Alumni Spotlight: Carly-Ann Anderson


Carly-Ann Anderson leads the Cultures of College (AMST 1101) freshman seminar course on a tour of downtown Laramie on Oct. 22, 2015.

Carly-Ann Anderson, 28, graduated from the American Studies graduate program in 2012. She was generous enough to reply to a few questions the Porchlight had for this recent alum.

Porchlight: Please describe your current job title, including a brief sketch of your duties:

Carly-Ann: I am the Executive Director for the Alliance for Historic Wyoming, a statewide historic preservation nonprofit dedicated to protecting Wyoming’s historic places and spaces. I work with a board of directors to oversee programming, as well as daily operations of the organization such as keeping our books, planning workshops, answering queries from our constituents, and fundraising. We work statewide on a variety of resources ranging from schools and historic downtowns to trails and archaeological sites, which means a lot of conference calls and travel.

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Lilia Soto gives talk on Napa Valley identity and narratives

Picking Sauvignon Blanc grapes at Ehlers Estate winery Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 in St. Helena, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

WyGISC and the University of Wyoming Geography Department’s Brown Bag series, “All Things Geography,” invited Assistant Professor Lilia Soto to give a lecture, entitled “What’s in the Roots? Identity and Narratives of the Napa Valley,” on Friday, February 27, 2015, at the Arts & Sciences Building. Soto presented recent research she has been conducting on the hidden narratives of the Napa Valley, particularly related to immigration and the people involved in making Napa Valley wineries a world-class tourist destination. The Porchlight was delighted to attend the presentation and follow-up with a Q&A with Soto.

Porchlight: You said you were studying a group of girls in Mexico as a comparison to female immigrants in Napa Valley, but did not mention it further in your presentation. Could you elaborate on the comparisons you are finding with these two focus groups?

Lilia Soto: Well, the difference between Mexican immigrant young women (I’m still debating whether I should refer to them as “girls” or young women) and adult Mexican immigrant women is access to resources—social capital, networks—that facilitates migration processes. In my current project, I make the argument that young Mexican immigrant women (“girls”) do not have access to networks or social capital because they are young and because they are girls. In other words, I look at the intersections of age and sex as having a bearing on girls’ migration desires.

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2015 Student Internships


For the summer of 2015, five American Studies students were awarded paid internships with host organizations across the nation. Lucas Anderson (B.A. candidate) interned with the Alliance for Historic Wyoming, revamping the non-profit organization’s website and adding numerous new features, such as detailing its More Than Mortar program. Chuck Adams (M.A. candidate) was the field intern for HistoriCorps (pictured above), assisting volunteer crews in rehabilitating historic cabins and ranches in Colorado, one of which was featured in The New York Times and on NBC Nightly News. Kyle Byron (M.A. candidate) spent the summer working with folklorist Andrea Graham, digitizing information related to hunting and fishing traditions in Wyoming, as well as assisting in preliminary research exploring the use of communities halls in southeastern Wyoming. Maxine Vandevaarst (M.A. candidate) interned with the Down Jersey Folklife Program in Millville, New Jersey, where she sought out folk artists from a diverse range of genres and backgrounds for participation in an upcoming Caribbean arts festival. Evan Townsend (M.A. candidate) turned his spring GA into a Education Supervisor and Special Projects Intern for the Wyoming Conservation Corps, a non-profit housed in the University of Wyoming focused on connecting young adults to hands-on conservation projects. During the upcoming winter break, Madison Williams (B.A. candidate) will be interning at a farm in Hawaii.

Jan Dizard lectures on hunting culture

Jan Dizard cropped

In April 2015, the American Studies Program had the good fortune of welcoming Dr. Jan E. Dizard for a series of lectures and discussions on the subject of sport hunting in America. Dr. Dizard is both a dedicated hunter and the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor in American Culture at Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he brings a sociological perspective to his scholarship on mass culture and environment.

Dr. Dizard’s presentation before a large audience in the Classroom Building focused on the challenges posed to contemporary hunting – both within, by militarization of weapons and the monolithic power of the gun lobby, and without, by animal rights activists and the anti-gun movement. His comments served as a launching point for debate at a later hunting symposium, hosted by faculty member John Dorst, and paneled by faculty members Frieda Knobloch and Andrea Graham, as well as graduate students Susan Clements and Maxine Vande Vaarst. Dr. Dizard was also kind enough to meet with students for sandwiches and good conversation at the Cooper House. The program would like to extend its thanks to John Dorst for his role in bringing Dr. Dizard to campus.

Claudia Rankine visits the Cooper House


On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, the poet and essayist Claudia Rankine visited the Cooper House for an informal discussion on matters of literature, racism, and the imaginary. Rankine’s recent book, Citizen: An American Lyric, was a 2014 National Book Award finalist, amongst other national and international honors. In the discussion, Rankine remarked on Citizen’s impact on both American culture and her own creative process. “Booksellers are telling me that Citizen has created renewed interest in poetry,” Rankine said. “People are buying poetry books again.” Citizen, already in its third printing, has been inseparable from the recent discourse on racism in America, particularly in regards to police violence on Black men, but also relating to other forms of racial violence, found in everyday life. “If this book were about anything else,” Rankine said, “I’d be on to the next project by now. But I feel a responsibility.” Other topics discussed in the hour-long conversation covered the spheres of Blackness and Whiteness that Americans inhabit, the racist pathology of Ebola screening at airports, and the ways we confront suicide and depression in public and private expressions. Later that evening, Rankine read from Citizen in a public event at the UW Art Museum.

The Cooper House Ghost Bike


It seems the Cooper House has inherited a bike. It is a gray Schwinn hybrid commuter bike with a flat tire. The bike has been locked to the bike rack since…at least fall of 2014, but sources say the bike predates even that. When AMST students were queried about this bike, and its story, the following was speculated:

“I’ve never seen that thing move. Considered taking a pair of bulk cutters to the lock–it’s not a bad bike!”

“I heard it only leaves at night when Mr. Cooper scouts the town.”

“Does that bike have a spirit atlas?”

“I name it the Coop Scoot.”

“Next year we should use this bike for an object of inquiry in the 5500/5510 theory unit.”

Students were also concerned the bike might be confiscated by the UW authorities. A notice was attached to the bike in the summer of 2015, but as of October 23, 2015, the bike remains, its mystery only deepening. The Porchlight wonders where else these ghost bikes exist, and whether there is, indeed, a connection to Mr. Cooper. One thing is for sure, only American Studies would take notice of this bike, see it in a larger pattern, and wonder such fanciful things.

Class of 2016 Grad Student Bios

Here are the student biographies of the full-time M.A. students in American Studies.

David Loeffler mugDavid Loeffler was born and raised in a small town just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his BA in English and history from Washington & Jefferson College, situated in southwestern Pennsylvania, in 2014. David’s research interests center on race, ethnicity, and culture, specifically how and where they are constructed. He is especially focused on the relationship between Euro-Americans and Native Americans, paying close attention to visual, historical, and literary representations. Outside of academia, David enjoys relaxing with his family and friends. He also appreciates a good cup of coffee and the latest issue of The New York Times.

Maggie Mullen mug

Maggie Mullen is a fourth-generation Wyomingite, coming from a family of educators and craftswomen and men. She earned a BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming, where she also studied abroad at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie. Since then, Maggie has lived in San Francisco and worked for 826 Valencia as a creative writing tutor in secondary schools in the Bay Area. Her research interests are extensive but all seem to involve different forms of storytelling and the narrative — oral history, person-centered ethnography, folklore, southern foodways, cinema and television studies, in addition to interdisciplinary approaches to education. When not occupied with a book or Vogue, Maggie enjoys writing short fiction and poetry, cooking for friends and family, bicycling, thrifting, traveling by car or plane, and daydreaming about the day she will finally be able to own a puppy dog.

Kyle Byron mug

Kyle Byron is originally from Kalamazoo, MI, where he attended Western Michigan University and received a BA in Philosophy and Comparative Religion and an MA in Comparative Religion, focusing on religion in the Americas. Kyle came to the University of Wyoming with his trusty cat Pippin to develop an understanding of religion in the contemporary United States through the lens of sensory and material culture studies. He is currently doing fieldwork in Wyoming and Colorado for a thesis that seeks to understand the practices of street preachers as they relate to public audiences and the built urban environment.

Chuck Adams mug

Chuck Adams is from Astoria, Oregon. He has BA’s in Art & Design and English & Writing from Southern Oregon University. Since graduating in 2006, he has worked for three years as an arts and culture editor at the Eugene Weekly, led youth conservation crews for several seasons in the Pacific Northwest and North Dakota, coached high school cross country and track, taught English at a TV station in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, WWOOF’ed on a farm in New Zealand, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Kaffa, “the birthplace of coffee,” in southwest Ethiopia. To date he has visited over 20 countries, poorly comprehends five different languages, and continues to seek international experiences that enrich his American perspective. His thesis, “Where Are You Go: The Isolation / Oscillation of the Peace Corps Volunteer,” interweaves memoir, travelogue, cultural geography, and ethnography to explore a select group of Peace Corps volunteers’ relationships to their physical, social, and cultural landscapes. Email:

Maxine Vandevarst mug crop

Maxine Vande Vaarst is a proud second-year graduate student in American Studies. She has traveled 1,766 miles of I-80 roadway to come to Laramie from the great(est) state of New Jersey, with interim stops in Indiana and Colorado. She holds a BA in history and English from Purdue University and her primary academic passions include regional ethnography, spatial identity, Americana and the study of communal folk narrative. In addition to these classroom pursuits, Maxine is a writer of short fiction and the founding editor of the quarterly online arts journal Buffalo Almanack. She loves her football, her family and her wife, but maybe not in that order.

Evan Townsend mug

Evan Townsend was born n’ raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee and earned his BFA concentrating in sculpture from East Tennessee State University in 2011. Since then, he has lived in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Ohio,  North Carolina, Montana, and now Wyoming! Through his travels, he worked with conservation corps, professional trail crews, and environmental education centers. Because of an interest in art, history, conservation, environmental education and service learning, Evan is pursuing a double MA in American Studies and Environment and Natural Resources. These interests have led him to a thesis exploring the history of civic tree planting in southern Wyoming. When he is not reading and writing, Evan is off exploring the West’s mountains, rivers, canyons, and deserts or…cleaning his cat’s’ litter box. Email: