Current Scholars Bios

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Lydia Abebe, 2014
Department of Environmental
Sciences & Engineering


Danielle Christmas, 2014
English & Comparative Literature

Ben Frey

Benjamin Frey, 2013
Department of American Studies


Sharonda LeBlanc, 2014
Department of Chemistry


Silvia Castro Lorenso, 2013
Department of Romance Languages


Julie Marchesan, 2013
School of Dentistry


Lavar Munroe, 2014
Department of Art

William Sturkey

William Sturkey, 2013
Department of History



LYDIA ABEBE – Lydia Abebe received her doctorate at University of Virginia in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2013. In 2009, she received the SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Award, which supported her graduate research. Her research examined silver-impregnated ceramic water filters for the improvement of water quality and health. In specific, her dissertation focused on three projects: a clinic based randomized controlled trial in Limpopo, South Africa, using ceramic water filters; ceramic water filter treatment of Cryptosporidium parvum, a harmful waterborne parasitic protozoa; and the process of establishing a ceramic water filter factory in Limpopo, South Africa. Abebe helped establish the filter factory as a small business that produces easy to use, low cost filters in Limpopo as an enterprise that will not only generate revenue for local ceramicists, but will also improve human health in the surrounding area. Additionally, Abebe won a national competition that supported entrepreneurship and the development of sustainable, green technology. She is currently working with Professor Mark Sobsey in the Environmental Science and Engineering department at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research will focus on the human health impact of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment and will continue to explore household level water purification.

DANIELLE CHRISTMAS –  Danielle Christmas is a former recipient of a number of national awards, including the Cummings Foundation Fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2014) and the Mellon / ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2013-14). Her manuscript, “Auschwitz and the Plantation: Labor and Social Death in American Holocaust and Slavery Fiction,” concerns how representations of Holocaust and slavery perpetrators contribute to American socioeconomic discourses. Danielle has taught and published on topics ranging from American narratives of Nazi fugitives to the so-called African Hottentot Venus Saartje Baartman. You can find out more about her work at her website,

BENJAMIN FREY – Ben Frey received his Ph.D. in German with a minor in Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. Ben Frey’s research interests center on sociolinguistics, with particular emphasis on language shift. As communities become increasingly intertwined with the larger society, they come to rely increasingly on that society’s language – often at the expense of their traditional one. Frey’s current project is a book manuscript on the general theory of language shift, based on his dissertation. The project compares the process of shift from German to English in Wisconsin and Cherokee to English in North Carolina. An understanding of language shift can provide insights into the development of regional cultures and identities, as well as new strategies for language revitalization. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Frey is the recipient of a Carolina Postdoctoral Fellowship for Faculty Diversity. He was awarded a Chancellor’s Opportunity Dissertator Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and received an Honored Instructor award from University of Wisconsin Housing.

SHARONDA JOHNSON LEBLANC – Sharonda Johnson LeBlanc is a December 2012 graduate of the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which supported her graduate studies in single quantum dot fluorescence spectroscopy. During her tenure, she was selected to attend the 60th Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Lindau, Germany.  LeBlanc earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from UNC Charlotte in 2007, where she also competed in collegiate track and field. She became the first UNC Charlotte student athlete to garner both academic and athletic All-America Honors. She is a two-time All-American in the women’s triple jump, and a three-time Academic All-American. She is currently conducting her postdoctoral research with Professor Scott Warren in the Chemistry Department at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research projects focus on making new materials and devices for converting sunlight into electricity. Following her postdoctoral training, Sharonda looks forward to accepting a tenure-track faculty position at a research university. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter.

SILVIA CASTRO LORENSO – Dr. Lorenso received her Ph.D in Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Cultures from the University of Texas, at Austin, in 2013. Her dissertation focused on the role that poetry has played in the formation of new identities, and forms of cultural agency and how poetry and literacy have transformed communities in peripheral-urban areas. She has been working with poets affiliated to two poetry spaces in São Paulo and Salvador – Cooperifa and Sarau Bem Black (Brazil), as well as with Puerto Rican poets who were founders or participate today in the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan (US) and “El Nuyorican” in San Juan, PR. Her main thesis is that urban geographies and communities have created cultural-social awareness through the spoken word that manifests itself in transnational dialogues, which have located race and particularly blackness as a form of agency against urban gentrification, social displacement and invisibility. The comparative approach between Puerto Rican communities and enclaves in San Juan and NY and two Brazilian cities, with distinct racial politics, such as São Paulo and Salvador, is a fruitful engagement of what she defines as “border poetics.” Her dissertation poses Brazilian as well as Puerto Rican studies in dialogue with African Diaspora Studies and US Latino Studies. She completed her project with a CAPES scholarship, from the Ministry of Education in Brazil. Her book manuscript is tentatively entitled De Ruas, Bodegas e Bares: Um Continuum Africano em Poéticas Transântlanticas Periféricas-San Juan, Nova York e São Paulo and it will include the foundings of her current research on how these poets are exploring technology and web publishing. Prior to studying in the US, Dr. Lorenso received her M.A. degree in Linguistics and Semiotics from the University of São Paulo – USP in 2007, sponsored by Ford Foundation and Fulbright scholarships. Her research applied Literary Semiotics to the study of the form and politics in poetry anthologies by Afro-Brazilian authors associated with the Quilombhoje: Cadernos Negros, a literary group connected with the Brazilian Black Movement since 1970s. She is currently revising the book manuscript titled Corpo e Erotismo em Cadernos Negros: A Reconstrução Semiótica da Liberdade no Encunciado e na Enunciação. 

JULIE MARCHESAN – Julie Marchesan received her Ph.D in Oral Health Sciences from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation focused on determining the role of inflammatory periodontal disease in arthritis development and progression. Clinical studies demonstrate the existence of an association between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritic patients. However, the bi-directional influence of one disease on the other impedes the clarification of a mechanism linking both diseases.  Her research is assisting in defining the impact that oral health may have in arthritis with the use of animal models. Identification of potential pathogen-host response modifiers that affect these two chronic, disabling diseases will advance understanding of disease pathogenesis and potential treatment approaches. In 2013, Dr. Marchesan joined the laboratory of Dr. Steven Offenbacher in the Department of Periodontology, School of Dentistry. Her current project is focused on addressing the role of several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in periodontal disease.

LAVAR MUNROE – Lavar Munroe was born on November 19th 1982 in Nassau, Bahamas. In 2004, Munroe relocated to the United States where he earned his Bachelors of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007. He then went on to earn a Masters of Fine Art degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013. Munroe’s career has fostered much national and international recognition. In the summer of 2010, Munroe represented The Bahamas in the country’s first and only appearance at the Liverpool Biennale. In 2013, Munroe appeared in issue no. 105 New American Painting where he was recognized as an Editor’s Choice. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2013). Munroe was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting and Sculpture Grant (2013). Most recently in 2014, Munroe was awarded a Post Doc Fellowship at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where his tenure will begin in July 2014. Other noteworthy awards, grants and fellowships include The Kraus Family Foundation, Beach Institute’s: Yes We Can Grant, The Mildred Suliburk Dennis Memorial Scholarship, Sam Fox Dean’s Initiative Fund, Mary Beth Hassan Fund, The Skowhegan Scholarship Award, The Central Bank of The Bahamas Grant, and The National Endowment for the Arts: Nassau Bahamas Grant, among many others.

WILLIAM STURKEY – William Sturkey is an historian of Modern American, African American, and Southern History with a particular research focus on race in the American South, working-class African American communities, and the Civil Rights Movement. His first book, scheduled for publication in March of 2014, is an edited collection of the newspapers, essays, and poems produced by young black Freedom School students during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. His second book, currently in progress, examines the impact of modernization on Southern Jim Crow and explores the organic origins of the Civil Rights Movement. Sturkey’s next book project will tentatively examine working-class African American life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the decades before World War II. William received his Ph.D. in African American History from Ohio State University in 2012. His primary research project is an in-progress book that examines the history of race in the American South between Emancipation and the Civil Rights Movement and offers a new way to think about the organic origins of the most powerful social movement in modern American history. Dr. Sturkey is interested in numerous aspects of Modern American, Working-Class, and Southern History and has taught at the universities of Wisconsin-Madison and Southern Mississippi.