Graduate Students

Division of the Humanities Recognizes Student and Faculty Scholarship at the 534th Convocation

Division of the Humanities graduates celebrated in the sun.

As the pandemic winds down, the Division of the Humanities at UChicago conducted its Convocation on Friday, June 11, at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field in Chicago. Ninety-four students participated in the live ceremony, while 162 were celebrated virtually on mega-screens for those watching the in-person and livestreamed event.

Reflecting the times, seating on the stage and in the arena was socially distant in the outdoor setting. Those participating in the Convocation wore masks except when presenting awards and diplomas. In contrast to a traditional Convocation in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, graduates gulped spring water in UChicago aluminum cans and used manual fans to beat back the heat and full sun.

In addition to celebrating the achievements of 256 graduating students with master’s and doctoral degrees, seven presenters in the Division of the Humanities, including Dean Anne Walters Robertson and Dean of Students Shea Wolfe, honored students and faculty members for their achievements—Zsofia Valyi-Nagy, Rebeca Velasquez, Samuel Lasman, Christine Wilkie Bohlman, Veronica Vegna, Persis Berlekamp, Daniel Morgan, and Kaneesha Parsard.

Drawn from Music: Art Exhibition Opens Window into Composers' Creative Process

Map of Form by University Professor Augusta Read Thomas; Image courtesy of UChicago Arts

For composers, drawing a “map” of music can give shape to a new work and articulate its overarching ideas. As evocations of the composer’s intentions—from sweeping curves to stars, birds and brightly-colored dots—such maps capture the ebbs and flows within a musical piece and complement musical scores, serving as guides for performers.

MAPS OF FORM, a new exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, presents a collection of these musical illustrations as works of art in their own right. Drawn by UChicago faculty and graduate composition students, the maps vary from abstract representations of operatic arias in numbers and letters to contemporary works illustrated with chariots and drawings of hanging mobiles.

Four Humanities Graduate Students Shine at the 2023 Transcending Boundaries Symposium

Transcending Boundaries Symposiym Image

By María Carrasquilla

On April 29, 2023, the annual Transcending Boundaries symposium, organized by the Diversity Advisory Board (DAB) with support from UChicagoGRAD, welcomed 13 students from several divisions across UChicago who presented research projects around the theme of “Truth, Transformation, Healing.” Four graduate students from the Division of the Humanities presented a broad spectrum of research, including dance in soccer, representation in archives, and grief.

For Rachel Chery, who co-presented “Baile Donde Quieras”: The Global Politics of Black Dance in Fútbol, with Jonah Francese, both PhD candidates from the Music Department, Transcending Boundaries allows for more collaboration in her work. “In the humanities, we don’t get to present our work together often,” Chery said. “Presenting together allows us to respond better to specific questions. In our case, Jonah does the dance activism part of our research. I am more interested in how people talk about it—the social media part.”

Humanities Graduate Students Are Pivotal to the Success of Transcending Boundaries Symposium

Springtime on the UChicago Hyde Park campus

Since elementary school, Rachel Chery has been a leader in diversity work. This spring, the Humanities Division doctoral candidate in Music spearheaded the virtual Transcending Boundaries Fourth Annual Research Symposium, April 8–9, with the theme of Disruption and Discovery Preparing for a New Generation of Scholars.

To her surprise, Chery recently received the Departmental Diversity Award for the Humanities Division for her leadership in the realm of furthering diversity on the UChicago campus.

“First and foremost, she was foundational to the organization and success of the Transcending Boundaries Symposium, which was an incredible space for so many beautiful presentations and the building of community,” said Frania Mendoza Lua, doctoral candidate at the Crown Family Center and Chair of UChicagoGRAD Diversity Advisory Board. “I hope everyone who attended realizes how radical and powerful this conference really was at a school like UChicago. Outside of the Diversity Advisory Board, Rachel continues to decolonize music theory syllabi. She starts the classes that she teaches with Nina Simone and that is so important! Her dissertation is also looking to her identity in a field where it is still not common to do so.”

While Chery describes the award as the capstone of what she’s been doing all her life, she was quick to praise the UChicago students who presented intriguing topics during the Transcending Boundaries Symposium.

Three Humanities Division graduate students explored race and the occult, indigenous Mexican language in hip-hop, and Hegel and romantic quest of self in art in their presentations. Jonah Francese, Bre’Anna Girdy, and Manjing Wuang gave their virtual sessions on topics relevant to their UChicago studies as well as to their personal interests.

“My grandmother spoke the Hñähñu language, and I looked at several hip-hop groups that use this language in their lyrics,” said Francese, a PhD candidate in ethno-musicology, who presented Hñähñu Language Revitalization through Indigenous Mexican Hip Hop: Building Towards an Indigenous Hip Hop Futurism. “Using this indigenous language in hip-hop lyrics is an opportunity to teach the language and increase the percentage and number of speakers.”