American Studies Faculty

Horace Pippin, Domino Players (1943)

Layla Aldousany

Layla Aldousany is excited to join the department 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. Layla also holds a BA in English and Religious Studies from the University of Miami and an MA in English from Duke University. Her research interests include sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British literature and scientific experimentation, as well as Islam and early modern Europe. When Layla is not in the classroom, she enjoys tackling her TBR pile (or reading fanfiction), swimming laps, and trying to pick up quilting again.

Krupal Amin

Krupal Amin teaches American Studies, Critical Race Theory, and Women's Studies at NCSSM. She earned her undergraduate degree in English and comparative literature at UNC-Chapel Hill and her master’s degree in English literature at UNC-Charlotte. She earned her Ph.D. in English literature at the Ohio State University. She specializes in 20th and 21st century U.S. multiethnic literatures, specifically Asian American and African American literatures, and race and ethnic studies. When not teaching, she likes to run (very slowly) and eat (vegetarian), especially cheese and cake.

James Blackwell

James Blackwell joins us from Michigan State University, where he completed his Ph.D. in African history. James is happy to return to his hometown of Durham, NC. While in East Lansing, James taught numerous courses in US History, African History, Sport History, and World History. James’s dissertation examined Igbo labor migration between southeastern Nigeria and British Southern Cameroon, 1900-1975. He conducted dissertation research in southeastern Nigeria, where he collected oral interviews as well as conducted archival research. His research interest includes African American History, African History, Labor & Migration, Consumption History, and Digital Humanities. When not teaching, you can find James tracking down new restaurants in Durham, watching sports, or finding new ways to win in the video game series, “Civilization.” In addition to his Ph.D. from MSU, James holds both a BA and MA in history from North Carolina Central University.

Michelle Brenner

A member of the humanities faculty at NCSSM since 2006 and National Board Certified Teacher, Michelle Brenner 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 been elected as a member of the faculty senate, has served 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 comparative religion. He is also a doctoral candidate in the study of religion at Harvard University, where he is writing a dissertation on religion and place in the American South. His academic background is in the history of Western philosophical and religious thought, religion in America, and critical theories of race, gender, and sexuality. A native of the Asheville area, after nearly a decade in New England, he moved back to Durham in 2018 to conduct research and work on his dissertation. A particular interest of his in American studies is the complicated role religion has played in struggles both for and against human rights and dignity.

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.


Graham Culbertson

After attending Myers Park High School in Charlotte, Graham Culbertson went to the University of South Carolina where he double majored in English and Film Studies. He then got his PhD in American literature and culture at UNC Chapel Hill, and taught at our sister school, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Math, for four years. Although he has wide-ranging interests in the humanities, including film, philosophy, gender and queer studies, urban studies, and Japanese culture, he has focused on American culture for more than a decade. He loves NCSSM’s course in American studies because it lets him range across a wide variety of topics and genres while remaining engaged with the crucial questions about the American experiment.

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.


Melissa Lingle-Martin

Melissa Lingle-Martin is deeply committed to equity and justice, and she looks forward to contributing to NCSSM’s work as an anti-racist and inclusive learning community that furthers education and justice here in North Carolina and beyond. Melissa has a Ph.D. in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and was a Taylor Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Harrison Institute for American History, Literature, and Culture. She specializes in early and nineteenth-century American literature and culture, and her research examines the connections between social justice and the social imaginary, especially as manifested in the literature, law, and visual culture of nineteenth-century America. Outside of the classroom, library, and conference room, Melissa enjoys walking, hiking, and running, especially in the mountains, and she is a passionate supporter of all of the arts.


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 Mr. Moore 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. Mr. Moore 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 Mr. Moore. 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, Mr. Moore is working on a project to honor Robert Williams, the great and controversial civil rights leader from Monroe.


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

Meredith Murphy has been a member of the NCSSM Humanities Department since 2008, primarily teaching American Studies and Introduction to Film Studies. 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 Mini-Term Coordinator. Among the myriad interests she has pursued via Mini-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. In that time, she has primarily taught 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. Since 2017, she has also taught Women’s Studies: Women as Leaders. She has also developed and facilitated a number of mini-terms, including three 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, Ms. Peeples 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 Facilitator and the Humanities Department Events and Awards Coordinator.

John Woodmansee

John Woodmansee joined the Humanities Department in 1992. He has taught American Studies, WRRD, British Literature, Fiction Writing, and Film Studies. For Mini-Term, he takes students to Greece to study ancient history, literature, and culture. John also sponsors Blue Mirror, NCSSM’s literary and arts journal. Recently, he gave a conference presentation entitled “Before Bob Dylan: Poets and Agitators in Popular American Music,” and currently, he is working on a study in linguistics and contemporary music with an NCSSM alumnus. When he is not teaching, John enjoys hiking, basketball, disc golf, and juggling.