Creative/Critical Ph.D. Students

Please see the Literature Ph.D. Program overview for more information on the Creative/Critical Writing Ph.D. program. 


    Current Students 

  • Annika Berry

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    Annika is a visual artist and writer from Portland, Oregon, and an advocate for interdisciplinary artwork, hybrid texts, and practices of correspondence. They've exhibited at SITE Santa Fe and MoCA Arlington, and produce collaborative work with Eliza Lu Doyle under the pseudonym My Husband (2015-). Annika holds an MFA in Environmental Art & Social Practice from UC Santa Cruz and a BFA in Film, Animation & Video from the Rhode Island School of Design. She is currently working on an expansive archival project with/through/about the late author S. Paige Baty (1961-97).

  • Mia Boykin

  • No alternative textMia Boykin is a daughter of California, originally born and raised in Los Angeles and currently finds home in The Bay. Known mainly by her stage/pen name, Mimi Tempestt, she is a multidisciplinary artist and poet. She is the creator of the wonderful archival interview series Black.Queer.Alive. which highlights the personal narratives of Black and queer people throughout the world. Her debut collection of poems, The Monumental Misrememberings, is forthcoming with Co-Conspirator Press. She was chosen for Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices for poetry in 2021, and is currently a creative fellow at The Ruby in San Francisco.

  • Kendall Grady

  • No alternative textKendall Grady is a poet!scholar working the couplet as microsystem-- contact zone--associative monad-- elective affinity-- allocentrism-- affective capillary—baroque structure of intimacy. Selected poems live with Jupiter 88, Dusie, and The Atlas Review.

  • Melissa Mack

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    Melissa is a poet and author of The Next Crystal Text (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2018), the chapbook Includes All Strangers (Hooke Press, 2013), and poems that have appeared in anthologies such as Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot (English PEN, 2012), The Town: An Anthology of Oakland Poets (Nomadic Press, 2023), journals such as The Capilano Review and Elderly, and other ephemera. She has an MA in English (Concentration: Poetry) from UC Davis and an MSW (Master of Social Work) from Boston University. Melissa studies modern and contemporary poetry and social struggle. She has a Designated Emphasis in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. 


  • Madison McCartha

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    Madison McCartha is a poet, critic, and multimedia artist whose writing appears in Black Warrior Review, BOMB, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, The Spectacle, and elsewhere. Their work has been exhibited through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Center, the Poetic Research Bureau, and digitally through Small Press Traffic. Shortlisted for the 2019-2021 CAAPP Creative Writing Fellowship, they have received support from The Electronic Literature Organization, Blue Mountain Center, Millay Arts, Winter Tangerine, and the Ucross Foundation.

    McCartha holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame. As a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, they investigate works of media art and electronic literature as theory that might teach us something new about boundaries, permission, and race. McCartha's debut book of poetry and visual art, FREAKOPHONE WORLD, was published by Inside the Castle in 2021. Their second book, THE CRYPTODRONE SEQUENCE, is forthcoming from Black Ocean.  An excerpt from their developing critical monograph, Virtual Poetics, is forthcoming in Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience.
    Topic of Qualifying Exams: Virtual Poetics: Media Topographies as Black Aesthetics
    Dissertation Title: TBD

  • Kiley McLaughlin

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    Kiley McLaughlin grew up in Massachusetts and is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including Maw Appears in the Following Forms (Finishing Line Press, 2022), which won the Gold Line Fiction Chapbook Contest in 2022. After finishing her M.F.A. in poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is proud to have spent the last several years teaching creative writing at 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting under-resourced students. She is interested in the construction of subjectivity by contemporary writers of color, particularly when these representations of self expand into other forms and genres, including visual media and performance art. She is especially interested in exploring these threads in the work of members of the Asian-Pacific and other diasporas in the U.S.

    Title of spring 2021 qualifying exams: Mawmaw: Imperial Disavowal and the Diasporic Maternal

    Topic(s) of spring 2021 qualifying exams: 1) Creative Writing, Twentieth and Twenty-first Century American Experimental Literature (with a focus on poetics, hybrid work, and speculative fictions) and 2) Transpacific Critical Race and Empire Studies (with a focus on Asian American and especially Filipinx theorizations of gender, labor, and U.S. empire).

  • Kristen E. Neslon

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    Kristen E. Nelson is a queer writer and performer, diviner, teacher, and community builder. She is the author of the length of this gap (Damaged Goods, August 2018) and two chapbooks: sometimes I gets lost and is grateful for noises in the dark (Dancing Girl, 2017) and Write, Dad (Unthinkable Creatures, 2012). She founded Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona, where she worked as the Executive Director for 14 years. Kristen has been teaching creative writing since 2010 at Pima Community College, Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, University of Arizona Poetry Center, the STEP College Prep Program, and community workshops. Kristen has been studying divination for 28 years and runs Four Queens, a platform centering divination and divinatory poetics, with Selah Saterstrom. She wants to talk to you about SCUBA diving in kelp forests, Italian witchcraft, autotheory, and cats.

  • Nathan Osorio

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    Nathan Xavier Osorio is the son of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he became interested in the intersections of creative writing, translation, and political activism among Spanish, English, and indigenous speaking communities. In 2014, he moved to New York City to pursue his M.F.A. in poetry at Columbia University, where he had the opportunity to coordinate and facilitate writing workshops in the local public school system. After graduating, he worked as a community organizer partnering with parent leaders to improve the educational experiences of Latino, immigrant, and indigenous families in the South Bronx.

    Title of spring 2021 qualifying exams: Making in the Borderlands: Transdisciplinary Decolonial Poetics as Resistance/Vitality.


  • Maria Pachon

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    María Isabel Pachón was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso. Her work has been published in LiterariedadRust and Moth, Rio Grande Review, among other journals. Her novel Sobre Tierra Quemada (Editorial Coneculta, 2022) was awarded the 2021 Rosario Castellanos International Short Novel Award. She is currently exploring, both in her research and in her creative project, the disruptive political potential of generic hybridization. She is particularly interested in the autofiction of Latin American woman writers who live and produce their work in the United States.  


  • Jihoon Park

  • No alternative textJihoon Park was born in Korea and grew up in California. He holds a MFA in fiction from George Mason University. His interests include contemporary Korean, Japanese, and American literature, experimental/hybrid forms, postmodernism, and absurdism. His recent fiction has appeared in The Columbia Review, Quarterly West, and Split Lip Magazine. He is currently writing a novel about a sad Uber driver.

  • Quyen Pham

  • No alternative textQuyen Pham (them/hers) is thinking through questions of identity, origin, and belonging in the context of diasporic avant-garde writing. They hold an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, and a BA in English from the University of Calgary. Their work has been published in the LA Review of BooksRoom Magazine, and Ricepaper Magazine. They grew up in the Canadian prairies and have lived in New York, Sài Gòn, and Southern California. They are an alum of the Fulbright program, Tin House, and Community of Writers; they are currently working on a novel and other hybrid creative critical writings.

  • Matt Polzin

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    Matt Polzin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from California Institute of the Arts. Their fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Bathhouse Journal, and DittoDitto’s RRA (Recording Reading Archive) amongst other places, and their work was a finalist for the Arkansas International Emerging Writer’s Prize. They are currently finishing a first novel about a group of animal rights activists. Since spring of 2021, they have also served as a Graduate Student Researcher with the Astrobiology Initiative.
    Topics of qualifying exams: 1) Contemporary Fiction; 2) Feminist, Queer, and Trans Speculative Fiction

  • Angie Sijun Lou

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    Angie Sijun Lou is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Her short stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Joyland, Best Small Fictions, FENCE, The Margins, Hyphen, New Letters, Black Warrior Review, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, The American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, The Rumpus, Poetry Project, and elsewhere. With Karen Tei Yamashita, she is the co-editor of Dark Soil: Mythographies, forthcoming with Coffee House Press in 2023. She is Kundiman Fellow and a Fiction Editor at FENCEShe has received scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Tin House Writers' Workshop, Millay Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Calfornia Arts Council, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Mendocino Coast Writers' Conference. She is writing her debut collection of short stories.

  • Nghiem Tran

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    Nghiem Tran was born in Vietnam and raised in Kansas. He is interested in Asian-American literature, speculative fiction, and contemporary poetry. He especially enjoys reading ghost stories. He is a graduate fellow of Kundiman, an organization that promotes community among Asian-American writers. He has spent the majority of his life in the Midwest and the East Coast, and so he is excited to reside on the West Coast for the first time in his life. His novella, We’re Safe When We’re Alone, was published by Coffee House Press in September 2023.


  • Kirstin Wagner

  • No alternative textKirstin Wagner is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Literature’s Creative/Critical Writing Program. Her research concerns inherited trauma in families organizing around domestic violence, and she writes weird poems about bodies, mothers, daughters, and the ocean. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, she received an M.A. in Communication and Culture from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University, where she also served as Manager of the Naropa Writing Center and as a Curriculum Consultant for the Undergraduate Writing Program. She has also served a CITL Graduate Pedagogy Fellow in the Literature Department and focuses on animating the embodied aspects of teaching and learning.

  • Grace Yun

  • No alternative textGrace Yun was born in Koreatown Los Angeles where she was raised by her grandmother. She completed an MFA in creative writing at Boston University and worked as a librarian after graduating. Her work has been published by Harvard Review. Her research examines autofiction by QTBIPOC writers and how their narratives give dimension to archival records of history and collective memory. 


  • Conner Bassett (Ph.D. 2022)

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    C Dylan Bassett’s books are The Invention of Monsters / Plays for the Theater (2015), A Failed Performance: The Collected Short Plays of Daniil Kharms (2018), and Gad's Book (Outpost19, 2023). His recent work appears in The American Reader, Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, and Washington Square.

    Conner is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing (Fiction) at Xavier University. 

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  • Whitney DeVos (Ph.D. 2022)

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    Whitney DeVos specializes in the literatures and cultures of the Americas, with a focus on poetry's relationship to nationalist discourse and the state. She is also the translator of Notes Toward a Pamphlet by Sergio Chejfec (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020)The Semblable by Chantal Maillard (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020), and The Odd Month by Valeria Meiller (Black Ocean, 2024), and co-translator of COMMONPLACE / Lo común by Hugo García Manríquez (Cardboard House Press, 2022)11 by Carlos Soto Román (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2023), and A Year in the Sky (Triana, 2019). Her current work focuses on lenguas originarias (autochthonous languages of the Americas). In 2022, she was awarded an NEA Translation Fellowship and a Global South Translation Fellowship from Cornell University's Institute for Comparative Modernities to study Náhuatl & translate Martín Tonalmeyotl's debut bilingual poetry collection, Tlalkatsajtsilistle/Ritual de los Olvidados. With Valeria Meiller and Javiera Pérez Salerno, she is also in the process of compiling Ruge el bosque, a multi-volume, multilingual anthology of contemporary ecopoetry in the Americas.
    Dissertation title: More than a Nation: Toward a New Documentary Poetics
    She currently works as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pitzer College.
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  • Jared Harvey (Ph.D. 2020)

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    Jared Harvey lives and writes in Los Angeles. He teaches at Los Angeles City College. Recent work includes Danny the Ambulance (Outpost19, 2023) and A Book About Myself Called Hell (KERNPUNKT Press, 2022). His essay on the Barbenheimer meme appears at Pop Matters. Several poems appear in Prelude. Other recent work can be seen here.



  • Courtney Kersten (Ph.D. 2022)

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    Courtney Kersten is the author of Daughter in Retrograde: A Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018). Her essays have been published in River Teeth, Hotel Amerika, and Prairie Schooner, among other journals, and have been awarded the Bellingham Review’s Annie Dillard Award, the Southern Indiana Review’s Mary C. Mohr Award in Creative Nonfiction, and been listed as “notable” in the Best American Essays series. 

    Dissertation topic: Hybrid biographical project 

    Courtney Kersten is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at University of North Dakota.


  • Chacko Kuruvilla (Ph.D. 2024)

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    Chacko Kuruvilla has a BE in Electrical Engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology, India; a BA in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota; an MA in Liberal Arts from St John's College (Annapolis and Santa Fe); an MBA from Carlson School, University of Minnesota; and an MFA in Literary Non-Fiction from Columbia University. He is currently a seventh-year PhD candidate in literature here at UCSC, where he teaches creative writing and American literature. He is working on a semi-autobiographical novel set in his native city, Bombay, India, and on a collection of essays on Emersonianism and nineteenth-century American literature.
    Dissertation title: "At Interminable Oceans": The Bible of the Tropics and Aspects of Emersonianism in American Literature 
    Chacko Kuruvilla teaches 11th and 12th-grade English at the Oakwood School in Morgan Hill, California. He teaches American literature (mostly the long 19th century -- including Emerson, Melville, James, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Whitman, and Eliot) as well as twentieth-century writers from Baldwin to Robinson and one novel/nonfiction by Asian writers. He also teaches Shakespeare and poetry for AP English and classical film and science fiction in two electives.

  • Tha├»s Miller (Ph.D. 2024)

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    Thaïs Miller is the author of the novel Our Machinery (2008) and the collection The Subconscious Mutiny and Other Stories (2009). She received her Ph.D. in Literature with a Creative/Critical Writing Concentration at UC Santa Cruz in June 2024. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, she taught creative writing and literature at UC Berkeley Extension and the Gotham Writers Workshop, wrote dialogue for a healthcare robot, and volunteered as an editorial reader for Francis Ford Coppola’s literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. She received her M.A. in Creative Writing for Social Activism from New York University in 2011, and her B.A. magna cum laude with Honors in Literature from American University in 2009.


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    Topic(s) of fall 2019 qualifying exams: 1) late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century American fiction with a focus on the novel and short story forms, particularly historiographic and speculative metafiction and 2) post-Holocaust Jewish novels, short stories, films, and television, with a focus on Jewish humor.  

    Dissertation title: A Funny Jewish Novel about Intergenerational Trauma and Jewish Humor Narrative Tropes and Female Characters in Women-Led Digital Streaming Productions (2010-2023)

    Thaïs Miller is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing (Fiction) at the University of Central Arkansas.

  • Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez (Ph.D. 2022)

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    Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez was born and raised in South Central LA and now lives in Seattle. Her research focuses on translation and contemporary indigenous Mesoamerican poetry, especially from Iximulew (Guatemala). Her dissertation is a critical introduction to the work of Rosa Chávez (Maya K'iche' and Kaqchikel) with an English translation of her third collection, El corazón de la piedra (Heart of the Stone). These translations have been featured in Asymptote, The Against Nature Journal, and are forthcoming in CentroMariconadas: A Queer and Trans Central American Anthology. Gabriela’s own poetry and essays have been published in literary journals and anthologies, including The Wandering Song: Central Americans Writing in the United States.

    Dissertation title: Heart of the Stone: A Critical Introduction to the Poetry of Rosa Chávez

  • Eric Sneathen (Ph.D. 2022)

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    Eric Sneathen is the author of the poetry collections Don't Leave Me This Way (Nightboat 2023) and Snail Poems (Krupskaya 2016), as well as a number of chapbooks, including Minor Work (MO(0)ON/IO 2022). With Daniel Benjamin, he organized Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today and co-edited the companion volume, The Bigness of Things: New Narrative and VIsual Culture (Wolfman Books 2017). He also co-edited, with Lauren Levin, Honey Mine (Nightboat 2021), the collected fictions of Camille Roy. His reviews have been featured at the Poetry Foundation and SF MoMA's Open Space, and his dissertation—"The Future Unites Us: A Gay Poetics of San Francisco, 1944-2019"—is being revised for publication. He lives in Alameda, CA and works for UCSC as the Graduate Program Coordinator for Latin American and Latino Studies.


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  • Cathy Thomas (Ph.D. 2018)

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    Cathy Thomas received her Ph.D. at UC Santa Cruz in Literature with a designated emphasis in Creative Critical writing. She is now a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow working with Nalo Hopkinson to figure out simple ways to “semantically-neurochemically induce” Afrofutures into our “higher-level living autopoietic system.”© Her interests lie in the Caribbean diaspora, carnival culture and practices, decolonial feminist thought, and discovering modes of play and resistance in comic books, cosplay, and pop culture. When she is not writing, or cos-playing, or wining up at carnival, she procrasti-makes short films, linocuts, things that satisfy her love of chemistry, and things that evoke memories of the South Bronx like tiny gardens and Guyanese dishes she loved as a child.

    Dissertation title: Poco Mas/A Poetics of Salvage and Speculation in the Caribbean Diaspora

    Disseration topic: In this hybrid dissertaion, “Poco Mas/A Poetics of Salvage and Speculation in the Caribbean Diaspora,” I address broader questions of how the concept of salvage,—in its conflicting dualism of its ability to describe the prior experience of wreck and loss or to describe an experience of recovery and repair—engages the ways blackness and sexualized embodiment take up space in the Western imagination. I look at racial and gendered representations of (mostly) Afrodiasporic bodies of the Anglophone Caribbean and the material realities they experience(d) as diasporic subjects to generate discussions interested in exploring a historically unprecedented "post-human" future attentive to long histories of racialization, colonization, and enslavement. 

    Cathy Thomas is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

  • Jose Antonio Villaran (Ph.D. 2022)

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    Jose Antonio Villarán. Jose Antonio Villarán (Perú-México-United States). He is the author of two books of poetry, la distancia es siempre la misma (2006), el cerrajero (2012); one book of cross-genre literature, open pit (2022); one book of translation, Album of Fences, by Omar Pimienta (2018); and the AMLT project (, an exploration of hypertext literature and collective authorship. A Spanish edition of open pit was published in June 2023 by Álbum del Universo Bakterial in Peru, and his fourth book, a work of Auto-Fiction, titled Dear Excelsior, Kiko died in Vietnam while he was playing fútbol, is forthcoming from the same press in 2025.

    Jose Antonio is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Illinois State University.


  • Nicholas James Whittington (Ph.D. 2020)

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    Nicholas James Whittington is a poet, scholar, editor, educator, printer, publisher, and father, among other things, born and raised in San Francisco. After a decade in Oakland, he now lives in San Leandro, but he continues to edit and publish a little mag, AMERARCANA, along with the occasional small book, under the auspices of his family shop, Bird & Beckett Books and Records, in the city. At UCSC, he completed a dissertation on the original incarnation of the Masters in Poetics Program at New College of California, 1980-1987, and co-edited Roots and Routes: Poetics at New College of California (2020, Vernon Press), which gathers essays, talks, interviews, statements, notes, and other prose writings by poets who studied and/or taught at that sui generis program over the course of its nearly 30-year existence. A full-length collection of poems, Resolution of the West (2019, Bootstrap Press), is available from SPD, while the chapbooks Even Odds (2021, Two-Way Mirror Books), Provisions (2017, PUSH Press), and Indefinite Sessions (2016, Gas Meter Books) are available directly from their publishers. At Impart Ink, an errant studio, he designs, typesets, and prints books and adjacent objects both digitally and via letterpress. He works at California College of the Arts, as the Program Manager of the graduate programs in Visual & Critical Studies and Curatorial Practice.
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  • Emma Wood (Ph.D. 2022)

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    Originally from New York City, Emma Winsor Wood holds a BA from Harvard in Russian History & Literature and an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she taught literature and poetry writing. Her recent work appears in Fence, ZYZZVA, jubilat, and DIAGRAM, and Her first book, A Failed Performance: Short Plays and Scenes by Daniil Kharms, a collaborative translation with the poet C Dylan Bassett, was recently published by Plays Inverse Press. Her poetry manuscript, Preferred Internal Landscape, has been named a finalist in the CSU, BOAAT, Switchback Books, Noemi Press, Zone 3, and the University of Wisconsin book contests.  She currently lives, with her husband and their two dogs, in the Santa Cruz mountains, where she also works as an editor for Stone Soup Magazine. 

    Topic(s) of spring 2021 qualifying exams: writing that troubles the borders between poetry and memoir, especially a form that I have named the "lyric diary."

    Emma Wood is the Executive Director of Stone Soup Magazine and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Xavier University.

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