Students

We celebrate our students, their achievements, and their dedication to minority research. Your Faculty Mentors are humbled by your tireless efforts and are inspired to continue this work together.

Current Students

  • Megan Bolden, MSW, BSW

    Megan BoldenMegan Bolden is a non-traditional student and a native of Wilmington, N.C. Megan graduated from UNCW in subsequent years with her Bachelor of Social Work in 2019, followed by her Masters of Social Work in May 2020. Megan was one of 44 MSW fellows around the United States chosen for the 2019-2020 cohort for the Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship Program. This fellowship afforded a variety of specific training in both mental health and substance abuse issues that affect minority populations around the United States. She was also awarded a stipend for professional development and additional funds due to COVID-19. In 2019, Megan was awarded a Greater Wilmington Business Journal Healthcare Heroes scholarship.

    During her time at UNCW, MEgan took part in research with her faculty mentor Dr. Josalin Hunter-Jones, entitled "3M: Exploring the Influence of Music and Media on African American Mental Health," and was chosen to present at the 2020 Society for Social Work and Research conference in Washington, D.C.

    Megan has found a yearning interest in working with minority adolescent school students with risk factors for developing mental health issues. She eagerly anticipates completing 3M research as well as collaborating with her mentor on forthcoming projects.

  • Clay Gruber, MSW, BS

    Clay GruberClay Gruber graduated with a Master of Social Work from UNCW in 2020. Clay received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from N.C. State University where he focused in the conservation of endangered species and public environmental health initiatives. Clay received honors at NC State's Undergraduate Research Symposium for his contributions revealing a putative tmRNA in novel mycobacteriophage.

    After a few years in endangered species conservation, Clay redirected his career into the field of social work. He remained involved in research, contributing to peer reviewed manuscripts alongside Dr. Kris Hohn of UNCW's School of Social Work and Devin Tilley, a classmate focusing on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Clay's current research interests include ACEs, sexual and gender minorities, and adolescent mental health. Clay will continue his research efforts with UNCW as he continues his career as a community partner.

  • Devin Tilley, MSW, BA

    Devin TilleyDevin Tilley graduated from the Master of Social Work program at UNCW in May 2020. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology at UNC Greensboro. Devin completed an undergraduate thesis that examined cognitive predictors of schizotypal ambivalence, and was awarded a $1,500 grant to present her work at the Southeastern Psychological Association Conference in 2016.

    Devin’s primary research interests include understanding predictors and risk factors of suicide within adolescents and young adults, with a focus on sexual minority adolescents. Additionally, she is interested in developing and strengthening effective clinical interventions for reducing suicide within these populations, which led her to pursuing an MSW degree. While working on her degree, Devin participated in research with her faculty mentor Dr. Kris Hohn. Devin co-authored two empirical manuscripts with Dr. Hohn and presented one of these papers together at the Council of Social Work Education conference in October 2019. In the future, Devin would like to continue collaborating on research projects with Dr. Hohn and other faculty members as a community partner.

  • Kaylee Abernethy, BA

    Kaylee Abernethy is pursuing her graduate degree in English with a concentration in Women's and Gender Studies. She graduated Lenoir-Rhyne University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a minor in creative writing.

    Kaylee’s undergraduate English department did a phenomenal job of integrating their courses with experience-based learning and multimodal strategies. This inspired her to do her honors thesis on spoken word and social justice pedagogy, which was her first dive into both visual analysis and learning about social justice issues. Now as a graduate student, Kaylee’s methodological approaches continue to expand and she is learning how to research digital media and semiotics more strategically and social-justice oriented.

    Kaylee’s faculty mentor is Dr. Sayers and her research interests include analyzing structures of visual grammar in Lizzo's Instagram images as sites of indexicality that challenge essentialist typologies and construct intersectional identities (digital sociolinguistics; multimodal discourse analysis); and sociolinguistic analysis of agency referents in reproductive healthcare bill proposals, their functionality, and legal protections and affordances. She was awarded the UNCW Wentworth Student Travel Fellowship (Ireland) in 2019.

    Kaylee presented at the Global Status of Women and Girls Conference in Newport News, V.A. in 2019 and at the UNC Asheville Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2018. She is the recipient of the 2019-2020 Chris Gould Fellowship in English at UNCW.

  • Megan Robertson, BS

    Megan RobertsonMegan Robertson is pursuing her graduate degree in English with a Women’s and Gender Studies Concentration. She is an English graduate teaching assistant and a graduate assistant in the LGBTQIA Resource Office. Megan earned her undergraduate degree in English with an English Ed concentration from Radford University. She has always loved reading and writing and later her interests moved to social justice and language and how language can perpetuate or destabilize arbitrary societal norms as well as queer pedagogy and creating inclusive spaces for all individuals.

    Megan’s current research includes using critical discourse analysis and queer pedagogy to structure and create UNCW’s first Gender Inclusion Resource Page through UNCW LGBTQ+ student response analysis and literature research (SURCA GRANT). She is studying queer visibility through embodied multimodality of gender through sensory perceptions, verbal and nonverbal discourses, and performative acts as well as conducting a linguistic landscape—reading the “signs” of the spaces and identifying multicultural representations and images—to articulate and analyze where queer expression may be negotiated and destabilize the structure of binaries within the English language.—The use of singular they as a non-binary gender pronoun in academia through the analyzation of style guides and manuals. Her faculty mentor is Dr. Sayers.

    Megan presented at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference in November 2019; at the Virginia Association of Teachers of English Annual Conference in October 2018; and at the Sweet Briar College Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship in October 2018. She won a UNCW Graduate Student Excellence Scholarship in April 2019. Megan was awarded a SURCA Research Grant, Queer Voices: A Critical Queer Pedagogical Study for LGBT+ Inclusion in May 2020 and a UNCW Wentworth Student Travel Fellowship Award in December 2019.

  • J.T. Smith, BA

    J.T. Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English at UNCW in May 2020 and is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program for Creative Writing at UNCW as of April 2020. During his undergraduate career, J.T. worked on numerous projects and delved deep into the world of queer theory, queer literature, and sociolinguistics. 

    His research primarily focuses on the sociolinguistic components of the queer community, with the pragmatics and semantics of pronoun use being the forefront of his research.  His work in IMSRG, alongside sociolinguist and mentor Dr. Sayers, consists of the 3M project--a cross-disciplinary, qualitative approach towards social media, music, and mental health among Black students at predominantly white institutions. Additionally, J.T. is also a poet that seeks to take the linguistic study of phonetics and phonology and infuse it into the craft of poetry. His poetry focuses on giving voice and agency to Southern queer folk and highlights the intersection and importance of identity and place. 

    J.T.’s future will see him continuously working with Dr. Sayers while attending the M.F.A program and creating work that uplifts and radicalizes the community at large. 

  • Makala Spicer, BA

    Makala Spicer completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology with a minor in Forensic Science at UNC Wilmington. She graduated magna cum laude with honors in Psychology due to her completion of an undergraduate thesis. Makala’s thesis examined race and gender factors in stigmatization of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) use in addition to how one-time use affected participants’ willingness to socially interact in various situations.

    Makala’s primary research interests are in relation to minorities. Her interest in researching minorities not only fueled her thesis but also facilitated her participation as a research assistant on 3M: Exploring the Influence of Music and Media on African American Mental Health with Dr. Josalin Hunter-Jones and Dr. Addie Sayers China.

    In the future, Makala would like to continue collaborating with Dr. Hunter-Jones and Dr. Sayers China as a co-author to their project. Makala is currently working on publishing her undergraduate thesis and will attend George Washington Law school in the fall.

  • Jessica Stallings, BS

    Jess Stallings is a pursuing a Master of Arts in English at UNCW and is expected to graduate in December 2020. In 2018, she completed her B.S. in Marine Biology at UNCW with a minor in English, which introduced her to the wonderful Morton community. Jess has always had a love for English lurking in the shadows beside her passion for science and teaching, so when she was approached with the offer of spending two years devoted to English in the M.A. program while learning how to teach composition as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, it seemed to be the work of fate.

    Her interests include women and gender studies, women of color feminism, queer literature and theory, and composition studies. In the fall of 2019, Jess helped construct a digital archive collecting information about and analyses of integral women of color feminists and their works as part of her Women of Color Feminist Literature and Theory class. The following spring, she attended the DHC-NC Digital Humanities Collaborative Institute at UNCG, and presented alongside two others involved in creating the archive on the process of using digital literacy in a graduate classroom setting.

    Jess recently created Here for Queer, an interactive Google map that collects safe spaces and events for queer/LGBT+ folks in America, based on the recommendations and experiences of her queer community. The motive behind her project was to provide a trusted and “peer-reviewed” resource for her expanding community to use while traveling and moving to new cities; her inspirations came from what she learned in her Queer Cartographies class, conversations with friends, and a lecture given by Lisa Withers, a PhD student in the NCSU History Department, at the DHC-NC in March 2020, who discussed her own current mapping project involving the Negro Motorist Greenbook.

    Jess’s current project with faculty mentor Dr. Addie Sayers is examining the connection between the queer and neopagan/”witch” communities using discourse analysis methods, specifically in young adult literature and media. As for future projects, we’ll see what happens between now and graduation!

  • Alexsana Light

    Alexsana Light is an undergraduate honors student at UNCW majoring in English, with a concentration in Professional Writing and a minor in Psychology. She is currently working on her Honors thesis, studying the linguistic nuances of various face-threatening verbal interactions between drag performers as seen on the television show RuPaul's Drag Race. While working on her thesis, she has received a $3,500 SURCA grant for materials and research support, as well as a $1,000 CSURF travel grant to present her findings at the 2020 Lavender Linguistics Conference in San Francisco. Due to COVID-19, the conference has been postponed until 2021.

    Alexana has also been accepted to present at the Northwest Linguistics Conference in Seattle, International Conference on Sociolinguistics (ICS3) in Prague, and the National Collegiate Honors Council 2020 Conference. Her primary research interests include discourse analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, and LGBT linguistics. Particularly, she is interested in studying how language in sub-communities within the LGBT community have adapted or have been misconstrued as a result of being highlighted in the media and popular culture.

    In the future, Alexsana hopes to publish her undergraduate thesis with the help of Dr. Addie Sayers, her faculty mentor, and hopes to attend graduate school to continue studying linguistics.

  • Audrey Schumacher

    Audrey SchumacherAudrey Schumacher is the marketing director at a financial consulting and accounting firm and will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Social Institutions and Human Behavior from UNCW in December of 2020. Her research interests include the LGBTQ community and social issues including: abortion, discrimination, gender, race, sexuality, feminism, cultural practices, socio-economic class, suicide, language and communications.

    She is currently the undergraduate researcher on a SURCA funded project titled Queer Voices: A Critical Queer Pedagogical Study for LGTBQ Inclusion with her faculty mentors with Dr. Addie Sayers (China) and Dr. Ann Rotchford. She hopes to present and/or assist the graduate researcher on presenting this project at conferences once complete at the end of August 2020. Audrey plans to pursue a graduate degree in Social Justice and Human Rights or Sociology and Criminology and continue research work.

  • Haley Ormand

    Haley Ormand graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work at UNCW in May 2020, and is currently enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at UNCW and will graduate in May 2021. During her undergraduate studies, Haley completed many projects working alongside the community and specifically minority populations. She works alongside her mentor, Dr. Anka Roberto, by investigating the outcomes of the Life Is Good pilot program, a multi-phase approach which focuses on building individual practice and organizational culture to enable all staff to have a unified, systematic approach for creating optimal learning and healing environments with children.

    Her research focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of a trauma-informed intervention for reducing burnout, increasing resiliency and improving optimism among those who work in elementary school education. This social emotional learning program focused on resilience, burnout, optimism and overall wellness of K-8 educators/staff working with at-risk youth. The long-term goal was to prevent the detrimental effects of ACEs by implementing this program for local youth and school staff. Furthermore, Haley plans to continue to work alongside Dr. Roberto while attending the MSW program. She finds her work rewarding and insightful for future work within the community.  

  • Cara Benet Johnson

    Bio coming soon...