American Studies Faculty

Faith Ringgold, American People Series #15: Hide Little Children, 1966

Layla Aldousany

Layla Aldousany joined NCSSM in August 2020 as an Instructor of American Studies and Humanities. Although she is originally from Miami, Florida, she has enjoyed finding and building community in Durham since she first moved here in 2007. She has a Ph.D. in English from Duke University, where her dissertation focused on the subject of nothingness in early modern poetry and scientific experimentation. In American Studies, she is interested in the connections between literary and scientific thought. When Layla is not in the classroom, she enjoys tackling her growing pile of books (or reading fanfiction), swimming laps, and trying to pick up quilting again.



Leah Barlow

Leah Barlow is an Instructor of American Studies and Humanities, teaching American Studies and Black Studies. Leah is an Elon, North Carolina native and proud Hampton University alumna. She holds a master’s degree in English from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Leah credits her investment in the study of the African diaspora, black geographies, and the contemporary aestheticism of black artists to her time at Hampton. There, she cultivated a love for cultural criticism alongside a recognition of the necessity of intersections between mentorship and intellectual prowess—all rooted in southern sensibility. While in graduate school, Leah was the graduate assistant for Georgetown’s Women's Center, a founding member of the Black Cultural Studies Collective, and participated in a host of conferences. Leah’s scholarly interests are in the sociopolitical construction of urban centers, Afro-futurism as means for political power, and black aesthetic production. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys frequent trips to the beach and cooking unnecessarily extravagant meals.

Michelle Brenner

Michelle Brenner has been a member of the humanities faculty at NCSSM since 2006 and National Board Certified Teacher. She currently teaches American Studies and Digital Humanities. She is passionate about American history, literature, popular culture, interdisciplinary courses, instructional technology, and working with students outside of class to improve their writing. She has enjoyed developing several Mini-Term courses, including Frankenstein to Freakshows: Science in Popular Culture, and loves to think about the places where humanities, science, creativity, and popular culture intersect. She has served as a member of the faculty senate, on the Course Innovation Working Group, and has been honored with the UNC Excellence in Teaching Award for Outreach. She enjoys yoga and mindfulness practices, which she shares with her students.

Patrick Burrows

Patrick Burrows teaches courses in American studies, Southern studies, and the study of religion. His dissertation focused on the intersection of theology and place in the American South. His academic training focused on the history of Western philosophical and religious thought, as well as religion in America. His research interests include Christian theology and ethics, Southern studies, humanistic geography, continental philosophy, and critical theories of gender, sexuality, and race. A native of the Asheville area, Patrick fled from Boston to Durham in 2018 to write his dissertation, during which he joined the NCSSM faculty. He holds a bachelor's degree in linguistics and French from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master's degree in divinity from Yale University, and a doctorate in the study of religion from Harvard University.

David Cantrell

An eighth-generation Carolinian, David Cantrell was educated in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and California. He has enjoyed several different lives, though most of his professional career has been spent teaching at several universities, including Stanford, where he received his doctorate in American literature; the University of Nevada, where he was an NEH postdoctoral fellow; and the University of San Diego, where he had appointments in the college and in the School of Law. The opportunity to teach the extraordinarily gifted students at NCSSM proved, however, even more compelling than a very pleasant life in southern California; thus, some thirty years after leaving his home state, he returned, grateful and glad to join that wonderfully important and exciting experiment in public education which is the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.


Alexa Garvoille

Alexa Garvoille joined the NCSSM Humanities Department in August 2021 to teach American Studies and Creative Writing. She has long been passionate about the intersections of history, the arts, and literature. Ms. Garvoille earned her bachelor’s degree in literature at Yale, where she studied the connection between literature and photography, then went on to study teaching at Duke. She served on the faculty of Durham School of the Arts, where she directed the Creative Writing program and helped nearly 100 young writers design and self-publish books and chapbooks. After 10 years in the high school classroom, Alexa went on to pursue an MFA degree in creative writing at Virginia Tech. While at Tech, she taught College Composition and Creative Writing, researched creative writing pedagogy, and hiked the Appalachian Mountains. In the past, she has worked as a facilitator for the John Hope Franklin Young Scholars program at Duke, where students created a one-act play on migration, wrote a YA book about the Wilmington massacre, and filmed a documentary about civil rights advancements during the Civil War. Alexa is excited to engage students in a cross-disciplinary, creative approach to American Studies that empowers learners to bring together contemporary issues with hidden histories.

Kyle Hudson

Kyle Hudson has taught in the Department of Humanities at NCSSM since 2004. He has taught a wide variety of courses including American Studies, Writing and American Studies, Western European Cultural Studies, Asian Studies, and International Relations. He has also taught special courses linked to the US presidential elections of 2012 and 2016. He has co-sponsored Mini-Term trips to Greece and China and has designed Mini-Term Courses on a variety of topics including Constitutional Law, the Civil War, and Classic Gangster Films. He has taught in the Summer Bridge Program and has assisted in hosting visiting delegations of students and teachers from China. He is an avid sponsor of student clubs and student seminars.


Tatiana McInnis

Tatiana McInnis joined NCSSM in August 2021 as an instructor of American Studies and Humanities. Originally from South Florida, she has lived and taught in Nashville, Tennessee, and Williamstown, Massachusetts, and is thrilled to be in the Raleigh-Durham area. She earned her doctorate in English from Vanderbilt University in 2017, teaching there as an instructor in English and Cultural Studies classes where she designed and led courses including “Rethinking the U.S. South,” “Caribbean Diasporas in the U.S.,” and “Behind Bars: The U.S. Prison-Industrial Complex.” She conducted research on representations and mechanisms of anti-Blackness in contemporary American literature, U.S.-Caribbean immigration politics, and, as she puts it, “how race takes place,” or the spatial manifestations of racial hierarchies in the 20th and 21st centuries. After finishing doctoral work, she joined Vanderbilt University’s American Studies program as a lecturer before serving as the Associate Director at the Davis Intercultural Center at Williams College, where she collaborated with students, faculty, and staff to integrate equitable practices across campus, consulted on curricula, and taught. Most recently, she served as a Visiting Professor in the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department at Texas Christian University. She also holds a master’s degree in English, also from Vanderbilt, and a bachelor’s in English from Florida International University. When she’s not with her students, you'll find her snuggling her dog, Hurston (as in Zora Neale), “hiking” extremely moderate trails, reading, or tending to her mini garden.

Ormand Moore

Ormand Moore began teaching at NCSSM in 2016 after teaching high school English and creative writing in Chapel Hill and Durham for 13 years. In addition to teaching American Studies at NCSSM, he also teaches Poetry Writing and Modern Latin American Literature, a course he created in 2018. You may also find Ormand in Scott Laird's History of Western Music class as a guest lecturer on Schubert or Bruckner, two favorite composers. Teaching writing is his greatest passion. Ormand brings his experiences as a technical writer and as an editor for fiction writers, medical journals, and commercial bloggers to his practice of guiding students to a deeper understanding of the written word. The privilege of reading American poets like Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, and Anthony Hecht with NCSSM juniors is a highlight of the job for him. He has a particular interest in the complex, tortured history of school integration in the US and in the history of his hometown, Monroe, NC. Currently, Ormand is working on a project to honor Robert Williams, the great and controversial civil rights leader from Monroe.


Amanda Moulder

Amanda Moulder is an Instructor of American Studies and Humanities, teaching American Studies and Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Prior to joining the NCSSM faculty, Amanda was Associate Professor and Writing Program Director at the University of San Diego, where she taught writing and Indigenous literature courses. She earned her doctorate in English from the University of Texas, where she taught in both the Department of Rhetoric and Writing and the Department of English. She has also taught at St. John’s University (Queens) and the University of Kentucky (Lexington). She began her teaching career over twenty years ago as an English instructor at Raleigh Charter High School. Her research interests include writing pedagogy, Indigenous studies, code-switching and English-language dialects, and feminist historiography. She also holds a bachelor's degree in English and American studies from the Goucher College and a master's degree in English from the University of Texas. When Amanda is not teaching, she enjoys taking yoga and barre classes, exploring Chapel Hill- and Durham-area restaurants with her family, walking in the woods near her house, and making Halloween costumes for her daughter.

Katie Moulder

Katie Moulder has taught a variety of courses since she joined the humanities faculty at NCSSM in 2005. She is passionate about engaging students in critical discourse, helping students develop their analytical writing, and fostering an environment that values diversity and promotes justice. She is particularly interested in the role of oral history in our understanding of social history in American Studies. In addition to teaching American Studies, she teaches a class on contemporary immigration. She has developed or co-developed several Mini-Term courses, including the German Exchange Trip, Piedmont Textiles: Past, Present and Future, The New Deal in North Carolina, and Into The Wild: Forestry and Conservation in NC. She served on the curriculum review teams for American Studies and Senior Core Humanities. She has also presented at the NCSSS conference in 2018 and 2019.

Meredith Murphy, Chair

Meredith Murphy has been a member of the NCSSM Humanities Department since 2008, primarily teaching American Studies and Film Studies. She has served as Chair of the Humanities Department since 2020. A lifelong North Carolinian and an alumna of the school, Meredith feels privileged to have returned to campus to teach and learn among Unicorns. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, recipient of the NCSSM Outstanding Teacher Award, and currently serves as one of the Chairs of the Humanities Department. Among the myriad interests she has pursued via Mini-Term and January-Term courses and summer programs are biography and autobiography, popular media portrayals of the American presidency, Food Science and food culture, and zombies. Since 2013, Meredith has taught Film Studies which, like many of the interdisciplinary courses in the NCSSM Humanities Department, helps students to cultivate media literacy and to see the many layers of artistry and meaning in the moving image. In American Studies, she most enjoys nerding out about the intersection between 20th century politics and pop culture.

Liz Peeples

Elizabeth (Liz) Peeples has been an instructor in the Humanities Department since 2008, primarily teaching American Studies. As an American Studies instructor, she is interested in the intersections of nature, self, and community, and leading her students to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of American history and its connection to present day. She has also teaches Film Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has also developed and facilitated a number of mini-terms, including four years in Costa Rica, during which she led 18 students (each year) in service learning projects, hiking, and an exploration of the complicated nature of ecotourism; and four years in the North Carolina Mountains, during which they studied our relationship with nature. In 2018, Liz led the Amplify! Youth Voices and the Future, a collaboration between NCSSM and the City of Durham. In 2018-2019, she received one of two NCSSM Outstanding Teaching Awards. She also serves as the NCSSM Scholarship Committee Coordinator and the Humanities Department Special Events and Awards Coordinator.

John Woodmansee

John Woodmansee has a BA from Davidson College, an MA from UNC-Chapel Hill, and National Board Certification in Language Arts. Currently, he teaches American Studies, Western Civilizations, Fiction Writing, and Film Studies. John’s recent research in American Studies focuses on the ways popular American music has expressed, subverted, and shaped cultural norms. He has given conference presentations entitled “Before Bob Dylan: Poets and Agitators in Popular American Music” and “Imperfect Rhymes as a Measure of Phonological Similarity.” For many years, John has taken groups of students to Greece to study ancient history, theater, philosophy, myth, and culture. He also serves as an advisor for NCSSM’s Center for Advising and Academic Success (CAAS) and sponsors Blue Mirror, the literary and arts journal for students. In addition to teaching, John enjoys hiking, basketball, disc golf, and juggling.