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Graduate College announces 2015-16 Named Fellows

From staff reports | Apr 30, 2015

Five Ohio University graduate students have received Named Fellowships for the 2015-16 school year to pursue research and creative projects on the topics of women in Jordan, stay-at-home fathers, anxiety disorders, sexual identity of LGBTQ persons and the search for a missing family member.

The recipients are Maggie Messitt, Department of English; Melissa Riggs, School of Visual Communication; Justin J. Rudnick, School of Communication Studies; Tyler JC Whidden, School of Theater; and Ashley Howell, Department of Psychology.

Each student was awarded a fellowship of $15,000, plus a full tuition scholarship for fall and spring semesters.

Schools and departments may nominate one graduate student for the competitive program, which is managed by the Ohio University Graduate College. The program features The John Cady Fellowship, The Donald Clippinger Graduate Fellowship, The Claude Kantner Graduate Fellowship, The Anthony Trisolini Graduate Fellowship and the Graduate College Fellowship.

Nominations for the 2016-17 cycle will be due in February 2016. Full guidelines and forms are available online at http://www.ohio.edu/graduate/fellowships.cfm.

To learn more about the 2015-16 Named Fellows, read their statements about their research, scholarship and creative work:

Student: Maggie Messitt

Fellowship: John Cady Fellowship
Degree program: In 2015-2016, I’ll be a fourth-year PhD in Creative Writing - Nonfiction
Hometown: Wheaton, IL
Project Title: Art(i)fact: An Atlas of my Search

In 2009, my aunt, an artist, went missing. That year, there were 719,558 missing persons cases in the United States, but only 96,192 of those were active. The rest were filed away. No one was looking for them and no one, but my family and a private investigator, was looking for my aunt. In May 2013, I started a new search—this time for my aunt’s story. Using 200+ handwritten letters as my map, I became an explorer, a detective, a collector of quotidian details. This intense fieldwork—represented by boxes of collected items, thousands of interview hours, hundreds of images, and a dozen filled notebooks—is the basis of my dissertation titled Art(i)fact: An Atlas of my Search. A hybrid of investigation and memoir, this is the story of my aunt, my journey to find her in the things she left behind (and, subsequently, find myself inside her story), and an exploration of mental illness, creativity, and a life-long search for home. As a John Cady Fellow, I will continue this travel and research and ultimately complete my second book.

Student: Melissa Riggs

Fellowship: Graduate College Fellowship
Degree program: Second-year candidate MA Photojournalism
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Project Title: Sixth Daughter – Engaging Women in Jordan

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Jordan, I developed trusted and lasting relationships with many Jordanian women and families. Jordan exists in a precarious geopolitical place, with refugees from Iraq and Syria straining the infrastructure and resources of the country. With this in mind I intend to look at how the lives of five Jordanian sisters have progressed over the last decade and offer a glimpse into their realities today. Using photography, audio interviews, and possibly video, the project will offer a unique and poignant look at sisters, modern Muslim women and Jordanian families. This project acts as the initial step in a series of proposed stories stemming from similar trusted relationships built during my time living and working in Argentina, South Africa and South Sudan. Equipped with a Master of Public Health degree and international development experience, I intend to construct a business that will fit the changing needs of the visual industry and generate thought-provoking material. To achieve this goal I will need to maintain progress within my visual storytelling and design capabilities while simultaneously conducting an analysis of the visual communications landscape. The Graduate College Fellowship will be a valuable asset for the coming year, enabling more flexibility to devote to this course of study, prepare for the project in Jordan and carve out a niche within the visual communication industry.    

Student: Justin J. Rudnick

Fellowship : Claude Kantner Graduate Fellow
Degree program : Third-year student pursuing PhD in Communication Studies
Hometown : Thorp, WI
Project Title : Performing “Gay”: Materiality, Embodiment, and Identity

Statement :
My dissertation will explore the performance of sexual identity by LGBTQ persons in their everyday lived experiences using performance and sense-based ethnographic research practices. My project will represent the ways in which LGBTQ persons “come out” and “be out” in the use of their bodies instead of just verbal disclosures. My ultimate goal is to develop educational programs and staged renditions of the embodiment of identity to advocate for gender and sexual inclusiveness. The Claude Kantner Graduate Fellowship will enable me to spend more time in my field working with my participants and volunteering with the Stonewall Columbus LGBT Community Center.

Student: Tyler JC Whidden
Fellowship: Anthony Trisolini Graduate Fellow
Degree program: Third-year student pursuing an MFA in Playwriting
Hometown: Cleveland, OH 
Project Title: Occupation: Dad

In my thesis play, I intend to explore what it means to be a father today in a world where more women are working and more men are staying home with their children. Occupation: Dad follows a day in the life of new father, Jason, as he and his newborn son navigate through the rocky terrain of stay-at-home parenting. Like James Joyce’s Ulysses (but with slightly less drinking), Jason and his son are on a journey encountering people and situations that question and challenge Jason’s ability to be a parent. During his search, Jason faces his relationship with his own father and soon realizes the answers to being a good father can be found in being a better son. The Named Fellowship will allow me the freedom to continue to explore topics and situations that come with being a stay-at-home father and how those situations can shape the new family dynamic.

Student: Ashley Howell

Fellowship: Donald Clippinger Fellow
Degree program: Doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology
Hometown: Columbus, GA
Project Title: Testing anxiety-related mechanisms of threat interpretation bias and Pavlovian-conditioned fear generalization under conditions of logical ambiguity: A de novo stimulus discrimination paradigm

How are we able to quickly infer whether new stimuli are safe or threatening? One explanation involves fear generalization (e.g., fearfully responding to an unfamiliar animal that looks highly similar to another animal that you know is dangerous). For individuals with anxiety disorders, however, fear and avoidance tend to be over -generalized to stimuli that are only superficially related to threat—leading to persistent anxiety and life interference. For the current project, participants will first be conditioned to “safe” and “dangerous” stimuli. A computerized program was designed to then assess how degree of fear generalization to novel, but visually-related, stimuli is related to severity of anxiety symptoms. It is believed that studies such as this may inform cognitive mechanisms underlying anxiety disorders. The Donald Clippinger Fellowship will enable me to focus on conducting my current research and to disseminate results from other studies I have completed during my time as an Ohio University graduate student.