Press Release: Five Graduate Center Faculty Named 2009 Guggenheim Fellows

Five Graduate Center faculty members were among six City University of New York winners of 2009 Guggenheim Fellowships.  Graduate Center faculty chosen were Heather Hendershot, theatre and film studies professor at the Graduate Center and Queens College; Benjamin Carter Hett, history professor at the Graduate Center and Hunter College; Victoria Sanford, anthropology professor at the Graduate Center and Lehman College; Jonathan H. Shannon, anthropology and music professor at the Graduate Center and Hunter College; and Robert Courtney Smith, sociology professor at the Graduate Center and Baruch College. The other CUNY faculty winner was playwright Thomas Bradshaw, English professor at Medgar Evers College.

Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those “who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

"All of us at CUNY take enormous pride in the outstanding work of these faculty members," said CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. "Their scholarly and creative contributions advance understanding and stimulate thought across disciplines and across society, and foster lively centers of learning within CUNY's classrooms. I offer my warmest congratulations to each of them."

CUNY matched Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University for the most Guggenheim winners among all the nation’s universities.

Background information for CUNY’s 2009 Guggenheim Fellows:

Heather Hendershot was a double major in French and Film Studies at Yale University and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester. In addition to being an associate professor in the Media Studies Department at Queens College, she is coordinator of the Film Studies Certificate program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Hendershot is the author of Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture and the co-author of Saturday Morning Censors: Television Regulation Before the V-Chip.  She is also the editor of Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel for Kids, and the editor of Cinema Journal. Hendershot has held fellowships at Vassar College, Princeton University and New York University, and is currently writing a book on rightwing broadcasting of the 1950s and 1960s.

Benjamin Carter Hett, a former trial lawyer, earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University.  His research interests include criminal law in modern German, the history of popular culture, and the history of Berlin. His book Crossing Hitler, the Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand describes the 1931 trial of four Nazi stormtrooper, known as the Eden Dance Palace Trial, and explores both the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic and the terror of  Nazi rule in Germany. The book won the 2007 Fraenkel Prize, given for an outstanding work of contemporary history. Hett is also the author of Death in the Tiergarten: Murder and Criminal Justice in the Kaiser’s Berlin.

Victoria Sanford earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University, where she also received training in International Humanitarian Law and Immigration Law and Stanford Law School. She has worked with Central American refugees since 1986, when she founded and directed a refugee legal services project representing Central American asylum seekers. A human rights activist and scholar, Sanford has conducted extensive field research with Maya communities in Guatemala, in Colombia, and with indigenous peace communities in Columbia and refugee communities in Ecuador. She has been a Fulbright Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute on Violence and Survival at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She is the author of, among other volumes, Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala and Violencia Y Genocidio en Guatemala, and many articles including “Learning to Kill by Proxy: Colombian Paramilitaries and the Legacy of Central American Death Squads, Contras and Civil Patrols.” Her research focuses on collective memory, community reconstruction, human rights and international humanitarian law during internal armed conflicts. Among her many honors and awards, Sanford has received a Bunting Peace Fellowship from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies; a United States Institute For Peace grant; a Rockefeller Fellowship for research on violence; a MacArthur Consortium Fellowship; and an Early Career Award of the Peace Society of the American Psychological Association.

Jonathan H. Shannon received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the Graduate Center in 2001. His dissertation was awarded that year’s Malcolm H. Kerr Award by the Middle East Studies Association for best dissertation in the social sciences. He is an ethnographer who has been working in Syria on ethnomusicology, performance, and popular culture. Shannon examines how Syrian musicians and other artists “draw on their heritage to assert their modernity.”  Music plays a key role in Syria’s culture, with memories of Andalusia from 700 years of Moslem rule in Spain making up an important part of that heritage. In an article in Journal of American Folklore, Shannon writes, “Analysis of musical practice and discourse about music in Syria suggests that the idea of ‘Andalusian’ music and heritage supports pan-Arab ideologies integral to the state’s secular Ba’thist ideologies. At the same time, such practices and discourses offer sites of resistance against that regime by mining heterogeneous pasts.”  

Robert Courtney Smith earned his Ph.D from Columbia University. He is the author of Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants, based on 15 years of ethnographic research in New York City and Puebla, Mexico. It shows how transnational lives are influenced by migration decisions, assimilation patterns, gender relations among both first- and second-generation immigrants, religious experiences, political participation in American and Mexican communities and participation in gangs. By looking at the daily lives of Mexican migrants, Smith illustrates globalization in human terms and across national borders. Mexican New York won the 2006 W.I.Thomas and Florian Zaniecki Award of the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association for the best book on migration. Smith has also won the American Sociological Society’s 2007 Robert Park Award, the 2008 Best Book Award of the Latino Section, and the 2008 Distinguished Book Award. He has written many journal articles and has contributed to many books and anthologies.

Thomas Bradshaw received his MFA in Mac Wellman’s playwriting program at Brooklyn College, where he has also taught. His provocative plays explore racial identification in America in humorous, disturbing and unexpected ways. His play “Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist” won the American Theater Coop’s 2005 National Playwriting contest. His other plays include “Cleansed,” “Purity,” “Southern Promises,” “Dawn,” and “Prophet.” All have been published and produced, and he has been featured as one of Time Out New York’s ten playwrights to watch. Bradshaw’s latest play, commissioned by Soho Rep, is an adaptation of  “The Book of Job.” He is also Soho Rep’s 2008-2009 Streslin Fellow and a Playwriting Fellow at the Lark Play Development Center.

The Graduate Center is the primary doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to more than thirty interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns.  Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, the Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events.  Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at

The City University of New York is the nation's leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847 as the Free Academy, the University's 23 institutions include 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. The University serves 243,000 degree-credit students and more than 240,000 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University's academic enrichment program for 32,500 high school students, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. More than 1 million unique visitors and 2 million page views are served each month by, the University's website.

Submitted on: APR 1, 2009

Category: Press Room