Research Associates and Partners

Professor Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo, Founding Director and Principal Investigator 

Professor Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo is Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University, with secondary appointments and affiliations with the Department of Teaching and Learning, Latino/a Studies, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Program in African American and Diaspora Studies, and the Center for Medicine Health and Society. She earned her Ph.D. from Duke University in 1999. 

Professor Nwankwo's research has focused on encounters among African-American, Latin American, and West Indian peoples in the areas of culture, identity, and ideology with the goal of understanding the persistent barriers to progressive cross-group engagements. Her book, Black Cosmopolitanism (2005), is a comparative study of people of African descent in Cuba, the U.S., and the British West Indies in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. In it, she reveals that fear fostered by the revolution determined and has continued to determine the ways African-descended peoples in this hemisphere relate to each other, as well as to other American populations. The implications of this analysis attempts to understand whether relations between U.S. African Americans and recent immigrants to the U.S. are significant.

Professor Nwankwo has also provided new insight into U.S. African American-Latino/Latin American-Caribbean relations through articles that have appeared in journals such as American Literary History, Radical History Review, and Cuban Studies/Estudios Cubanos. Her other publications include African Routes, Caribbean Roots, Latino Lives-a special issue of the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World (edited with Mamadou Diouf) focused on music and dance, and Critical Approaches to Louise Bennett-a special issue of the Journal of West Indian Literature.

Nyasha Warren 

Nyasha completed her bachelor's degree in Biology at Oberlin College, her Masters in Environmental Health Sciences at New York University and her Masters in Education from the Arts in Education program at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is an educator and curriculum design consultant, with a special interest in informal education theory and practice as it applies to a variety of settings including, but not limited to, museums and online learning environments. She has taught middle school Science, English and Social Studies, and has also been an ESL instructor for adult learners at Florida State University. She currently works in the Resource Program at the International School of Panama. Her teaching philosophy is: We are all learners who deserve the opportunity to develop a heightened awareness and appreciation for the world through the well-focused lens of lifelong learning.

Rebecca Bernard

Rebecca Bernard is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts where she received her B.F.A. in Film and Television Production. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Fiction) at Vanderbilt University. Rebecca is currently working as a substitute teacher in Louisville, KY, and when she's not teaching she is working on a novel and a collection of short stories. Rebecca is particularly interested in crafting narratives which encompass the unique life experiences of individuals of different communities with an emphasis on memory and preservation.

Destiny Birdsong

Destiny Birdsong is a graduate of Fisk University, where she received her B.A. in History and English. She is also a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she received her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry), and where earned her PhD in Literature. Destiny is currently a lecturer and academic adviser at Vanderbilt University, where she received her MFA in poetry in 2009, and her PhD in English in 2012. Her poetry has either appeared or is forthcoming in RATTLE, Potomac Review, HeArt, Vinyl, and other publications.

Larnies Bowen

After graduating from New York University with a Bachelor’s degree in Caribbean Studies, Lornies Bowen received a Fulbright-mtvU fellowship to conduct research in Panama. Her investigation on Afro-Panamanian identity as reflected in Spanish reggae music produced an audio-visual history of Panamanian reggae to be used for educational purposes in Panama, as well as the documentary Contra Corriente: The Spanish Reggae Movement

Kari Coley

Kari Coley is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and an independent consultant in project management and philanthropy. She is Managing Partner at ThompsonCorp Consulting, as well as Vice-President of the Arnold Walters Foundation for cultural diversity, President of the SAMAAP-WSSW Leadership Institute, and Creator and Designer of Kindred artwear that celebrates diversity while embracing one humankind. 

Veronica Forte

Veronica D. Forte graduated in 1999, from the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Panama, where she is currently a professor in the English Department. She received her Master's Degree in English from the Universidad Autonoma de Chiriquí-Panamá (2004), and her Postgraduate Program in Higher Studies at Universidad Latina de Panamá (2002). At present, she is working on the final project for her Masters in Tourism with an emphasis on Heritage Management (Gestión Patrimonial), while also coursing a Master's Program in Curriculum. She also taught English at preschool and elementary levels for 10 years and has been a facilitator of many conferences in different schools and universities. At present, she is the vice president and an active member of the Society of Friends of the West Indian Museum of Panama (SAMAAP) as well as an active member of Panama TESOL. She publish her first stories in the book “Ocho Cuentan 33” on May 22, 2014.

Professor Jean Harris

M. Jean Harris is a retired anthropology professor with abiding interests in the cultures of African peoples in diaspora and the construction of race, gender, and social class. Having grown up in Seattle's Yesler Terrace, the first racially integrated public housing project in the U.S., Dr. Harris is currently collecting oral histories to publish in a book that will be entitled From the Terrace.

Verónica Hidalgo

Verónica Hidalgo completed her bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Food Science at Panama National University. She has completed graduate studies in Project Design and, has a Master's in Manager of Projects from Panama's Inter-American University. She worked as a consultant for the U.N. in the area of nutrition, in a project titled, "Project for the Elimination of Hunger and Malnutrition." She also participated in the food industry of organic products as well as in health campaigns, visiting poor indigenous populations to provide them with health and information. Veronica also participates in social and cultural activities such as those organized by the Christian Medical Social Panamá, Kindred, and Voices from Our America. For Veronica participating in Voices has given her the opportunity to meet wonderful people, and learn about not only the Afro-Caribbean culture but also understand, preserve and pass along to other people everything that involves hearing and respecting the Voices of Our America.

Professor Melva Lowe de Goodin

Melva Lowe de Goodin is an English professor and retired director of the English department at the University of Panama. She is also a former president of SAMAAP (Society of Friends of the West Indian Museum of Panama) and has addressed the issues faced by Panamanians of West Indian descent through her bilingual play, De Barbados a Panamá/From Barbados to Panama.

Teresa R. Flores

Dr. Teresa Flores received her doctorate in Educaton from Vanderbilt University in 2011, where she specialized in Educational Leadership and Policy. During her time at Vanderbilt she was also a Program Coordinator involved in creating new educational opportunites for at-risk children and senior citizens. She currently works as both a Program Manager and an Instructor at the Sylvan Learning Center. Dr. Flores also still works with the organization she co-founded, The Learning Docs, to develop curriculum for preschool students.

Karin Davidovich

Karin Davidovich is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish at Franklin & Marshall College. She received her Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literature with an emphasis in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures from Vanderbilt University in August 2014. Her research focuses on twentieth century Latin American literature, testimonials, memory studies, gender studies, and film with a regional emphasis on the Southern Cone. In particular, she is interested in the significance of testifying from the perspective of gender studies. Currently, in her work she analyzes how representations of traumatic memories change over time, and are affected by the gender of the witness. Drawing from the influential work on Holocaust studies, Southern Cone memory studies, and gender theory, she analyzes testimonial productions in the form of books, films, and personal interviews produced in the Southern Cone, from the 1990s until the first decade of the 2000s.

Katie Zien

Katherine Zien is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at McGill University. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University’s Interdisciplinary Program in Theatre and Drama (IPTD) in August 2012. Zien’s pedagogy and research focus on theatre and performance in the Americas; specifically, her research addresses the inter-American travels of performing artists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the ways in which performance practices have contributed to the construction of ideologies, identities, and bodies of memory in North and Latin America. Her scholarship has been published in Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, E-misférica, Contemporary Theatre Review, and Global South. For more information please visit: She may be contacted at: )

Ricardo Maxwell

Ricardo Maxwell was born in Puerto Armuelles Chiriquí. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Education with a focus in English at La Paz Profesorado. He also has university coursework completed at OTEIMA as a superior technician in English, and in C.E.T.E.S where he obtained a technical degree in Psychology of Education. Recently he has been taking classes in Management and Legislative Education. He participated in various seminars on education given by Panamá TESOL, the Universidad Latina, as well as in a seminar titled "Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling" (TPRS) MEDUCA. He has been recognized by the Ministry of Education for his active participation in the development of education in his province in 1998 and 1999. Among other activities, he has been a Preacher for more than 30 years in the Methodist Church, has been a member of the Association of Friends of the Ethno-Caribbean museum in Bocas del Toro (AAMECAB), in addition to participating in and being very supportive of the project Voices from Our America in Bocas del Toro.

Ivan Jolly

Ivan Rogelio Jolly Miller was born in Almirante Bocas Del Toro, Panama in 1948. He has a certificate in Business with a specialization in Accounting from the Nocturnal Commercial Institution. He has completed all the coursework at CERPA for the degree of Technician in Higher Education, and is currently taking classes at the ISAE Institute to obtain a certificate in English with a focus on translation. He worked for almost thirty years for the Chiriqui Land Company in Bocas holding many positions such as assistant of construction, office secretary, and mechanic. During all these years he has been very active as a union leader, holding positions such as secretary of the union of mechanics, and of workers in general of the C.L.Co. Ivan has combined his knowledge of English and his interest in political activism to visit, as a union leader, the United States on many occasions. During his many visits, he has spoken to other union leaders and workers in the U.S, and has built cooperatives and alliances between Panamanian and American workers. He has given classes in Labor Education, Cooperation and Worker Rights, on almost all the banana plantations, and in industries of Almirante, Provincia de Bocas del Toro.

Bridget Warren

Dalvis Robles

Violeta A. Donawa

Violeta Donawa is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University. Her research interests relate to the role of offline and online narratives in the identity maintenance and negotiation of AfroLatina/os in the US. Specifically, she examines the AfroLatina/o ethnoscape that links to the (re)membering of transnational ties. Currently, she has two publications, entitled, “Exploring the Afro-Latino Presence: The Afro-Panamanian Experience in Michigan” in the journal, Negritud: Revista De Estudios Afro-Latinoamericanos and “Defining and Documenting Afro-Latin America” in the journal, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies. She also has a forthcoming book review in the Journal of TransAtlantic Studies. Other areas of interest include emancipatory education and youth. In her spare time, she deeply enjoys discussions of spirituality, healing, and bonding with her sister circles.

Gerardo Maloney

Gerardo Maloney...sociologist, writer, poet, film and television creator, graduated from the UNAM and FLASCO-ecuador. He has been the Director of the School of Sociology at the University of Santa Maria la Antigua (USMA) 1974-1979 , Director of the Department and School of Sociology of the University of Panama 1985-1990, Director and Creator of the Panamanian Journal of Sociology 1985, Creator of the National Award of Sociology 1986, General Coordinator of the academic vice-presidency of the University of Panama-2001-2003, Coordinator of the Center of Investigations of the Humanities School of the University of Panama 1985-1989, Research Coordinator of the University Experimental Cinema Group (GECU)...1985-2005, creator and Director of the Center of Afro-Panamanian studies (CEDEAP) 1980, General Director of the state television, radio and educational programs (Canal Once) 1994-1999, Vice President of the Central American Association of Sociology 1988-1990, President of the II Congress of Black Culture of the Americas (Panama City 1980), Vice President of the first Black Panamanian Congress and President of the Second Congress, Ambassador of the Republic of Panama in Trinidad and Tobago 2005-2009, Permanent Representative of the Association of Caribbean States (AEC) 2006-2009, member of the National Council of the Black Ethnicity 2007- to present, creator and member of the Organizational Commission of the Afro-Panamanian forum 2003-to present, member of the Directional Council of the program FLASCO-Panama, Coordinator of the extension and publications 2009 – to present.

Ariel Benjamin 

Ariel Benjamin will graduate with a B.A. in Spanish and in English Literature from Vanderbilt University in 2014. As a creative writer who seeks out all methods of storytelling, she has created theatrical narratives with Rhythm & Roots Performance Company throughout the majority of her undergraduate career. With a background of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American descent, she explores the cultural, political, and historical dynamics of the African Diaspora. She will continue to work with Dr. Ifeoma Nwankwo upon graduating, and she plans to pursue her own research on storytelling in the near future.

Anne Castro 

Anne Margaret Castro is a Ph.D. Candidate in the English Department at Vanderbilt University, specializing in Anglophone and Hispanophone American theatre and literature. Anne holds an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in English and Spanish (Hispanic Studies). Her academic research explores how authors and artists represent the interactions between abstract belief and material embodiment in the drama and literatures of the Americas. Her doctoral dissertation analyzes representations of spirituality and soul power in 20th- and 21st- century Caribbean text, digital media, and performance. Anne has co-authored two entries for the upcoming Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biographyand her article, “Caribbean Collusion: Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, and the New Yorker Fiction Podcast,” appears in Afro-Hispanic Review’s Fall 2013 publication. She served as research assistant for Jamaican novelist and scholar Erna Brodber in 2013, and continues to work on Ifeoma Nwankwo’s Voices from Our America.

Delores Holland

Delores Holland currently owns and operates a professional business and residential organizing business, Edited Places Organizing. She was an administrative professional in corporate and nonprofit organizations for over 35 years.  Delores has provided program and technical assistance, formative research and program evaluation for more than 35 years in health and educational projects funded by the U.S. government, public and private foundations, as well as national and community based organizations. She also currently serves as a health and education community advocate in Nashville, TN.

Laura Woodwick 

Laura Woodwick will graduate from Vanderbilt University in 2015 with a B.A. in Public Policy, specializing in Religion and Policy in the Middle East, and Minors in English and Islamic Studies. She has been involved in Voices From Our America in a digital research capacity since the beginning of 2014, and will continue to do so until graduation. Laura has also been a Vanderbilt Undergraduate Summer Research Program Fellow, where she worked on digital research applications for use in Dr. Nwankwo's courses, and is currently a Littlejohn Family Undergraduate Fellow. 

Teachers Who Have Been Involved Include:

Yolanda Anderson (Director, Colegio Internacional del Caribe in Colón, Panama); Agnes Bryan (Teacher, Instituto Episcopal San Cristóbal in Panama City, Panama); Patricia Lewis (Director, Instituto Episcopal San Cristobal); Felicia Morgan (Retired teacher, Instituto Episcopal San Cristóbal); Mayra Rios (Coordinator, Instituto Episcopal San Cristóbal in Panama City, Panama); Lupita Salmon (General Principal, Instituto Panamericano in Panama City, Panama).  

Research and Project Assistants have included:

Sam Gannon, TaCara Harris, Amber M. Henry, Jennifer A. Krause, Brianna Merrill, Elise Michael, Katie M. Willison, Aiesha Beech, Haleigh Sherbak, and Therese R. Barry. 

Other student participants include:

Prof. Forte's students (University of Panama): Maely Urena, Irlanda Yanguez, Lizyenhy Linales (cousin of Maely), and Yaromar Hernandez. 

Prof. Felicia Morgan's students: Yizeika Charris, Jose Vergara, Sonia Yau Zhang, Deryn Smith, Alexandra Payares, Veronica Rodriguez, Ana Isabel Saavedra, and Franky Tsang. 

Prof. Mayra Rios' students: Nilka Arrosemena, Efrain Cheung, Philippe Hines, Betzaida Montero, Daphne Macias, Ana Gabriela Chavez, David Gomez, Stefanie Arosemena, Delia Zuniga, Diana Espinosa, Carolina Guilbauth, David Joseph, Jorge Alexander, Andres Culiolis, Jorge Gutierrez, Sonia Velasquez, Aileen Alegria, Sary Osorio and Karen Waldemen. 

Prof. Agnes Bryan students: Dora Ferrabone and Stephan Fernandez.