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Meet Us


Anna Catesby YantA native of Natchez, Mississippi, Acting CASPAR Director Anna Catesby Yant has loved archaeology and history since she was little. She completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at Vanderbilt, and her dissertation focused on the relationship between architecture, power, and social change. More recently, her research interests have shifted to the impact of media, and especially the Walt Disney Company, on American culture. During the fall, she loves to watch LSU football, and in the spring, she'll be boiling crawfish. In her spare time, she teaches barre, paints, and loves to travel.



Laura BirdsallLaura Birdsall grew up in Los Angeles County, where she received her B.A. in Anthropology from UCLA in 2009. She worked at a museum in Ohio, then ran a used bookstore, then lived in Rabat for a while. She is the editor of an anthology of writing by inmates on Tennessee's Death Row, a workshop for whom she taught with other volunteers when she arrived in Nashville. In 2016, she received her MFA in Fiction from Vanderbilt. She has a mid-range mutt named Tuba. Tuba is a good dog. 



Tizoc ChavezBorn and raised in California's Central Valley, Tizoc Chavez came to Nashville in 2010 to pursue a Ph.D. in History at Vanderbilt specializing in U.S. foreign relations.  His research focuses on the diplomacy of the American presidency and how White House occupants have strategically sought to forge personal relationships with other world leaders in order to advance their foreign policy agendas.  Though a historian by training, his research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary.  He has taught a variety of courses in both the History and Political Science departments at Vanderbilt.  In his spare time, he can be found reading massive presidential biographies, following his beloved San Francisco Giants, and going to Vandy football and basketball games. 


Brad DaughertyA native Hoosier, Brad Daugherty came to Nashville by way of Boston, where he completed an M.Div. at Boston University.  While in Boston he came to love many things about New England, including its rich history and beautiful autumns, but definitely not its football team.  He completed a Ph.D. in Religion at Vanderbilt and a postdoc in Digital Humanities and now teaches in the Department of Religious Studies.  A historian of religion, his research focuses on the practice of Christianity in Roman North Africa.  When not at work he is likely spending time with his wife and their two children, cooking, playing the occasional board game, and dreaming about their next trip. 


Hearn AndreaA native of Stillwater, Oklahoma, Andrea Bradley Hearn  came to Nashville in 2001 to pursue a Ph.D. in English at Vanderbilt specializing in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature. A senior lecturer in the Department of English, she is also a Big Sister and a regional co-coordinator of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She likes to walk the dog with her husband, listen to birdsong, and read mysteries, gardening memoirs, and nineteenth-century novels--the bigger the better. Her favorite food is her mother’s chicken-fried steak.


Stephanie Higgs

Stephanie Higgs grew up in Colorado Springs, CO, a fervent reader with dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer or a pastry chef.  She attended Washington University in St. Louis, double majoring in English and French.  Wooed by the challenges and rewards of literary analysis, she moved to Nashville in 2009 to pursue a PhD in English at Vanderbilt, specializing in 19th-century British and American literature.  Her research focused on the cotton industry, exploring how Victorians on both sides of the Atlantic mitigated or suppressed their awareness of race- and class-based exploitation in order to justify participation in consumer culture.  Having successfully defended her dissertation, Stephanie received a rare opportunity to revisit her childhood dream and work as a pastry cook at several of Nashville’s top restaurants.  She’s now thrilled to
return to the academic fold, but this by no means spells an end to her elaborate baking experiments.


Adam MillerBorn in Annapolis, Maryland, Adam Miller has now held residence in six of the fifty states (Florida, Washington, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee). He earned a bachelor’s degree from The College of William and Mary before matriculating at Vanderbilt, where he wrote a bunch of stuff in exchange for a doctorate in English Literature.  He now writes about the long eighteenth century, specializing in its histories of science and technology.  He is also a magician, by the way, and promises that if you turn in your materials on time, he will tell you how the trick is done.


Aurora Romero Aurora Romero is a native of Southern California, where she learned to appreciate dry heat and ocean breezes.  Upon graduating high school she decided not to go to college and instead attended a technical school.  Aurora worked as a drafter-detailer in the trade show industry before growing bored and enrolling in community college.  After attempting everything from the violin to the steel drums, she discovered that she was, alas, not a musician but rather had a knack for foreign languages, especially German.  She later transferred to UC-Irvine where she majored in both Spanish and German and minored in Jewish Studies (stopping to learn Yiddish in New York along the way).  In 2009 Aurora moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt, bringing with her nothing but her car, a broken ankle, several pet birds, and the burning desire to study German literature.  Her research interests include poetry (in many languages) and poetic identity, fairy tales and their adaptations, and German-Jewish literature from the nineteenth century onward.  In her spare time, Aurora enjoys playing with the cutest birds in the world, Coco and Baby, making soup, and dabbling in even more foreign languages.


Anna Silverstein Anna Silverstein hails from Boston, though you would never know it from her superb driving skills.  She traded New England winters for equally cold and snowy Ohio winters, earning a B.A. in Creative Writing at Oberlin College.  After graduating in 2008, she volunteered for a women’s textile cooperative in Peru.  She then returned to her Boston roots and worked for the youth mentoring nonprofit, Big Brothers Big Sisters.  She came to Nashville in 2013 and earned an M.F.A. in fiction from Vanderbilt University.  Here in Nashville, she leads a creative writing workshop for immigrants and refugees.  She also volunteers on an organic farm, where she learned that a boron deficiency in the soil turns cauliflower purple (but it still tastes good).


Wietske Smeele Wietske Smeele grew up in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park in northern England.  In 2001, she traded in the heather-covered barrens for the tree-swathed hills of New York’s Hudson Valley, where she received a B.A. in English, German, and creative writing from the State University of New York at New Paltz.  She came to Vanderbilt in 2013 to pursue a Ph.D. in English, where she spent five years reading and writing about science, technology, and medicine in nineteenth-century Britain.  She teaches courses that bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences, especially courses that explore how literature helps us comprehend developments in science and biomedical ethics.  In her spare time, she paints the landscapes of her Yorkshire childhood, plays board games, and teaches her golden retriever Maya new tricks.