just and equitable future. Her broader research interests include twentieth century and contemporary literary and cultural studies, pedagogy, literature and social justice, critical race and gender studies, critical university studies, digital humanities, and American studies. At Queens College, she has taught courses on writing, narrative, and global literature. You can read Danica’s blog and full CV at http://danicasavonick.com/

Lisa Tagliaferri, Graduate FellowLisaTall

Fall 2014 – Spring 2016

Lisa Tagliaferri is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research focuses on late medieval and early renaissance Italian and English literature, and utilizes digital humanities techniques. She also has a background in the computer sciences, having earned an MSc from the University of London. Her thesis explored educational gaming and provided a research context for a Java-based prototype of a multi-platform educational game she developed based on a BBC Radio program. Lisa works on web development for the Futures Initiative and HASTAC, and has taught foreign languages and computer science to undergraduates. She has a penchant for traditional and antique photography processes, and blogs about education and technology at http://classy-tech.blogspot.com.

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